Hello from United Flight 831. Today’s column finds me once again in transit, on a plane returning to Japan to begin another semester of teaching. It’s nice to have a chance to reflect on the events of the last two months, spent mostly stateside pretty much in full composer mode, undistracted by the demands of teaching.
As regular readers of this column know, I spent part of February in the hills above the San Francisco Peninsula, collaborating with filmmaker Pat O’Neill on two works for projected images and live music. Terrific to have more than a week of creative time with almost no urban distractions, good dinners with fellow artists, woods full of hawks, coyote, rabbits, and deer, and a full lunar eclipse.
In March I hit the road for several weeks and traveled through Texas, performing in a range of venues as big as the state’s heart: from a sit-down concert at the Van Cliburn Recital Hall in Fort Worth to a fun interactive happening in Austin that ping-ponged between indoors and outside in a beer garden, a benefit for the Electronic Freedom Foundation. Many of the attendees seemed to have spontaneously come in costume. An Austin tradition? I would gladly return to find out.
A few days later I found myself performing inside the cavernous record store known as Amoeba Music in Los Angeles, on a stage that Paul McCartney had performed on in a free event just a few weeks before. I can’t claim to have commanded the interest and excitement that Sir Paul had—it was understandably a total mob scene, and I’m told that people camped out on the streets for several days before he arrived. I daresay that most of the customers in the always-crowded store—literally larger than two bowling alleys—had never heard of Carl Stone before I started to play. Still it was a good feeling to occasionally look up while playing and see more and more people halting their browsing and paying attention to the music that flowed through the store’s PA. And they seemed to be enjoying it.
Then it was off to New York to perform with Min-Wu-Xu, three superb Chinese players all trained in traditional music and all of whom have extended both their techniques and aesthetics to perform contemporary experimental music and free improvisation—interesting and telling that they all did so after leaving their native China and settling in the U.S. and Europe. What a thrill and an honor to have been commissioned by Min Xiao-Fen, the group’s leader and pipa player, to write a new piece for them. Plus it was great to be back in New York after quite a long absence.
But after more than two months of traveling with no mishaps or screw-ups worse than one inconveniently located motel, it was time for my good luck to come to an end. This it did spectacularly earlier today, when I arrived at Los Angeles International Airport for my return flight to Japan only to discover…no ticket had ever been purchased. Whoops! It seems that in the flurry of travel arrangements that had been going on a few weeks ago, plotting out my various trajectories in May, June, and July, I had neglected to make that one critical phone call to confirm purchase of today’s flight, and so my reservation had been summarily cancelled. Thus I came to personally understand a truth that we all should hold to be self-evident: When you have to fly out on the same day and all the economy seats are sold out, forcing you to purchase a full-fare business class ticket, you will suddenly find yourself many, many thousands of dollars lighter, and considerably heavier with rue and dismay. Oof.
My otherwise sunny disposition is just a wee bit cloudy as I think forward to the next few months, I still have a lot of excitement about what is in store. The resumption of teaching in a foreign language is always an interesting challenge. I have a number of projects just getting started: a commission from the redoubtable pianist Sarah Cahill for her “A Sweeter Music” project that I am very proud to be a part of; a new work with an entirely different set of Chinese musicians that will be premiered in May in San Francisco; development of an eight-channel interactive sound installation work that will open at a gallery in Nagoya in June; an appearance at the New Albion festival taking place at Bard College in August. I’m looking forward to all of it, and to sharing my thoughts and ruminations with you as these projects develop and occur. Just I need to remember to keep in touch with my travel agent.