Friday, August 2, 2013

The Golden Haul

Readers of this blog will know that I have not been filled with esperance when it comes to the state of mushroom foraging of late Well, I am glad to report that the situation has greatly improved! Several days ago I went to check one of my "hot spots" where I used to find decent flowerings of chanterelles.But it has been a barren fungal landscape for the last three years or so. Not only was there a respectablet florescence, it was actually over whelming. I filled up a sack and lugged it home, feeling downright greedy. At my feet wee nice fat fresh golden chants,  coveirng the forest floor.
We feasted for several days and froze the rest. Just like in the old days, even better actually.
 I got to thinking that there was a kind of an analogue between the mushroom  scene and the state of  my compositional life.
But dare I venture into  such shaky speculation?.
  Why not be a little confessional. If I think of the minor finds here and there of morels, chantrelles and other edibles (mostly boletes in the Sierras) scattered over the last few years I am reminded of the similarly minor little commisons that have come my way of late. There has been nothing of substance, just a few chamber and solo pieces." Frankly, it's kind of depressing not to have a major work under way on the drafting table . But I take hope now with this trove of canterellus as a kind of harbinger of things to come, a big project waiting in the proberbial "woods" whhch will fill my days with engaged compositional wonderment and zeal.
Now that is esperance, the golden kind.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The last Morel

Its been quite a while since I've used these pages to loudly lament the apparent diminishment of the local fungal flora (a misnomer I admit as fungi have their own kingdom, they are not flora). Early to mid May is the morel season here and the last few years the findings have been meagre. This year I didn't plan on ANYTHING; in fact,we went to the Swiss alps for a vacation right when I'd ordinarily be combing the woods here.In Zermatt and Murren, morels were found on the menu but not in the forest (too high--they grow, allegedly, in the lower elevation Jura mountains) The chef in one restaurant assured me that I'd be wasting my time looking anywhere around there. I have found that European mushroom hunters are more secretive than their American counterparts when it come to sharing mycological tips.
    A few days after our return, even though it should have been "too late" I drove down to one of my hot spots and took a stroll through the fresh Green woods, barely looking. I was also staying on the path because I've  become  paranoid about Lyme Disease
   Within five minutes I stumbled upon four morels, each one fatter than the other. Not a big find but a tasty one.I surmised that had I been looking with more purpose and zeal, I probably wouldn't have found any.A certain indifference to the quarry often pays off, but don't think about it too much.
   The main lesson I've learned over many years of mushroom forging is "Don't look too hard." If the hunting mode of mental activity is too engaged, you miss a lot. If you let the quest take a less than dominant position in your consciousness, you just might find something.
That's the way it is sometimes with composing. You are looking for just the right note, or chord or gesture or timbre, and you wear yourself thin desperately trying everything.You  have to let yourself relax and fall into a state of a supreme indifference (this is easier said than done!)  and sometimes the right thing presents itself and you are there to catch it, but you wont if you're trying too hard.
     How did Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck's "Mein junges Leben......." sneak into my latest piece? I don't know--iust presented itself; I wasn't looking for it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Where are......


Where oh where are the fungi of yesteryear?
This has truly been the worst year for mushrooms in memory. I kept waiting this Fall for that thrill of discovery that permeates one's very existence when coming across, say, a patch of boletes or a cluster of honeys or a white cascading "Old Man" or a barely visible troop of black and gray "trompettes de morte" but no, despite warmer weather and plenty of rain, October turned out to be no better than September or August; the fungi just weren't biting--no florescence! How does this dismal scenario square with the photographs above? The bottom one is by Robert Adams, part of s series of forest images called, inexplicably "Skogen." (That's Swedish for "The Woods")It is a brooding, opaque vision; there seems to be a barrier between the viewer and the forest--do not enter.The other picture is by Jim Bengston my colleague and partner in mixed media crime, who has the most extraordinary eye for penetrating the Scandinavian forest he frequents. Jim's photo is luminescent; it invites you in, there is a slightly dark quality to his work but it doesn't prevail.   It would appear that both of these photos have nothing to do with fungi (in actuality they do because trees and fungi live in extensive mycorhizal relationships under the ground. So even though thee are no mushroom "showing" in these  empty forests, we know they are there
   Thinking of all the walks I've taken in various woods this past year, with nothing (myco-wise) to show for it, makes me wonder what the real purpose or joy is in hunting for mushrooms.
The satisfaction of finding golden chanterelles year after year in the same spots is not to be discounted, but how much better it is when you aren't particularly looking for anything, and suddenly are struck by a flash of sunlight on a green lactarius or a red capped bolete, and the shock is real. There's something about the fortuitous find that trumps everything. The unexpected guest in the form of an unexpected; canterellus cinnibarius in the mossy back yard. Its a little bit like the second movement of Gyorgy Ligeti's Piano Conceto where a very low bass note, just audible, underlying a series of bizarre flute and ocarina sighings, creates an edgy almost scary atmosphere, only to be shockingly interrupted by a blast of brass and percussion, just for an instant, and then again a bit later, but still a remarkable surprise. Even if you know its coming it doesnt disappoint.

Sunday, November 4, 2012