When Susan grew up in the 50's, she heard fantastic stories told by her father: "Leaning against the wind" was a favorite. Professor Gilkey told the story... Providence, RI, where the prevailing winds off the ocean measured 40, 50, up to 80 miles an hour. He marveled at the construction workers high on the exposed beams, building the sky scrapers which would define the city..... One day it happened.... a worker fell to his death. As the crowd gathered the foreman shook his head: "He was leaning against the wind. We warned him. It's comfortable up there...but when the wind shifts...you have to be well-grounded."
When she was 5, Susan heard choirs made up of children of African slaves-- singing with Marian Anderson-- when she started Kindergarten in a 1 room schoolhouse in SE, Ohio-- and she remembers crying at their singing, and beginning to play the piano at church. Her family moved a lot. They were in Lincoln, NE, when Charles Starkweather, who used to drive her and her friend, Carol, home from church, killed 11 people, taking Carol with him. Carol just got out of prison recently and has become a nurse. The state killed Charlie Starkweather ... [and the State of NE just repealed the death penalty.]
During the 60's, she came of age, marching against war and injustice, attendant in the crowd the day John Kennedy came to Fort Worth, then a few hours later in Dallas.... MUSIC...sad music!!! is all she can remember: Shostakovitch, Barber--then Bobby... and then her pacifist hero, Martin L. King.... No words! We .. sink .. into .. music. The organ has such power--not just volume--but voices which take us away--to that promised land, the new city on the hill--with its face like choirs of angels, and Susan could change reality, at least while the music lasted-- with this mighty machine of infinite colors and voices! It was magical!
And it was the sexual revolution. By the college years, she was swinging both ways, having given up on changing the world. Women--important women--held all the positions of prominence in TX and OK: Nita Akin/Wichita Falls, Helen Hewitt/North TX, Dora Poteet Barclay/SMU, Joyce Jones/Baylor, Bess Hieronymous/San Antonio, Mildred Andrews/OU. Her local choir director, Bob McGill, gave her a few lessons and let her stay locked in the church all night to practice. Then, he was fired because he took the job without his wife moving with him. He was not "out", but needed to be. We loved him. Another loss! So when she went to Europe in '64, her Freshman year--she was
bitter. Music helped....Bach, Couperin, Franck, Widor, Dupre.
A few years later, she would become Langlais' guide--Boystown, 3 months touring in the US, then in France where they shared many historic moments ...meeting with Darius Milhaud, Henri Mulet, Pablo Casals ...and often with life-long friends: Andre Marchal and Olivier Messiaen. Then the riots at the Opera during the premiere of Bézart's new production of Rite of Spring, and the death of Jeanne Demessieux.... So when she began her serious studies in Paris (with Sargent Shriver, the ambassador, and the ragtime playing of Bill Albright entertaining) she thought she was ready. Little did she know, her friend, Terry--a gay black flutist from New Orleans, a student of Jean-Pierre Rampal's, would be murdered during a Christmas visit to Morroco (an "honor" killing, they said), and she would be kidnapped by a car full of Farci-speaking aquaintances. She moved into Paris, befriending a charming woman, an artist, who prostituted herself for heroin--in their shared, 1-room apartment. Susan was teaching philosophy to make some money to move again: until her students, Marxists, Leninists, Maoists, and followers of Trotsky took over the courtyard, yelling: "Get down, Mme. Ferré, can't you see we are shooting at each other here?! Your class is over!" More than this, she cannot tell you, because there is a law in France making it illegal to talk about anyone famous and revealing anything in public about their personal lives.
She eventually found safety in the mountains of the Pyrenees to the south, where she directed music festivals and MUSIC once again served as the only language she could speak. So why tell you all this??? Why...Susan's story? Because her story is YOUR story: full of trauma, sadness, disappointments, bitter pain, yes--but also of finding a measure of peace, happiness, contentment--of finding your own music through your own story. The new feminism is, in fact, humanism. It is large and fair and just. So we have tasks, 4 of them:
How to do this? Through....
These are the macro elements of our task. Now for your song, your personal song which can change our culture:
You, as musicians, can see a beauty which others cannot see, but in order to communicate it, you must conquer your fear...the fear of rejection, the fear of not measuring up (because if you are an organist, you got good grades in school!), the fear of losing your story--of exposing it, laying yourself bare. You must believe that YOU are valued for your ability to see and reveal this beauty, without looking for confirmation by others. This is a capitalist seduction: being on the back-page, being "under management," playing for more $$ than others, wanting to impress, to play faster, to draw attention to oneself with a designer outfit. It is leaning against the wind, and it looks for the stamp of approval of others on your head. By this standard none of us have any value.
Rather, the role of the artist is transcendent: non-rational forces which are essential to being whole as a human being. This is not quantifiable, but able to express grief, beauty, love, to struggle with our own humanity, our own mortality, not empirically measurable, but the search for meaning comes through art, which has origins in all religious expression, fuzed with art, poetry and music. Remember how slaves (Israelis in Egypt, the "untouchables" in India, or those of our own caste system) turned to music and endured unimaginable torture and hardship, finding transcendence beyond articulation, beyond words, in song. We must find our songs, the songs that have the power to change us and our culture of greed and self serving. Changing our culture will be just as important a job as any high profile position we might want... to rise up against the forces of evil (corporate greed). Chris Hedges, a prophetic voice from Maine, reminds us that "Corporate forces are forces of death, and we'll need those transcendent voices to remind us of who we are and why we are struggling and what life is finally all about."
[Chris Hedges] He is right! It is time for you to share YOUR transcendent voice!