Contemporary Music

When I was in college at Ohio State University, I remember a time that I was having trouble tuning in the local classical music station, WOSU. When I finally got it tuned in, it wasnít the typical classical fare, but some rather avant garde contemporary music.

At first the composition seemed to consist of isolated, unrelated sounds, but as I listened, I began to discern that they were related by the rhythm, which was the primary focus of the composition.

The sonic palate was built from irregular clusters of high pitched squeaks, somewhat more regular, hollow sounding thunks at a slower tempo, and a vocalist making gutteral noises and breathing sounds.

As I listened, I began to appreciate the subtle relationships in the music. This composer was as avant gard as any I had heard before, and he was good. The complexity of the rhythems was amazing. It was almost entirely unmetered. Unlike anything composer I had ever heard, this genuis had discarded the "bar" to write unmetered music that still made perfect sense, rhythemically. He created complex rhythems, forming a rich texture which was beautifully complemented by the incredible sparseness of the instrumentation.

Then the play-by-play man announced the tennis score.

I finally realized that I had been listening to an incredibly long volley in an indoor tennis. I had tuned to a UHF television station by mistake. The relationships I had been hearing were indeed there. The physics of the lobs, slams, squeaks of tennis shoe, sound of ball on the racket and on the court were all interrelated by the ball, by the game, and by the physics of the event.

John Cage would have seen both the delight and the humor in the experience.

First memory: My twin sister Marjie and I in diapers, crawling up the stairs at Aunt Theresaís house. There was a beauty parlor in front of house, where the living room would be, and a black rubber runner on the stairs. We went in the bathroom, played with the cosmetics and made a mess, and we got spanked. Contemporary Music: Canoeing at Isle Royale My dad and I were canoeing the shoreline of Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior. The sky was so clear and blue that it was dark. The horizon reveals no land, because the lake is so wide, just an unending expanse of water. The water is very clear and deep. The rays of the sun seem to converge in infinitely deep blue green depths. Nearer the shore, the land can be seen in great clarity as it tumbles into the depths. The water is cold, and experience tells me I could not survive in it for more than a few minutes without becoming weak and helpless, and soon dying of hypothermia. Where the coast is not protected by barrier islands, the waves are gentle rolling swells, which break forcefully against the rocks of the shore. The breakers could crush my tempered aluminum canoe like a twigd The shore is mostly cliffs of granite, visibly sculpted by glaciers in huge grooves, and cleaned of all soil to a height of about 20 feet. Most vegetation is small pine trees, natural bonsai scoured and tortured into beautiful shapes by cruel winter winds, and tenacious patches of rock lichens What I cannot express is the infinity of infinities which I saw. Infinite blueness, infinite purity, infinite beauty, infinite depth and infinite expanse of sky. Infinite power of winter store and glacier chisel, and the infinite patience required to sculpt the island into its current shape. The heavens were declaring the glory of God. I knew, experientially, that there was a Creator, and that his work was beyond imagination. Alone in boot camp I didnít take leave during Christmas, as most of the other recruits did, because my girlfriend would not see me at her home, only at school. Michaelís birth