How Do You Boil a Bridge in Wine?

Here’s what’s shakin’. This Monday, from 2 to 3, I’ll appear on WNYC’s Soundcheck program along with Steve Smith from the Times. John Schafer’s interviewing us about that minimalism brouhaha that occasioned such an outpouring of comments recently, but since I think Steve and I see fairly eye-to-eye, I doubt that it will bring any new controversy. You never know. Sometimes I feel like Dick Deadeye in H.M.S. Pinafore, who is considered such a disreputable character that his most innocuous platitudes are reflexively greeted with horror and revulsion by the rest of the characters.

Tuesday the European half of my sabbatical begins. I fly to London and take a train to Bangor, Wales – apparently there are no airports in Wales – to participate in a minimalism conference sponsored by the University of Wales. My friend Keith Potter, author of Four Musical Minimalists, is making the train trip with me and giving the keynote address. My talk is oddly early in the event, given that I’m talking about the influence of phase-shifting on postminimalist music. Those of you who read me regularly will already have an idea what I’ll say and what examples I’ll be playing. And then I chair a panel about John Adams, no less. Bangor is a riverfront town of 17,000 souls whose only famous attraction seems to be the Menai bridge, built in 1826 as the first suspension bridge, and whose name I’ve known since childhood from a nonsense poem in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass:

I heard him then, for I had just

Completed my design

To keep the Menai Bridge from rust

By boiling it in wine.

Since I have to fly out of London anyway, I’m taking the opportunity to meander there for a couple of extra days, and re-explore one of my favorite cities.

September turned out to be a bad time to arrange European gigs, so I’m flying home for a couple of weeks, and thence to Copenhagen. The Times travel section recently ran a piece on tracking Soren Kierkegaard’s steps through Copenhagen, and since I was, during one of the more depressive tracts of my youth, a devout Kierkegaard fanatic, I’ve always wanted to do that, and I’m finally going to. September 26 I lecture on American music at the Royal Conservatory in Aarhus, Denmark, courtesy of the fine American expatriate composer Wayne Siegel, who teaches there. From there I head for Amsterdam in time to hear John Luther Adams’s music at an electric guitar festival. I give a concert of my music at the Karnatic Lab in Amsterdam October 9, then another in Hamburg on October 25. My piano concerto Sunken City premieres in Rotterdam October 30, then in Amsterdam the next day, and again on November 4, with the formidable pianist Geoffrey Douglas Madge accompanied by the Orkest de Volharding. Sometime in the middle of all this I plan to leave for Basel for a few days to do some Nancarrow research at the Sacher Foundation.

The last leg of my trip is back in England, where I lecture at the University of Liverpool on November 13 and at Goldsmiths College in London, where Keith teaches, on November 20. Other plans are pending. But for the next three months I’ll be blogging mostly from other other side of the Pond.

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