Saturday, May 15, 2004

3 Hams at a Bread & Roses Party at the Nagy's

Bread & Roses Party at Toby & Phil Nagy's, Piedmont, CA.
Will Durst, Maureen Hurley & Michael Pritchard  May, 2004?

Michael Pritchard Director to all three, all right take the joy of life thing down a bit you three. This is an artistic photo, same result can't help these faces they show years of laughs love and Bread & Roses compassion. Plus, of course, three hams. A hamilicious photo!

Maureen Hurley I need to find the original of this photo and see if I can make a better print—this is a terrible copy—from when digital was in its infancy. I've been saving it all these years to send to you but in those days you didn't even do email, O great gorilla-fingered one! Welcome to the digital age. And Facebook, no less!

added 4/24/2016

Friday, May 14, 2004



Musical compositions by Kirk Whipple
Poems by Maureen Hurley

A collaboration of music & poetry

Maureen Hurley’s poems were inspired by the two-piano compositions by Kirk Whipple. They collaborated during the creation of the music. Poems & musical selections are copyrighted & may only be downloaded for personal use. They may not be sold, licensed or used without written consent of copyright holders. © The Unconservatory


Prelude: Undressing The Muse
Overture: Collage Nocturnes
Kozal Long: Sunset At Ilsanjo  
 (entire piece: mp3 format).
ilá: Deep Ocean Wave
Virginia: The Steady Flame
Uncle Al’s Cloudscape
For The Two Of Us
Michelle: A Patriot’s Dream
Helen: Tanzania Dresságe
Pablo: A Party Of One!
Katie: The Nightingale 
Randy: Neon Rain
Joe: Sunrise At Occidental
Coda: Elemental Portraits

            from Elemental Portraits: Nocturnes for Two Pianos,
                                    composed by Kirk Whipple

Late at night, the composer hears songlines:
nocturnes for two pianos wrestling
in the oceanic stillness of the studio.
Without name, they come unbidden
to chase the varied moods of evening.

But the sound of evening has changed
livelihoods, and the color of its dreams
is trapped in the engine of this century—
In the mechanics of the siren call, white noise,
and the evolution of light—
Where are the elemental songlines
when whales no longer hear the melody?

Camera obscura:
What exists before the film is developed?
He is a young child
            before the piano,            
                        confronting the black notes—
The teacher metronoming:
The fingers need to remember the melody.

Over wine & chocolate we discuss Chopin’s Nocturnes,
night's lost notes scoring the darkness.
Liquid music pours from his fingers.
He learns anew: You don’t choose the music;
it chooses you. We listen for the étude:
words undressing the muse.

                  from Elemental Portraits: Nocturnes for Two Pianos,
                                    composed by Kirk Whipple

The beginning and the end of night—
from sunset to sunrise—
is a concentration of songlines to whet the palate:
jazz notes defining the quality of the forest,
a velvet refugee dressed in marimba patterns,
escaped blue notes outside the key.
Not technical études, but the theater
of neon rain in concentric ripples.

Where does night's vagary begin and silence end?
We seek a piano score for modern landscapes,
not some dreamy ideal of romantic music.
As if out of oscuridad, a sacred text rises up,
finds the first phrases of the moon.

The vibration of human existence resonates
in the music walking us out of ourselves,
the thighbones reminding us
of the steps taken: syllables in the air.

The melody lingers deep inside
long after the overture of the dream ends.
The nocturnal eye of the nightingale
waits for further instructions
from the coda:
                        what is familiar
                        an endless stranger
                        inside the depths of night.

from Elemental Portraits: Nocturnes for Two Pianos
composed by Kirk Whipple
—Kosal Long: 1975 to June 7, 1989

1. The end of a classic American dream

confronts the runner coming over the rise

of blond hills & dark trees mirroring the lake.

The drowned laughter of classmates

horsing around on a summer outing—
Their blind eyes, and the sun cresting each ripple,
the silent “O” of empty inner tubes,
punctuated the end of the sentence.
At the bottom of the lake a fisherman’s net
cast a game of cat’s cradle for things lost
and the sleek young diver—
A boy who, with his 14-year-eyes
sought the true identity of light
on this side of the world:
the names Refugee &
                                     whispering homeward
                                                                           in his ears.

2. The runner’s legs measure

each step, each breath, bearing witness

as if life depended on it: systole, diastole.

The indifferent ground answers, Decrescendo.

No overtones to clear the ear’s palette.

The boy left the killing fields for El Verano.

We survived the war, we saw death and we saw hunger every day.

Now, the youngest and sweetest of us is taken from us.

I dream of walking that lake bed clad in citrine light.

A constellation of bubbles escapes, takes flight.
A velvet foot upon the blue throat of the California sky,
a lotus flowering in the mind,
            a journey taking us home.
                        Home, could he whisper it?
The long slender vowels of the soul,
no distant jungles to flee to—
Refugee camp, the bodycount and the hunger
       of foreign syllables.

                 The harmony shifted

                             in the final depths:                                   

                                              an empty raft in deep summer.


                                    —for ilà Benavidez

1. In the cathedral of the ocean
beneath a marriage of waves and sky,
ilà dances tai chi’i with the sea,
the deep undertow, the movement,
the voices and vows of long waves,
is where whales sing the first
and final notes of the songline.

The edge of the continent
pulls the surf over her like a bride,

so that we may be ready for the wedding.
Gossamer filaments of the priestess.
What once was dark becomes light,
night’s secrets spread beneath the moon.
A bioluminescent genesis lifts the hem
of this beach into the realm of the stars.

How to slow down in this rapidly rising world?
Once light slept, didn’t know
the nocturnal soul of the heron,
and stars were the tears of angels.
Now city light stains the sky,
upstages the stars.

Once we were all islands.
The weight of who we are in this century
sinks us knee-deep into the sand
until we can do nothing
but walk in time with ourselves.
This is the first study for breath:
the burden of air, ponderous
and precocious.

2. ilà, I’d want the cool night air
because the sky is the ocean
and I don’t know the words
for the direction the voice takes.
The struggle is in transcribing
the right notes in the sand
so it can find true night.
Gaviota, the sky is your country
and the sea is your home.

                        —for Allaudin Mathieu
                        “Our referee, our Uncle Al.”
                                    —Kirk & Marilyn

One day, Uncle Al
Walked up the hill to his studio.
Dreamily, composing, he looked up—
A cloud, and nothing else in a blue sky.

A cloud:            a quarter rest!

He stopped,               took a one-beat rest.

                                    in pause
                            & further

from the sky.

      took a breath,

                   took a step,

                    & went  on

              with the
      of his


A cat’s cradle of music finger-weaves the sky.
The bright wind lifts us from the depths,
            carries us,
            cradles us in this taught stringing of days.
The clouds know the ocean,
it repeats the rocking motion.
Remember to breathe.
            Each step up,
            each thought takes us toward the summit.
The interior of the heart, of the eye,
is related to the weaving grasses.
We are kites tugging the wind,
our arms, wings of angels.

Tell us, tell us, tell us:
            climb up,
            climb the mountains of the sky.
We are flying to the mountains of the sky.
Take us up,
            push our legs down into earth.
Take us up,
            so that we may grow back down to the ground.


Three notes occlude the distance the ear takes
in knowing the melody of night.
Uncle Al referees
             the sky
arranges the clouds to fit the composition.
Ask about harmony and structure.
A composer composes the sky
with a beatific hand to the clouds,
orchestrating the rest stops and black notes
and the wings of cherubs wait their cue in the wings.
He wears a gioconda smile as clouds direct the score.
Take a one beat rest. Live in the now
for now is all there is.


                                    —for Pablo Rodriguez

Comes the vibrato of human existence
pulsing with the florid energy of birds—
The audience in the balcony looks down
on the crescendo-climbing rainbow
graduating from the nightclub schools of the world.
¡Eso es! A savvy voice alights on the limbs
while trees tango with the juicy wind.
Liana vines rub against city streets.

In the language of skin,
we climbed out of the trees
to dance on the land, without caesura.
The timbre of lime, mango and blue notes
sing of tropical leaf structures.
The raucous flight of macaws
parrots, the jeweled feathers of night
dressed in fireworks and champagne.
¡Alegre! Porque las estrellas bailan conmigo!

A delicious chill—modern fusion.
Oh yes, deep in the thighs.
He leans against the wall, cool
familiarity addressing us in the barrios.
The sound of night changed the color of its dreams.
The siren rain finds us so civilized, so convivial,
it sambas out: Mueve, mueve tu papaya.

On the androgynous pillow of sleep,
the pupiled eye of night is restless
as a blue guitar, for tomorrow will find
the world young and bright:
a glistening sun
in the heart of the mango.

                                    —for Virginia Cayton

Giving us the rhythm of your name,
the voracious hunger of syllables
and staccato of piano keys,
the steady flame of she who leads us
from the darkness of the wood.
Calling us home, calling you—

I want to tell you of the rising sun,
of the specific height of redwoods
by the edge of the lake,
pulling us in, playing us from both sides
like a harp, or a violin fretting us.
The black keys singing, Virginia.

An unnameable quality,
tracings of shadows—
To swing the syllables of the air—
How distance is minuscule.
Life is like that measured beat
of jubiliation. Repeat it again.
Over the rise, clouds gather
in your name, Virginia.

Your feet trace shadows
on the back roads of the mind.
The journey forward
must also contain the past.
For what is a pianist without a piano?

Arms punctuate ideas,
strengthen us, build stairs
until we sink down into ourselves
and feel it from the inside of our thighs.
The wind is calling you
by the music of your name,


As if someone entered the room
a draft tickles the flame,
teaches it the elements of dance;
it knows how to bend in the breeze.
Like the roaring stand of pines,
it sings its eventual death song.
Not perpendicular right angles
but the bending of light, of time.
Wave and particle, quantum mechanics.
Who holds the room together,
who shows the darkness how to dance with light?

A child claps his hands with joy
following the melody of your name, Virginia.
Oh Virginia, the sky knows your name.
The darkness is its brother—or is it sister?
Virginia, the mountains’ purity
is composed of ice & rock.
We learn anew the meaning of sublime
living in the heart of the flame.
Virginia, the black notes take hold,
climb the summit,
seeking the darkness & the light in one breath.
Chiaroscuro and contrapunto,
the flickering flame. 


                                    —for Michelle Marie

There is no room for ambiguity in a patriot’s dream.
The constitution of thought is a sacred text.
Alone, defining the perimeters of this space,
She talks to our eyes; nothing is held back.

To walk in a new land we can only muse
On the direction the sky has taken us.
Each dark step makes the road longer than memory.
She is the strength of a pine tree bending in the storm.

If she is the solemn hymn of the flower arranger,
The music is the hand held out to the child.
If she is the power of the masseuse's hands,
It is the arms offering shelter to those in need.

If she was once the bartender pouring the final round,
Music is the soup bowl offering hope to the homeless.
If she is the metronome of the dancer’s last movement
It is the archangel seeking justice for those who cannot fly.

Imagine the piano’s pledge of allegiance to black & white keys.
No segregation of sharp & flat; or everything in the key of C.
The notes make words and find us wanting.
The melody echoes in the forest, in the street.

We need the nuances of dark and light
To show us the way is infinitely more complex
& vast than we previously imagined.
There is more to it than seizing what’s left of night.

She carries the burden of freedom forward.
In the way light falls on the summits
We learn there are more mountains to climb.
We come to the beginning on solid ground,

We learn anew how her feet measure the way.


                                    —for Katie Ketchum
                                    “If I can’t find the perfect man, then…”

The song of a nightingale comes in
shimmering in a bright soprano voice
as if having lived knowing the belly sounds.

The first few phrases are like that,
clear-crisp, like bells over snowfields—
Not only are we observing the nightingale,
we are testing the air with wings.

The way the nightingale flies,
how we view the bird,
how it views itself is like a concerto—
A cadenza of towering lines.

The melody drops out
and the deeper rhythm comes in—
The heart of the bird.

Think of how snowy peaks mirror the sky,
purify the foothills.
Multitudes of foothills
& the song of the nightingale are one.

How the dancer contracts, lifts up—
defies gravity for a moment. Fermatta
Slatted light falls
                                into the eye of the sun.

I believe, I believe said the bird migrating to Africa
where feathered notes dress the snows of Killimanjaro.

We flurry over the arpeggio of leaves
to the night itself singing solo:
a concentration of notes on the upper spectrum.

Without legs, the piano won’t resonate.
Notes won’t nest in the branches to lay small eggs.
Hatching in our ears, the piano’s children
direct us to the songlines; her voice,
an undercurrent of grace notes and rippling water.

A leaf caught in the wind
takes instruction from the flight of angels.



                                    —for Helen Tyrrell, “Su-mam”

1. The path misbehaves at the oasis,
it’s a long way from the mirrored halls
of l’Ecole Vienna where a young woman
put Lippizan stallions through flying paces.
A vessel tumbles from her head
and the Tanzanian children laugh.
She has eight years to perfect this skill,
carrying water back to the cooking pots.
Water outwits the thirsty African earth
in a merry chase to the river,
it becomes a dusty mercurial snake
seeking the source of the Nile,
it finds wings, transcends air.
Lake hungers for sky,
swimming stars take flight,
approach the caravan of the storm,
& the shimmering sands of Zanzibar
harbor an illusion of water.
Billowing clouds return to the Serengeti
where riderless horses solemnly waltz
against the feast of sky.

Hooves against stone—
Sidestep to go forward.
Passage on the diagonal.
Once the ballet of dressage
—the lunge, the cabriolet
were movements for the dance of war.

2. Kirk screws on the legs of the piano,
leads it into the concert hall.
Frees his music from the belly
of the wooden horse for this Helen, this mother
of orphans whose mothers have abandoned them.
His arms are snowfields,
an avalanche of notes crescendo
under the equatorial reign
of watermusic to slake us.
The ceiling of the sky
is crowned with thorns.

On the slopes of Kilimanjaro
the leopard, asleep, dreams
the eland is his lover. 



I stood in front of the Hippodrome Palace in Moscow, the frozen sky the color of bread, gawling at a frieze of horses—like the ones in Vienna and Budapest—taxis swerving to avoid me in the midde of the street. As a child I couldn’t take my eyes off those horses. I have seen the ones who no longer care to dance, pulling fat tourists from one cathedral to another. I patted a sorry nag, the coachman snarled, Claudia intervened, saying it’s all right. She knows her horses. The horse was too weary to respond. Distant music caught its ear—a flicker of life. In front of the monuments to the Plague, the Holocaust & innumerable cathedrals of venerable age, I have seen them listening to their own kind of music, briskly trotting the cobbled streets. I worry about their legs. This rough magic. In Hungary they can no longer afford to feed their dancing horses, the lucky ones become street artists: they con coins and beg bread from easy tourists. Better off than those on the menu or those destined for the glue pot.


FOR THE TWO OF US                                                                                                           
                                    —for Marilyn & Kirk

Soft tracings of shadows on the sill,
late afternoon in the unconservatory.
A chocolate stillness inside
the voice rises up in place of speech,
small nuances, a brass color-note,
flared nostrils, the contact of skin.

Four-handed improv: foreplay on the keyboards.
Two pianos discuss familiar phrases,
like the long-married, finish each other's thoughts,
sometimes in chorus, sometimes in tandem.
You're the yell in the forest, & I'm the echo,   (echo)
Kirk says to Marilyn as they play it again.

Imagine Casablanca & Havana in a red wedding dress.
A strange marriage of classical & jazz
shape-shifting into music for the end of the millennium.
He is a sailor leaning into the open octaves
of a turquoise melody: bluebirds learn slant rhyme.
She is the swimmer in pastoral snow fields.

Everything reduced to black and white
cleanses the palate & the roses bleed onto the piano keys.
A melody escapes, anneals the heart with opposites:
day & night, diamond & onyx, ebony & ivory.
Each seeks the other’s eyes through corbelled pianos.
I can’t tell where one leaves off and the other begins.

Poco a poco, an echo in the forest
lifts the timbre from the pool's depths.
At the bottom of the well, cross-currents,
a vibration in the water, like electricity
when the wall comes up duet—
Both are one and one is all there is.

                        —for Randy Frary

An echo in the darkness—
The endless stranger
inside the depths of night.
Each step paints a jazznote in the forest,
a path of low registers & signatures—

Three dimensional music
weaves the sky into ambiant patterns,
new nocturnes for this dragstripped century.
Trees bow to an audience of tinted leaves
in the asphalt jungle.
What color, the trees? the leaves,
or the sky for that matter?
Who’s reading the score?
The neon side of night, bits & bytes
in the dark forest paint alternate realities.

A hawk circles the field
for yesterday’s mouse
hidden in tall grass, spirals
against the well of a digital sky.
Orphan rain falls in colors,
patterns the cathode sea.
Eclipsed notes hug the shoreline.
Cross- and counter-currents
seek the beginnings of innocence
just before dawn.
A child plays with his own hands,
an unending puzzle of fingers.
Neon rain, dyslexic writing
needs water as a mirror
to admire its own beauty.

Falling rain, steady rain on the piano,
a vessel to carry us from the past.
The simplicity of stones in the stream
both beautiful and plain.


                           —for Joe Hoffmann
 “We’ve spent a few nights squeezing out our ‘day’
  recording in the Sherwood forest of Occidental.”
                                                  —Kirk & Marilyn

1.  Still lake waters, the swelling melody of other times
when the renaissance man walked in a trembling mist.
On the other side—the twain world—the sídhe
swallowed the butterfly to beget the muse.
He finds her in dreams amid the fiddleneck ferns.
Bluebirds in the air weave arabesques and musical notes
until only the pattern is left; night’s curtain luffs,
is drawn aside, and on the wet grass, imprints
of a waltz where one already knows the steps.
Cumulative memory tumults from the past.
A dark harmony gradually lightens into a lyric.
Morning meets the tail of night in the hallway.

2.  A cleft in the hills, quaking ferns
witness the breathing of fog,
where wild orchids bloom,
where we found the end
of the stream, the edge of night.
Only the birds know
the taut stringing of days,
the melody that lingers deep inside,
taking us down to the valleys,
where we find ourselves again,
strung beside the days of our lives.
There are no accidents.
In each of us, every branch, every leaf
leads to the center of the heart.
The path always widens—
There is room for more, for more.

3.  In the lemon thick light,
dew stirs, learns the rainments of flight.
Over the night hills she comes,
bearing flowers for the sun.
Morning wears a dress of honeyed air
and carries her head high
for she’s proud of the sun’s accompaniment.
Everywhere, the renewal of day and scrubbed sky.
The harmony brightens
like a gentle aubade over the ridge.
The music begins as it ends. 
Each step, each breath
brings us closer to the light.



Seagull, I’d want the air

because the sky is the ocean

and I don’t know the words

for the direction the voice takes.

The mountain sleeps with the sea

and the horizons of Alba

struggle to transcribe the notes in the sand.
Your fish are grinning, light is asleep.
The moon and the sun dance on the sea
because the children of the air
don’t know the solitary soul of the gull.
Seabird, seabird, the air is your country
it’s your fortress, it’s the heart,
and the sea, your house.

Gaviota quisiera el aire

porque el cielo es el mar

y no conozco las palabras

para esta dirección de la voz toque.

Las montaña duerme con el mar
y los horizontes de Alba
la lucha discribien las notas en la arena.
Tús peces sonreian, la luz está durmiendo.
La luna y el sol bailan en el mar,
porque los niños del aire
no conocieron la alma solitario de gaviota.
Gaviota, gaviota, el aire es tú pais,
es tú castillo, es tú corazón,
y el mar, tú casa. 

Mother’s Day, 5/8/1994


ELEMENTAL PORTRAITS                                                                                                           
            from musical compositions by Kirk Whipple


Portrait of sunset,
ocean cloudscapes dreaming
a dressage of neon rain over the keys,
a party in the other room
the nightingale singing,
a steady flame,
the two of us at sunrise
walking in starry clusters of sand
and the burden becomes another
Silencio de negra.

grace notes outside the key edible.
the patterns on a lake,

we forget the paths.
what we’ve lost touch of.
We have nothing but ourselves
In our circuituous wanderings
we carry the burden of freedom forward.
because she is the light to guide us,
teaching us to begin again.

arpeggios of water waltz
cusp lean into the wind
trust it to hold you
crisp bells before the storm
the hills, come to the sea, wave
rocks flight of birds across snow
clear message before the storm
the breath to sing
sighting land like Columbus
the clue of birds on the horizon
riding out the tune cresting each wave.
cross-rhythms like a shiver of ear candy.

Return to first field
stepping up each measured step
As this rhythm bubbles up
the parched earth

Those things deep inside
step up, fall back, begin again.

chill of spine, chickenskin
syncopation of the pianists,
short burst rearranges.
the pulse finding us deep inside
he's growing surer but also more faint
as the path becomes clear
deep beginnings the end of stuttering colors,

a free beginning, creating the concept of darkness, of sound
Dark to light/lyrical matter-of factly, 
no big swell or crescendo like in the movies.

(What would a patriot dream of,
or is she a patriot’s dream dreaming a person?)

I am the endless stranger inside the depths of night.

Written 1992-1995ish. 
Published at The Unconservatory website in January, 2001
Revised a bit in 2004