Behind the Scenes: Page Turner to the Starz
Day One 3
Incidental Music and a Death 7
Day Two 13
26 July 2013
William L. Benzon
222 Van Horne, 3R Jersey City, NJ 07304 firstname.lastname@example.org New Savanna: http://new-savanna.blogspot.com/
This work interview is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Behind the Scenes: Page Turner to the Starz
Twenty years ago or so I spent two days as a page-turner on a classical recording session. Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg, John Cerminaro, and Cecil Licad were recording the Brahms Horn Trio (recording on Amazon*) and I was hired to turn pages for Licad. Scholar that I am, I kept extensive notes on that session, figuring that one day I’d base a polished bit of writing on them, perhaps fiction. Well, that’s not happened. So I’ve decided to publish the notes. I’ve cleaned them up a bit, but not much. They’re still pretty messy. But that’s how recording sessions are, messy.
W LB, aka the Page Turner: Frustrated Renaissance man. Theorist of mind & brain and cultural evolution etc. Jazz musician & performer. N adja Salerno-Sonnenberg: Violinist. Born in Rome on Jan 15, 1960 & raised by mother and grandparents. Came to USA when 8 to study at Curtis Institute. Went to Julliard in early teens to study with Dorothy DeLay. Won the 1981 Naumberg competition, the youngest to ever win it; they didn't give 2nd and 3rd that year. This was her recording session, though that wasn't obvious to me at the start. John Cerminaro: French Horn. Spent 10 years as 1st horn with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and 10 years as 1st horn with New York Philharmonic. Now working as a horn soloist based out of Chicago (Mt. Pleasant). Middleage. Gorgeous tone. Brass player's chip on his shoulder. Cecile Licad: Piano. From Philippines. Small, but has a deep near-masculine voice (baritone). Has known Nadja since they were teenagers at Curtis. Has a * http://tinyurl.com/mcllnzr -1-
small rubber figure of the Beast from the Walt Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast. Karen Chester: Producer. Was engineer for Nadja's recording of the Barber and Shostakovitch concertos. Tom: Recording Engineer. Bob: Piano technician. Lives in Vermont with wife and kids. Used his piano for the session, a Steinway D (7 ft.). How'd he get it into the hall, which has no elevator? Troy Savings Bank Music Hall: Built in late 19th C. atop the Troy Savings Bank. Acoustically, one of the finest in the world. There’d been several recording sessions here in the past few years. The hall seats c. 1200. Worn but not seedy.
A Gig Comes Calling
Mon Jan 4: Peter Lesser, director of Troy Music Hall, calls WLB saying he needs someone to turn pages at a recording session from 10-4 on Wed and Thur. (The connection runs through Eddie Knowles, member of the Music Hall board and playing compatriot of WLB in the New African Music Collective.) WLB initially declines, using a 10:30 Thur appointment with NYS unemployment as the excuse (though he doesn't tell Peter that his 10:30 meeting is with unemployment). But, WLB thinks. The unemployment notice said that, if unable to make the appointed time, then come as soon after as possible. So there's nothing imperative about that appointment – though those folks can be a pain. And what else does he have to do? Sit around and read another bit of trash fiction? Spend more time squeezing dead cells & oil from facial pores? Watch some more "Days of Our Lives"? No telling what the recording session will be like, and there is the embarrassing possibility that he'll miss a page turn or two, but it's definitely more interesting than staying home. It's two days with Other People, and it'd be interesting to see what the inside of a classical recording session is like and the musicians will probably be first rate. So, WLB called back on Tue 5 Jan and told Peter that he's available. Peter said the pay would be $8-10/hour but WLB'd have to negotiate that with Karen Chester, the producer. That's fine.
From Street to Stage
Wed 6 Jan: WLB goes through usual morning routine. Into bathtub at c. 7:00 and watch Today Show. Out of tub c. 8:30 to shave and dress. Eat breakfast while watching Regis and Kathy Lee. Should I take some paper clips so I can mark turning points in the music? Nah. Walk to Music Hall at 9:50 to meet Peter at State St. (side) entrance. Meets Peter at 10, who takes him up into the hall, entering through the stage entrance. Piano immediately to left as walk onto stage; piled with coat and French Horn gig bag. Other piano in middle of stage, with other chairs and mikes hanging from booms. A video camera on tripod aimed at the stage. Two young women on stage – are these the musicians? Continue across the stage and off through the dress circle and up two flights to room that's doing duty as the control room. Speakers, mixing board, recorders, electronic gear. Video monitor showing the stage – no direct line of sight between stage and "control room." Three people, Karen, Tom (recording technician), Bob (piano technician). WLB introduced around. Peter leaves. Karen asks if $10/hr is OK. WLB: Sure. Karen: You'll have to submit an invoice to get paid, I'll give you the information later. WLB: Fine. Karen: They're pretty good at paying. You can have them mail it to you or I could bring your check with me next time. WLB thinking (what next time?): Oh that's OK. I'll wait for the mail. What're you recording? Karen: The Brahms Horn Trio, with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg on violin, John Cerminaro on horn, and Cecile Licad on piano.
the light goes on in WLB's head when he hears "SalernoSonnenberg" (but assumes absolutely cool and composed facial expression, matching Karen's delivery of names). WLB is mainly into jazz, hasn't followed classical for 20 years. But, a few years ago he was watching Johnny Carson and saw this impish violinist who played with great intensity and passion, though it was only the Carson show. She carried a picture of a baseball player in her violin case. Had a long name. Then only a few months ago, late 92, CBS -3-
did a 2-hour special on performers which had been featured on 60-minutes. There was that same violin player with the long last name, again. And now he was going to be turning pages at her recording session. What a delight. Karen: “Should have brought a book. We'll be working with the sound for a few hours.” WLB goes back down to the hall and takes a seat a few rows back and in the center, watching various people move variously around doing various things. Musicians, piano tech, recording engineer, stage hand. Hears a male voice coming from stage when no man is on stage. Tentatively tracks the voice to Licad. Cecile takes off her regular shoes and puts on her "recording shoes", with soft sole, presumably, to facilitate pedaling.
Nadja: Are you the page turner? WLB: Yes. Nadja: I wondered who you were sitting there so silently. I'm Nadja, this is John. WLB: I'm Bill. The way she said "I'm Nadja" betokened an uneasy compromise with her fame. How do you survive as a human being when you are on the Virtuoso Track? It defines the way you present your art and make your living and gives others the right to anchor their hope, grief, & passion to what you do and become in performance. But what of your passion, not to mention your simple needs and wants? The North Star is a navigational aid only for those of us who are so far away. To those who live there, it’s the uncharted sea. How do you live as the uncharted sea that others use as a guide point? ** I'm wondering just whose recording date this is. It is a horn trio they're recording, suggesting that the date is John's. But Nadja is certainly the one with the name. The interaction does suggest it's her date, but not all that strongly. She's certainly not making strong displays of authority. ** Nadja, kneeling at her violin case doing something or other, talking to herself and/or no one in particular: "On Jan 15th I'll be toity twee. " (WLB thinking: Is -4-
that 33? Thought she was younger.) Quite often she speaks in a little girl's voice. It's strange. Makes me feel protective. Assume it's about coping with life on the Virtuoso Track.
** John mentioned that he had another pair of glasses, one without metal temple pieces. Said he might use them later on. He'd heard that metal temple pieces sapped your energy. Nadja too had heard something like that. WLB thinking: here we go, musician anxiety superstition. It's gonna be interesting.
So, the musician's would play. We'd hear a comment from above … well, the sound actually came from a speaker in front of the stage; the signal driving that speaker came from the control room. The musicians would play again. Sound engineer comes down and tinkers. More playing. Karen commenting. WLB: wonders when they'll need the page turner. What if I screw up? Tom comes down and tinkers with the mikes. More playing. Karen commenting. WLB: wonders when they'll need the page turner. Should I be up there now turning pages as they run through bits and pieces? Should I look through the music to see if there are any repeats? What is the decorum for the page turner? Tom comes down and tinkers with the mikes. Peter brings two space heaters over from the Music Hall office – it's a bit cool on stage. One near John so he can keep his horn warm. Another near Nadja for her fiddle. (More often than not, calls it a fiddle rather than a violin.) Change position of piano, violinist, hornist. Play. Tinker. Play. Getting the horn and violin properly balanced was tough. Sometime minute adjustments of mike position, a quarter, half inch one way or the other. The playing is mostly fragments here and there. But they do work up a head of steam sometimes. It sounds good. The horn is liquid, the violin has an edge, the piano crisp. Several times Nadja remarks that, once they get the levels set, things will go just like that.
After c. an hour & forty-five minutes the musicians go upstairs to listen. John comes down alone and as he walks across the stage: WLB: How're your chops? I'm a trumpet player so I know what you're going through. John: Tell them that. WLB thinking: And we haven't even started recording yet. Are we in trouble already? Brass is grueling, and the horn is the most treacherous of all, but … John plays and there's a bit more tinkering. John and Cecile return to the stage and get seated. It's 11:30. Do we break for lunch or get some work done and then lunch? Let's work. They're going to play straight through the first movement and then go back to record patches. Nadja asks me to come and turn the pages. So, I'm on.
It’s a go
I go up on stage and sit down to Cecile's left. Some final positioning for John and Nadja so each can see all. Do I sit down and then stand up to turn a page? – I certainly can't reach the music from where I'm sitting. But that's a lot of motion. Easier to stand and remain. So I stand. Nadja: Do you want to stand? WLB: Yes. WLB thinking: I have the impression that she's being considerate of all. So, my heart is thumping ever so little and I'm feeling a little anxious. Will I make the turns in time? Nadja nods and off we go. I make the first turn in time, but the pages rustled enough so that the sound will surely be picked up on the mikes. So, score one for the page turner; but, better him than one of the players. We play through to the end. I make all the turns, and no more rustling. I had an edge on the whole way. The playing was lovely. As we came to the end, I could feel my ear-to-ear grin. I had to tell my legs to keep in place, this was no time to boogie out. Laughter threatened (recall Goethe's "laughter of the gods" that Hesse kept invoking in Steppenwolf – an absolutely humorless and joyless book that talked about heroic laughter as the key to life) like I laughed in amazement at Aladdin's procession to the palace in the current movie [Disney’s Aladdin].
Nadja would sway a lot in her seat when she played. Cecile would groan sotto voce in intense piano passages and rise off the bench to bring home the fortissimo accents. Large piano, small woman, big sound. [Note: Here’s how the recording went. First they went all the way through a movement. Then they’d come back and record specific sections here and there. Those bits are called patches. Finally, the whole thing again.] Then we went through some 60 patches for the 1st movement. Some just a couple of bars, some whole sections. I made all my turns. Getting some confidence. Maybe I won't commit any major screw-ups. Maybe they'll never know that I can't follow the score all that well. Still, it's interesting comparing the notation with the sound I hear. Cecile had not only her part, but also the horn and violin parts as well. Often I'd follow one of them since there were fewer notes I had to grasp. The piano part was on two staves and lots and lots of notes. My god, the horn's got to make soft entrances above the staff. That's rough. John does it, and smoothly. Still, John's worried, and says so. All these takes are wearing him down. At one point WLB asks whether or not it's time for the alternative glasses, the ones without the energy-sapping metal temple pieces. All laugh. The page-turner, and witty too. This IS the most difficult movement for John, but it's NOT all smooth sailing from here on, especially if he blows his chops now. Finally, the first movement's done. We break for lunch. John cools down by buzzing on a bass trombone mouthpiece attached to 8 inches of garden hose. ** At breaks Nadja and Cecile go to a dressing room to smoke. Smoking is prohibited in the hall, which is old and fragile. Who'll tell?
Incidental Music and a Death
The piano tech suggests we eat at Holmes and Watson. WLB leads the way since he lives in Troy. It's a bright day so I put on my so-cool prescription shades. Now, once we get there, how to jockey so I'm sitting near Nadja – they're six of us. On the way over Karen (producer) serves up some remark making reference to KY jelly.
We get to Holmes and pull two tables together near the entrance. I'm sitting across from Nadja (fiddler) and Cecile (pianist) and next to John (horn player). "It's a Wonderful World" is playing on the sound system. Nadja remarks: Louis Armstrong. Miscellaneous chatter, including talk about all the beers available at Holmes and their world tour of beers. Nadja wonders whether they have San Miguel, the most popular beer in the Philippines. They don't. Nadja remarks that the roaches in the palace in the Manila were huge. WLB mentions the large roaches in the steam tunnels under the Johns Hopkins campus (says nothing about sitting in the bathtub in Baltimore and killing roaches with his fingers as they crawled out of the wall for a swim). I'm asked what I'd recommend since I've eaten her before. Though I do have definite preferences I quickly decline making recommendations, "Oh, I don't know. Haven't eaten here in awhile" even as I'm debating whether to get a Forbidden Problem, a Scrower's Special or perhaps a Baskerville (the sandwiches are named after Holmes stories). John orders a "Forbidden Problem" – ahah! – and so do I. Karen orders a Reuben (I forget what H&W calls it). Cecile considers the chili, but Nadja suggests that the after-effects might interfere with recording. Cecile orders something less reactive. After some worry over whether it will be good, Nadja orders a Baskerville (roast pork). She mentions that Pat's in Philadelphia has the best Philly steak sandwiches and that it's in her contract that, when she performs in Philadelphia, she gets as many Philly steaks from Pat's as she wants. (I don't know whether this is whenever she's in Philly in general or specific to her current series of dates with the Philadelphia Symphony.) There's some place in South Philly that makes the best Italian sausage and she's gonna bring back ten pounds of it and put it in her freezer, which is pretty big. It'll last awhile, unless she has guests. At Nadja's suggestion we order a plate of appetizers to share around. The piano tech, but no one else, orders beer. John takes a Tylenol to reduce the swelling in his lips. Appetizers arrive. We eat. Sandwiches arrive. We eat. Nadja is quite pleased about her roast pork. I'm asked about the contents of my sandwich: turkey, bacon, cheese, tomato. Some chat about where're they're staying – Karen & the musicians at the Marriot Residence Inn, the piano tech at the Super 66 – and what to do after the recording. My fantasy is that, tomorrow, Thursday, I can somehow get them interested in coming to a local jam session where, surprise surprise, I star every once in awhile. Aside from the fact that they're probably leaving right after the recording session, I haven't the foggiest idea about how to bring this about.
A good meal was had by all. Cecile resists desert. John notes that he has some wonderful truffles back in the hall. Cecile smiles.
Back to Work
Back at the hall (c. 3:30 or 4) we commence work on the second movement. John breaks out the truffles. We all agree that they are gooood. Cecile's need for desert is satisfied. The truffle box and lid are on the piano. The little Beast (from Beauty and the…) figure is lying around. WLB notices it and seats it in the lid of the truffle box so Beast can "see" Cecile. As she gets ready to play, she notices her Beast and removes him to the floor. Gotta warm the French horn. Stage hand and WLB are talking with John. He notes that Phil Farkas, one of the great old horn players, just died. That's too bad. Nadja rotates her violin in front of a space heater "just like a pig on a spit." Radiators clank and so Dave, the stagehand, tries to quiet them. He covers one with the piano cover. The clanking dies down, though returning to abort a take or two. Essentially the same routine as with the first movement. Run-through and then come back to patch. We cruise on through, page by page by page, my confidence growing with each successful turn and then, I turn the page, glance through the music to see what's coming and, damn! there's a da capo. That means that we go back to the beginning of the movement and start over. But where in that pile of pages is the first page of this movment? I hadn't planned for this and so don't have any easy way to turn back the 5 or 10 pages involved. I should have brought some paper clips. So, we hit the da capo and Cecile knows the music well enough that she isn't thrown while I futz around making the turn. To my credit, however, the futzing was silent. Some more earto-ear grinning. After the run-through the musicians go up to the control room to listen. As after the 1st movement run-through I wonder whether it would be appropriate for me to go up a listen as well, though I certainly have to artistic stake or say, or whether I should I stay down on stage, alone. I'm sure that if I go up no one will say anything. So, I make the same decision I made before. I stay down on stage and think my thoughts while the players listen to their work. I figure it's my job to stay as unobtrusive as possible and, also, to act as a psychological buffer by virtue of my interested silence. I'd long observed that I could affect to mood of a social situation simply by doing nothing, but doing that nothing with intensity, interest, and sympathy.
They come back to do some patching. Cecile, as she sits down, smiling, speaking in her soft baritone: Are you a piano player. WLB: No, trumpet. She's now seated and we're into the patching. Not so much as with the first movement.
Karen wants to do another complete run-through on the 1st movement. John's not sure he can do it and even if he can, the effort would threaten tomorrow's work. It's really a 3-day piece as far as he's concerned. So we're done. 4:30. People mill around, putting instruments away. Chatting. John tells of some premier horn player who's at the end of his career. He's just performed a horn concerto, with more clams than he can bear. As soon as he gets back stage he throws his horn against the wall. End of career. Nadja (to Cecile with others looking on): You know someone who's done that. Cecile: Who? Nadja: Don't you remember? We'd played the Franck sonata and I'd broken a string. When I got off the stage I grabbed the strings and pulled them and broke the neck. ** Karen, scratching Nadja's shoulders while Nadja knelt at her violin case: You must have been a terror before I knew you. ** John's buzzing his lips on the trombone mouthpiece. He tells me the idea is that this helps distribute the lactic acid more widely through his lip and facial muscles. It's like this: The muscles get energy from chemical reactions. Lactic acid is one of the end-products of these reactions. Lactic acid is a poison. (This much I already knew.) So, you want to disperse it as much as possible to minimize its effect on the lip. The cup of the French horn mouthpiece is fairly small, say an inch in diameter while the bass trombone mouthpiece is over an inch and a half. So, by buzzing on this larger mouthpiece John was hoping to stimulate circulation in a larger facial area and get the blood to carry some of the lactic acid away from the crucial center of his embouchure. Maybe it works. But I probably won't try it myself; I'm not that meticulous/fussy.
- 10 -
WLB goes up to the control room to get the story for tomorrow. The piano tech has been reading The Mists of Avalon. Cecile notes that her husband read it and liked it. Nadja likes it, it tells the story of King Arthur's court from a woman's point of view. The same author's done something similar for the Trojan War (Robert Graves maintained that the Homer who wrote the Odyssey was female while the Homer who wrote Iliad was male). Nadja liked that one too. Some chatter – initiated by the piano tech – about a recoding session in this hall where a disciple of the late Glen Gould's made thousands of takes in recording a Beethoven sonata so he could splice just the right bits and pieces together to get exactly the performance he wanted. People were amazed and perplexed at the labor. Cecile remarked that you couldn't take such a thing with you on the road, you can't play it that way. What's on the final recording is artificial. We start tomorrow at 10AM. We'll do the 4th and the then 3rd movements. Karen decided to take a DAT deck back to the Marriott and listen to the day's work. So Tom puts one in a carrying case for her. He's going to stick around and catalogue the day's work. Karen starts down the stairs, putting me in one of those minor awkward situations feminism has created. I have nothing in my hands. Karen has a substantial purse in one hand and the DAT deck in the other. The sensible thing would be for me to carry the DAT deck. I'm no Sampson, but I'm certainly stronger than Karen is. However, if I do the sensible thing, which, alas, is also chivalrous, and offer to carry the DAT, will she make think I'm being chauvinist rather than sensible? So I let her ask me to carry her purse. Fine. The DAT is still a bit much. She asks Tom whether the carrying case is really necessary. It is. Tom offers to carry the DAT. Offer accepted. I return her purse. I walk home. I made it through the session without getting lost once. Sure, there was that da capo thing. But I didn't once lose my place. A successful day.
Diz Has Died
Get home. Eat a bit. Put on my Martian anthropologist’s cap and type some notes about the day.
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Check in with Service 21 – a daily e-mail project I'm involved with. (Remember, this is 1993, before the web. But lots of people did have email). And watching the TV news. Rudolph Nureyev and Dizzy Gillespie died.
Dizzy was one of my heroes. Over 20 years ago I was at a workshop he gave in Baltimore. He told us some things and then we all got to play a few choruses with his rhythm section. As he walked by us before playing, he smiled at me, pointing at my chest. I was wearing a sweatshirt on which a very dear woman had appliquéd a trumpet (she put "Zarathustra" on the back, which is the name I had given to my trumpet). I knew I should have given Diz a thumbs up, but I didn't. The playing started and I patiently waited my turn. Finally, my turn. I was doing fine, particularly pleased about how I stretched those drag triplets across the boundary between the first and second chorus. Diz cut me off in midsolo just as I was really cranking. He stopped everything. It was time for a break. I was pissed and frustrated. What'd I do? His bass player came up to me and said I shouldn't think anything of it. My playing was fine. His piano player, Mike Longo, said the same. So why'd Diz cut me off? At the concert that night Diz was superb. On "Olinga" the spirit hit him and he went out. When it was over I went back stage to shake his hand. And I did. I was the last one that night and just barely got to him before he got away. Then only two years ago I opened the show for him with a group I’d been playing for awhile, the Afro-Eurasian Connection. It was an afternoon show out of doors in Albany's Washington Park. The crowd loved us. Diz stayed in his trailer. But his sidemen heard us and they were impressed. As I came off the stage one of them leaned back an inch and gave me that "and what planet are you from?" look. The Albany folks didn't know there was anything like us in the area. We got a good review. And now Diz was dead. I quickly wrote a short appreciation and e-mailed it off to Service 21 so I would appear tomorrow (Thursday). Then I went off to rehearsal with the Afro-Eurasian Connection. As I walked in, Ade was just coming up from the basement. (Ade, aka Eddie, you’ll recall, is the one who got me the page-turning gig.) WLB: Diz is dead man. Ade: What? WLB: Diz is dead. - 12 -
Ade: No. When'd he die? WLB: Just today. Ade and I drank some rum and played "A Night in Tunisia" in memory of Diz.
Thursday, Jan 6. What to wear? Well, Diz had died. So I ought to wear black out of respect for Diz. (Conveniently, black is also artistically cool.) Now, my black shirt is flannel, but rather light. It might be a bit cool in the Music Hall. So I need to wear my black sweater with the cool red and blue and green accents. Now, if I wear my down jacket I'll be too warm on the walk – it's not that cold out. So that means I'll wear my chocolate-colored suede jacket, even though it might not be warm enough. And my so-cool prescription shades. All of a sudden I'm looking pretty cool. All just to pay my respects to Diz. I arrive at 10. Everyone is dressed much the same (for all I remember, maybe exactly the same), except Nadia's wearing darker jeans. I ask John how his chops are. OK? And your throat? Better than yesterday, he says. I was being sly with that question. He hadn't said anything about his throat. However, a good brass player works the throat to start molding the sound inside the vocal cavity. To get an open liquid sound you have to keep the throat open. That takes work and you can feel it in your throat muscles if you've done it for awhile. In extreme cases you get hoarse & a sore throat. In asking the question I was showing that I'm a good enough brass player to know about the throat and tone production. I also mention that I've been mourning a bit over the death of a musician (oh, I'm so subtle aren't I). John: You mean Phil Farkas? (French horn player he'd mentioned yesterday.) WLB: No, Dizzy Gillespie. John: Oh, yeah, I heard. WLB: I heard him about two years ago when he played on this very stage. His chops were gone, had been going for 15 years. But in his prime he was something. John: Yeah, Miles is dead too.
- 13 -
Time to Make the Donuts
So, it's time to start. I'm seated. The third movement is quite slow; I won't be getting up and down all that often. I get up for the page turn and I hear change rattling in my pocket. The music's so soft that the mike will surely pick up the rattling change. I turn the page and sit down as quietly as I can. At the next break I remove the change from my pocket. When Cecile comes down from listening to the music in the control booth she asks me about the keys. I don't follow – she can't be talking about the music, that is, what key it's in, and I don't have any keys, as in keys for locks, and then I get it. Oh, I had some change in my pocket, which I've removed. The run-through concludes OK. Then the patching. This is a very slow movement. Cecile opens it alone, very softly, deliberately. Does the opening several times, chin hovering inches above the keyboard has she starts, hands and fingers a slow ballet as they approach the keys, touch them lightly to establish touch & position, then moving down into them to bring forth the sound. This time I'm prepared. I quickly look over the music for the fourth movement and note there's a da capo. So, I put a paper clip in the appropriate place and I'm all set. We start the fourth movement, which is quite snappy. First the complete runthough. We come to the da capo and I make it. The run-through was good. Now for patching. During one long passage, John removes a slide from his horn while Nadja is still playing. He does this to empty out the spit, which accumulates in the horn as you play and will gurgle if you don't empty it out. It makes some metallic noise, which breaks Nadja's concentration, and besides, the noise was probably picked up by the mic. Nadja angrily aborts the take. John explains he had to empty the spit out of his horn. Nadja, in an adult voice, not particularly loud, but with an edge, says "you don't have to empty your fucking horn while I'm playing." So the words go on, John worrying about his lip, Nadja talking to Karen, several times Karen says forget about it, just keep going. Cecile says nothing. I wonder whether things will escalate too far and, while doing and saying nothing, go into an intense mode of acceptance and calm, as though … if I the page-turner can stay cool, that will help; I'd guess Cecile was in the same mode. It's like seeing into someone else's family quarrel; it doesn't concern you, you shouldn't be there, but even to leave would credit your presence at this break-down that's none of your business and so you simply try very hard to be - 14 -
Not There. Things stay cool. We resume recording. Later during the recording session John will compliment Nadja for an idea she had about how to interpret a certain passage, an idea that "I never would have thought of." At the next break, when John and I are alone on the stage, he approaches me and, speaking softly, confidingly, back turned to the side of the stage where the control room is, remarks: John: You know, no matter what they say, I don't think string players or piano players really understand or emphasize with the problems of brass players. They can play hour after hour and really can't understand why we can't. WLB: Well, I think they understand to some extent. They believe you when you say your chops are fragile. But, yeah, you're right, they don't really empathize, they don't really understand us. John, turning away from WLB and looking up into the distance: But I feel there's some kind of justice though when they work with a different player who falls completely apart and can't do it. WLB thinking: That's a strange kind of justice; you get no compensation but others fail. John's playing has been superb. A few clams here and there. But he made the horn sing.
People putzing around, meandering toward lunch. Piano tech to WLB, sotto voce, with a trace of a voyeur's smile: Quite a little scene we had there. WLB: All us musicians are crazy. WLB thinking: What of it? Yeah, a little touchy. But mild compared to how I've blown my stack on occasion. And, nothing came of it. Was John doing the passive aggressive bit when he decided to empty his slides as Nadia was playing? Was her response to his action unreasonable, understandable? What's the standard? Recording is wretched tricky business. The players have to live with the result. Tension is inevitable. On the whole, things are going well. **
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On to lunch. WLB again leads the way, slightly worried that, as people group up during the walk, he's grouped with no one. Overhears conversation between Nadja – who's undone her pony tail for the walk and who's wearing shades which become way-cool by being plain pedestrian plastic – and the piano tech. He's remarking about the looseness of her jeans in the ass. She moves along, hands thrust down into her pockets straining against the bottoms, elbows locked, shoulders hunched from the cold – she's only wearing a denim jacket over her sweater and it's a little colder than yesterday – with the kind of stride where you deliberately roll through the balls of your feet to your toes so you thrust into the next step. Remarks of her jeans that "they're just loose, just loose." We arrive at Holmes & Watson and, this time, go upstairs. We move some tables together and sit down. Again I manage to set across from Nadja & Cecile. Karen is to my left & John to my right. Tom (recording engineer) goes off to call a friend of his from Dorian Recording and invite him to lunch with us. Nadja: “Fwank.” Meaning Frank Sinatra, who we heard over the sound system singing "I've Got You Under My Skin." When that's over we hear something inane, like Montovanni. Nadja remarks that she prefers the music downstairs. Chatter about music. Barry "I write the songs the whole world sings" Manilow is ridiculed. Maureen McGovern gets good marks. As "You Go to My Head" plays Karen asks what the lyric is before ". . . like the bubbles in a glass of champagne." WLB is pissed that he can't supply the lyric, because it's one of his favorite tunes, Louis Armstrong does a superb version, and Bird used to call the tune when he wanted to send a call to erotic action to a lady in the audience. WLB figures there's probably no particularly politic way to slip that piece of information into the conversation. Nor can he see any so casual and innocent way to introduce Dizzy's death. John does another Tylenol, to reduce swelling in his lip. Chatter about disaster films, which Nadja seems to like. Praise for "The Poseidon Adventure." Perhaps the link was that Maureen McGovern sang on the sound track. Cecile, with a note of marveled discovery in her voice: Oh, I know what the most expensive toilet in the world is. The astronaut's toilet cost $30 million. We're suitably stunned. Cecile, Nadja & Karen comment, with Nadja getting the last word: I'd rather have the $30 million and just let it float. WLB, thinking to himself, was a bit skeptical about the wisdom of letting it float (what if it hit the fan?). Chatter chatter & more chatter about the beer. Nadja: Too bad they don't have San Miguel. Some talk about non-alcoholic beer. The waiter comes to take our orders. John orders first: orders a club sandwich, though Holmes & Watson has some fancy Holmsania name for it that I forget. Nadja remarks - 16 -
that the Baskerville was good, urges Cecile to order one. She does. So do all. Except WLB, who is last. He has his other favorite, the Scrower Special. And a pint of Harp. John, of course, sticks with his club. Nadja: You're not having a Baskerville! WLB: No. I can come here any time. I like the Scrower. Nadja: Are we gonna order something to, you know, share around? This time we order two sets of appetizers. More chatter. Tom's friend (Peter’s his name) arrives and takes a seat. The piano tech, who also knows him, introduces him around. When the introductions get to Nadja, quickly, Nadja: I'm Nadja and this is Cecile. The waiter comes to take Peter's order. Told that everyone else is having a Baskerville, that's what he has too. The food arrives and all agree that, yeah, the roast pork sandwich is good. Cecile puts some Tabasco sauce on hers; Karen follows. John enjoys his club, giving a quarter to Cecile. WLB is down with his Scrower. We eat. At some point WLB notices Cecile looking at the silver bracelet (technically, it's a cuff) on his right wrist. Cecile contemplates dessert. WLB: The pecan pie is excellent. But don't forget John has some more truffles back at the Hall. That thought seems to satisfy Cecile. Nadja and Cecile decide to get some beers to drink in the van on what way home. Nadja wants to drive the van. Karen decides not, she'll drive the van. (After all, she rented it; her company is responsible for it. And she probably feels responsible for Nadja.) We get the check and pay up. Karen has to borrow from Nadja, who has a wallet full of platinum and gold cards. We leave and return to the Hall. Again, WLB walks alone. On the way back Nadja does a broad smile and a 360 turn when she sees a local woman who resembles her – a little shorter, a little fuller, but the same brown hair & eyes, and the same jeans and light blue denim jacket.
Back at the Hall and John's truffles – more munching. Cecile gets out her glasses – her contacts are dry and she has no more fluid for them. The piano tech jury-rigs the glasses so they'll stay up.
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Back in the Hall it's gotten considerably warmer. Now all we have to do is complete another run-through on the 1st and 4th movements. Both go well. Some triple-grin music. WLB's legs threaten to dance him away from the piano. But he hangs in there and makes his page turns. John's chops have survived. Some fine playing all around. One last thing. Cecile's got to do the opening four bars of the 3rd movement. Very tricky. Nadja: Do you want me to leave? Cecile, slight giggle below the surface of her voice: Yes. John has already left the stage. I'm sort of walking away figuring I should leave as well. As I walk away Nadja says: Come on, lets go. She goes her way and I go mine. Cecile does two takes of those four bars. We're done. So, it's over. John's once again buzzing his lips on the trombone mouthpiece. Now I find out just where to submit my invoice and I don't see these people any more. Go upstairs to the control room. Karen & Tom. WLB asks Karen where to submit invoice. As she's writing the information on a yellow pad Nadja comes in, glances at the pad, and sits down. WLB, as Karen hands the information to him: I enjoyed it. Karen: Thanks for helping us out. Nadja: Yes, thanks a lot. Nadja, sounding, looking, tired: I didn't enjoy it. WLB, looking at her, has nothing to say. Wonders what she's trying to say. Has no trouble understanding that, for her it could easily have been wracking. But, as Karen remarked at various times over the intercom, there was some lovely playing. WLB turns and leaves. Walking back home – that's the last he'll see of these people. He stops in at the public library to pick up a copy of Metroland. Getting a Metroland is part of his psychic security blanket. It's time for the Thur PM jam session. Maybe next week. Don't want to wear out my welcome there. Problem is that the guy who runs the session is mediocre – and he certainly knows it. Others who come are better. So the decorum is tricky and I don't want to take up too much space.
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