December 7, 2008
The past three weeks have been almost non-stop travel, beginning with a concert at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMOCA) in Williamstown, MA and ending at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, AK. In between, was a solid week of workshops, clinics and concerts in southern Michigan, including stops at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan State in Lansing, Eastern Michigan State in Ypsilanti, and Western Michigan in Kalamazoo.
On November 15, the opening of an astonishing exhibition of wall drawings by Sol LeWitt at MassMOCA was the occasion for a concert of music by Steve Reich, performed by Mr. Reich, Russ Hartenberger, Thad Wheeler and myself. Some high-profile members of the audience included artist Chuck Close, actress Meryl Streep and New York MOMA director Glenn Lowry. Reich’s long-time friendship with LeWitt was the connection for this event.
The tour through Michigan was busy (and snowy!), but interesting and enjoyable. The first few stops included workshops on West African Drumming, Cymbals, Rudimental Arithmetic, and Xylophone. Finally, I spent four days in Kalamazoo and played four concerts – two were short solo performances, one was an appearance as soloist with the WMU concert band under conductor Robert Spradling, and the final concert was with the WMU percussion ensemble, directed by Judy Moonert. The percussion ensemble did an excellent job with Noodrem, a piece of mine that is difficult and rarely performed, as well as with Unseen Child and Mudra.
I drove back to Toronto from Kalamazoo, unloaded my equipment, and then got on a plane to Fairbanks. I’ve experienced temperatures of -30 F a number of times in my life, and this was my third trip to Alaska, but it is always a bit of a shock to step out into an atmosphere like that – particularly when your flight arrives at midnight. Of course, at this time of year in Alaska, the sun rises (sort of) around 10:00AM and sets by 3:00PM, so time of day loses most of its usual significance. Morris Palter and his students had prepared a number of my compositions and arrangements, and we performed concerts in Fairbanks (at the university), in North Pole (yes, there is such a town!), and in Delta Junction. The UAF students were all outstanding, and I enjoyed playing Prisoners of the Image Factory, Turning Point, Mudra, Away without Leave, Atenteben and numerous ragtime pieces together with them. A standout experience during the week in Fairbanks was a visit to John Luther Adams’ installation The Place Where You Go to Listen, located in the stunning University of Alaska Museum of the North.