Saturday, September 18, 2010

World's Worst

Both of the world's worst involved Don Swin.

I. Intentional

I was preparing desktop-published text for a concert by the Griffin Music Ensemble at the Newton Arts Center. For the list of composers being performed, the designer asked me to put a bullet before names of the composers who lived in Newton.

Don Swin: Do the composers know about this?

Me: No. Why?

Don Swin: It would be a bullet surprise.

II. Unintentional

I have nothing but admiration for busy professional composers such as Jerry Bilik, who's been around and done everything. But when I was in high school, I knew nothing of him save for a band piece I played in Vermont All-State called American Civil War Fantasy. It's a straight-up Hollywoody medley of mid-nineteenth century American popular songs that, while not dreck, is full of dreckiness. 'round  about thirty years ago, Don Swin and I used his name as a placeholder for mediocre.

So when we were waiting for a rehearsal in Jordan Hall, Boston, we sat while a rehearsal of the Strauss Serenade finished. What we heard was bland and boring.

Me: This sounds dull enough to be by Bilik.

At that moment, the harmony blossomed into a big, fat beautiful dominant thirteenth chord.

Me: Well, that was an un-Bilik chord.