Taos Time – an artist residency at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico (How it stays with me and begot my first CD And So It Begins)
We used to joke about it…Taos seemed to have its own sense of time, subjective and changing, like the drama of its light, piercing the storm clouds. At 8000 feet, closer to the heavens, there was something palpably different about the place. I read a layman’s guide to quantum physics – how everything is vibration and that the earth itself vibrates at a very low hertz, I sat on my porch and tried to listen to it. If you could hear it anywhere, I was sure it was here. I didn’t exactly hear it, but maybe that’s what I felt. My biggest fear while I was there was that I would forget the wonder of the place and of time expanding before me – 3 months to compose, explore and just be.
The first night there I woke at 4 in the morning, went to the window and it was full of stars, big ones, little ones, yes, like diamonds in the sky. I sat at the piano and improvised what later would become the first of the Visions. And it turned out, through that group of pieces and now with Roxanne Rea’s dreamscape video of them, I haven’t forgotten, when I clear the decks (the mind and all) I can still return to that open sense of fresh air and possibility.
When I returned to New York City after the first summer, (I had the great good fortune of two summers in Taos) I gave a concert of new and recent work, collaborating with performers who had been commissioning and playing my pieces. This was the first of several concerts that culminated in my recent CD And So It Begins. The title piece, a sextet for strings and tenor saxophone, was written during my second summer in Taos. (That summer I also met my now partner, writer Roger Aplon, who was my next-door neighbor at the Wurlitzer.)
The return to New York City was culture shock at first. Walking through crowded Harlem streets, I enveloped myself in a Native American folk tune that I had sung while walking off the grid on Indian land – Now I walk in Beauty, beauty is before me, beauty is behind me, above and below me. Through the sirens and screeching cars, I heard a man singing a gospel version of This Little Light of Mine. We smiled at each other, each continuing our song. This was the impetus for another piece, this time to integrate these experiences (and these tunes). The Beauty Way, the opening piece on the CD, is a trio for viola da gamba, a 7 string pre-cursor to our modern strings. It weaves together three folk tunes to describe what the Navajo call the “beauty way”, those times when we are in harmony with all that is.
Now with the CD out, a cap and summary of a certain period, and so it begins, the end, the beginning…