Saturday, November 29, 2014

Proposal for a Pavilion, Pan Am 103, High School Band

Back in June, I performed a score composed to animate an installation at LAMOA (Los Angeles Museum of Art). The score is by Gregory Lenczycki, the installation by Renée Petropoulos. The title of the installation and the performance work is "Proposal for a Pavilion." It is a work that has to do with the bomb exploded on Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. You can read Renée's writing on her work "here." You'll find a review of it "here," and a little bit more about her work "here."

I have played a number of Greg's scores by now. This one is by far the easiest and most free. It is mostly free. The musicians are bound only by time, our interactions with each other, our response to the text and conception of Renée's sculptures. We were required to somehow include whatever elements we saw fit of the U.S. and Libyan national anthems and "The Bells of Scotland." That actually is a lot to be bound by, but not as bad as playing subdivision of 32nd notes, like a lot of Greg's music demands. This score allows your mind to go where it might want to go. For sure, with guidance, but basically free. 

As it turned out, my mind had a lot of places to go. Unbeknownst to Renée or Greg when they asked me to participate, I have a personal connection to the crime of the bombing of Pan Am 103. I went to high school with one of the passengers - Jonathan White. I changed schools my last year of high school. I couldn't deal with the dictatorial and somewhat thuggish nature of band directors at Locke High School, in Los Angeles. Let me say here that high school band culture can be beautiful if your interest line-up with interests of the band's administration. If it is otherwise, you will be made to understand that it is their way or the highway. Doesn't matter what you, your parents, your private teacher or anyone else thinks. I took the highway. In addition, Locke High School was a violent place in a violent community. I needed to get out of town.

Through some fortunate coincidences and a friend in a high place, I went to a Waldorf School for my last year. It can be rough changing schools, especially in your last year. This place was small and very welcoming. Jon became a great friend. He had a big heart and was full of verve. He also gave me a nickname that a few people still call me: Boom-Boom. It derived from the pleasure I took in playing the position of left-guard on the flag football team. There are people in NYC, that don't know me by any other name. After high school, I really didn't stay in touch with any of the Waldorf folks. It was not until I moved to Altadena and ran into another of those Waldorfians, that I found out Jon was on that flight. That was five years after it happened. 

Last weekend, Renée and Greg reconvened the musicians and actors to make a studio recording of the score. They used Catasonic Studios and its wiz engineer Mark Wheaton. I am glad that they decided to make a studio recording. As hip as live performances can be, if you are going to preserve music for posterity, go into the studio. You can control shit. A recording is a different animal, it is a memorial really. 

In the photos, I've included ones of the memorial to the victims of the Pan Am flight and of the KAL 007 in Wakkanai. I found the Wakkanai sculpture especially moving. I will compose a piece inspired by it someday soon. Writing this post prompted me to do an image search of memorials to victims of air disasters. Some of them are very striking. "Here" is a link for you.

I was told that the thinking is to ultimately release the studio recording on vinyl.  Very retro. 

The cohorts at LAMOA.

Alice and Renée.

Rt to Lft: Rebecca, Greg, Jorge, Roper.

A variety of instruments was called for.

Accessing the first take.

Preparing to do it again.

The composer in the act.

Yours truly, using a Japanese tuba

The Big Cheese taking a moment out of the funhouse. 

The cohorts at the end of a successful day. Lft to Rt: Jorge, Greg, Alice, Rebecca, Renée, Roper, Gabie. 

The two big cheeses take a break from the funhouse.

KAL 007 memorial in Wakkanai.

Pan Am 103 memorial in Lockerbie.

Pan Am 103 memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. 

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