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A Great Loss

March 7, 2013

A solemn moment of silence, please, for an old friend who passed on last night, Peter Carter.  His family is in shock, as are many of his friends, and I really have not much more to say of the matter until my disbelief wears off.


The following is a sketch I included in my recently published collection “Small Mountain Rambles” about an afternoon Peter and I shared.



Finally, Spring has Sprung

         When the University of California at Santa Cruz had just opened and there were only two campuses operating, my ex-wife worked at the University library. I’d have to pick her up from work and sometimes I’d go up there early and pursue a long delayed project, listening to all of Mozart’s symphonies in order, 1 to 41. The University library had these brand new listening rooms and all the records you could imagine. Obviously, this was a pretty esoteric and useless project but I was able to track a few themes that Mozart experimented with early on and perfected in the later symphonies. Other than that, I really didn’t get that much out of the exercise. Actually, some of the early work was pretty pedantic and boring and I’d read various music related literature on the back of the album covers.

          Yesterday I was helping a friend work on a new piece of topiary (sculptured plants). This friend has no problem pointing out my faux pas and other lapses in credibility. Once we were looking at a picture of John Kennedy riding in an open limo. I mentioned that I really liked those 1966 Lincoln Continentals. This friend turns a wry eye to me and tells me that it must have been quite a car, considering Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Hmm, OK . . . So yesterday we are fooling around in the garden, soaking in the super nice weather and he has the speakers blasting Mozart from the windows. We both commented on how well the setting, the weather and music all came together. We get involved with the entwined ivy plants and are quietly piddling along. Then, the music takes a turn, a movement changes and there are these broad, strong extended chords coming from the speakers. I pause my puttering and exclaimed “Now, that’s Vivaldi!” My friend cocks his head, and likewise pauses. He resumes his gardening without saying a word.

         On one of those album covers forty years ago, somewhere deep in my memory, was a notation that Mozart, in his secular music, used to experiment with techniques and musical devices used by his contemporaries and predecessors. Those strong broad chords struck me as an attempt by Mozart to use a Vivaldian sound, sort of unusual for Mozart, thus my outburst.

         While my friend is quite well versed in the musical disciplines, I guess he wasn’t quite sure if he was listening to Mozart or Vivaldi at that point. I didn’t feel especially inclined to enlighten him with a lengthy and, frankly, a vague explanation I wasn’t real sure of anyway. To my great satisfaction, the entire microscopic issue quietly died on the vine, in the warm sunlight and the mild Mozart. The gardening went on for hours without much discussion at all. That, too, was satisfying in the great weather and the gentle setting.



a portable topiary






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