While recently flipping through a copy of the Denver Post, Neil Slade, a fixture on the local music scene, stumbled across an advertisement for the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Under the heading "Notes for the Symphony," the ad featured this pitch: "Write musical history. Buy a note of music for $10 for CSO Composer-in-Residence Jon Deak to use in his latest work in progress, which will be performed at the annual Fourth of July Concert at Fiddler's Green. Your donation will help support CSO community programs year-round...The more notes you buy, the more beautiful music we can make!"
This seemingly novel idea had a familiar ring for Slade. He'd tried a variation on the same theme in 1986. His original press release read: "You or your business have a chance to immortalize your name in the annals of great music literature. For $1, you will have a measure of symphonic orchestra music written in your honor with your name inscribed on the original manuscript score. Become a part of music history with 'The People's Suite for Symphony Orchestra.'"
A major difference between the Slade scheme and the CSO project revolves around money; instead of earmarking the proceeds for future endeavors, Slade planned to use the dough to support himself during the writing of his symphony. In the end, however, his success was limited. More than 400 people contributed to his effort, including Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, but the total donations fell far short of Slade's hopes. "Nevertheless, I kept my word," Slade points out, "and spent the next year writing, arranging, copying parts and finally recording." He estimates the total cost of realizing "The People's Symphony" at $4,000.
With the piece completed, Slade took his opus to James Setapen, then the associate conductor for the Denver Symphony Orchestra (the CSO's predecessor), in the hope that the organization would agree to perform it. However, he claims Setapen never responded to his query. When questioned later in an article about Slade's brainstorm that appeared in the Rocky Mountain News, Setapen responded, "I looked at the piece quite a lot...but unfortunately, I didn't find it something we could do."
Obviously, a great deal of time has passed since this rejection. Does Slade seriously believe that the CSO lifted his concept almost a decade later? Well, he's definitely not dismissing the prospect. "It's a pretty big coincidence," he declares. "It's possible that whoever thought of this idea never heard of me, but for it to happen in Denver, Colorado, at pretty much the same orchestra that turned me down? It makes me wonder if it hasn't been brewing in someone's subconscious."
To say the least, the CSO vigorously denies that the "Notes for the Symphony" undertaking was swiped from Slade. "Not one single individual who was part of this process was involved with the orchestra back then," says Sandy Lasky, a publicity consultant for the CSO who's overseeing the new venture. "No one could possibly have known anything about it."
According to Lasky, the concept for "Notes for the Symphony" was born during meetings she attended with representatives from the CSO and TCI, the symphony's largest single corporate supporter. "It came out of a brainstorming session," Lasky divulges. "And the reason everyone liked it so much is that it's a real proactive, positive campaign--an action taken to grow. We have a deficit-free organization and a balanced budget, which makes us one of only five symphonies in the country that can say that. We thought this was a way to give something more back to the community. And we thought it would be fun, too."
Deak is also excited by "Notes." An Indiana native, he now splits his time between Denver, where he serves as composer-in-residence for the CSO, the Colorado Children's Chorale and Denver Public Schools, and New York City, where he's associate principal bassist and creative associate with the New York Philharmonic, as well as a music educator affiliated with the public-school system there. He's just started sketching out the details of his composition, which he sees as "a short, celebratory piece that will directly involve Colorado. I'm going to try and infuse it with the Colorado spirit. And when people buy a note, it won't just be a little note on a piccolo that will be all covered up. It'll be a note that will run all the way up and down the score page. And at the concert, we'll probably have the score blown up to a huge size and the notes circled, so people will be able to say, 'That one was mine.'
"I'm also hoping that people who participate will feel free to say something about the note that they want," Deak continues. "If they want to say they'd like it high, fast, low, sweet, tender, aggressive or whatever, then that's okay with me. I've decided that I'm going to allow myself to be affected and inspired by the responses that we receive."
Thus far, "Notes for the Symphony" has not generated an avalanche of popular support. In spite of television advertisements featuring celebrities such as Denver mayor Wellington Webb and "His music makes me want to run to the" John Tesh that have been running on the TCI system, Lasky reveals that the number of notes purchased only recently topped a hundred. "It's a slow start," she confesses. "This is so unique that I think people are still trying to figure out how it works." She's outwardly confident that things will eventually pick up.
For his part, Slade remains proud of "The People's Symphony," which eventually became the soundtrack for Still, a film that documented national historic places across the U.S. "It was on PBS," he says. "And I might have even gotten an Emmy nomination out of it if I'd had the $25 I needed to join the damn union." (A recording of the symphony, along with the rest of Slade's extensive catalogue, is available for purchase at Twist & Shout.) Slade is currently in what he views as a notably fecund creative stage--one that listeners will be able to experience for themselves Saturday, May 11, at Jitters Internet Cafe, 1523 18th Street, and Thursday, May 16, at Herman's Hideaway, where he'll share the bill with Electric Swingset.
However, Slade admits to being "ticked off" by the "Notes" enterprise, even going so far as to fire off a complaint to the CSO. Lasky, who received Slade's missive, says she's sympathetic to his plight but feels his gripes are unfounded. "My husband read the letter," she remarks, "and he said, 'Wouldn't it have been great if he had said, "Wow, my idea is finally going to see the light of day."' But he didn't do that--and that's too bad."
While dropping off a copy of "Deliver Me"/"Super Family," a groovy cassette single from the upcoming Foreskin 500 CD Starbent But Superfreaked, Mark the 3 Kord Scissor King issued a report on lead growler Diggie Diamond's latest run-in with the law. "We were playing at the Ramskeller in Fort Collins," he says, "and Diggie was doing this thing with Cremora [a non-dairy creamer]--he threw it into the air and lit it on fire. And when he did it, these cops raced up, grabbed him and dragged him off the stage. I think it really freaked them out. They were like, 'You could have killed everybody in the place!'" Diamond was eventually charged with public endangerment, a third-degree misdemeanor, and will be required to pay a fine before he's allowed to use a coffee additive in northern Colorado again. In the meantime, the Scissor King is hoping to pyramid the incident into some supplemental funds. "Maybe we can get an endorsement deal from Cremora," he suggests. "Although maybe they don't want people knowing that stuff is flammable."
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In less fiery legal matters, the lawsuit that pits the Boulder-based W.A.R.? label against singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb remains up in the air even as Loeb prepares to visit the area (she headlines an E-Town broadcast on Sunday, May 12, at the Boulder Theater). The W.A.R.? lawsuit, filed in February, alleges that the imprint's president, Rob Gordon, worked on Loeb's behalf beginning in 1990 and continuing through her success with "Stay," a song from the Reality Bites soundtrack that became the first number-one single ever for an unsigned artist. Loeb subsequently signed a management contract with W.A.R.? in March 1994 but fired the firm in September of that same year, around the same time that she inked a hefty agreement with the David Geffen Company. W.A.R.?, which charges Loeb with breach of contract and "unjust enrichment," claims that it received no compensation from the vocalist in connection with its efforts on her behalf. W.A.R.? spokesman Matthew Wilkening won't hazard a guess as to how long it will take for the case to wind its way through the courts, but he does acknowledge that W.A.R.? employees will be at Loeb's Boulder Theater gig. "We're still fans," he maintains. But will Gordon and Loeb chat after the show? "No, no, that won't happen," Wilkening says, adding, "This is what happens when you go into business with friends."
Last week I misidentified an area band called the Snatchers as the "Snatches." I wonder what I had on my mind.
This week's Freudian slips. On Thursday, May 9, the Girls are part of a battle of the bands at the Paradise Theatre; Spoon Collection shows off at Flat Pennies; and Tom Tilton brings his After Tones project to the Bluebird Theater. On Friday, May 10, Semisonic booms at the Bluebird; Cosy Sheridan gets folksy at the Wildflower in Lyons; the Homewreckers tear up the joint at Boulder's Old Chicago; Carolyn's Mother is the first combo to perform at a new Littleton venue, the Zone, at 6657 West Ottawa Avenue; and Correo Aereo gets worldly at Swallow Hill Music Hall. On Saturday, May 11, recent Westword profile subjects the Hectics get busy at Seven South, with the Rayons and Simon Sez; Cricket on the Hill hosts a benefit for the SafeHouse battered-women's shelter, featuring Fragile-X, M.K. Ultra, Electrolux and Vinyl Oyster; Judge Roughneck delivers its verdict at the Ogden Theatre; the Garage Doors open at Ziggie's; Raekwon appears with Ghostface Killer at the Aztlan Theatre; and Concentrated Evil makes its own sauce at 42nd Paramour. On Sunday, May 12, Girls Against Boys put on a fight at the Fox Theatre with Therapy and Les Thugs, and The Gift of Jazz magazine brings together Ed Battle, Todd Buffa, Eric Gunnison and many others at the Wynkoop Brewing Company. On Tuesday, May 14, Buzz Harvest and the Simpeltones get complex at the Boulder Theater. And on Wednesday, May 15, mark your calendar for Today Is the Day, with Zeni Geva, at the Mercury Cafe. Because, after all, tomorrow is another day.--Michael Roberts