Haiku Variations by Michael Udow

Michael Udow contributed a piece to Sonic Divide and I just got it in my inbox yesterday.  Michael was my primary percussion teacher when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan, but he’s also been much, much more than that to me.  There’s no doubt in my mind that the reason I have the courage to try something as crazy as the Sonic Divide is in part because of Mike’s inspiration.  He is a true artist through and through, an amazing composer, percussionist, instrument builder, teacher, producer, and many more things.  He’s a Renaissance man with a firm grounding in the past but always with an eye (and ear) to the future.  I feel very lucky that he wrote a piece for me, and I feel very lucky that I got to study with him.

His piece is unique in that it requires me to compose a new haiku at the end of each day on the Sonic Divide.  He offers me one to start:

the old stones listen / wind soothes my tired body / peace is from within

What a lovely haiku!  A lovely way to connect the physical activity with the sonic world.

Mike provides instructions for me to improvise on that haiku while I recite it, and then to do the same for each of the haikus that I compose while I’m on my journey, each of which is a meditation on the day’s experiences.  I estimate that the Sonic Divide will take me about 25 days to finish, so I will end up with quite a bit of material.  It’s an ingenious concept.

What’s really interesting to me is that both of the pieces created by my mentors (Michael Udow and Robert Morris) force me to slow down and meditate on my experience.  Given that I tend to move quickly and energetically through life, I am grateful for these pieces.  They know me perhaps better than I do, the sign of a great teacher.   Their blessings continue to shower down upon me.

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Asha Srinivasan’s piece

I’m honored to receive yet another amazing Sonic Divide composition, this time from Asha Srinivasan.  In this piece Asha gives me some structure to create a piece on the spot using the time of day and date in the calendar to create a piece for voice and found objects percussion.  It’s perfect in every way and perfectly blends Indian and Western music ideas.  Bravo, Asha!!

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Beautiful new piece by Eric Funk

Eric Funk just sent me his contribution to Sonic Divide.  It’s a gorgeous meditation on life and solitude and our place in these vast cosmos.  Eric wrote for voice and log drum/found pieces of wood from the forest, with text by John Haek.  I’ve already learned the first page and I love it.  The second line is “I am alone on the summit of a mountain . . .”  I’ll definitely perform this on one of the Divide crossings at the top of a mountain in Montana.  Eric was born and raised in Montana.  He still lives there and composes, performs, teachers, and runs an amazing PBS show about music in Montana called “11th and Grant with Eric Funk.”  I’m really honored to have him on board with this project.

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Another composition . . .

Aakash Mittal sent me his Sonic Divide contribution yesterday. It’s a wonderful piece titled “Pahaar”, which means “mountain” in Hindi. He uses a creative method of melodic progression that gives me a lot of room to improvise, but within a structure that keeps the energy flowing forward. Given the title, the fact that Aakash spent much of his youth in Colorado, and that some of the Divide crossings are on some of the highest points on the route in Colorado, I’m thinking I’ll probably sing this piece at the top of one of those mountain passes, which go as high as 12,000 feet. Hopefully there will be enough oxygen for me! I’m so excited about this project. That makes five pieces I’ve received so far, and they are all perfect in every way.