Being on tour is like living in a vacuum. I hesitate to call it a bubble because, as we know, bubbles burst. I’m nearly five months into the ramble and luckily the height of my struggle feels like an extended loss of peripheral vision. [Cue inner dialogue: what was that about an airplane…resignations at the British Parliament…haven’t seen my passport in days…the wireless costs fifteen euro…left my violin on that bus we rented…which airline is in the One World Alliance…did you make it to breakfast?”]
At this moment of writing, I am greatly excited by the prospect of returning to my home city (if not my home, which is occupied by a lovely Australian couple). Every time I come back after a stretch of traveling it feels like a new start, an opportunity. The jetlag guides me toward a more socially acceptable hour of awakening which I try in vain to make permanent. The desire to cook, if not the skill, grows more prominent after ninety days of sticky pasta, salty soups and soggy eggs. The gym, museum, concert hall, cinema and library appear closer, cheaper and friendlier. I start to think, ‘maybe I’ll drink less, enjoy picnics, donate to charity, refrain from using handicapped bathrooms, cut back on carbs, walk slower, smile brighter and breathe a little deeper.’ How soon I realize I’m making a list of New Years Resolutions in early June! (What was that about bubbles?)
After two disorienting paragraphs and this slightly convoluted set of dependent clauses, I feel prepared to approach my true purpose without further periphery. Allow me to be the first to welcome you, brave visitor, to this brand new blog! yMusic is an exciting group whose theoretical existence has been the excuse for many a bottle of Ridge Zinfandel. [Cue technology-free montage: ‘we gotta have Nadia…let’s get another bottle…I don’t think he likes me…we should have a party to discuss it…maybe we can rehearse at Nadia’s parents’ penthouse…I can’t wait to read Hideaki’s first blog…do you think I need a haircut?’]
In lieu of a trite introduction or sweeping statements about our group, I’d prefer to wax nostalgic about each of its members. Because this is an electronic ramble and not chapter 11 of my memoirs, I will limit myself to introducing only one of six, the inimitable Mike Block.
I met Mike in 1995 or 1996 at a small summer festival in Ottawa, KS called “Sound Encounters.” The details are foggy, but he was either my roommate or the roommate of my best friend. Before I get too far along, I should note that Mike doesn’t remember any of this at all. Fair enough, Mike. We played no music together and maintained a limited social interaction. I was from the East Coast, he was from the Midwest: can you blame us? (I don’t know what that means, but I’m trying to reconnect with my 14-year-old self) Somehow, ten years later, when a friend mentioned Mike’s name in connection with a gig at Soundz Bar, I remembered him with crystal clarity. (Side note: Soundz Bar, now renamed Patrick Ryan’s, was also the site of my first non-classical performance.)
2006 was still the era of MySpace (can your twittering thumbs even remember?) and I promptly found Mike’s page, scanned his gigs, friend-requested him and, without awaiting approval, sent a personal message. Apparently, it was also the era of Rob Moose not playing it cool. I managed to procure Mike’s number and can still remember the precise moment when we first spoke. (Does it sound like I’m in love with Mike Block?) I had exited the #3 train at its final stop, the fabled 148th St Lenox Terminal. I was alerted to a new voicemail and after listening, promptly dialed the appropriate number. Mike answered, we spoke, learned we lived within twenty blocks of each other, made plans and quickly ended the call in order that I run after the M2 bus. A series of jams followed on material ranging from Bach’s Bb Piano Partita to Mark O’Connor’s fiddle tune arrangements to our own instrumental pieces. The first time we shared a stage was in an orchestra supporting a gaggle of choruses at Carnegie Hall. The next time might very well have been yMusic’s first performance, with Gabriel Kahane at Ars Nova.
When CJ and I initially brainstormed about yMusic, Mike was one of the first names we put to paper. Here are a few reasons why: Mike is one of the busiest musicians I know and has the most fried bow hair out there. He sings, plucks, improvises, composes, teaches and studies with great dedication. His building hosts one of New York’s smelliest elevators but sits undeniably close to Riverbank State Park. He hasn’t changed his phone number to a New York area code. He celebrated his 27th birthday last week, which I didn’t remember, but I know he won’t hold it against me. And finally, someone once said to me “You don’t know Mike Block is hitting on you until you wake up next to him a day later.”
If we were at a high school graduation, it’d be time for Mike to give his speech, but as it’s not, I think it’s simply time for me to end my post. See you next time.
Rocco Balmoral Hotel