"Space Is a Diamond," live in Pittsburgh

lucia-tint copy.jpg

Current Obsession No. 2

For many years, I’ve been listening to the same recording of “Space Is a Diamond,” an outrageous composition for solo trumpet, and last month I finally got to hear it performed live. Hal Rammel turned me on to Lucia Dlugozsewski back in 2000, the year he wrote notes for a CD dedicated to her music on CRI, also the same year she passed away. Dlugoszewski is hardly a household name – tough name to pronounce, perhaps part of the reason – even amongst connoisseurs of contemporary music. She studied with Varése and was a celebrated figure in new music circles in NYC starting in the late fifties. Dlugoszewski designed instruments for her compositions, much like Harry Partch, including the sound ladder, a wooden construction with slats of different lengths arranged in parallel along a perpendicular axis at the side, open on the other side, not unlike a composite version of Hans Reichel’s daxophone. Josiah McElheny, Jim Dempsey and I were determined to feature Dlugoszewski in our room at the Carnegie International 2018, but the instruments had been missing for a couple of decades. It took some sleuthing, but we managed to find them and included a couple of sound ladders and some unusual shakers she’d made, along with a great piece of ephemera from a legendary performance at the Five Spot in 1958 – a gig flyer that doubled as the music’s score! As the grand finale for our Carnegie room, which we titled after it, we presented “Space Is a Diamond,” performed by Peter Evans. It’s basically an impossible work to play, so virtuosic it’s deeply alienating, but also super beautiful – harsh held notes burst into cascades of little tones, brilliantly shot into the universe like pinwheel fireworks. Speaking with Evans at dinner afterwards, I noted that his version was different right out of the gate from the best known recordings, the only two ever released, made by Gerard Schwartz in 1972 and again for the CRI release in 2000. Peter told me there’s latitude in the score and at the last moment he decided to play the heart stopping opening with a different texture, not Schwartz’s straight tones. Good call, Dr. Evans.

Come back to this page for new Current Obsessions each week. You can also follow @johnccorbett on Instagram