Friday, February 5, 2010

Peter Maxwell Davies in NYC

I left for New York at the beginning of the week intending to interview Peter Maxwell Davies (whose mid-century, incendiary works for theater are the subject of my dissertation). (BD, I have you alone to thank for this. You know who you are :) In 1969, Davies left Manchester and retreated, literally, to the Orkney Islands, where he now lives with his partner, Colin Parkinson. Instead of interviewing Davies, I spent two hours talking to the two of them about Orkney -- Davies' cow, who lives with them, is affectionate & pliable and stays with the neighbors when its two dads are out of town. Colin owns goldfish that are a foot long, and nearly twenty years old. Both have eaten swan. No one in Orkney locks his doors at night, and Davies has been known to wander into neighbors' houses to make himself a sandwich.

But it's not as if any of this is incidental to Davies' career, which is overwhelmingly public -- apart from being Master of the Queen's Music, Davies' Orkney Island Festival has attracted the likes of André Previn and Vladimir Ashkenazy. Rather, Davies' career is a remarkable instance of how to disappear completely and still remain in the public eye. I, being very much the perpetual traveler due to all this Opera Cabal fuss, spend inordinate amounts of time with inordinate numbers of people & in the intervals when I'm not, feel like climbing into bed with a shot glass and noise-canceling headphones. Davies has managed to strike a balance. When he's not jet-setting across the Atlantic or meeting disorganized graduate students in music, he's chilling with a cow, a couple of goldfish and a sunset (and, of course, the company of a compulsive urge to compose). But the two clearly enable one another. It's time to move to Orkney.

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