Monday, March 28, 2011

Thoughts on Lee Hoiby

Perhaps you saw today that composer Lee Hoiby died. Knowing my musical proclivities, you might be surprised to know that I caught my breath when I saw the news. Hoiby's music, firmly in the Samuel Barber, mid-century mold, is outside my normal research and listening habits. But I've had contact with him several times over the last 15 years and always found him a gentleman and lively conversationalist.

My knowledge of Hoiby began in college and grad school when I worked on a project concerning the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition's commissioned works. Hoiby was the first composer commissioned, so I learned his work and read letters about the commission and spoke to pianists who competed that year and played the work. It was a pleasant work, but did not have the impact of later Cliburn works like Copland's or Corigliano's and did not stay with me for long.

Imagine my surprise a few years later when I discovered that Hoiby played in Partch's ensembles while studying at Wisconsin. I decided that I had to track him down, and so one day in grad school, I received a call from him in response to a letter I had sent. We talked for almost an hour about his experiences with Harry Partch and learning the instruments. I could tell that he was a bit miffed that a musicologist had tracked him down only to talk about another composer, so at the end began talking about his Van Clibrn work. A few days after the conversation, I received a package of music and CDs.

We talked one other time about Partch, and though my interest in his music never progressed from my Masater's thesis, I'll always remember the generous composer willing to talk about another composer with whom he had little in common aesthetically. I just wish that spirit carried over to his publisher who put out a statement today complete with this line:

"During the period immediately following WW II, he also performed in Harry Partch’s Dadaist ensembles, studied with Darius Milhaud at Mills College and pursued a virtuoso career as a concert pianist under the tutelage of Gunnar Johansen and Egon Petri."

Dadaist ensembles? Alas, my musicologist's work is never done Somewhere two men are turning in their graves. God speed, Mr. Hoiby.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Noah vs. the Roller Blades, Part II

Thanks, everyone, for your kind words and thoughts and prayers towards Noah. Yesterday, we even had cards and cookies and ice cream arrive at our house from Noah's preschool and our church. Today, Noah is doing much better - he slept through the night and was ready to play bad guys vs. good guys with Sam this morning. He still looks a bit beat up, but the swelling on his head has gone down and he's moving with greater ease. He even feels well enough to going back to cheesing for the camera:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Noah vs. the Roller Blades

Yesterday was a gorgeous day - the first true taste we've had of life after winter.  The sun had a crystalline luster only possible after months of gray, and the warm outside made everyone want to sit down and never return inside.  Joy decided that the boys needed to move and run in the new springtime and so took them to Shawnee Mission Park for the afternoon.  They set out on the walking trail as it wound around the lake, the boys running far ahead of her until their energy, already spent playing at school all day, began to wane.  Towards the end of the walk, they were dragging a few paces behind, Joy exhorting them to keep up.

Joy later told me she thought nothing of the 40-year-old man barreling toward her on his roller blades at first other than a realization that he was traveling faster than usual.  In the time it took her to decide to turn around and tell Sam and Noah to watch out for the man, he had passed her and collided with the boys.

Sam took a glancing blow and fell to the side, scraping his elbow in the process.  Noah received all 200 pounds and went flying through the air, head over heels over head over heels until finally landing on his head.  Joy's protective instincts kicked in, and she scooped Noah up, ignoring the man who had returned to see if everyone was all right, a wise move given the string of invectives that surely would have knocked the man for the same kind of loop Noah had just endured.  She put both boys in the car and drove to the visitor's center, leaving the man and his roller blades far behind.

Joy hoped to find a nurse at the visitor's center, but only found a recommendation of the carefully placed urgent care clinic over the hill right outside the park's gates.  She hoped to have Noah examined at the urgent care clinic, but only found a recommendation to head to the nearest ER.  She hoped to have a doctor look over Noah at the first hospital, only to find that the hospital did not have an ER.

By this time, Noah was turning blue and starting to doze in his car seat, so Joy enlisted Sam's help and together they began singing, and telling jokes, and poking Noah to get him to stay awake.  Noah slurred for them to stop singing, but managed to stay awake as Joy stopped at home to grab the cell phone, call our pediatrician friend, and leave a note for me.  She headed to the hospital where Sam and Noah were both born and settled in to wait for the triage nurse.

I was teaching during this entire episode and so arrived home oblivious to the saga.  On the door as I entered our house was a note scribbled on blue paper that merely said, "Noah took a fall.  We're at the ER."  As I stepped in the house, the phone rang.  Joy called to fill me in and invite me to the ER, so I packed up toys and books for Noah, a bit of food for Joy and for Noah, and headed out. 

When I arrived at the ER, I could tell Noah wasn't himself.  He absentmindedly chewed on his fingers and barely offered me a "hello."  He was pale, covered in cuts and scrapes, and had a bump the size of a golf ball sticking out of his head at his hairline.  The triage nurse had seen him by that point and declared that it looked like Noah did not have a concussion and left Joy and the boys to wait on the doctor.  I took Sam home to have a late dinner and to wait for word from the hospital.  By 8:30, Joy was home with Noah, cleared by the doctor of all major injuries and provided a list of warning signs to watch for over the next few days.  I took Noah to the bath and gingerly washed all the dirt off him, taking note of the scrape that covered half his back and caused him to avoid walking and wince when picked up.  Fortunately, with a large dose of ibuprofen he was able to drift to sleep and rest until 5:00 this morning, when he was too sore to settle back into sleep.

It was a scary four hours, but this morning Noah seemed happy again, though sore and slow to move.  Well, I should qualify that it was scary for some of us.  Sam, on hearing Joy relate the story on the phone this morning, remarked, "Mom, Noah's double flip was awesome."  Joy asked, "But wasn't it scary for you?"  Undaunted Sam finished, "Well, it was a little scary, but it was mostly AWESOME!"