Saturday, June 6, 2015

Geographical Preludes: Part THREE

Here's the next installment of notes about my Geographical Preludes, or "Geo Ps," if you like.

Some special places

One of the unrealized compositional projects which has fed this realized one occurred to me shortly after my father died in 1984. He was a contractor, sometimes working for others, sometimes running his own company. His specialty was the construction of water and sewer systems and other types of pipe work. He built such systems many places throughout the Deep South: Arab, Dothan, Okeechobee, Hinesville, Wiggins, etc., places most people will never visit but which are indelibly impressed in my memory. I wanted to travel to each of the dozens of towns where he worked and write a short dance piece named for each one.

This trip has not taken place, but is tentatively scheduled for sometime in 2003. My brother, who worked with Daddy on many of these projects, will be my guide. (Maybe some of the resulting Geographical Preludes will be appropriate for dancing.) I have, however, taken a trip with my mother to her childhood haunts in Mississippi. The sketch for the Hattiesburg Prelude was written immediately after visiting the vacant lot where the house we occupied used to stand. On the way back to her home in Waycross, Georgia, we stopped by Buena Vista, where our house is still standing.

In February of this year my wife and I visited various relatives in Florida and Georgia. I realized that we would be very near Titusville and Cape Canaveral, where my father and mother were employed during the construction of the Kennedy Space Center. I consulted my mother for the address where they had lived, which was easily located — the trailer park is still in operation, more than forty years later. The second Titusville piece was sketched while parked in the car beside the very trailer, at least the one which now has that address. Titusville Prelude No. 1 was sketched earlier in the day, at lunch in a restaurant overlooking the ocean, with a clear view of the Vehicle Assembly Building in the distance, where my father and brother had once worked at the Kennedy Space Center, installing electrical conduit.

By now I am in the habit of carrying manuscript paper on all trips, ready to sketch new preludes when ideas strike. A recent jaunt to Maine yielded three preludes in this volume and a sketch for a fourth. I have told several friends about this project — the reaction has been uniformly one of interest and support, even enthusiasm. Phyllis and I sat in a local bar with another couple who found the project of unusual  interest. They wanted to see how it was done. I went to the car, took a manuscript book, and sketched what became Middletown Prelude No. 2 only a day later. I described the project to another couple in a Korean restaurant in Hadley, Massachusetts with similar results. Perhaps the most enthusiastic response was from a friend who lives on a farm in Waleska, Georgia. Seated on her beautiful porch I listened intently to the diverse sounds of animals, birds, and occasional distant traffic.

When I attended Indian Springs School it was in Helena, Alabama. Now it is in Pelham. The Helena Prelude is based on two unfinished sketches which ended up on the same piece of paper; I was sixteen, maybe fifteen, when I wrote them. The Pelham Prelude was sketched in a motel near ISS; the school is in the same location, but the boundaries of the towns have changed. The occasion was my fortieth high school reunion.

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