Artists

October 25th, 2009 by Collin Canright | Filed under History, Music.

I hung around artists and musicians in school. I listened to concerts and records, and Indiana University is was wonderful place to listen to concerts because there’s generally several excellent recitals a night. Here are profiles I wrote of some of the artists I was privileged to have as friends and neighbors.

Jane Fox. Jane was the old lady who lived in the apartment on the second floor of our building when I moved off campus as a sophomore. I got to talking to her and found that she had been a modern dance instructor at the university for more than 50 years. It was also my first page-one feature.

Philip French. Mr. French was a classmate of my dad’s when he was at Indiana University in the 1950s. I met him several times when he came to the States from London. I remember his visit when I was a sophomore, and I asked him about the British view of the American Revolution. In his refined London accent he said, “Well, you know the British Army never lost a war. The Revolution was just one we happened not to win.” I reviewed his book of on three critics, and wrote a profile for the paper.

Paul Sturm. When I first saw him, Paul was the crazy looking guy turning the electronic dials and playing with tapes. I reviewed a “happening” he and some of his artist friends put on, and then interviewed him. He was engineer for a late night radio station, and I’d visit and talk about music and help with tape experiments. We had broad tastes, not like the narrowly focused, in his words, “jazz Nazi’s and classical fascists.”

David Baker. Professor Baker is a pioneering jazz educator and composer. He was flamboyant and mischievous, especially in a music school of symphony musicians. He was my next door neighbor and would invite me to his student parties. He called me one of the best music writers he had seen at the school.

I took his jazz history class as a junior, and during our exam on avant garde jazz, I kept turning my head and looking at him as he laughed in the back of the class. I was baffled. He’d play a piece, and we had to identify it by style. Nothing he played that day was jazz. He was joking with the symphony students, playing Henry Cowell, John Cage, and Conlon Nancarrow. I kept looking back confused because I wondered why he was playing composed music and not improvised jazz. I wanted to point that out. “You should have,” he told me later. “You were the only one in the room who knew what I was playing. I would have loved it, you dig?”

I last saw David for the first time in more than 25 years in September 2006, at the premier in Chicago of his Concertino for Cell Phones and Orchestra.

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