After our great time in SF Barry and I were very much looking forward to our trek to the Pacific Northwest. Neither of us has ever visited this part of the country. It rained (or snowed) almost the entire time, so I felt we received the authentic regional experience. By the end I was almost in the mood to write some introspective, brooding grunge rock lyrics… I only brought one flannel shirt, however. I’m sure I could write sometime very angst-ridden regarding the Arizona Legislature’s recently forwarded and thankfully vetoed “Right to Discriminate” bill, but that is a topic for another time…
Side note/unapologetic soapbox, Part Uno- Everywhere we visited this week people were incredulously inquisitive regarding this legislation. They had serious worries about the “Arizona climate” that did not concern the heat).
Our first stop was in idyllic Ashland, Oregon. The drive north was beautiful, though the Bazmobile is starting to run a little hot on hills (hopefully this won’t be the topic of a future post).
Ashland is a small arts-centered community and is home to both the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Southern Oregon University. We were hosted at SOU by the fabulous percussionist Terry Longshore. I mentioned my connections with Terry in the previous blog.
Upon arrival we checked in the quaint Palm Motel across from the campus I set-up and we were treated to a brewpub dinner by Dr. Longshore. (@ Standing Stone Brewery– The I Heart Oregon Ale with local hops,barley and malt was a locavore’s dream). I set-up and practiced before calling it a night.
I presented an early morning lecture/demonstration on percussion and interactive software for SOU Percussion Ensemble members. The group is highly regarded as one of the leading small school ensembles in the county on the strength of recent commissions, recordings and performances. The students were particularly interested in Esler’s Nightingale as well as the utilization of Max 6 in each piece. Following a Thai buffet and a nap we loaded in at the beautiful Schneider Museum of Art, directed by Erika Leppmann. I am constantly amazed by the wide difference in institutional cultures. We were offered a choice of water, beer or wine as we set up- this certainly would never occur at an Arizona school.
The evening performance was very well-attended (standing-room only) and gave us an opportunity to use our new projection screen and 2 projector set-up. We were joined by Terry performing on a Handsonic percussion controller for force.line.border and white_rabbit. His playing was sensitive and stellar as always, and the instrument is awesome. He and I had an extended 20-minute jam before the house opened. (Do’h- Now I must acquire a Handsonic for the GCC and pincushioned). After the performance it was pouring rain, transitioning to snow. We opted to leave the gear overnight and instead had a social evening at Caldera Brewing (dangerously smooth Double IPA- reminded me of Uwe Boer’s at Sun-Up in Phoenix) with Terry and many of the ensemble members. Terry gave me a copy of the SOU Percussion Ensemble’s outstanding CD, including a new work by Phoenix’s Chris Jacome for guitar and percussion ensemble- get ready Chuck Hulihan!
The next morning we retrieved our gear and hit the road. A wrong turn led us up the mountain and into the snow- a bit harrowing in the Bazmobile, but stunningly gorgeous- breathtaking in every sense of the word.
We continued north to Eugene and met up with ex-GCC colleagues. Brad and Cynthia Garner. Brad is collaborator with my wife, choreographer Mary Fitzgerald and teaches dance at University of Oregon. Cynthia is a freelance choreographer and great dance educator as well. They are a formidable one-two punch (or one-two-three-four-five six-seven-eight…). It was great to hang out with Brad, Cyndi, their kids and Leo the Chihuahua. Brad showed Barry he and Mary’s recent project- a “dance for the camera” work entitled Nearby/Far, with an electro-acoustic score UO faculty by Chet Udell. The fellowship and art/pedagogy discussions and libations were great, but the best parts of the evening were devouring Cyndi’s carnitas and an impromptu marimba recital by their daughter Ella.
Thursday morning we headed over to the University where Barry taught a Max and Jitter workshop for some of the music technology majors in their interactive performance class. We were treated to a tour of the impressive facilities (and lunch, Thai) by our host Jeffrey Stolet. Jeff described his philosophy of designing the studios to be “living rooms, not classrooms.” I took notes (and pictures) on some great ideas regarding curriculum, gear, studio set-up pedagogical philosophy and security that we will consider implementing for GCC. During Barry’s class I also got a brief look at the Dance studios with Brad.
Sidenote/unapologetic soapbox, Part Deux-
I was particularly impressed by the synergy between School of Music and Dance and M+O/Crafts services in the design and implementation of the studios (at no cost to the department). This U of O model is one in which all faculty and staff primarily focus on facilitating successful instruction, learning and research, based on the specifications of vetted content area experts- the faculty. In recent years, especially in regards to technology, GCC has regrettably been the antithesis of this model, with administrators and staff instead dictating- “this is what we will allow you to use to teach.” Unfortunately, the idea of non-experts and laypersons dictating educational policy is rampant in public education in general and acutely so in Arizona. Once again, a topic for another time. Seeing the synergistic/collaborative model I prefer work to such fantastic result in technology programs at Oregon and Chabot gives me renewed enthusiasm to fight for these things at Glendale upon my return from sabbatical.
…and we’re back
Immediately after lunch Barry and I left for our “Portlandia” experience. We had a day off and enjoyed some well-earned leisure time. A light and delicate farmhouse ale sampler, excellent nosh, miles of walking around the city in a light drizzle and a capstone/epic shuffleboard match made for a relaxing evening.
I had the new experience of Glug-Krieg from http://www.cascadebrewing.com/- a Belgian sour beer served hot with mulling spices. It was perfect for the gloomy evening. My only regret is that we didn’t make it to the iconic Voodoo Doughnuts. My wife lived here for 8 years, hopefully we’ll have to come back.
After a brief but beautiful drive, we achieved the terminus of our Northern trek in Seattle. It was pouring rain (we definitely got the definitive NW experience in that regard) and we were beginning to getting worn down from the 2 weeks of touring. So we had Pho, worked out, and spent the evening chillaxing and watching the Olympics. The next morning we met our host, producer for Nonsequitor, curator of the Wayward Music Series and general badass- Steve Peters.
I have known Steve since his days as an impresario in the Albuquerque music scene. Through his work with Nonsequitor he has produced many great concert and recordings and is a strong advocate for under-presented musics. I was lucky as an emerging artist to have him as a role-model and was lucky to perform for him in a variety of settings. We played together in Jenny Debouzek’s Gamelan Encantada where he and Daniel Davis were the resident composers in the band. He produced the Peter Garland Border Music CD that I played on with the UNM Percussion Ensemble.
The session for that CD, which I still consider among the best recordings I’ve ever played on, was epic. I’ll share 2 anecdotes:
(1)- It was a dangerous session. The composer was equally aesthetically uncompromising and cranky. The bullroarers for Three Songs of Mad Coyote would at intervals become unattached from their strings and become lethal projectiles. We cowered behind the piano for protection- a percussive platoon. Each of the band of brothers waited for the call from Chris Shultis for our turn to try to get a good take before cardiac arrest occurred (our stamina was not impressive). In Obstacles of Sleep, John Bartlit and I played the siren duet that required us to remove the safety guard from the sirens and stick our towel-wrapped and duct-taped hands into the blades to “stop them cold.” It is an incredible musical effect. Several takes were ruined when our bare knuckles touched the blades- the result was unsatisfactory musically, and luckily we had towels nearby to staunch the bleeding. Brett Reed was playing ratchet (a spectacular “celtic sheep-herding ratchet” with 7 gnarly teeth, provided by the composer) on the same work. Chris wasn’t satisfied with the balance of the ratchet in relation to the other instruments, so each take we kept moving Brett closer to the microphone. On the final take he was perched precariously on a 15-foot ladder in the hall right below the stereo Neumanns, ratcheting away. All this stands as testament to Chris Shultis’ and the ensembles’ shared ethos of “whatever it takes, man.”
(2)- I am a horrible pianist. I’ve always resented being forced to play the miserable box, whether by my mother as a child on in my Bachelor’s or Master’s under the guise of “piano proficiency” (I’ve always wished those piano teachers had to pass a “rhythmic proficiency” or better yet a “timbral proficiency”). In undergrad at Limestone College my piano proficiency was the absolute last thing I finished- three days before graduation. As my students would say, I was “hating it.” I sheepishly went into Janet Dubois’ office to attempt the itemized list of tortures. It was ghastly, beyond wretched, and she passed me out of sympathy. As I left her studio, she said- “ Well, I guess you’ll never record internationally as a concert pianist” (or something to that effect). Fast forward to Steve’s Garland sessions. On Three Strange Angels and Three Songs of Mad Coyote, I got to release my pianistic frustration by pounding the ivories with a 2×4 that covered all 88 keys. On the internationally released CD I was credited as “Douglas Nottingham- PIANO.” I sent a copy to Mrs. Dubois.
… and we’re back (again).
Steve took us to a great lunch (seafood stew) and then gave us a private tour of Seattle. The highlight for me was The Seattle Public Library, designed by Rem Koolhaas. I can only describe it as a fantastic nightmare- it offended every aesthetic preference I have for architecture by extraordinary measure. It was also awesome. I cannot stop thinking about it.
We then loaded into the spectacular Chapel Performance Space in a steady rain. We set-up and sound checked for a split percussion/pincushioned program.
Unfortunately, the show was not well-attended, but we played an one of our more interesting sets to date for the small but focused group. I was particularly entranced by how wonderful John Luther Adam’s Wail sounded in the acoustically kind space. I felt like we let Steve down, but this is always the risk when you explore uncharted territory when touring. More unfortunately, I dumped the new mixer off the stand (face-down) while clearing my percussion gear at the intermission. I’m sure Baz will highlight this event in the next vlog entry. More more unfortunately we were almost back to AZ when Steve called to let me know I had left my cymbal bag in the bushes in front of the venue. I think I need a break… lucky we now have a brief one.
The next morning we drove back to AZ for a scant respite prior to our Eastern swing and NY flyout shows. It only took 22 hours.
This brings the first leg of the tour to a close. Thanks to all of our hosts, friends, supporters and detractors.
Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of pincushioned!