In February, Eastern Michigan University is planning a festival of my music. My understanding at this point is that there will be three concerts, on three consecutive evenings, featuring six of my works: a duo, a trio, a quartet, a quintet, a wind ensemble piece and an orchestral piece.Anthony Iannacone is organizing the event. He first contacted me almost three years ago, but it wasn’t until this past spring that we were able to confirm mutually workable dates.

I’ve not met Tony yet, but we’ve spoken a few times on the phone (actually, we’ve left one another a lot more voicemails than we’ve actually spoken). This week he gave me the tentative programs for the festival. I was surprised to find that they were considering performing Facade, a piece I wrote 23 years ago. The news brought back bittersweet memories.

Facade was premiered at a student composers concert when I was in the graduate program at Juilliard. The piece takes an 1890sish waltz — kind of a salon melody — and twists it through some increasingly irrational Straussian harmonic shifts until it completely shatters into inarticulate fragments. After a minute or two of stumbling about in confusion, it gradually reassembles itself into a fragile version of its former self.

This kind of musical surrealism wasn’t unheard of at the time, and it’s certainly become pretty commonplace since. I had no intention of creating a manifesto; I was just writing what I wanted to hear. So the reaction I got at the premiere really caught me off guard. People were angry, sarcastic, contemptuous.

A few days afterwards, a friend informed me that David Diamond was telling the students in all of his classes that they shouldn’t play my music. I made an appointment with him to find out what he was upset about. He sat with a seething grimace as I tried to explain my train of thought in the piece, saying only, “You can’t do that in music” before showing me the door.

Facade got quite a few performances in the early 1990s, but I don’t think it’s been played in almost ten years. Pulling together a perusal score to send to Tony has me looking back over it for the first time in awhile. Now, of course, I’m struck by the rudimentary instrumental writing – idiomatic enough, to be sure, but not as sensitive to the potential of the instruments as I would like to think I am now. But the piece certainly packs a nice sucker punch.

So off it goes to Ypsilanti.

David, wherever you are, rest in peace.

Leave a Reply