As begun in yesterday’s Music History Monday post, we will continue to trace what I think of as my compositional apprenticeship up to my 30th birthday, and then on to some music!
California and Graduate School
I arrived in Berkeley, California on September 9, 1978, to attend graduate school in music composition at the University of California, Berkeley.
I moved in with a friend and Princeton classmate, a fellow composer named Eric Moe, who had started graduate school immediately after we graduated in 1976. He found us an apartment in “north side” at 1822 Francisco Street.
(For our information: Berkeley is divided into three large regions: “north side”, meaning the area north of the U.C. campus; “south side”, south of the campus; and “west Berkeley”, the large area of flatlands west of the campus going down to San Francisco Bay. There is no “east” of the campus as U.C. extends east all the way to the top of the hills.)
September 10, 1978 – the day after I arrived – is a day I will always remember for the following revelatory event.
I got up early and decided to walk to Morrison Hall, the music building on the Berkeley campus that would be my HQ for the next six years. From Francisco Street, I walked a block east to Grove Street (now Martin Luther King Jr. Way, known to the locals as “Milky Way”) and headed south. Two block later I stopped short, in front of a huge Colonial Revival-style house at 1905 Grove Street/Milky Way. Built in 1904, the house was (and still is) flanked by two majestic palm trees.
It was a warm, blue, still day. The air smelled of jasmine and the ocean, and it was so clear that when I turned around and looked across the Bay to San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and Marin County, I could see individual cars and trees. I looked back at those palm trees flanking that house at 1905 Grove Street and said to myself, “I’m home.”
I remember that moment as clearly now as I felt it then, nearly 44 years ago. Crazy. But I meant it: I was home and I’ve never left. The house in which I’ve lived for the past 19 years is just 4.4 miles southeast of that spot in Berkeley.
So, I began graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley in the fall of 1978. The music I wrote during my first year was neo-tonal, sort of in the style of the music Igor Stravinsky’s wrote during the 1920s and 1930s. I was still working my way through music history, and this is how I’d always learned to compose: by assimilation through imitation.…Become a Patron!