Brush With Paik

In 1976 I had signed up for a couple of programs outside of school in Köln. The first program was simple, available to all students, and should really exist everywhere, in my opinion. I added myself to a list of students who would receive a postcard (a common notification method in the old days, in case you are under thirty years old) when any of a number of theaters scheduled a final dress rehearsal. Armed with the postcards I would show up and sit in an empty theater and experience the new play. Most of the time the play would take its course and I wasn’t even aware that it was, in fact, a rehearsal. Only one time there seemed to be problems and the play was interrupted several times so the director could give instructions. I couldn’t afford tickets to go to the theater but this program gave me an opportunity to experience it anyway. The only cost to the tax payer was price of the postcard. Brilliant!

The other program was one where I offered myself as helper for a production company. I remember getting a call asking whether I could show up the next day and help carry some gear for a documentary film maker. The subject was, of course, Nam June Paik. I met the Mr. Paik, the film maker, and an assistant near the river, for the first scene to be filmed. Mr. Paik stood on the bridge and looked down on the Rhine. He started counting in French. While the camera and microphone were readied, Mr. Paik asked me what the French words for 70 and 80 were. Soixante-dix and quatre-vingts, I replied. The camera was ready and the counting began. After several minutes Mr. Paik explained to the camera that what he was doing was counting the waves. Since he didn’t speak French he really had to concentrate to count, which gave him a different awareness of the waves, and of the counting.

The other scene I remember was staged on a busy pedestrian-only shopping street in the city center. Mr. Paik dragged a violin along the street by a string. I don’t remember how this action was explained. I would like to recall more, but that’s the extend of my memory.


For many years I have been using the name Frank for pick up orders and in coffeeshops. It was easier than spelling my name over and over. And sometimes they wouldn’t even get “Frank” and substituted “Fred”. Whatever, it was still more efficient, faster.

My partner suggested that I use my own name because people should get used to names that are not normative. And by normative I mean typical American names like Tom, Joe and such. (((you will notice I didn’t mention names like John, Robert and Stephen… 😊)))

Of course, there is nothing wrong with Anglo names but there should be room for different sounds, and for alternate spellings as well. How can a culture grow if it doesn’t allow for new or different input? And when you stop growing you begin to die, as Frank Howell said.

So I have been using my own name. It has been rocky and here is something I noticed. A POC will ask me to spell my name and write down the letters. It’s only six letters, and two of them are identical and in a row, and it goes really fast. The white person will look annoyed that I am not a Tim or Joe and sometimes even spelling will not help. I have to believe it’s because they don’t want to accept a different name. Sometimes I quickly reverted to Frank because I got sick of the dance.

I remember when I met with the two founders of Higher Octave Music, in the Fall of 1989. They asked me to change my name because they found it too strange and feared that it would be too hard to remember.

Perhaps my name was just different enough because it obviously did not stop people from finding Nouveau Flamenco. I wonder how many people went to a record store (ah, record stores!) and asked for “that guitarist with the strange name”?

Thanks Dad

Today was Ottokar’s 107th birthday. I just realized that I will be 64 in February. That means I will be the same age my dad was when I came back from a year in Asia and left again, after a couple of months, for America. He seemed so old to me at the time. I don’t feel old. It’s always a surprise when I think of my age. I guess there is a reason why I don’t get carted when I buy alcohol. I actually laughed out loud when I figured out when my dad turned 64, at the end of 1979. I am truly grateful for how relatively easy my life has been. No war for me, no fascism… although we seem to be edging closer. I wasn’t denied entry to university, as he was when he returned from war. Too old they told him… Me, I just didn’t want to go to university. My choice. I didn’t have a mother who was mean, like he did. I didn’t have to grow up without a father, as he had to. Thanks Ottokar.

Ottokar completed his life, at the age of 92, in 2008. On the phone, his last words to me were Verdammte Scheisse, because he didn’t like being in a hospital and didn’t like that it might ruin our plans to have him show me Vienna that year, where he had at one point lived for several years.


I was looking through a bunch of photos yesterday and came across this one, which my partner took at the old house in Santa Fe a couple of years ago.


The older I become…

  • the more I enjoy finding that one musical note that fits the space that surrounds it. If I can find that one note, then I won’t have to play all of the other notes that I would only play because I haven’t found the one note.
  • the more I dig Laozi. I often pick up one of several translations of the Tao Te Ching I have and pick a random page to read. It’s always good.
  • the less I care about defining myself. Not eating meat, I would not call myself a vegetarian, for example. I am neither a drinker nor a tea-totaler. In my opinion every definition is a new border that has to be guarded in some way, which takes energy away from creativity. This is even more true in terms of music and art. Let the landscape show the lay of the land, rather than a bunch of fences that only make it more difficult to roam. Defining oneself is, perhaps, for younger humans who are figuring out who they are. I have had to live with myself long enough that I don’t need labeling. Religion, politics… the less labels the better. Look at issues and deal with arising problems. Simply create and worry about what it is that was created later…
  • the more I re-read a message or an email one more time before I send it off… and often I choose not reply at all
  • the more I feel that walking is my favorite mode of moving through a landscape. A car, a bus, and even a bike get you there much faster, but walking simply leaves one more open to encounters, with the surroundings and with other beings.

This Happened

The post “Glorious Bench” was there and then it wasn’t. I received an email with the subject field “Mitigating a serious website hack”, but I didn’t get worried because Canton knows what he is doing. Things were done, most of which sound like magical incantations to me, the clock was turned back and I reposted the blog post. Everything should be fine, thanks to Canton.

I added some Luna Negra shows to the calendar. East Coast from 27 October to 6 November. Some favorites and a few new venues. If you are in New York, consider coming the show in Newark.

Read news about two rivers dear to me, the Rhine and the Rio Grande. Neither news was very good.

Less than a foot of water currently stands between European business as usual and a German supply chain crisis. Amid a record-breaking, continent-wide heat wave, the Rhine river has dropped to levels so low, that shipping on the waterway may soon become economically untenable or even impossible.


A stretch of the Rio Grande near Albuquerque that supplies farmers with water and a habitat for an array of aquatic life is drying — an unsettling sighting of climate change’s effects in a populous U.S. city.

Washington Post

And last, but not least… I had an idea that I am really excited about. But perhaps you will feel meh about my fabulous idea–one can never know about these things in advance. While streaming services are amazing, and I subscribe to one myself, there is no doubt that they dilute the perceived value of music. Did you know that the amount of money a streaming service has to pay for each play is set by a judge in Washington? I mean, on one hand it is pretty cool that a song by the Rolling Stones or Marvin Gaye fetches the same amount of money as a song a completely unknown person recorded on his computer, and which no one has ever bought. On the other hand this is a capitalist country and how is it possible that a judge gets to fix the price? Can you IMAGINE the judge’s inbox? They would get lobbied so hard by every streaming service and the record labels and performing rights associations. Nightmare.

Get to the point Ottmar! Yes, yes, almost there. So I was thinking about doing something radically different. So different that I don’t know of anyone who has done this. Drum roll!

What if I said that once I reach 999 subscribers to the membership club, I am currently leaning towards calling it “Backstage”, I will no longer distribute my music outside of it? No streaming services, no sales on Bandcamp, nothing! The music would only be available from Backstage. Members would be able to download high def files of the music. They would be able to burn a CD for themselves and print a PDF cover that they can also download. The music would be exclusive to Backstage and wouldn’t be available anywhere else. I know, crazy, right!?