EULOGIES: Sept 27, 05
Just one month ago was the memorial to Darrell DeVore, in Petaluma. Not many people beyond the new music/new instrument scene in California knew Darrell and Mel Moss, who also passed away - and weirdly within about a week of each other. Both died from lung cancer this July.
I had introduced them 30 years ago.
Mel Moss, Darrell DeVore, Deena Burton, Paul Nash, Martin Stumpf, Bob Moog
Sept 27, 05
Just one month ago was the memorial to Darrell DeVore, in Petaluma. Not many people beyond the new music/new instrument scene in California knew Darrell and Mel Moss, who also passed away - and weirdly within about a week of each other. Both died from lung cancer this July. I had introduced them 30 years ago.
Mel founded a group he called Moire Pulse, after the optical patterning, which would be the proto-minimalist creation of polyrhythmic, repeating, intersecting, shimmering phrases of music. Darrell was the Sound Magician, who among other groups co-founded the Future Primitive Art Ensemble of San Francisco with Charlie Moselle and myself. We had quite an interesting time in the Bay area of the mid to late 70's. People such as Joel Taylor, Jeannie Hahn, Ed Rollin, David Moe, Roseanne Cohen (long gone by assassins), Max Schwartz, Ed Montgomery, Robert Haven, Ron Pellegrino, Ariel View, Steven Rosenthal, Jeff Gere, Adela Chu, and our Shinto priests and Zen shiatsu master . . . Many musicians and dancers and sculptors and artists and poets collaborating and discovering the world music traditions of the Far East and mixing in avant garde aesthetics with the primalcy of "rock" and spontaneous improvisations of "jazz".
Darrell was a guiding light, an inspiration, a teacher and elder explorer. He always carried around a bag full of bamboo flutes and gourd drums, beautiful sculptural "primitive" sound makers. I met him in '73 or '74 when he came through CalArts selling his bamboo flutes and teaching us how to play them in his "Pygmy Unit" mediumistic improv style. We did a few interesting gigs up in SF. I think our first gig as Future Primitives was at Project Artaud. We were all reading Casteneda at the time and into shamanism. At a street fair I met Mel Moss and his gorgeous slit drums made from rare hardwoods and tuned in random microtonal designs. We jammed for hours and he invited us to join his ongoing weekly sessions at his house in Noe Valley.
I figured we would bring Darrell Devore into Moire Pulse, and see what happens - bamboo meets rare woods. I think I also invited percussionist Kevin Lambert from the group UBU, and we might have met Steve Rosenthal there, oboist soon to become bamboo instrument builder. Shafi , who had a radio show on KPFA, and Krishna Bhatt the Indian sitarist, and the trumpeter Baikida Carrol, and the ever magical Sally Davis, and Japanese flutist Jun Ishimuro, and many other great players would come by regularly. Every session was recorded.
The day Darrell discovered the wind wands and brought them in, was really something. Mel and he were building great things together in Mel's workshop. They were about the same age. Mel was a filmmaker who needed to create a new soundtrack, so he built the instruments and the ensemble, and forgot about the film. Eventually I had to leave the California scene and pursue my carreer in New York. Almost immediately I joined up with Skip LaPlante's group who built instruments from trash and recycled materials. Same thing, only different.
I did meet up with Darrell a few more times, most memorably in Hawaii at a Future Primitive trio concert we did at Honolulu Academy of Arts. I said goodby to Mel just a few weeks before he passed, in June this year. My daughter Antonia, his niece, let me know how close to the end he was. I made a trip out there. He was transcendant, talked about the terminus of his life, how he could see the big picture. Mel had given Darrell his expensive Kurzweil sampling keyboard, and then so quickly he too came down with the same diagnosis. Rasa, Mel's wife, gave me Darrell's phone number, but I just couldn't call, it was too hard for me, and probably for him too. And then suddenly it was just too late.
It's been an awful year of death of close friends and artistic collaborators, beginning with Paul Nash, the composer and guitarist, who had the courage and vision to employ Lisa Karrer and myself in the Manhattan New Music Project creative music educators special ed residencies. While we were grieving Paul's passing in NY, Mel was with the San Francisco friends of Paul. It turns out they were old friends, and Mel spoke about not wanting invasive surgery or chemotherapy whose side effects could be debilitating, which was the case with both Paul and then Deena Burton, the dancer and Asian arts scholar, who died from multiple cancers and intensive experimental medical procedures. I had introduced her and Skip LaPlante, with the result being history in the making. She co-organized the festivals Artists Inspired by Asia, and Artists Inspired by Indonesia, and then we were just all simply inspired by Deena herself, her energy which seemed unstoppable. When the tribute concert to Deena happened at the Indonesian consulate in Feb of this year (which might have been the very first NYC Gamelan Festival: 4 gamelans in one day - Balinese, Javanese, Homemades, and Son of Lion) she wouldn't stop talking to the audience even though she had already lost her hearing. And now Martin Stumpf, such a nice gentle person, who recorded us at Galapagos (in Brooklyn) when Stephanie Griffin had her New Music series there - he just died a few weeks ago, of heat stroke in a sweat lodge, though not doing heat yoga. He'd been performing some important sound and media work through UNESCO in Africa, only to pass out of existence upstate NY with no one watching out for him.
As we were driving through the US this summer, Lisa and I stopped for a moment in Asheville, North Carolina just on the day a Theremin Festival was going to happen. We had an appointment in Knoxville that night, and couldn't stay . . . but being the home of Bob Moog, whose company built my theremin, I would have LOVED to visit him and the Big Briar factory. Unfortunately, and very very sadly he was too sick with cancer to attend the concert and died within days. We'd never met, and I wanted to show him my contribution to Theremin culture, motion controlled midi triggering a sampler.
Here's a humourous and painful memory of Devore:
his teeth were awful, he smoked unfiltered Camels and plenty of dope, (this was in the 70's, after Bolinas, before Petaluma) but he decided it would be easier to just get ALL his teeth pulled out at once, finally, and be done with the suffering.
And so he did.
And as if that weren't enough, just a day after Deena's memorial at NYU in Dec, I learned that Andy Toth AND Bob Brown passed away within 3 days of each other in November! And that Mantle Hood, a Godfather of ethnomusicology in the US and teacher of both of them also passed away that July.
Bob Brown (Dr. Robert Brown) was my first Gamelan teacher at CalArts, and he was probably lots of peoples' first gamelan teacher, having established the World Music Depts. at Wesleyan, CT and San Diego State. He had a "gamelan camp" in Bali which was a popular destination, and also worked on the Voyager Golden Record with Carl Sagan, which was launched into space and included his recording of Javanese Court Gamelan - expected to survive for 4,500,000,000 years as part of the longest lasting product of the human race.
Andy Toth headed the U.S.Consul in Bali, was a student of Bob Brown, and had the (very) minor distinction of performing in my piece "Music For Theremin and Gamelan" at the Sacred Rhythm Festival in Bali. He was very helpful in smoothing the often disorganized Millennial festivities, but clearly wasn't in the best of health. He was a classic image of the scholar gone 'tropical' though, and played his part musically as well. Really a nice person.
I did meet Mantle Hood, (scary name) and wondered what he thought of the trifles and watered down travesties of the East-West Theater Company I was working with. (He was not discouraging).
Anyway you slice it, three (or 4) generations of Gamelan scholars passed away this year.
Very strange that in a room full of gamelan devotees, experts and practitioners, at Deena Burton's memorial, I didn't hear anyone mention anything about it. Just too damn depressing.
- D. Simons, March '06