Chapter 3: Music + Technology = Broadcasting
This was also a period of growth of technology for broadcasting and recording music. I was what is now called an “early adopter” of new technology. Somehow I acquired a portable tape recorder back in the late Forties. It was “portable” in name only. Picture a unit the size of two layers of three bricks, add about five more pounds and you’ll have a good idea of what I toted around. I used it to memorize lines in the plays I acted in.
I think this was also the time that Columbia came out with a new thing, Long Playing Records. And also available was a small turntable/needle unit that you could plug into your existing phonograph. The first LP I bought was a Columbia sampler, which had a movement from Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra and a movement from Stravinsky’s Petroushka Suite. Pretty modern stuff back then.
When I listened to the radio, I liked Jon Arthur on WSAI in the morning, and Jean Shepherd at night, when he might play a Sinatra song and a Bach cello suite and Bix Beiderbecke and Chopin and the Boyd Raeburn orchestra. This is where I first heard Walton’s Facade, with Edith Sitwell’s readings of her text, and which was never heard again here, I imagine, until I played it on WGUC some several years later.
I entered the University of Cincinnati in the liberal arts program, and played in the UC band. After my first year, I persuaded my parents that I should go to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (this was a few years before the Conservatory and College of Music merged, and were later absorbed by UC, which explains the very long name for the result.) I studied oboe with Marcel Dandois, the first oboist of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, who taught me the French way to play the oboe and the French way to make reeds. Not because of politics, it seems that among oboists the French way now has fewer adherents than it did then. Scott Huston was a fairly new addition to the Conservatory faculty then, and his very powerful personality had some effect on me and how I viewed music. Several times in the years after I got to WGUC, I called on him for help on a project and such. Another teacher who reached me was Charles Hamm, who was composing and teaching several music courses, and, I discovered, was also born on April 21st, but five years earlier than my birthday. His career took him to the University of Illinois, to Tulane, and most recently to Dartmouth. He became President of the American Musicology Association, and has written several acclaimed books on all sorts of American music. I knew him mostly as a composer then, and was delighted when he asked me to take the non-singing role in his short opera on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, as “The Patient.” I had a one-word spoken line to deliver, “HELP!” and am happy to say it brought down the house.
Somehow we found more things in common than the April 21 birth date. He was 80 on that day, and I see the musicology community is feting that occasion. Letters and phone calls and now
e-mail have been able to keep us in touch with each other as we go on our separate ways and lately it seems that the various slings and arrows that each of us has from living this long have received more attention in our correspondence than I would like. Fairly recently a letter of mine reminding him of parts of our history, and telling him what often goes unspoken in long friendships, that his friendship meant a lot to me, evoked this response (quoted with his permission.)
The job at the Cincinnati Conservatory was my first full-time position, and what
made it special -- and what made me determined to continue as a teacher -
was the special students I had: you, Ron Byrnside, Ellsworth Snyder, Ward
Swingle, Duke Skinner, etc. If I hadn't been so stimulated by all of you, I
might well have given up teaching for something else. So it works both ways, you
know. I owe thanks to you, and others, for being such dedicated and involved