It seems as though each successive interview with David gets to be more and more enjoyable. And strange things are starting to happen….
In the second interview, we spent some time talking about David’s first serious boyfriend, John. After they had broken up, the two kept in some contact, but as time passed the two spoke less, as often happens. John, a pianist and conductor, took frequent trips into remote areas of the world for very extended vacations – often alone, and often without telling friends or family of his destination or about the trip at all! One day, years ago, David received a call from John’s mother, asking, “Have you talked to John recently?” It turns out that neither had spoken with him in some time, and no one seemed to know where he was. At a certain point, David assumed him dead.
The Monday after our second interview was David’s 72nd birthday. And who should call with birthday wishes, but John! John has been living happily in Florida with his partner for 45 years! His mother had just happened to call David while he was away on one of his long trips. Simple as that. How bizarre! (Oh, and according to John, David’s account of their years together is a little off. I guess Kaity and I will be taking a trip to FL some time for an interview with John to straighten out the story!)
For this interview, we covered the transition from the Joyce years to the Alice years. At David’s suggestion early on in the process, we’ve relied heavily upon a timeline of David’s life published by his publisher Boosey & Hawkes some years ago. David oversaw the creation of the timeline, so we’ve all trusted its accuracy so far. What a mistake! If there’s one thing that Kaity and I have learned in this brief process, it’s not to trust any source for accuracy. The Boosey timeline is badly flawed, but at least gives us a point of reference. What is most astonishing, however, is the glaring inaccuracies of certain scholarly works.
Kaity’s boyfriend Danny is a theory grad at City College, and has helped her to do some preliminary research for the various interviews by finding articles and interviews and encyclopedia entries for her. The first thing he printed off was the article on David from the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and the brief entry in the Oxford Dictionary of Music (both part of Oxford Music Online). My, oh my! A few times during this interview, Kaity quoted dates listed in the entry – specifically dates that he taught at various universities – and David looked at her as though she’d grown a second head. The dates are both inaccurate and inconsistent!
Grove puts David at Harvard in 1968, which jibes with the Boosey pamphlet. Fine. But it has him as full faculty at SUNY Buffalo for the full 1972-73 school year, when he was in fact only a pianist for the Creative Associates ensemble for the Fall semester. As for his end-date at Harvard, we can assume from the SUNY ‘position’ listed here that he left in the Spring of 1972, which also jibes with the Boosey pamphlet. The Oxford Dictionary of Music, no the other hand, wisely omits the SUNY position, but has David at Harvard from 1966-1972! 1966? Where did that date come from?!
The majority of the interview was spent trying to make the pieces fit for the years 1968-1973. The greatest point of contention was an article published in August 1973 in After Dark magazine (a “gay friendly” but “not gay” (right!) entertainment magazine published from 1968 to 1982). David insisted that the article had come out during his years at Harvard. He specifically remembered the head of the department approaching him about it, and asking him to keep it as quiet at possible. But no source available had him teaching at Harvard at such a late date. I suggested that maybe this happened while he was at Boston University (all sources have him at BU starting in 1973). No, he definitely remembers this happening at Harvard. We finally left that point alone, vowing to return to it later.
Another point of confusion was the missing time after he left Harvard, but before he spent his semester at SUNY Buffalo. In our earlier interviews, David had spoken of his time at the “Bog Schoolhouse”, a small house in Alexandria, NH, that he had bought with his then-boyfriend Ray, and where he had spent considerable time after having left Harvard. The story goes that during the school year, he wasn’t able to write because all of his concentration went into teaching. So, one summer at Yaddo, he decided to stop teaching and move full-time into the Bog House so that he couuld write year-round. And he did – he called up Harvard and quit, then packed up and moved to NH for a year. After a time, though, he couldn’t stand it anymore. Every morning at 4:30, the first tractor of the day would ride over a rickety little bridge near the house, causing an awful racket. And in the winter, he had a terrible time keeping the house heated properly. So he moved back to New York City.
Ok. Those of you keeping track of dates can clearly see the conundrum here. David supposedly taught at harvard from 1968 (screw Oxford’s weird date that no one felt the need to fact-check) until 1972. He took a year off, then spent a semester in Buffalo in the Fall of 1972! We finally gave up and moved on to other topics so that we wouldn’t waste the entire two hour session on someone else’s poor research.
Despite the frustrations of working from clearly faulty sources, it was a very fun session. It was like detective work, piecing together bits of the puzzle. A tiring, but enjoyable, interview.