Hanging with composers, or electroacoustic name dropping

Meeting people who are well known in one’s field is always a great learning experience. Sometimes all you learn is that a person you thought you respected is just a jerk. More often (at least in my experience), you learn that this person is not only a great artist, but a great person as well.

I have always had trouble separating my perceptions of an individual human, from my perceptions of the art he or she makes. I am predisposed to like the work of people who I have met and like on a personal level, just as I have trouble enjoying the work of people who I have met and determined to be jerks.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Jon Appleton. He spent a week at Loyola University as guest composer. The New Orleans electroacoustic scene is littered with Appleton students…well, ok, Paul Botelho at Loyola, and Tae Hong Park at Tulane, were both Appleton students. Paul brought Jon to town for a week of teaching and a concert. I had several chances to spend some time with him, and it just confirmed that the famous guys are famous for a reason. He premiered a new piece, and his mastery was obvious. His thoughts on music and life as a musician were both clear and inspiring. And, he is equally fun to talk with about pizza, bourbon, and removing chili stains from pink shirts.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of hearing Lukas Ligeti. Lukas is a composer and percussionist, and he performed a solo concert of his works at Zeitgeist in New Orleans. The stuff he did that night was all electronic, and was a cool mix of sampled and synthesized sounds. He spent an extra day in New Orleans after his show, and ended up back at Zeitgeist the next night, when I played a duo show with Dave Cappello. Dave, Lukas, RenĂ© (from Zeitgeist) and I ended up having a nice post gig meal/hang. Lukas has done a lot of travelling and has some interesting political ideas, so it made for a great night of conversation. It was so interesting, that we didn’t even talk about his famous father, although I did learn the correct way to pronounce the name.

Meeting cool people is far and away one of my favorite things about the life I am blessed to lead. I now have an even greater enjoyment of the works of Jon and Lukas.