Sisyphus Knot / Not Sisyphus?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I’m finally getting my ’06 taxes done. I met with my accountant last week and, as he looked over my numbers, he said, “You didn’t buy much equipment last year.” I said, “Nope. I’m finally starting to use the stuff I already have.” It’s true. Now that I’m finally spending time in my apartment (being a bachelor will do that), I actually have the time and the room to set up all the audio equipment and musical instruments I’ve acquired over the years. Joan LaBarbara was up here a few weeks ago for a Ne(x)tworks rehearsal. The first thing she said when she walked in was “There’s a lot of glass in here.” And that’s just the beginning. I’m even pulling out all my old hardware midi modules that are basically antiques now, but still sound and still have all the various tunings I programmed into them over the years. Once everything is working and talking to one another I’ll decide what gets sent out to the eBay pasture.

In a way, that’s also what’s going on with my composer brain. Pulling out old ideas, getting them talking with new ideas, and throwing out what doesn’t fit anymore. That’s the thing about having had active careers in three very different locations (the third actually being in the present tense). There is no one other than myself who can see the thread that joins them. That’s one of the reasons for this website. I realized no one here in NY is familiar with my Toronto work (except for the early Glass Orchestra recordings). There are a few SF Bay Area ex-pats here who know of my work out there. But the majority of folks I work with here in NY don’t know my history. (My buddy Neil Dufallo was surprised to hear that I’ve written 2 operas.) But of course this is no one’s fault but my own, and perhaps not even a fault at all. It’s the risk one takes when one up and moves every 10-15 years. That seems to have been my M.O.; get a career going strong in one place then, poof!, move on out to someplace new. Perhaps it’s one way of returning to the “beginner’s mind” that zen buddhists talk about. (I’m sure there are more productive ways of achieving that state.) It’s been 5 years since I moved here (NYC) and it feels like I’m still just starting. Which is actually an exciting state to be in, as long as I don’t start thinking about Sisyphus.

Here, in a nutshell, are the places I’ve been.
CT & NYC (youth – high school): Skipping classes in high school to go hear new music concerts, up & down town. Studied electronic music (a huge moog). Put together my first glass instrument.
Toronto and NYC (York University and my 20s; ’75-’86): Glass Orchestra. Helped start the downtown Toronto new music scene. Worked with Cage & Tenney.
San Francisco Bay Area (’88- ’01): much music for dance; part of that whole “post-industrial urban primitive” movement. Performance Art stuff. Paul Dresher Ensemble. Bay Guardian calls me a “sampler guru.” (Oh yes, and wrote two operas.)
NYC: Here & now. (It’s not history yet, so can’t quite “nutshell” it.)

Actually, Camus thought Sisyphus was a happy guy. Perhaps he was right.

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