25-July-1985 Xenakis vs. the Marching Band

This must be the day of the greatest contrasts. It was one of the most memorable nights.

25-July-1985

Before lunch sat on bench in sun w/Kevin and talked.  After lunch went up to fortress with Colette, Barb, Shirly, Debbie, Connie, the Twins.  We took tour (in German) and saw the torture chambers, went up to top of tower ( I think I took a picture) saw some living quarters and living room, toilet.  Huge ceramic stove with intricate designs.  The ceiling looked like Mrs. Pearson’s.  After tour Colette and I stayed to see the 2 museums in the Fortress.  The first was just World War I and II.  However, the second was all medieval relics, jousting rods, and some baroque pistols and rifles, suits of armor.  All of which were so intricately designed.

That evening I took John to the Xenakis concert, met Dr. McVoy there.  Dr. McVoy and I really enjoyed it, and I was pleased that John did also.  The percussionists were all around 18 it seemed, but the proficiency was astounding.  It made me shudder at the remembrance of West Chester.  These players were excited, intense, about playing, as was the audience about hearing.  Afterwards, the union between the composer, the players, and the audience was so thrilling.  We managed to run into Xenakis afterward.  Dr. McVoy was like a kid when he asked for an autograph and then wanted to go get ice cream.  John and I hadn’t eaten yet, so we went to the Chinese restaurant in AltStadt (my treat).  At that point we started drinking white wine — which we continued drinking into the night.  It was the night of the Festspiele opening and we heard the marching band playing a horrible march.  And after Xenakis it was like trying to wash down a nutritious, delicious meal with poison water.  It was a bad feeling.  We went across river to a couple of John’s clubs and drank.  At one o’clock I had reached my limit and I left and walked home.  I stopped at every bench along the way to readjust my horizontal stabilizers.  I was surprised when in the morning I didn’t feel that hung-over.

Did I really go on the fortress tour with all those girls? Pretty funny.  I liked Colette – she had incredible eyes.  I’ve always been attracted to eyes.  But being equally pathologically shy, we never said more than three words to each other.

I’ve always regretted not going for ice cream with Dr. McVoy — to extend the experience.  I haven’t mentioned that in addition to being the teacher of the Mozart class in Salzburg, Dr. McVoy was also one of my composition teachers back in West Chester.  It was so cool meet Xenakis – one of the giants of the post-war avant-garde, and famous student of Messiaen — one of my favorite composers.  I have vivid memories of the concert, and of the ridiculous marching band afterward.  The Xenakis piece was Pleiades.  I supposed the marching band wasn’t bad – I’ve played in far worse!  But compared to Xenakis, it felt…inauthentic.  The Salzburg fortress, built in 1066, and still standing — that’s authentic. A composition written in the last decade by a pioneer who pushed the boundaries of what music is, and performed by passionate musicians thrilled to be part of something original  — that’s authentic.  Now, 25 years later, anyone who takes time to make any kind of music has my respect.    But that night in 1985, it was a powerful contrast I’ll never forget.

And then, another drinking night with John.  Oh, well.  At one point Sade’s “Smooth Operator” came on, and he went out on the dance floor. Then he disappeared for a few minutes, then went back to the dance floor before coming back to the bar.  Later he told me that in those few minutes he had gone into the bathroom to throw up.

Maybe, while my day was spent observing and analyzing contrasts, John was actually living them.

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