Interview date: 8/19/2010
TP: How did you find out about Kansas?
DA: I found out about Kansas House through Bob Massey, as part of the Punk-Not-Rock project that he was doing. And it was one of those things where I was surprised. Maybe a lot of people felt this way– because I wasn’t living in Arlington, I lived in DC. So I was surprised I hadn’t heard about it before. Or, it was one of those things where I think he invited me to it and then when I got there I realized, oh, this is Kansas House. That kind of revelation that I had been hearing about it. Especially because my band was playing at Galaxy Hut at the time. I was in the Better Automatic at that point. Playing bass in the Better Automatic. And so, we were playing at Galaxy Hut, and I kept hearing something… Kansas was somewhere in the back of my mind. And, the reason I’m giving the long version of this is that I heard through Bob Massey but it wasn’t a surprise, I didn’t have to say, Kansas House, is that in Kansas? What are you talking about. But I heard about it though him for Punk-Not-Rock.
TP: Better Automatic never played there, did you?
DA: No. That was one of the funny things. Somehow we never… I was never in a band that played there, even though I knew people who were playing there. It just sort of wasn’t… I think it was maybe a factor… I was in DC, the two other guys were in Maryland.
TP: And who else was Better Automatic?
DA: Carlton Ingram and Mike Kanin. So, sort of the Fort Reno people in the mid/late ‘90s. And originally, we had founded Resin Records, I was in Grendel with Carlton, and when that fell apart, Mike and Carlton were already in the Better Automatic and their bass player, Paul, left for Arizona. I ended up as the bass player for that. It was kind of whatever scene was happening in those days, there’s a lot going around Fort Reno so we were kind of in the Fort Reno, Positive Force, Northwest Youth Alliance group and then there was sort of this Kansas House scene and way out in like Glenmont and Savage, there were sort of these little pockets of scenes. We knew people in in all of those but it was almost like they were separate entities, they were separate cells of the same kind of movement.
TP: That’s funny, because Jimmy Askew actually talked about that in a way, how there were sort of… it was one big thing and there were different factions, but there was movement in all of those factions.
DA: Definitely. And that’s what I found was interesting about all of them, but especially Kansas House. I definitely had the feeling, if you’re not the most socially comfortable, which I’m not always and was certainly not then, going to Kansas House was suddenly like, oh, there’s this whole scene here and I’m just walking in and now I’m about to play music here, and I felt uncomfortable about that. But something about the atmosphere about it was really so… it was done just right where I immediately felt comfortable even though everything technically was a disaster.
TP: So this is the Punk-Not-Rock, right?
DA: Yeah, for Punk-Not-Rock.
TP: So, did you attend a Punk-Not-Rock before performing there?
DA: No. Bob asked me to come. I think I’d talked to him, I think maybe he had just started Telegraph Melts. Maybe… either that or I talked to him at a different show. But, either way, we were talking about classical, which is something that had started… it started happening to me with a lot of people. In sort of the late-90s, which was sort of when… I mean, I grew up with a classical background and I’d been thinking of being a quote unquote real, or legit composer. And that was sort of right when I was toying with actually doing it. And I ended up getting in a lot of conversations with people, at either Galaxy Hut or Black Cat, or what was that place that was across the street from the Black Cat… something Cafe.
DA: Yeah, Metro Cafe.
TP: That used to be Dante’s?
DA: Yeah, yeah. Dante’s and Metro Cafe. Sort of all of those. I remember having these really weird… especially with Travis Morrison of Dismemberment Plan. He and I would talk about Stravinsky or Bartok while some other show was going on at Black Cat. I think because of all of that, it was either through that or through Telegraph Melts. Bob was a composer and he just sent me an email and invited me to come to Kansas House.
TP: Did you know Bob before all of this went down?
TP: So how did you meet Bob? Do you remember the connection when that happened?
DA: That must’ve been… I think it was Artomatic. When did Artomatic start?
TP: Which Artomatic? Do you remember where it was?
DA: The Tenleytown… That one in the old Heckingers.
TP: Was that the second Artomatic?
TP: They did the one in the laundromat…
DA: There was a second Artomatic, whenever that was…
TP: That had the Dischord anniversary wall?
DA: Right. I want to say ‘98.
TP: That’s what I was thinking.
DA: Because it would have been in the spring, right? Is when Artomatic is, or maybe then it was…
TP: I don’t remember. It was in the fall, because they did a Halloween party there, so maybe it was October?
DA: Oh…. yeah, it was October of ‘98. It was a Halloween… they were doing a Halloween party at Artomatic as it was starting. So Telegraph Melts played, and it was one of the very first gigs they did. And I went and I just was completely blown away. I think El Guapo was opening for them, was what happened, and why I went. El Guapo was on Resin at the time. If I’m reconstructing this right, El Guapo was on Resin Records, and I would have probably gone anyway.
TP: And El Guapo was Justin, right?
TP: Justin Moyer.
DA: And Raphael Cohen, who was the drummer… I can’t remember who the drummer was at the time. So yeah, they were on Resin. I probably would have gone anyway, I’d been hearing about Artomatic, but I went for them, and saw Telegraph Melts and they completely blew me away. And so I talked to Bob for a long time after that. That would have been how I met Bob.
TP: Yeah… I’m picturing it. I know exactly…
DA: Yeah, I can picture it perfectly in my mind…
TP: and where the stage was.
DA: And it was just, the stage… they were just on the floor with just a white wall behind them. It was basically just a bare room with a bright, and someone had just set up, not even stage lights but almost like photography lights.
TP: Do you remember… because I remember there was a basement where they would have DJs, the upstairs part where there were bands where was more of a stage. So I wonder if they played in the downstairs…
DA: I think they were playing in the downstairs, because they weren’t on a stage…
TP: Wow, I forgot about that. I’m pretty sure I was there.
DA: It took me forever to make that connection, until now.
TP: I totally forgot about that. So, then Bob asked you to perform a piece? Do you remember what piece you performed?
DA: Yeah. I actually came twice. I came once in January and once in February. And I came January and both of these were among the very first real pieces that I wrote. The one I did in January is one that I still acknowledge, even if I don’t like it. It’s at least good enough that I can admit that I wrote it, whereas the one I did in February I no longer even… like, it’s on my C/V that I performed it, but not that I’ve actually composed it. But, in January, first it was a violin/cello piece. I asked if he knew people (and it wasn’t Amy Domingues who played cello for Telegraph Melts, which would have been great). I think that’s why I had mentioned it to him, like maybe it could be a violin/cello piece, do you know a violinist? And he said, I know Jean Cook. So Jean did the violin part and someone else did the cello part.
TP: Was it a man or a woman?
DA: It was a woman.
TP: Was it Hilary Soldati?
DA: No, no, it wasn’t Hilary. It was a friend of Jean’s from music school. It was an Asian girl, but I can’t remember what her name was. This is where… and the fact was, what happened was she came late, and we had the music before hand, and hadn’t looked at it and basically sight read it on the spot. I mean, Jean did a great job, and at least looked at it once, that kind of thing, because the cellist hadn’t looked at it and she couldn’t do it at tempo. So they ended up playing it at one quarter speed which was just really excruciating. It was one of those… it was a really strange experience because it was totally you know, free, and they were doing it as a favor, but at the same time, it was just a really agonizing performance of it. And then, I’m standing up and people are asking questions about it and were really interested in it. So there was a really positive atmosphere there anyway, despite that. And I feel bad… it’s not my intent to sort of trash the cellist, but the fact is, it was just a terrible performance.
TP: Well, it’s interesting because in a way, that’s the spirit of what Punk-Not-Rock. It was very informal. People would write stuff and you would give it to somebody to play, if it wasn’t something that you were playing. That’s something that’s different than the punk shows that would happen. Thematically, it was about giving up control.
DA: And that was definitely what, for me, that was the whole point for me, in writing classical music, and always has been, is that you give up that control. But, at the same time, that’s where the punk aesthetic failed. In that case, it was kind of the technical aspects of the performances, where it’s fine if that kind of thing is really sloppy, or if people are just improvising when it’s punk. With classical that wasn’t working at all. But, for me, as a young composer, it was really important for me to learn that. There’s got to be a better way of phrasing that. But, I guess I’d learned what about that worked for me and what was really problematic. And, what was problematic was, if your performers aren’t investing what’s needed to be invested into the piece, then that whole idea of giving up control totally fails. If you’re just performing your own music and you’re unprepared then you can do something with it to kind of redeem it. But then, at the same time, what’s so interesting about that experience was that I was basically sitting in the audience, and everyone is just sitting on the floor, and I was dying! Just dying hearing that, and the whole piece probably lasted about five minutes about quarter speed– it’s a two minute long piece! And it probably lasted about five or six minutes, and I felt like 20 minutes, or 30 minutes went by, and then, I stand up to talk about it, and everybody sitting there was receptive. And that there was like, people knew something was up and it was much slower… Jean had even announced that they were going to have to perform it slower. And you could tell that everyone had been listening to it knowing that it was supposed to be something else and really speeding it up in their mind. So, it was a really intelligent audience. That was a great… it was just about the best, first bad performance that you could ask for.
TP: What happened at the February one, do you remember?
DA: The February one, I was just coming to perform piano pieces of mine, which were basically sketch pieces, which are really not good pieces. But, again, this was really great to have this experience as a starting out composer. I’m so glad I performed them there rather than somewhere else.
TP: Can you just, sort of, define what sketch piece is?
DA: Yeah, they were just solo piano pieces and they were short, little single page compositions. I think the longest one was maybe 90 seconds long. And some of them clocked in at like 20 seconds, 30 seconds. So they were definitely, they were more punk rock pieces. In fact, there were six of them, and the second one was specifically was like my sort of inspiration of Fugazi. Like, it was a Fugazi piano piece that was 20 seconds long. Which it still remains my favorite… it’s probably the only one I would rework now of those six. And they were all piano– solo piano– short, like almost like what you think of as like prelude pieces. And all of them very, on purpose had totally different approaches to them. So that was what that was. For that one, in February, Bob told me that they wouldn’t have a piano, and that they’d have a keyboard there, which I figured okay, that should work okay. But the keyboard he had there… the good news is that it had 88 keys. The bad news was that it had no sustain… it has a sustain pedal but it’s sustain lasted a maximum of about 2 seconds. And with a piano that’s usually not the case. And that really threw me off. And as it was, I’m not a pianist to begin with. I’m a singer first, then percussionist, and then sort of bass and piano is somewhere way down below that. It was fine with the Fugazi one and sort of the faster, louder ones, but there were two of them which were really sort of slow, very contemplative and I would play a chord which was supposed to be sustained for a few seconds and it would just die instantly. It went much, much better than the other one, but it was definitely a case where it was another thing of, oh, okay. These shows, trying to play classical music into a living room full of people using whatever equipment you’ve scrappled together frequently goes terribly wrong. But again, it was a really good, that was even better as far as people talking about it because people were interested and what the influences for everything were. And one of the really good things about that was it was my first real exposure to really intelligent criticism. I remember specifically I was talking with Travis again, and Eric Axelson, totally separately, of the Dismemberment Plan, afterwards, and they both were really upfront about what they didn’t like about them, in this very non-confrontational way. They knew I was working on these and were saying a little bit about what they liked about the ones they did like but then the two that they didn’t like they really narrowed in on. And I remember, Eric especially, was saying, there was one really dissonant one, and I ended up getting in a whole philosophical discussion about dissonance with Eric…
TP: He kind of mentioned that actually.
DA: Did he?
TP: Well I asked him about Punk-Not-Rock. What’s interesting is that Eric introduced David Durst into the whole thing, because they kind of worked together and he was like, oh, you should come to this thing. Durst and Bob collaborated on the opera, the Nitrate Hymnal. But it was really funny how he talked about it, because he mentioned how everyone at the time was into these German composers who were really into dissonance, and he said it was an environment where if you didn’t understand what that meant, you could ask, and no one was going to be like, “Don’t you know about this? Are you crazy? Everyone knows about it.”
DA: That is so interesting because it was the exact opposite thing for me, where being someone who was just sort of starting out and trying different compositional methods, specifically I did one sort of using Schoenberg style 12-tone, and that’s the one where we were talking about it. And for me… for him he felt comfortable asking those questions and for me, I felt comfortable writing that way. And you know a lot of places you would go, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing and just sort of starting out… a lot of places I could go and have something performed like that and people wouldn’t take it at all seriously. So, to be able to experiment with that and talk with people about it was really valuable.
TP: And after those two, did you go and attend any Punk-Not-Rocks?
DA: I did. I’m trying to remember, but unfortunately I can’t remember who was… there was more with Jean playing. There was something that Bob did, but I can’t remember the piece. But, other than that, no.
TP: And you didn’t perform any percussion ones?
TP: Just ones on instruments… Which is actually interesting because you used it as a platform for stuff…
DA: for totally different.
TP: And it’s interesting too because I know that a lot of people were doing, like Vin Novara did percussion pieces. Which is interesting, because at that time, there were a lot of people who were into that sound and ideology. That was sort of an interesting moment. Like, where did all these punk kids, how did everyone become interested in that.
DA: Like percussion in general?
TP: Percussion, and sort of like, just that, like when Eric was like “everyone’s into these German composers.” And everyone was, and how did that… it just seems like it was just sort of that moment. It was an interesting moment that was happening.
DA: And I think it was born, as I was saying at the beginning of this, I think it was born out of conversations that people were already having for the year or two previous, just going out to shows and talking about composers at these shows.
TP: I think it also comes out of the Post-Rock business. That was a very big era of Post-Rock, and I think that the German composers who everyone was really into, there were a lot of things that were similar in Post Rock. And whoever coined that, I can’t remember if it was Jim Derrogotas, I think it was like, if this is what you’re into, then some of this might be where some of the backstory is, which is how that evolved.
DA: Which is really funny because I think again, the different cells we were talking about were all listening to slightly different people. And again, there was kind of cross over. I think there were a lot of people sort of listening to those German composers, those German Expressionists composers. But I ended up almost all the conversations I was having with people, especially people, Bartok and Stravinsky. A Hungarian and Russian composer, respectively. And I talked to a lot of people about that. And I think that this sort of thing was going on. I remember taking Mike Kanin. Mike Kanin got really interested in this, I think maybe from hearing people talk about it, but at one point totally randomly, because he knew that I had studied in college. He was asking me to turn him onto some Bartok and things like that, and I ended up taking him to, I think it was the Takacs String Quartet when it came to the Freer Gallery in ‘98. And they played the complete Bartok Quartets over three nights. And I took Mike Kanin to that. And then afterwards he was telling all the other punk kids that they had to go, they had to go hear the Bartok Quartets. These ideas were sort of pollenating around the DC scene.
TP: One of the things I’ve been thinking about was that all of this was happening, in that particular era, the late-90s period. It was happening at this time when email was also kind of a new thing, and the Internet was… we were sort of just figuring out how to use it in some way. And Derek Morton actually talked a lot about that. So, I wonder if there was something about how we all found out about that kind of stuff.
DA: I think if anything, I wonder more… there must’ve been a bunch of, somehow– and I don’t know why, or even if it is different from the scene in the ‘80s or ‘70s or what– but to me, it felt like a bunch of music majors got out of college and discovered indie rock, you know? It’s really what it felt like because I just kept being surprised by who would and wouldn’t have studied music in college. Some people were music majors. That was a big part of why we knew the El Guapo guys, because they had been music majors at Wesleyan. Or one, I think maybe one was a music… if they weren’t majors they had studied it heavily at Wesleyan. That’s how Raphael and Justin knew each other. Yeah, I don’t know… so I know it wasn’t like that for me. For me, I was surprised there were people who were interested in talking about this, so I think a lot of people maybe discovered modern or 20th Century classical music from punk but for me, I was if anything I was guilty for being one of the infusers of that.
TP: So, I guess, talk about, if you can remember, when you were going to Kansas House for the Punk-Not-Rock stuff, sort of what was happening around the house at the time, sort of what was going on in the neighborhood.
DA: In the neighborhood, I’m not sure. It was close to Galaxy Hut, right?
TP: Yeah. It was within walking distance.
DA: So that was the main thing. And, bear in mind, even though I grew up in DC, I have that DC kid thing of Arlington might as well been Texas. Not totally, and definitely knew enough to know more was sort of going on there, and there was more of a scene in Arlington and there were a lot of cool people in Arlington. But I didn’t really. It was definitely when I arrived there. I knew my few places in Arlington and otherwise, it’s a matter of being able to escape back to DC. I think that’s how a lot of Virginians feel about DC.
TP: Did you remember how you got there?
DA: Metro. So I would have taken the Metro and walked from either Clarendon or Courthouse. Probably Clarendon. So I knew Galaxy Hut really well. Because I love Galaxy Hut, I think I just knew it in reference from there. So as far as the neighborhood, I didn’t really know what was going on. The house itself was really just this strange oasis, even the way the house looked, just how it was. And again, this is as a city kid, everything is row houses or town houses and you go there and the house itself, it just seemed… everything is big, to me. And then that house, it almost looks like this little island of cool. Of everything else that is around it. And then going into the living room and there was a lot of people sort of coming and going in the living room, and I remember being struck by how sparse the living room was. Like, the living room was clearly this performance space. Whether it was created for that, for the shows, I don’t know, but I think it was just kept open all the time so things could happen in the living room.
TP: Do you remember if the sofa was in the living room?
DA: Yeah. So people would sit on the sofa and then they would sit on the floor. And then there would be like five, six people on the three-person sofa, and then just the floor. I mean, I don’t know if this is typical, but the two I played for and the ones I went to, it was really full. People were all sitting cross-legged on the floor. You had to pick your way through and they were sitting all the way up to where the performers were standing.
TP: And where did the people perform?
DA: Let’s see, as you walked in the door, and turned left to go into the living room. And basically at the far end would be where the performance was, so everyone seated from the door up to the performers.
TP: Talk about how performing at that might be different from a performance that you might have done any place else. Or what people might think of as a regular performance.
DA: Well, the main, the big, big difference is the lack of stage. Which is always, and that was one of the things… but that would be a big difference in playing rock, too. And which was one of the really cool things about that experience again. For me, that was part of what made me comfortable, was that I was used to, I was used to the difference between having a stage show and having a house show. And that when you’re playing… the stage show may be cooler, and you’re the performer, but the house show would simultaneously make you more comfortable with the people; more comfortable with the audience, but more nervous about what you represent. People have the criticism about, oh, you know I go out to clubs in DC and everyone’s just standing there with their arms crossed. And most people who are in music, most people are like me, where I actually appreciate that because I understand that’s because the people are actually listening to what you’re doing rather than have their attention divided. And I think that really comes from house shows. Because that happens a little bit at clubs, much less so now, but even then, one half would be doing that and the other half would be saying why is nobody dancing? But, at house shows, everyone would be doing that. You would play the basement of some house and there would be like, you know, 20 or 30 people but they would all be standing with their arms crossed, completely rigid and just totally focused on what you’re doing. And so, in a way, those kids, the people who were doing that were the natural audience for a house classical music show, because they were there to listen. It seemed totally normal to do the exact same thing. And to me, that’s the big difference– it was a house show. And I’ve never had that. I’ve never had that ever again because every classical performance I’ve been involved with, even if some are more or less formal than others, they all have that divide which just is totally gone in really intimate punk shows and at Punk-Not-Rock.
TP: Yeah, because there’s no separation between band and audience, or performer and audience. And even at Punk-Not-Rock, the audience was participating in a very different way. I wonder if that was happening because everyone was in that Punk-Not-Rock mindset of you can talk to the performer in the middle of their set about what they just did, and that would never… that wouldn’t happen anywhere else, and it was very unique to that particular moment, which was unique to that particular space.
DA: And that’s what made it okay. Any other space the type of incredibly frustrating performance. The one with the keyboard was problematic and that made me nervous, but then I was fine because the audience was right there and they were with me. But, had I been on stage? I would have dropped dead on the spot, just from that being the problem. And likewise, with that violin/cello, people were right there with it, and I really felt like people understood and knew that wasn’t exactly how the piece was supposed to go, and let’s talk about it anyway. And that is something that you really wouldn’t get with any other performance.
TP: Does that happen at all with the stuff that you’re doing now in any way? That sort of immediate critique?
DA: Not critique. It does happen a little bit. You know, it’s funny, now it’s much Internet-based. Recently, I did a demo recording of a piece, I was doing a song-cycle for tenor voice and piano. And I sent the session around to a few people, and I did a totally kind of in the spirit of I was really psyched about it, and honestly, I think I just sent it to a bunch of people who’d be interested, because some of them knew the singer, that kind of thing. And I wasn’t even really doing it for… and of course everyone’s going to say, it’s amazing! And a musician friend who wrote back was saying, you know, I just really had a lot of trouble with this and this and this. And that was that kind of immediacy and really good constructive feedback, which I totally wasn’t expecting because I’m used to the way it normally is, which is very much that kind of wall and you don’t really hear anything about a piece you’re working on until it’s way too late, and at that point you’re married to it anyway.
TP: Yeah, and there’s no changing it. So, I guess, in thinking about all that, what would be sort of the most significant element to come out of all that?
DA: You mean for…
TP: Like what you experienced at Kansas.
DA: From what I experienced, because I think what I experienced was really unique. It happened at a perfect time in my career, which was the beginning. And the beginning when I was transitioning out of, like, right when I was thinking, well, I’m playing Punk Rock, I’m really interested, my background’s in classical, I’m now playing Punk Rock… what am I doing? But, for me personally, it was a really crucial time because they were the first, really among the first pieces I presented to a public, and they were definitely the first pieces I presented to a critical public. I’d done something with a Rockville band before but that was for a very receptive– the only people who came to that were relatives of the performers kind of thing. And so I’d done little pieces like that but this was the first time that I’d done something that was going to be picked apart. And, to have it happen there in that kind of intimate… first of all, have things go wrong and have me either not drop dead on the spot or be torn to pieces by, you know, an angry audience. To have things go wrong and still turn out okay was really important. It gave me basically all the confidence I needed to continue with things. And the fact that it came, that I got that criticism and had that experience, even that I was just able to do that, and someone like Bob even believed in what I was doing to ask me to come, without even knowing the pieces. He just knew my musicianship in general and sort of took a guess and said, well this should be interesting, why don’t you come? Even to have that kind of invitation I think was really sort of crucial. So it was all this confidence builders, but sort of weird confidence builder, which definitely involved some failure built into it.
TP: Yeah, sort of like, you’ll gain your confidence by screwing up.
DA: Yeah! By screwing up and having it still be okay, and that’s what Kansas House, that’s what I think the real vibe was there.
TP: Yeah, it was a space where you could do anything.
DA: And it was experimental, and that’s okay. And it was experimental for both. The people listening were experimenting. They were experimenting with new ideas and feeling okay about it… like, why is that totally dissonant? Like Eric was.
TP: Do you think that can happen again in the DC music scene?
DA: I think it could. I think you would have to have almost an identical confluence of events. I’m not sure if something particularly special about all of us, or that it just happened there were a bunch of trained musicians let loose in Indie Rock. If anything I think the problem wouldn’t be on that end, it would be, I just don’t know of those kinds of cells still exist. They don’t seem to still exist. I don’t know if that’s because I’m old and I don’t know they’re out there…
TP: Well, that’s something that I’ve been thinking a lot about, because a lot of what’s been coming up, and a lot of things that I’ve been thinking about is, could this happen again? And I’m not sure what that answer is.
TP: Because to me, it’s tied into the fact that there has to be a space for this to happen.
DA: There has to be a space for it to happen, and there would have to be… there really were a lot of people who all, in some way thinking about this, and they were scattered all over, which I think is important. And I think it would be more likely to happen now but be all the kids in Arlington. Or, all the kids in DC. Or, all the kids, you know, out in Glenmont but what made it special was that somehow, even though it was based in Arlington, it was encompassing everybody.
TP: Yeah, because I think there’s not really much difference… and I think one of the things I remember when Bob talked about this was that there were all these people who, if they weren’t music majors, they had been playing some instrument since they were kids. Which I sort of, in thinking about that, too… because that was me, right? I went to public school in Philadelphia, and I had this opportunity to take violin lessons, for free, you know… if you couldn’t afford an instrument, if your parents couldn’t afford an instrument, you were provided an instrument. And that was like, tied to Suzuki I guess. When that was sort of a big deal in like the late-70s, early-80s.
DA: Or was it through Curtis maybe? No, I think it was Suzuki.
TP: It was Suzuki because, well, that’s what we learned. And then I remember, like, that was for me, that was in second grade. In fourth grade, the woodwind kids started. And so you had all of these… you had a time period where I think it started to be very accessible for regular kids who went to regular public school to learn how to play instruments. And you were learning it, like, you were being taught by these professional musicians, essentially. Like, my violin teacher was a professional musician. She was also a teacher, she had learned how to do that at some point, but she played in pit orchestras. And our middle school orchestra teacher was in chamber ensembles. And so we had this amazing opportunity… and I don’t think that was just local to Philly.
TP: Because then I came here, and there were other people who had that experience. So I think that what you’re saying, there were kids who came up that way, and then there were kids who continued to play it.
TP: Or you started to play what you wanted to play, or you majored in something. And then we were all here, and this moment just happened.
TP: And I think that there are still kids who are doing that today, and how they’re sort of developing.
DA: Yeah, I know, I’d be interested… you’re asking if I have that similar kind of connection with the audience, if I get that experience. The one place I do still have something like that is when I do pieces for high school. I’ve had a few commissions, especially for choirs, for like an honors choir, and I have one out at CD Hilton, down in Woodbridge, Virginia. I’ve had a few up at Sherwood High School up in Olney, and then a few elsewhere. And for all of those, a big part of the commission is, you don’t just write the piece for them, they want you to go and have the kids meet a living composer, and that’s really interesting to do. To go either sit in or lead a rehearsal, to a bunch of high school kids, who are all very immediate with their reactions, even if they’re not voicing them, you can see you’re right there in the rehearsal process and you can see where everyone is with the music and it’s sort of this instant feedback and critique and there’s a real connection when I do that. I really love that. So that’s similar
TP: That sounds awesome. That sounds like… just thinking about it, it must be such an amazing opportunity for them– here’s a person who is making a living and doing this thing that you can also do.
DA: Right, and because so much of arts education is about, you know, arts education… the arts are important until you turn 18 and then you know, suddenly, a lot of the support is cut off. And I think that’s sort of the lesson that a lot of kids get, is that, well, this is all nice to do and I might love playing piano, or I might love singing, but I’m gonna be a lawyer. And then I’ve seen that… I think I may have doomed one or two kids to you know trying to be professional musicians… you can do it! Every so often I find myself thinking… I shouldn’t be trying to set too much of a positive example here, but it’s good.
TP: So, can you think of anything else?
DA: Oh, I was saying, going back, what was I gonna backtrack…
TP: I think the question was what do you think was the most significant thing to come out of the Kansas experience?
DA: Hmm. I was saying that it was unique for me to have that happen at that part of my career, but I actually think that happened in similar ways for a lot of people. Even though it was specific for my career, that a lot of people’s musical development was strongly affected. I think of, specifically of Eric, like that. I always got the sense from him that it really changed the way that he thought musically, you know, in sort of going to their shows. I know that really, even just that kind of experience really effected Mike Kanin. I wonder, I’ve never gotten to talk with Bob about it. Of course he organized it, but all these things that you organize… nothing that you organize turns out the way that you think it’s going to.
DA: I don’t know how much I realized… but I think that experience really affected him probably in ways that he didn’t expect.
TP: I would say that is definitely the truth.
did stuff at the house after, but I do think that there’s something about what he was doing there. And Marc Nelson was saying, especially at that time.
DA: Oh, did you interview Marc?
DA: Do you know, what that makes me think of is that was a lot of what unified the Fort Reno crowd, was that it was the same thing where there was all this energy that was being poured into what was a selfless endeavor. And I think that’s where that spark leapt over between those two crowds and really helped unify. Maybe, that’s what helped bring things together– that energy existed in totally different ways but it was the same energy.
TP: I think yeah… it was at that time, there were a lot of spaces where you had these opportunities. And they may be different spaces, but the opportunity to be able to have that creative outlet was something that just seemed like was a given. It was, and it was run by people who saw the fact that it wasn’t so much about, it wasn’t a monetary thing, and it wasn’t a notoriety thing, it was sort of an offering.
DA: It was a salon. I mean that was what really sold… as soon as Bob used the word “salon” I knew exactly what he was going… I think he even said to me, he described it as a 19th century salon. And I said, really? That’s either like the greatest or stupid idea I’d ever heard of. But it was a pretty great idea.
TP: Can you think of anything else?
DA: Not off hand, no.
TP: Good, I think you’re set!