My first album is in the can!

Over the past few months, Marc Peloquin and I have been preparing to go into the studio with our first album together: 60 minutes of art songs by gay American composers. We unwittingly started the project in February when we put together a recital for the Composers Now Festival. For a plethora of reasons, the program was sparsely attended, but aside from the first few songs (in my opinion) it was a real success musically. Those first three songs would have been infinitely better if the house manager hadn’t pulled me aside literally seconds before we were set to go on stage to tell me that the poor attendance would add an additional $200 to our rental fee. But that’s a rant for another day.

The audience, despite being small, was mighty, and I was happy to have shared that special evening with many of the people who matter most in my life. And afterward, the prevailing opinion (besides, “Where the hell was everybody?!”) was that it would be a crime not to record those songs. Twist my arm…

After a bit of research into recording studios and the ins and outs of recording an album, Marc and I sat down over drinks, and decided to actually do it. We’d record that program, and we’d do it right. But we never dream without dreaming big. So in the course of that evening, we decided to form our own record label, and we planned our first five releases, starting with these 19 songs, which have never been recorded before.

Shortly after that, I had studio dates booked, and Chet Biscardi, one of the composers on the disc (and a good friend), set us up with a pre-recording concert at Sarah Lawrence College where he chairs the music program.

Over the past two months, Marc and I worked the songs – most of which we’ve been performing on and off since 2007 – and continued to find new and exciting facets and interpretive twists for all of them.

Finally, our recording dates came, and we trekked up to Oktaven Audio in Yonkers, NY on a series of increasingly cold November days to get the songs in the can. It was an absolute joy to be in the studio – it was my first time to record more than demos, other than my silent participation in several AME and Naxos releases as a page turner. We had three three-hour sessions, and each was exhilarating and exhausting.

We still have two major jobs ahead of us: listening to all 176 takes to speed up the editing process, and raising funds to pay for the editing, mixing, and mastering!

Every few days, I’ll be posting a rough clip or two from the recording sessions, so check here, on Facebook, or on Twitter to hear those little nuggets.

And please consider helping to fund our Kickstarter campaign, which runs through Dec 17. And if we reach our goals early, we’ll put up some extra rewards.

Caveat Compositor

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be cross-posting a series of short essays that I wrote at the NewMusicShelf about self-publishing and making good financial decisions as an artist.

It’s one of those times of the year for me: time to check out the various “opportunity listings” with the Professional Organizations I’m a member of, and put together packets for competitions and calls for scores.

The thing that consistently annoys me about these applications is the ridiculous expense you go to in order to have a stranger judge you and your body of work based on a single score. If the competition requires that you submit your scores anonymously or pseudonymously, you’re dishing out money to print and bind this one-time-use-only score, mail it, and cover the return postage. Then there’s the cost of the other submission materials: CDs for recordings; labels for the CDs; a jewel case for the CD; envelopes; paper and ink for your cover letter, resume, bio, list of works, contest entry form, and the performance history of the work being submitted; and the sealed envelope marked with your pseudonym, containing your real name and the title of the work you’ve submitted. One application with one score and one recording can cost $20. Sending two scores and two CDs? Tack on another $10. And that’s all before any application fees. So, to enter a competition requiring two copies of the score and two CDs, as well as a $25 application fee (not at all unheard-of), you’re dishing out $55 at the very least. You can see why I’m happy that more and more competitions are going to electronic submissions!

This is sort of a long way of saying that I don’t particularly like application fees. I’m already dishing out a surprising amount of money to enter a competition, so making me write a check for $25 isn’t terribly endearing. Now, I totally understand that there are administrative costs to running a competition – judges need to be paid for their time; someone has to be paid to collect and sort the applications, get them to and from judges, and put them in their return mailers and get them back to their respective composers; and there are also costs to advertise the competition – but a competition whose intent is to benefit composers probably shouldn’t be taking so much of their money, especially considering that a composer probably isn’t limiting himself to applying to just one competition. If you apply to four competitions that need 2 scores, 2 recordings, and $25 app fee, you’ve just dropped $220.

Another function that an application fee supposedly serves is that of gatekeeper. Some application fees are in place to keep out those composers who aren’t really serious about the competition – just as some colleges and universities have exorbitant app fees in order to weed out those applicants who apply on a lark, and who don’t particularly intend to go there. Ostensibly, composers who aren’t very good and whose scores would add an unnecessary burden to the process would take themselves out of the runnings. I think that, more likely, these fees serve only to keep out serious composers who can’t afford the fee (see: Tobenski, Dennis from 2004-2010).

My thought is that the administrative costs should be budgeted for in advance. Any organization that has its act sufficiently together to hold a national – or international – competition, complete with prize money, should have an operating budget that takes these administrative expenses into account. And any organization that is using the entry fees to fund any part of its prize clearly doesn’t really have its act all that together, now does it?

There’s a potential argument that the administrative costs are budgeted for, and that the application fees are a projected part of that budget. To which I can only say: “Horse feathers!” If the organization has a real budget, it does fundraising. And if it does fundraising, it can come up with the judges’ and administrative fees. And maybe it can cut some costs by going digital, to boot. Save everyone some time and money. I know that fundraising is hard, especially in this economic climate. But being a young composer while trying to pay rent, feed yourself, and be an active participant in competitions and calls for scores is just a wee bit harder. (And it’s awfully awkward when you’re being taken to task by Fran Richard at ASCAP for not applying to competitions that you’re perfectly suited for yet can’t afford to submit to because you can’t really afford your rent and bills thanks to the abysmal job market (See: Tobenski, Dennis: June 2010).)

A nominal application fee, I understand. Something to help defray costs. For example: So-and-so is already being paid regularly for their time working for the organization, so a small application fee supplements their pay for the extra hours they’ll have to work to sort through and organize all of the submissions. Or: in exchange for working from their homes, the panelists have donated their time in judging the entries, so the application costs cover postage of the application materials to and from each of the judges. A bunch of small application fees can go a long way for an organization; conversely a small handful of application fees can be very harmful to a young composer’s financial stability. And don’t tell me that young composers should be more selective in which competitions they apply to (they should, but for different reasons) until everyone in the industry stops badgering us to “Apply! Apply! APPLY!!!”

I totally stand behind the American Music Center’s caveat about application fees on their website:

The American Music Center does not encourage the charging of entry fees to composers or performers participating in competitions, calls for scores, festivals, or other opportunities. While we understand that organizations may feel compelled to charge a nominal fee to help pay for reasonable administrative costs not covered by funding, the American Music Center strongly objects to organizations that charge fees in a manner that is misleading or inappropriate, such as charging relatively high entry fees in order to fund the cost of the actual award or performance or, worse, charging entry fees while reserving the right not to award any prize at all (e.g., hundreds or thousands made by charging fees, but no commission, performance, award, etc.). It is for these reasons that we urge all composers and performers to consider carefully all opportunities with entry fees and to contact AMC directly if you have questions or concerns about a particular opportunity.

I recently came across a competition listing that rubbed me completely the wrong way. The Midwestern organization hosting this competition offers an unspecified cash prize plus two performances to the composer of the winning entry. So after dishing out $25 for your first submitted score and $10 for your second, you have the chance to win $????.??! Bestill my beating heart! If you manage to read the submission guidelines all the way to the bottom, you find out that:

The composer of the winning piece will receive half of all entry fees collected, two concert performances in [date redacted], and a performance and/or recording session recording.

Your prize, should you win, is half of the collected entry fees. In other words, the organization hosting this competition didn’t budget for an award, and are hoping that a lot of suckers composers apply. You may be the only sucker composer who enters, which means that you’ll win $17.50 if you paid $35 to submit two scores. Or everyone in the world could apply, and you’ll be a billionaire!

If that weren’t weird and skeevy enough, this is the next bit from that paragraph which is buried at the bottom of the page.

[Name of organization redacted] will have non-exclusive, world-wide perpetual license to perform the winning piece and shall have the right to record the performance for archival and other purposes, including distribution and sale of such recording. Other submitted works may also be selected for performance but will not receive prize money.

Translation: If you win, then by having entered the competition, you give the organization perpetual license to perform your piece, record it, and use the recording however they damn well please. So you are entering into a contract with the organization signing over a portion of your rights, allowing them to make money off of your works in perpetuity. And the benefit to you that is explicitly spelled out in this contract? …. Yeah, I thought so. There’s no mention of mechanical rights; royalties; the ability to veto a recording that’s god-awful; coaching, consultation, or any involvement whatsoever with the rehearsal or recording processes; or even your right to have your name on the recording next to the title of your piece. Skeevy.

Taking a step back for a moment, most arts organizations operate on the policy of good faith. In a recent conversation I had with a pretty major agent for composers, it was further driven home to me that most contracts in the concert music world are mostly for show. Even with a major commission, the contract is never truly followed, save for the dollar amounts that should be written on checks to the composer. The whole transaction happens purely on good faith. My recent blogular hard-assed-ness to the contrary, I totally stand behind the practice of operating on good faith. We are artists, after all, not divorce attorneys!

So the problem that I have with this particular competition is that this paragraph clearly outlines the composer’s obligation to the ensemble, but not the ensemble’s obligation to the composer. Because it’s buried at the bottom of the page, and it uses such phraseology as “non-exclusive, world-wide perpetual license” and “shall have the right”, in my mind it belongs to the slimy world of fine print. I half expected to see “Some restrictions may apply,” or “Void where prohibited,” tacked onto the end. It just seems to nullify the idea of good faith.

I’m willing to believe that this competition is legit, but that it’s just very poorly managed. And it’s very unfortunate that someone in the organization felt the need to make such a slimy grab at the entrants’ rights. They want to perform the piece? Great, they’ll have to pay royalties. They want to record it? They’ll sign an agreement with my publisher (i.e., me), outlining the fee for the mechanical rights, and ensuring that I’m either involved with the preparation of the piece or have the power to veto its use on the disc should I be unhappy with the result. It’s not just in my best interest that the recording be good – I should hope that the censemble would want that, as well.

This is the sort of competition that makes me question all the others, and I don’t want that.

Engraving: A Hobby-Horse

A man and his Hobby-Horse, tho’ I cannot say that they act and re-act exactly after the same manner in which the soul and body do upon each other: Yet doubtless there is a communication between them of some kind; and my opinion rather is, that there is something in it more of the manner of electrified bodies,—and that, by means of the heated parts of the rider, which come immediately into contact with the back of the Hobby-Horse,—by long journies and much friction, it so happens, that the body of the rider is at length fill’d as full of Hobby-Horsical matter as it can hold;—so that if you are able to give but a clear description of the nature of the one, you may form a pretty exact notion of the genius and character of the other.

— Laurence Stern, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

One of my favorite musical Hobby-Horses – one that I can ride for hours on end — is engraving: That is, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, the art of putting the notes on the page so as to make the score legible and attractive – a far more important aspect of composing than most people, many composers included — mostly young, but surprisingly often not —, realize.

A brief history of my own engraving abilities, practices, and standards: I started my compositional life using a scaled-down version of Finale called Notepad, which allowed me to put on paper what was in my head. The results, although essentially accurate, were unattractive at best. It seemed to me, still about 5 years away from my first composition lesson, that the important thing was to get the notes out, and that the score was good so long as the individual notes were legible and not literally piled on top of one another (a frequent issue with Notepad, and later, albeit to a lesser degree, Finale itself). My earliest scores were a bit of a wreck – the notes were crammed together on the staff with no regard for proportional spacing, and elements of the score often collided. The scores were legible, but barely.

In college, my engraving improved (though I was still completely unaware that such a term existed, let alone that there were standards to such a thing). Since my works were being performed with some regularity, I found that I had to put more work into making the score readable, which wasn’t exactly the most pleasing realization at the time, as I much preferred sitting down at the piano and hammering out something new than sitting in front of the computer, clicking away entering notes and dragging things around to create more space and take up more paper. At a certain point, though, one of my composition teachers started getting frustrated with the legibility of my scores, and would spend more and more of our lesson time marking up the score with a red pen, pointing out the problems with the engraving. I seriously resisted most of his suggestions – they weren’t musical criticisms, and therefore weren’t worth much of my attentions. (Ah, youth!)

The idea of attractive engraving as a desirable thing started to leak into my brain toward the end of my undergrad career. I was recommended a book written by a friend of one of my professors, which purported to set down exact rules and procedures for staff sizes, positioning of articulations (down to the pixel!), etc. I realize in retrospect that this is all pure foolishness. This made a science of engraving, when it is in reality an art.

When I was invited to study privately in NYC, my new teacher, who had spent much of his youth as a Broadway copyist and an engraver for Ned Rorem and Virgil Thomson, among others, made a number of immediate, sweeping changes. I was forced to buy Sibelius. Having been a Finale Man for eight years, I hated the idea of switching software (the Finale/Sibelius debate is nearly as heated as the PC/Mac silliness, both sides being completely entrenched and unbudgeable). And we spent a sizable portion of our lesson time discussing engraving practices: how to avoid collisions, proper spacing, the general rule for how many measures should be in a system, etc.

In time, I came to love Sibelius. Rather quickly, actually. I can’t imagine myself going back.

And in time, I came to be quite proficient at professional-level engraving. I now do some freelance engraving work from time to time. And I’ve integrated the engraving process into my compositional process. As I input a score into Sibelius, even if I’m still composing it, I do a significant level of tidying up and formatting as I go. It saves time later, and really helps me to see the score for what it is, and helps me to assess where I am and where I want to go with the piece.

I end up seeing a lot of scores by young composers, now, and the quality of engraving I see varies rather widely. Some scores are super clear and very attractive; others have clearly received little attention in the way of formatting or “beautifying”.

I understand the mindset of those young composers who don’t put the time into their engraving – “The music should speak for itself.” I agree – the music should speak for itself. But it can’t unless it is properly engraved. Reading a score that hasn’t been given attention to visual detail is like listening to someone speak with a very heavy accent. Or reading horrible handwriting. The content may be there, but it’s so much work to figure it out.

Even looking through a stack of well-engraved scores is a frankly tiring endeavor. That, plus the additional effort required to decipher any number of poorly-engraved scores, is absolutely exhausting!  It’s all too easy to dismiss a poorly-engraved score out of hand.

So what can composers do to make their scores clearer and more attractive? Think about the performer – consider what you can do to make the performer’s life easier.

A few points to consider:

1) Are the beats clear? Can the performer easily make out the basic division of beats in each measure? (I.e., does a 4/4 bar look like two sets of two quarter notes? Do your 3/4 bars look like 3/4 bars, and not 6/8 bars, and vice versa? Are the rhythms – especially complicated rhythms – notated in a way that facilitates counting them out?)

2) Do the notes have enough room to breathe? (Are there too many or too few bars per system so that the system feels cramped or empty? Are lyrics spaced so that they are easy to read?)

3) Are the staves and notes a reasonable size? Too many composers leave their software at the default size settings so that everything seems far too large, which gives it the sense of being “easy” – music for beginners: the notes are large and safe.

4) Are your articulations and markings placed clearly and correctly? (Expressive instructions are italicized, instructions for playing techniques are non-italicized, articulations generally go on the side of the notehead rather than the stem….etc)

5) Are you consistent with your accidentals, and are your intervals properly spelled? Nothing is more maddening than constant switching between sharps and flats. There are occasions when sharps and flats may peacefully co-exist in the same measure, but generally one should stick with one or the other for as long as possible. And few things are more confusing in the moment than augmented or diminished intervals. These should be respelled – especially for vocalists – to be as immediately-readable as possible.

The general idea is to consider how you would like the score to look if you hadn’t seen it before and had to perform it with virtually no rehearsal time. That doesn’t mean dumb down your music. It means make your hard music as easy to learn (and perform) as possible.

Look at professionally published scores, and see how they’re formatted. And – most importantly – ask your performers if there’s anything that they found particularly difficult, or if a particular element of your notation was confusing. Then change it!

For my hobby-horse, if you recollect a little, is no way a vicious beast; he has scarce one hair or lineament of the ass about him—’Tis the sporting little filly-folly which carries you out for the present hour—a maggot, a butterfly, a picture, a fiddlestick—an uncle Toby’s siege—or an any thing, which a man makes a shift to get a-stride on, to canter it away from the cares and solicitudes of life—’Tis as useful a beast as is in the whole creation—nor do I really see how the world could do without it—

Addictive Riddle: In which Dennis sorts through hundreds of postcards

On Thurs., July 16, Kaity and I made a trip to West 11th Street to visit the home of David’s third husband, Joel Conarroe. Joel has kept extensive files of letters, postcards, photos, articles, etc on a variety of his friends over the years; and since learning of the biography from David, he has very generously opened up his home to us and given us amazing access to himself and his archives.

When Kaity and I arrived, we sat for a while with Joel, getting acquainted with one another, and bringing Joel up to speed on our research thus far. Then we were led to his library, where four sizable boxes were laid out for us. Joel gave us the tour of the material – a box of programs, articles, and reviews; a box of letters and photos; a box of postcards and more letters and photos; and a box of various materials, much of which is tangential to the project, but important nonetheless – and reminisced over several items, pointing out a few points of particular interest. Joel hadn’t looked at most of the materials in the boxes in years, and it clearly sparked a lot of memories.

In one box was a copy of the speech that Joel gave at David’s 70th birthday party at the Century Club (included in another box is the letter of introduction that Joel wrote to the Century, suggesting David as a member). (Alas, I missed the party because I was at the VCCA, busy writing till night is overgone.) A portion of the speech had been given over to witticisms of David’s that Joel had written down over the years:

Joel: This wine needs to breathe.
David: This wine needs to gasp! It needs a respirator!

David (While waiting for Aaron Copland to answer his door during Joel’s first visit to Copland’s house): Now, when Aaron opens the door, you must bow twice – he expects it. And you have to say, “Why, Aaron! You don’t look a day over 69!”

David’s silliness and irreverence were really driven home over the course of the two hours we spent looking through Joel’s archives that day. So, too, were his sweetness and capacity for love. Kaity and I were both a little surprised at the effusiveness of David’s love letters to Joel. Surprised, mostly because love letters are a lost art. Who today pours their heart into a letter, stuffs it into an envelope, and pops it in the mail? No one I know!

During our visit, Kaity and I took notes on various points of interest: specific dates on certain pieces of correspondence, names of people to look into, nicknames.

When we left, I had only gotten through one of the four boxes! And that just was skimming the majority of the letters and postcards!

Last Thursday, the 23rd, we went back to familiarize ourselves even more with Joel’s materials before we sit down to interview him properly. We’ve come across so many interesting things: the eulogy that David gave at his father’s funeral; the interview that Joel and David did for the Parnassus Review; snippets of music that David wrote to silly texts for Joel; a moth that David Scotch-taped inside of a letter he sent from MacDowell.

Tomorrow morning, Kaity and I will make our third trip to Joel’s for an interview in the morning. I’m not sure how I feel about waking up so early (8:00 – far too early for someone who doesn’t have a day job and typically sleeps until noon!), but I’m really excited to hear everything that Joel has to tell us!

Joel has been incredibly generous in giving us such amazing access to his archives. Kaity and I are really lucky to be working on a project about which so many people are so enthusiastic and want to be so wonderfully helpful.

Book fetish

Those who know me know that I have a thing about books that borders on fetish. I love buying and owning books. Consequently, I never have enough shelf space. (I recently bought a new 6ft bookcase that was filled instantly with the overflow from my other shelves – the new shelf is all music books and scores, and “literary non-fiction” now has its own full bookcase. Forget about fiction – I still have tons of novels stacked on the tops of rows, and a few on the floor!)

Of course, living in a fairly small studio in New York City isn’t terribly conducive to owning a book collection swiftly approaching the one thousand mark. But we all need an obsession. I’ve never been much of a collector of anything, really, save for books. There’s just something wonderful about them, and I take great pride in my library.

I have some odd little quirks when it comes to book buying, but these ‘quirks’ mostly just keep me from going completely broke. First, I mostly – not exclusively – buy used books. They’re infinitely cheaper on the whole, which makes my bank account happier. And there’s something more satisfying about a book that’s been around for a while. Sure, a new, shiny cover can be a nice thing once in a while, but old books need homes, too. Second, I try my hardest to spend $4 or less per book. For special books, I’m willing to ignore that particular guideline. (My resolve is steadily wearing down on the first two volumes of Letters from a Life, the published Britten correspondence, which I’ve only found at particularly high prices. I suspect that I’ll break down and buy them in the next few months.) Books on web design, and similar books that date quickly, I always buy new, and just grimace as I dish out the $30-40. And you can just imagine how I adore the dollar racks at used book stores!

I decided last January that 2008 was the Year of Buying Books. (2009 has been designated the Year of Buying DVDs since my video collection is pathetic, and there are so many great movies and television shows out there that I’d happily watch again and again.) I tried to spend around $12 a week on books. Most weeks, I did fine and limited myself to $12. Some weeks…. We all have our moments of weakness.

While I love taking trips to used book stores and wandering for hours, poking into rows of books hidden behind other rows, I do the majority of my book buying online. I started last year buying mostly through the Marketplace and On the Amazon Marketplace, people can – and a surprising number do – sell their books for a penny. Shipping, of course is $2.99 per book, but that’s still under my $4 limit! [Edit: was – shipping is now $3.45 at Half and $3.99 at Amazon. Sheesh!] My new favorite online bookseller for any number of reasons is Better World Books. Not only are their used books priced perfectly for my budget (and their stock is impressive – I’m all about little-known collections of essays and such by authors like Andre Gide or Jean Cocteau, or out-of-print biographies and analyses of music or literary works, which they carry an astonishing number of), but the proceeds go to literacy programs around the world. A really neat thing they do is to show you which program or charity will benefit from the sale of each individual book. They’re always my first stop when I’m looking for something in particular. (Plus, shipping is free within the Unites States!)

To make the whole book-collecting thing more obsessive, I love re-organizing my collection every so often – incorporating new acquisitions into the larger body, shifting things to accommodate the influx of volumes. As I mentioned earlier, I have one whole bookcase full of music-related materials: three shelves of biographies, memoirs, analyses, correspondence; one shelf of scores; and one of reference-type books (books on orchestration, harmony, conducting; anthologies I’ve used in classes). And one bookcase of “literary non-fiction”: biographies, memoirs, essays, diaries by and about poets, authors of prose, journalists, playwrights, filmmakers. (This bookcase also shares space with the ‘sexuality’ portion of my library: Edmund White’s States of Desire, The Homosexualization of America by Dennis Altman, Douglass Shand-Tucci’s The Crimson Letter, to name a few.) Fiction spans one and a half bookcases, with books stacked on top of the rows on shelves, and a few sitting off to the side since there’s no more room. Then one shelf of poetry, and a shelf that’s half scripts and half philosophy. My web design books still don’t have a home, alas!

At this point, I’ve sort of reached critical mass in terms of bookcases. I can’t possibly fit one more in my apartment – I’ve run out of wall space where I can shoe-horn them in. The only option remaining is to stick two back to back in the middle of the floor, and that’s a move of desperation! Especially since the floors (in typical New York fashion) are uneven, and I’d live in constant terror of someone accidentally knocking them over.

I am also completely enamored of, where I let my organizational compulsions run free. I’ve catalogued my entire library on the site, complete with tags to classify everything, and whether I’ve yet read a book, with dates when I started and finished those that I have. I do enjoy loaning books to friends, so I also use LT to keep track of who has what, because I’m likely to forget who has what!

What prompted this little ramble about my bibliophilia? A very good friend of mine is currently in the process of moving and is having to evaluate his collection of books, which has grown quite large over the (I think) 17 or so years that he’s lived in that apartment. He recently piled up the books that he’s decided to part with, and I was given a crack at the piles. Some were set aside specifically for me, but there were another 7 stacks that he’s giving away. I came away from our visit today with a stack of books and a small stack of scores, and I’ve left another pile of books in a corner to pick up later this week. But it made me consider when the day comes that I move out of this apartment. Moving the books will be unpleasant, to say the least. I will not relish boxing up so many volumes and carting them around.

In the meantime, though, I’m happy to keep expanding my collection.

Long Barn on the Back Burner

Alas, the premiere of Long Barn was canceled last week, so the piece will be put on hold until I’ve finished the other commissions on my plate. I’m not really sure why the performance was nixed, but it’s aggravating that I put off another paying commission to start the cycle (a non-paid project), spent weeks working on it, and had the piece nearly half-finished when word came down from the VW Conference that the cycle wouldn’t be performed.

I’m very happy with the work that I’ve done on the piece so far, so I intend to finish it, but I feel very much compelled to put it on the back burner until I’ve finished the four commissions currently on my plate that I’m being paid for.

Addictive Riddle: DDT Interview #4 – 1966-1980.

This week’s interview was a little scatter-shot. We jumped around a lot and corrected some previous errors before going on to new material.

We started out where we had our greatest problems two weeks ago: with the Harvard years, and the Bog Schoolhouse. I had sent an email to the Harvard Department of Music asking them to verify the dates that David taught there, and they responded very, very quickly. Their response was surprising, as well. They consulted Elliot Forbes’ A History of Music at Harvard to 1972and A Report of Music at Harvard from 1972 to 1990, and discovered that he had been there not starting in 1968, but starting in 1967! And that he left in 1971! There’s our missing year! It also fits well with David’s account of going to art colonies in the summers. David had been going to MacDowell for nearly 10 year at this point, and the colony had a policy in place limiting fellows to 10 visits during their lifetime (a policy that has since been retracted). So that he wouldn’t use up his 10 lifetimes visits before the age of 40, David went to Yaddo for the first time in … 1971. A new colony, a new atmosphere, an impetus to … quit teaching at Harvard.

So. David called Harvard from Yaddo and tendered his resignation. When his residency was over, he moved out of Boston and into the Bog Schoolhouse, where he spent a year (Fall 1971 — Spring 1972) writing, and after a time being generally lonely and miserable. He started looking for a job, and was offered the SUNY Buffalo position with the Creative Associates, which was a one semester appointment.

Problem. Solved.


And the point was driven home – never trust any single source for its accuracy. Every last source until Harvard was just plain wrong. (And we intend to triple-check their dates, too!) Boosey’s timeline was skewed a year late as regards the Harvard years. Grove was off by the same amount. And the Oxford Dictionary of Music was just wrong. Just plain wrong. A dictionary – wrong. Shame, shame, shame. 1966—1972 – a year early at the beginning and a year late at the end. At least the others had the right span of time.

A sizeable chunk of the rest of interview was given over to expanding on some neglected portions of out last session: some musical discussion, fleshing out the times spent in NH and Buffalo, talking more about David’s relationships during the period.

To our great fortune, one of David’s closest friends during the Harvard years, Tison Street, is visiting NYC from Boston next week. While we sat there, David called Tison and set up an interview session with him next Tuesday at David’s studio (same Bat Time, same Bat Channel). For the first hour of the interview, David will be out to lunch with a friend, but will join us for a joint session at the end. Awesome!

When we finally got on to “new material”, we made it through the Final Alice years, and some of its professional and personal ramifications.

Because the session was so scatter-shot, it felt at times as though it dragged. However, it was an incredibly fruitful interview, and covered a lot of side-areas that we had neglected before.