Friday, December 25, 2009

Foraging for mushrooms on skis

Yes, the esculent Gyromitra Gigas (Montanas) does grow near melting snowbanks in the Spring in the higher Sierran elevations.About twenty years ago, I was up at the cabin (elevation 6700 feet) in early May and there was still a great deal of skiable snow. The old logging roads were still covered and the weather was warm--in the 60s. I decided to do a solo ski tour up to a ridge and down over the other side through a valley I knew well from summer hikes that would take me down to a campground by the highway, not far from the road up to the cabins. The first part of the adventure was beautiful; the Spring snow was full of glide but slow enough to control one's descent, and the few falls I had only served to exilerate -I was wearing shorts and a tee shirt!

As I lost elevation I noticed the snow cover diminishing rapidly. I found myself walking with my skis on over dry patches of forest floor--pine needles began to adhere to my waxed ski bottoms. But this slow down in progress allowed me to gaze around and scan the forest floor which was gradually becoming more revealed. Sure enough, I spotted a trove of tan/golden "Snowbank" helvellas sprouting up next to a patch of old snow. Eureeka! This was like finding gold nuggests in a mountain stream, only better!

It was foolish of me not to realize that as I went further down in elevation I might run out of skiable snow, but the walk-bushwack down to the campground and up the road was a small price to pay for the thrill of the chase; and my quarry, a very delicious mushroom in the morel family,provided me with a sumptuous repast that night.

Although I'd have to admit I find morels the most exquisite spring fungus, the snowbank "brain" mushroom is always welcome in my basket, and they are so stunning to come across, especially while skiing.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Early Winters

Almost a foot of fresh snow this morning--and not even officially winter yet! Out on skis in the early pm along Mill Creek. Pristine and quiet, no one about save a few hardy walkers (who unwitingly mess up my carefully made track).The glide is perfect, serene. I think of past ski tours in the Sierras and in the Ringebu Vidda in Norway.I am high (naturally).
Good ski days are rare here in southern CT so when they happen, and I can get out,it's a precious gift, if only for the memories they provoke.And memory is what my music is often about. So I guess the skitur is part of the compositional process?

Where does the mushroom fit into all this? The chances of finding mushrooms while out skiing are pretty slim, but I did in fact do this once, but that's another story.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bear invasion

E mails from some of my Sierran cabin neighbors last weekend were alarming; six or seven cabins had been invaded by bears, mine among them. Fortunately these same people did some patch up work to secure broken doors and windows, so I'm hoping that the winter, now in full force in the Sierras, will not also invade the cabin.
Well, there's not much I can do about it until the Spring, unless some of my "Friends of Butchrabben" (Dan S, David R, Sam A, John A??) manage to get up there.
There was something suspicious about this incursion as by the start of December, bears up there should be IN HIBERNATION!! Don't those dumb bears know that they shouldn't be marauding around this time of year, but safe and cozy in ther dens?

It seems that wildlife all over are on the increase and there will be more and more encounters--even here in Conn where we have several flocks of Turkey's in our neighborhood, coyotes are seen and heard, foxes and racoons make regular appearances, and moose... well, they havent gotten down here yet but there have been sightings in NW Conn.

SOUNDINGS: Three thousand cheers for WNYC Radio for inaugurating Q2, its 24/7 New Music Streaming channel

They started off with a week long marathon of Steve Reich--not just his music but that of many composers and musicians who influenced, or were influenced by, him. I guess that includes me.
Q2 refers to its repertory as 500 Years of New Music. I like that latitude--but it could be broader, after all Perotin was major.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Der Schwamerl

A few postings back, when discussing Alfred Brendel's talk on "character" I raised the question of what kind of a mushroom he might be--Schubert, of course, had the nickname of "Schwamerl" which means little mushroom.A casual conversation with Dan and Kyle in Cutlers Record shop the other day reveled to me that the cover photo of Brendel on the CD I was about to buy showed him looking rather "schwamerlisch"--it was the cap which did it.
And I would have to say that his image might not unfairly be compared to that of the most noble and prized Boletus edulis, known here as King Bolete and in Germanty as Steinpilz

More on this later. In the meantime there has been a serious Bear Invasion at my cabin tht needs attention.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

!! NEW CD !!

New World records has just released "SEPTEMBER CANONS" It is available through them and Amazon or Cutlers Records in New Haven.The cover photo, as well as those in the booklet, are by Jim Bengston. The extensive notes are by Libby van Cleve. Todd Reynolds, the violinist, for whom I wrote September Canons created the electronic processing for the piece in his own studio. I am very proud of this composition, ranking it very high in my oeuvre of electronically processed insturmental works.
The second track on the CD, Peaceable Kingdom was originally composed for the LA Philharmonic New Music Group in 1990, but is here performed by members of the Yale Philharmonia under Julian Pellicano. It incorporates recordings I made in Croatia and Italy in the 80's. Woodstone was composed for the Berkeley Gamelan, an "American" gamelan built by my old friend Dan Schmidt in the spirit of Lou Harrison; it is my only essay in the genre.
The CD ends with an excerpt from The Fragility Cycles the live electronic piece I used to perform in th late seventies. It employs the Balinese flute (Gambuh), synthesizer, voice.
This CD covers a wide span of time in my compositional life--some 25years! Now I just hope the critics are kind towards it, and that it doesnt fall into the hands of that notorious reviewer for the ICO, Marcel Proost!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My own Magic Kingdom in "Disneyland"

I've never been to Disneyland (honest!) but I've now been to the new Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, and it really is something; it's all it's been hyped to be, inside and out.I had the transformative pleasure a week ago to sit in the hall and hear the LA Master Chorale under Grant Gershon sing my "Savage Altars." Hearing it sung by a fairly large choir was a revelation as I designed it for a chamber choir and thought it might lose clarity and focus in a bigger choral setting. But Grant's choir sings like a chamber choir, spot on you might say. It was magic.
And then, mirabile dictu, a week later I was back in the magic kingdom and heard just about the best performance ever of "Fog Tropes" under--guess who?-- the guy who made me do it, John C. Adams!
John's concert, part of the LA Phil's Green Umbrella series, had Harry Partch, Frank Zappa and me--still living! The sell out audience went wild for the Zappa stuff, and actually gave me a pretty good hand as well.
The frosting on the cake was "Alcatraz" being shown on monitors in various spaces iall over the building; you might say it permeated the atmosphere during the several weeks of this "West Coast/Left Coast" Festival. Actually, you could barely hear the music on most of the monitors, but Bengston's pictures looked pretty good. Maybe people will buy the CD in the gift shop in order to hear the music properly!
Actually, Alactraz has just been reissued for New Albion Records and has a newly printed booklet with photos of much better quality than the old booklet.
(PS I have a new CD coming out in less than a week--stay tuned)