Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Three years since Leedy left

Bhishma at the harpsichord  A Basart
Eastside Road, March 28, 2018—

IT IS SOME TIME since I have posted, and longer, much longer, since I have posted about my late friend the composer and scholar Douglas Leedy/Bhishma Xenotechnites. This is the third anniversary of his death, which I wrote about at the time.

Flawed, no doubt, as are we all: but a gentleman and a scholar, and a noble man. He lived alone, almost a recluse at the end of his life, though when we met, in the middle 1960s, he was friendly and gregarious, a quick wit and a pleasure in groups.

He played French horn, and harpsichord (as you see), and various Indian instruments, and harp, and recorders, and mbira, to my personal knowledge. He sang with a quiet, rather intense voice, very melodic.

He was a marvelously gifted mimic who could jump from Groucho Marx's voice to Bernie Sanders or Janet Yellen or Pierre Boulez or an Indian railway conductor at the snap of a finger. He read Greek, Latin, Italian, French, German, Polish, and English (and had little patience at my linguistic laziness but was always ready to help).

Enormously well read, opinionated, respectful, credit where due, no suffering fools.

Fastidious at the table, in the kitchen, with his pencil.

When a very dear friend dies it's my weakness that I can hardly bear to confront his figurative remains. (I have recordings of interviews between my mother and her father that I still can't bear to listen to.) But for too long I've been sitting on various writings he sent me over the years, at first typed, then beautifully hand-written when his wasting disease made typing impossible.)

I hesitate to announce a project, and make no real promises: but I thought I'd commemorate this sad anniversary with the first in perhaps a series of monthly or bimonthly uploads of these essays. I do this in some humility, knowing he'd have reservations about their typographical appearance, and would undoubtedly have afterthoughts about the content itself.

Many of these writings are in fact drafts, and there are marginal pencilled annotations I can't always make out. Then there's the frequent problem of fonts — Greek, mathematical, musical. In the present case I've simply reproduced his own musical examples rather than set them in type.

Bhishma did not favor the idea of intellectual property; he was a most generous scholar. I hope no one will misrepresent his work, his thought, his ideas; but I feel very strongly that they deserve to be saved and shared.

Almost at random, I begin this trajectory with his fascinating contemplation on the musical interval of the fourth:


You can download the essay as a pdf
You can download the essay as an e-book

Let me know if you find egregious errors, or if you have comments to share.