Daniel Wolf wrote a lovely 80th birthday tribute to Alvin Lucier on his blog, Renewable Music. It ends with a great story about an opera in Berlin. Reading it got me thinking about one of my own Lucier stories.
Almost exactly five years ago, I was involved in coordinating a new music marathon at Northwestern University. Lucier was the featured guest composer, and we were including a performance of Music for cello and one or more amplified vases. I had to be in Boston for a couple of days before the event, and we still needed more vases. I went to a Pier 1 store in the Boston area, listened to the resonance of each of the many large vases out on display, and wrote down the product number and a brief description for each one that was promising. I bought one small and not too delicate vase in Boston that I knew I could fit in my suitcase:
Then I emailed this list to another composer in the program back at Northwestern.
SKU 2131933 tall, silverish purple (metallic lacquer), square opening at the top
SKU 2052904 dark grey with fish carved in, big round bass, then flutes out (originally $60, marked down to $30)
SKU 2107098 grey and white, matte, tall ($30, I think marked down from $60)
SKU 2103767 I know they have this one, light blue and light green glass, rounded
On my way to the airport, Jeff called me. He had gone to Pier 1 with this list and was scouring the store with no luck. A saleswoman asked if she could help him. She looked in some puzzlement at this very specific list and asked, “Is this a gift?” He realized that there was nothing to do but to tell her the whole story. I wish I could have heard his description and seen her reaction. She went on to help him find all the vases that were available, and the fish vase was the clear choice. As he made the purchase, she said, “I hope you and your vases make beautiful music together.”
After I posted this, I was sent an email with four photos from the day of the event. The last one is downright beautiful. It was a stunning performance by Katinka Kleijn–patient, rich, skilled, unobtrusive, totally loyal to the score.
All following photos: Aaron Cassidy