Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Happy Birthday, John!

It's the birthday of my brother John Kennedy, of Santa Fe New Music, father of Jasmine and Jade, husband of Rozella, sister to Kathy in Australia, and only son of Joyce and Wally. Here he is on the North Shore of Lake Superior, swimming in the Temperance River.

Does your head swim? That's one of my favorite questions, perhaps because mine so often does, swimming or cascading with memories, images, sounds, and ideas. Cascades: it's a word for a musician like John, someone who hears things.

1. A waterfall or a series of small waterfalls over steep rocks.
2. Something, such as lace, thought to resemble a waterfall or series of small waterfalls, especially an arrangement or fall of material.
3. A succession of stages, processes, operations, or units.
4. Electronics: A series of components or networks, the output of each of which serves as the input for the next.
5. A chemical or physiological process that occurs in successive stages, each of which is dependent on the preceding one, and often producing a cumulative effect: an enzymatic cascade.

John has done many remarkable things, not least of which is the pulling-out-of-thin-air of musical concerts and compositions year after year, first with Essential Music in New York City, and now with Santa Fe New Music in New Mexico. He also organizes and conducts the Music in Time series at the Spoleto Music Festival in Charleston, South Carolina.

If you are new to the sounds of New Music (not to be confused with New Age Music), the Santa Fe New Music site is a good place to learn: you'll find archives, a page with links to the composers featured over their first seven concert series, and a "listen up" list of recommended CDs. John has been influenced by the aleatoric or "chance" music of John Cage, whose memorial service he organized as a musical tribute (with Merce Cunningham, Yoko Ono, and others) in New York City.

You can hear clips from John's own One Body here (click on "Listen to Samples" under the CD cover): it's a composition featuring poetry by Joy Harjo, Gary Snyder, Kenneth Patchen, Walt Whitman, and others, set for the unique voice of countertenor/baritone Bruce Rameker. (Amazon has Rameker incorrectly listed as composer.) Here is more information about One Body, and the libretto. The beautiful CD cover is by painter Nancy Ortenstone, of Taos, New Mexico.

I can't listen to One Body without it bringing tears to my eyes, recalling the way my brother helped "conduct" the recovery of our father, Wally, when he ended up (almost by chance) in an intensive care unit a few years ago. John came to spend days and nights in the unit, watching the machines with intense sensitivity and intelligence, talking quietly with the night nurses. He was adept at tuning us into those moments when Dad needed us to talk to him, and he lead us in the reiki that helped prep him for the surgical procedure that saved his life. At night, in the background, this music played, providing comfort and connection for Wally. Listen to One Body, especially if you are in need of healing: it has great spiritual power.

Much love and gratitude to John on this day!

1 comment:

Joyce said...

Yes, indeed, much love and gratitude to John! He has brought us such joy over the years~ from the "rare tropical bird" sounds of his babyhood to the Language of Birds just last week. Thank you, John!