Monday, April 24, 2006


Madison, WI is home to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and it's known for liberal politics and hard partying. My plane came in towards it by night, and the state capitol building was all lit up. It was a cool way to kick off my time there.

The Madison Flute Club had its third annual festival in a university extension building on campus. Organizers and volunteers worked very hard to make everything go smoothly and make the presenters feel welcome. I had some A/V drama early on, but it got resolved before I gave my workshop. It was fun to see Jim Mildrew's film on a big screen in the lecture hall.

I heard a presentation by Dr. Mihoko Watanabe, the flute professor from Oshkosh. She has interviewed the composer Kazuo Fukushima and found out, contrary to everything the flute community has believed for many years, that his famous piece "Mei" wasn't inspired by the shakuhachi flute after all, but by the noh-kan, a flute used in the orchestra for traditional Noh theater. Mr. Fukushima doesn't even like the sound of the shakuhachi!

I met up with my friend Caen Thomason-Redus and had lots of fun hanging with him and Mihoko too. I roomed with Emily Butterfield, a flutist from Columbus. She gave her presentation on Clement Barone, an eminent piccolo teacher who has recently passed on but who's left a lasting mark.

Speaking of the piccolo, I was amazed and awed by Kate Prestia-Schaub, who gave the piccolo masterclass and performed the first movement of the Lowell Lieberman concerto in the Gala Recital. Kate is a rock star -- there are no two ways about it. The piccolo is the easiest instrument in the world to play badly. I have heard a lot of bad piccolo playing (most notably coming out of ME. I suck at the piccolo). Sunday night was the first time I really truly HEARD the Lieberman concerto and its beauty, because Kate has a mastery and sensitivity far above anyone else I've heard. Not even at the piccolo masterclass at the NFA convention (in which I didn't play, mind you--I was the door monitor) have I heard the picc played so well.

The Gala Recital was really cool because half the pieces on the bill were by living composers. My performance of "Three Visions" went really well. Iwona Glinka played a piece by a Greek composer that was full of extended techniques, and Kim Dorr played Ian Clarke's "Zoom Tube". I was impressed that there was so much good challenging material in the recital.

On the plane back they showed "Chronicles of Narnia". I hadn't seen it before, and it's beautifully done, and it seems very faithful to the book. Unfortunately, this means that there is only one powerful female character in the film, and she's evil. In this day and age it's super annoying to watch all the female characters on the "good guy" side end up in jeopardy all the time. This is, alas, the way C.S. Lewis wrote it.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Vinny Golia: Music for Large Ensemble

That was the official title of the concert I was a part of last night. There was an official list of 47 of us, although I didn't count everyone last night, and I noticed at least one person missing.

A quartet consisting of Philip Greenlief, Jon Raskin, Chris Brown, and Tim Perkis opened the show, with the first two on saxophones and the second two on electronics. My taste in improvised music runs to the introspective, subtle, and atmospheric -- not so much the high-volume technical displays -- so there was a lot to like about their set. It was great to be able to hear each individual part clearly, and to hear such well-chosen sounds weave together. The four players were a nice energy combination too. Even the Glenn Campbell sample seemed to fit.

The large ensemble started setting up immediately afterward. Vinny Golia had brought his own instruments which he arranged around his conducting area. He has a Kingma bass flute, which he invited me to try, and I was tempted, but I didn't feel very good about leaving my own instruments unattended while such a big crowd of musicians and audience was milling around. I worried they'd be knocked over.

The show was well attended, which was awfully gratifying. There were some good introspective moments in the Large Ensemble set, too, in between the high-volume technical displays. I particularly enjoyed the efforts of the flute section: David Slusser, Maryclare Brzytwa, Philip Gelb, Tom Bickley, and me. Tom had a two-measure soprano recorder solo which, I was happy to find out, was still audible even with 47 people improvising. Or maybe it was audible because I was sitting right in front of him. ;) Phil played a beautiful shakuhachi solo.

Matt was there chatting up string players for his own Conduction gig on Sunday. I would be part of that if I weren't already committed out of town. I will be getting on a plane tomorrow morning to present at the Madison Area Flute Festival. I'm looking forward to seeing Caen Thomason-Redus and catching him up on everything, including the Fling piece I created with Shiloh.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Gig dream

I had a dream last night that I was part of a big environmental improvisation project performance in some kind of big-box retail store, a huge place with endless aisles full of products. Many people from the new music community were there. I saw Philip Greenlief and Jon Raskin and Thomas DiMuzio and Matt Davignon and lots of other folks I know.

We all got there early and the show was supposed to start at 6:00. In the dream I fell asleep and when I woke up, it was 6:10. I was worried because I was supposed to perform first, but everyone else seemed unconcerned. I took my flute and my bass flute over to the place where I was supposed to play, but nobody was there yet.

I then noticed that the area of the store where I was supposed to be playing had a floor made of ice. It was then revealed that the show had an opening act. It was a woman figure skater dressed in a hot pink costume, and she skated around in the area where I was supposed to improvise on the flute right after her. There was no room for her to do any jumps or spins, so she did the same footwork pattern over and over. The song she skated to was "Waiting Forever" by Hot Rod. It was very David Lynch.

Alas, I woke up before I could do my improv set.