Sunday, July 20, 2008

Decay Preserved

The Internet Archives are a very good thing and steadily getting better. Sometime ago, I mentioned here that my copy of the tape part to Douglas Leedy's 1965 theatre piece Decay had, in fact, decayed beyond retrieval and neither the composer nor others connected with early performances of the piece appeared to have a copy. The tape part had been assembled (composed is not exactly the right word) by Leedy with the assistance of Ian Underwood from a collection of old shellac recordings, retrieved from a Berkeley used record bin, of rather bleak piano music improvised (one assumes) for the use of dance practice accompaniment. In performance a live pianist and other instrumentalists improvise in the same style (did I mention the word "bleak" already?) and, in most performances, theatrical events were overlayed. Memories of the sixties being somewhat vague as they tend to be -- under the motto, "if you can remember the sixties, you weren't really there" --, the theatrical events are difficult to reconstruct, but in several productions directed by the composer Robert Moran these apparently included a number of women in bathrobes and curlers as well as conspicuously large brass instruments and their players emerging from sleeping bags. The tape part still appears lost, but fortunately (if that's the right word), a recording of a performance under Moran's direction and service as piano soloist has turned up in the Other Minds Archive*, here, on the second half of a concert recorded by Bay Area Pacifica station KPFA. If you can persist in listening to a theatre piece divorced of its visual components, I do recommend listening long enough to hear horn and saxophone solos** presumably played by the composer and Underwood, respectively. Did I mention that this was bleak?
*All praises are due Other Minds and their intrepid leader Charles Amirkhanian, for rescuing this among other Pacifica jetsam as well as countless other services well-rendered!
**That saxophone does go on and on, doesn't it?


Anonymous said...

Man, is decay the right word...

Anonymous said...

I saw a wonderful performance of 'Decay' at UCLA in the late 60's directed by the composer and the thing that I remember most vividly was the continuous frying of bacon along with women putting on makeup, a saxophone player emerging from under a bed, a maniacal piano improvisation in A minor (I think) and a gentlemen reclining on a couch, in a suit and tie, quietly reading a book. It was glorious.
Lloyd Rodgers