Leapday Night and Interspecies Smalltalk are sets of compositions for instrumental performers and a computer music system which I designed and assembled during the 1980s. The system consists of pitch sensors ("ears" with which it listens to the performing musicians), various music synthesizers (some homemade), a computer graphics color video display and a personal computer.
Each composition is built upon a computer program governing interaction between performers and the system, and creates situations rather than set pieces. The performers have options rather than instructions, and the exploration of each situation as it unfolds is up to them.
Leapday Night was developed in the course of rehearsals and performances with Ben Neill and Rhys Chatham from 1983 to 1986. Interspecies Smalltalk was commissioned by John Cage and Merce Cunningham as music for the 1984 Cunningham Dance Company repertory work "Pictures," and was made for performance by Takehisa Kosugi.
A Traveller's Dream Journal cameabout as the result of an invitation from Walter Bachauer to work for a month in his Kreuzberg studio, the Belle Epoque, during October 1988, when I was in Berlin as a D.A.A.D. guest artist. Bachauer had created an electronic music studio out of an unusual assortment of gear from around the world. Under his guidance the studio could produce sound of a particular, personal refinement and subtlety. The days we spent working together were marked by the enthusiasm and energy that he devoted to the making of our project. The present recording consists of two versions of one of the pieces we made with the participation and assistance of Achim Gieseler. In each version, the Berlin recording is mixed together with a new layer of music made in New York in 1990.
For more than half a century, Dave's Corner, on the corner of Canal Street and Broadway, offered the best egg cream in New York. Dave's never closed a single day until one sad morning taxes and economic pressures marked the end of a great tradition. It was at Dave's Corner, in the spring of 1966, that for the second time in my life I met David Behrman. We had been introduced a few days earlier by Henri Pousseur — the Belgian connection — during a performance of Pousseur's Repons at Carnegie Recital Hall. After the concert we all went to some fancy Manhattan apartment for wine and huge portions of Brie. It was my first visit to America. In less than a week I had absorbed the Electric Circus, Kool Aid, ice cubes in wine, Queens, Greenwich Village, the Eighth Street Bookshop, TV dinners, Macy's and Orange Julius.
David was reassuring. David had a touch of the old world I had left a few days ago. He spoke French with just the right amount of American accent, ate with both fork and knife and knew all about Boulez, Darmstadt, Stockhausen, Berio and small streets of Brussels where he had lived for a few months. His Canon for piano and percussion, which I heard then, was the perfect sonic bridge between the Old and the New world of music.
We have been friends ever since, meeting in Paris, New York, Brussels, Stony Point, Columbus, Amsterdam, Berkeley, Bangkok. . . . Somehow our paths always returned to New York. We even bought a loft in Tribeca together in the days they came cheap, and promptly discovered we were both equally inadequate when it came to handling bills and administrative matters. In an effort to improve our sense of responsibility — since, as my wife often reminded us, we were now grown-up boys — we held regular "business lunches" at the great Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station. We talked about music, love, death, friends, cuisine, books, the New York Times, the world, and always forgot the more practical questions of lost telephone bills or needed improvements on the roof. We then moved in strange directions, and I am now usually very far from the music that at first brought us together. Friendship, though, never changed.
David has become what one would call a "senior" composer — as one says of a high-ranking diplomat that he is a "senior official" — a major figure in the world of new music. And not just by the virtue of passing time. Year after year I found David's music one of the essential parts of the small mental luggage I carry with me. I sometimes bring a tape of his music — especially of his record On the Other Ocean or "Interspecies Smalltalk" — when I travel to troubled areas like Cambodia, where I have spent so much of my recent journalistic life. Because there is a kind of peace in David's music which helps me restore some balance, some sense of hope in the middle of desperation. From his early studies, from his own character, from his own desire for a world of better communications (and social justice, a concept much ridiculed these days) David has always maintained a deep preoccupation with harmony and harmonies. Even his most aggressive works — in the seventies — always had room for instants of fragile tranquility. I do not believe that David's music, today, is really "minimal" as some critics have written. The long electronic ostinatos and the delicate melodies they suggest to solo instrumentalists on some of his recent works — like the wonderful violin of Takehisa Kosugi on "Interspecies Smalltalk" — are more a reflection on the maturity of a man who, with music, tries to alleviate the pain of a world he would like to see free of pain and prejudices.
Jacques Bekaert, November 1990
Jacques Bekaert is a composer and journalist who lives in Bangkok.
Cover art and design: Fast Forward
Art direction: By Design
Digital editing and mastering: Allan Tucker, Foothill Productions, NYC
Recording engineer for Leapday Night and Interspecies Smalltalk:
For the Berlin layer of A Traveller's Dream Journal:
Producers: Walter Bachauer, Achim Gieseler and David Behrman
MIDI Computer Programming: Achim Gieseler
Voice sample: Takehisa Kosugi
Creature sounds: the METAMEDIA Sound Library
A Workshop Production of "Berlin-Kulturstadt Europas 1988"
Partial funding for this recording was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts Music Recording Program.
Thanks to Bob Ashley, EIza Behrman, Ingrid Beirer, Jacques Bekaert, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Marc Farre, Fast Forward, Mimi Johnson, Ron Kuivila, George Lewis, Frankie Mann, Barbara Mayfield, David Meschter, Phill Niblock, Joel Ryan, Eva Type and the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts.
© 1984, 1986, 1990 David Behrman (BMI)
©P 1991 Lovely Music, Ltd.