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Quite the Table

"I try to schedule the intensives wherever I go". – Pauline Oliveros


The early morning of the first day of the New Music America festival finally arrived with an avalanche of details to attend to. The New Music Parade would begin in just a few hours, self-assembling near the corner of Montrose and Westheimer on its disheveled energetic journey southward towards the new MFAH sculpture garden where John Cage's Ryaonji would be performed. The festival hadn't even started and I was already an exhausted nervous wreck, though I tried to disguise it through sheer force of will. 

The Four Seasons Hotel was where some of the participants were staying. Through the connections and influence of the Houston Festival, the sponsoring organization for New Music America, the Four Seasons Hotel was the official hotel of NMA '86, a lopsided sponsorship that provided little marketing benefit to them. The composers and musicians staying there did not resemble their usual clientele. That's where John was staying, so I drove by that morning to check on him. Given his combination as experimental music icon, the opening event composer, and being in relatively frail condition from age, I was concerned. Was he okay? He was.

I found him in the opulent dining room on the mezzanine level, dressed in his typical uniform of blue jean jacket, seated next to Ornette Coleman at a round white-clothed table garnished with fresh flowers. The two were chattering and giggling like kids. My approach interrupted their fun. The necessary pleasantries were exchanged. The two veterans assured me all was well with them. Moments later, Pauline Oliveros strolled up. I began introductions, when, self-consciously, I immediately checked myself. In my role as organizer of the festival and thus symbolic host, I momentarily wondered if everyone knew each other. Of course they did. Hugs all around with accompanying Chesire Cat-sized smiles. The chattering resumed, this time with Pauline as the new participant. I was invited to join the table, which I did. I sat, listening to the jovial camaraderie and shared art world war stories. 


My brain snapped back to attention realizing my day ahead. As graciously as possible, I apologized, explaining my duties, sorely wanting instead to stay. Everyone understood. I reluctantly got up and made my exit. Glancing back at the old friends immersed in happy conversation, I thought to myself, "That's quite the table."


February 10, 2019

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