The Man Who Was Kicked Off The Earth

was the title of a screenplay Twin Cities’ thespian Fred Gartner said he was going to write once he moved to Hollywood in the mid-eighties; the “man” in question being me. I met Fred in 1981 when he appeared in, and Steve Gnitka and I provided the music for IN THE LONG NIGHT, a play by Dan Pinkerton (writer) and Donald Hutera (director) produced at the Rarig Center (University of Minnesota). (On the heels of the Ensemble’s 3+ year association with Hat Hut Records, this was a time period where it seemed I was going to be able to mount the semblance of a career in the commonly understood sense of the term. A good number of gigs [relatively speaking] in various configurations at a variety of venues, a small handful of theatre collaborations, a couple school residencies, and a bit of touring all bode well. But, as one knows, to maintain and capitalize on opportunities, the quality of one’s work and the dedication of one’s spirit are of far less import than one’s ability to hustle in the marketplace. Thus, my marked distaste for political networking and positioning ultimately [and again] held me in good stead.) From 1982-1983 Fred, who was obviously more comfortable networking than I, ended up booking concerts for Goofy’s Upper Deck in downtown Minneapolis. Mainly a raucous punk venue, Fred nonetheless approached me to play there. Due to a lack of interest on Gnitka’s part (having, if memory serves, to do with the fact that there wasn’t a guarantee), Groid, a noise group offshoot of Gordon Heimer, rather than The Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble graced the stage there for several gigs. On one memorable evening, members of the audience stated throwing chairs around. As the music continued, I stepped off the stage and approached one of the rabble-rousers. I told him if he didn’t the dig the music, he could leave rather than throw furniture around. His earnest response was that he was throwing chairs because he dug the music!  (Sidebar: Fred’s relationship with/attitude towards Goofy’s owner was nicely encapsulated on “Exhibit A” below; a poster he designed for a subsequent First Avenue event.) Eventually, as shown on “Exhibit B 1-2”, Fred got a bit of money together to mount a series, so the Ensemble did, in due course, play there once. Evidently, observing how people reacted to me and my work (chair throwing youth notwithstanding!), to say nothing of reactions/opinions Fred likely encountered as he moved and shook in and around the provincial, in-bred Minneapolis/St. Paul “arts” community, provided the inspiration for the proposed screenplay. (And while I knew the screenplay would never see the light of day, just the thought of it was, given the intent and nature of my lifework, gratifying. It also made me smile.)

In the ensuing decades, I have been effectively marginalized by the endemically corrupt powers-that-be (big and small); fueled, naturally, by my own attitude and actions. Ironically, however, recent circumstances are allowing me to, if not kick myself off the earth, then, for the most part, turn my back on it. Having practiced self-determination since 1970, a year after entering the “creative music” field, I am now going to bring it back home; literally. The concert series’ at what, for years, were my home bases — the West Bank School of Music and Homewood Studios — will cease at the end of 2013. A studio space addition currently under construction at my home will be my primary base of operations. (Before returning to Finland in May of 2013, Erkki Huovinen, upon being informed about the studio, made an incisive observation which touched me deeply. Given the nature of my work  — particularly as concerns certain gestural and/or attitudinal qualities —  he’s come to view me as a “painter”; that is to say someone whose process embraces relative solitude and isolation. Thus, as far as he was concerned, the studio made perfect sense.) Besides being a practice space, there will be private sessions along with recitals/concerts which will be open to the public. The latter won’t be instituted until fall of 2014 at the earliest. Announcements of these irregularly scheduled events will be posted on the concerts page of my website. However, to be clear, if the terms/conditions are acceptable/to my liking, I will still play at other venues, tour, and engage in educational activities. Otherwise, as I statistically have less days ahead of me than behind (and thus have clearly entered the realm of endgame), I am grateful to be able to, by and large, eschew hauling equipment, driving/parking, setting up/tearing down, dealing with all and sundry ancillary concerns/situations/people endemic of gigs, and get down to the work in a self-contained space housing all my instruments (including a Bösendorfer Imperial). A space which will, if I’m fortunate, also serve as my tomb.

Despite your not having intended, thank you Agnes and Elliot. Studio Toile d’Angles (and that piano!) is the result of your blood, sweat, tears & frugality. Most vital for me, you didn’t tell and I didn’t ask.

Post script. I don’t know what happened to Fred. Renting a low budget/Twilight Zone-like horror anthology tape in the 90s entitled FINAL DESTINATIONS, which was nothing more than a handful of student/semi-professional shorts, likely bought on the cheap (if paid for at all) and cobbled together by some “enterprising” producer, I was surprised and amused to see Fred featured in one of the stories. But, as far as I can tell, that film was, more or less, his entree to and exit from La-La Land.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B-1 Exhibit B-2

Leave a Comment