Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Art Jarvinen Email Project

The one-year anniversary of the passing of composer Arthur Jarvinen was earlier this month.  To mark the event I have compiled a collection of his writings, specifically his half of available email correspondence.  Where would I get such an idea?  Why, from Art himself of course.

In October of 2008, he sent me this email message:

One of the potential projects that I am starting to compile data for would be a compilation of one-sided correspondence. We have the Cage/Boulez stuff, which is pretty dreadful reading - unless you're overly enamored of both of them.

Apropos blogs and comments, I do sometimes post comments. But I am finding myself more interested in personal dialogues, conversations between two individuals. It has struck me that it might be worthwhile reading, and an interesting creative endeavor, to pull together a slim volume of e-mails, but only from me, without the letter that triggered the reply. Might work, might not, but it's an idea I'm toying with.

With that in mind, I am sometimes now saving certain e-mails I compose, and even using my reply as a situation in which to address things that are on my mind.

I discovered that passage after his death in October 2010. I don't know whether he pursued the idea himself – it was never mentioned again. Nor, of course, do I have any idea what subjects he himself would have chosen. What I do know is that we can honor departed friends by doing those things which they themselves would have done.

This archive of Art's email begins in late 1997 and covers nearly 13 years. The final message was written the day before he died. He writes about day-to-day issues, about his work and about holiday celebrations. You'll find musical essays, story-telling, simple poetry and mass concert announcements. He talks about his music, about his emotions and about his challenges. I have occasionally edited very slightly in an effort to keep all the words Art's own. The subject matter is sometimes perfectly obvious. Other times the context will be completely obscure.

The following people, besides myself, have contributed Art's writing to this document: Gloria Cheng, Jim Rohrig, Christopher Garcia, Robert Jacobson and Zona Hostetler. If others care to contribute messages they once received from Arthur, this document can be expanded in the future. Please select passages of interest and submit them to me. Include the date of each to preserve chronology.

Although this may be an attempt to fulfill Art's own idea, this document can never be what Arthur himself would have made of it. In fact, it serves a completely different purpose. It is now our memorial to him.

And maybe, as time passes, these messages will serve to introduce Art to people whom he never met. Reading this collection might be a little like looking through a shoebox of someone else's unlabeled snapshots. If these small glimpses into the life and thoughts of one particularly creative, complex individual make you curious about the personality behind it, I urge you to seek out those other works of his in which he tried his hardest to communicate ideas to others … his music.

Download the Art Jarvinen Email Project.  (pdf format, 32 pages)

Mixed Meters memorials to Art Jarvinen over the last year can be found here, here, here, here and here.  All Jarvinen related Mixed Meters posts, past and future, will appear in this list.

Thanks to Robert Jacobson for the two pictures.

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1 comment :

Garpu said...

I studied with Art when I was at CalArts back in 1998. (Also learned how to make kimchi from him.) Last time I emailed him was in April 2010...I needed permission to use a quote from one of Lucky's pieces. His response was terse, but sometimes that was just Art. I didn't think much of it, that his tendonitis was acting up, etc. In hindsight, I wish I'd known things were bad.

Whenever I make kimchi, I have to laugh, though. He swore up and down that you should only use *Korean* fish sauce, not Thai. So finally back east I'm living in close proximity to an H-Mart, and the fish sauce aisle is nothing but Thai, Vietnamese, and Filipino fish sauce. I asked a friend--who's Korean--about the fish sauce she uses, and she busts out this big bottle of--you guessed it--Thai fish sauce. Same brand her mom always used...