Been down so long it looks like up to me
Well, it has been a while since I committed anything to the blogosphere. Like many people, I have found my outlook gradually turning inward, and have had a diminished interest in engaging with my friends or broader network. And, as I write, it has been announced that Victoria is going into yet another week’s lockdown–yet another iteration of the synchronous cosmos. We are all marooned in our impoverished milieu.
But I have not been idle, despite appearances. I have spent the last nine months working on, primarily, three projects:
Arcanabula for bassoon,
un petit mot crabe-c’est-ma-faute for trombone and percussion, and
Resuscitatîve for contrabass.
Three consecutive works for bass instruments inevitably brought the Doors’ song to mind, and from that the novel by Richard Fariña that I read so many years ago, the On the Road of the middle sixties. The book failed to make a strong impression on me, and I remember it more for the sad irony that Fariña died in a motorbike accident days after its publication. Considerably more memorable, however, is the music that Fariña and his wife Mimi produced in the early sixties folk genre and released on LP through Vanguard, where their label-mates included Buffy Saint-Marie, Country Joe McDonald, P D Q Bach, the loathsome Ted Nugent, and Maurice Abravanel. (Even today I have Abravanel’s recording of Milhaud’s l’Homme et son désir, which verged on the implausible when I first heard it in, what, 1969 or so? It is still capable of causing amazement in 2021). My favourite of the Fariña’s songs is still Reflections in a crystal wind which achingly captures the flavour of the hippy-folk mid-sixties before the electric revolution begun by Fariña’s friend Bob Dylan reduced it to quaintness. We tend to forget today just how essential this music was at the time; the Fariña’s peers include Tim Buckley, Phil Ochs, Dylan, Tom Rapp, and Grace Slick. And of course, Mimi Fariña started life as Mimi Baez, the younger sister of legendary folkista Joan.
Also in their band were Felix Pappalardi, also known as the “fourth member of Cream” and a co-founder of the band Mountain with Leslie West, and John Hammond, yet another legend of the early rock scene.
Incidentally, novelist Thomas Pynchon was one of the Fariña’s closest friends, and his magnum opus Gravity’s Rainbow is dedicated to Richard–now that’s immortality!