If I do say so myself, I have had a pretty interesting life and never wanted to brag about such matters in the bio on my website, wanting to keep it professional and let the music speak for itself. So I’ve always felt a little cagey and withholding, and have left myself out of the mix. But isn't authenticity the singer/songwriter's stock in trade, raison d'etre, bird in the proverbial hand? And besides, it makes for a good read and back-story. And they always say to 'salt the story', so here goes.
Come here, little birdie, and show me your tale....
The house was built of all native materials, and she designed the "studio," a concert hall which apparently had extraordinary acoustics and were studied by many architects. There were also small adobe houses on the property called the 'shacks', which were used as guest houses for great musicians and artists such as Pablo Casals, Isaac Sterns, and the Juilliard String Quartet. I imagine there were some really swingin’ times out there what with party animals like that hanging out. The plans for the house's construction somehow fell into my hands, and I saw that she plotted every native plant and tree so the ecological balance would be undisturbed. And all this in the 1940's... Now the house and studio are surrounded and dwarfed by horribly chic designer malls and green lawns. It's so incongruous as to seem almost ridiculous.
You can read up on it here.
Regrettably, I was never especially close to my grandmother. I met her only a couple of times. But I did end up with several of her scores, papers, recipes and some furniture. I’ve heard some incredible stories about her, which my father told me: that she was friend to the Hopi, had organized caravans of food and medicine for them long before it was "PC." to do so. In fact, they called her “Mother”. Often in the house there was a cacophonous mix of chamber music, a Hopi chief drumming and children yelling. The house was full of Katchina dolls. In her scores, there are a number of songs based on Hopi texts, very lovely. Here's an excerpt:
Neither wind nor bird, that was my flute you heard last night by the river
When you came with your wicker jar where the river drags the willows,
oh that was my flute you heard, Wacoba, calling come to the willows
neither wind nor bird rustled the lupine blooms, that was my blood you heard
answer your garments hem, whispering whispering through the grasses
She was one of the first two women to win a seat with the Cleveland Symphony, performing as first violinist there. She also wrote symphonic works that were performed during the 1950's, a era not especially known for nurturing women composers.
So in short the Phoenix Folk Alliance trip turned up much more than ever expected...
All the best and a Happy New Year,