The University somehow had been turned around: it faced to the South across long dry moats and paved streets, yet rarely did anyone approach the Campus from the South. Most came from the North or angled in from the East and West. The West was Washington Park, with a solid black community to its west. The South side was a slowly blackening area, where a lot of white students lived anyhow, and it was here that over the years many a Negro family fought for the right to dwell in peace. To the East was a mixed area of substantial homes, many of which now accommodated student lodgers, the closest to a University community proper, this in turn changing into a largely Jewish neighborhood culminating in the large apartment hotels and residences that were increasing in number. Northwards, the University ended at 56th Street, where it was mixed up with the places of workers and students and blended into the old Irish neighborhood. So, all in all, you had a Campus covering over a square mile with an approximately square figure, largely maintaining an isolated position all around. The perimeters were additionally reinforced by the heavily travelled carlines on all borders, the Illinois Central Railroad to the East, then Jackson Park that included the Rosenwald Museum of Science and Industry, and, at the extremity, Lake Shore Boulevard running along Lake Michigan.
From the Student's elevated train, as it curved from Southwards to East upon reaching 63rd Street, you could see something called White City, a bizaare set of monumental edifices dirty white, that remained from the World's Fair of 1893, that no one could think what to do with, but had been flung out as a challenge to the universe at the moment when the University, too, was a'borning. If the Student had known, he might have found his way there sometime, because it had features, junked up as they were, that were far ahead of the University's gothic imitations. There had been a struggle between the good guys -- like Louis Sullivan -- and the bad guys -- just about everybody else -- to create a glorious future for modern architecture at the Fair Grounds, and, as usual, the good guys lost. As for the University architects, they played their game safe and cozy, and now one and all looked with contempt and dismay at the "White Elephant."
Proudly, nostalgically, the million throats sang over the years, at ceremonies beyond number, the "Alma Mater" chanty of the school.
The City White hath fled the earth,
But where the azure waters lie,
A nobler city hath its birth,
The City Grey that ne'er shall die.
Thus 1,000,000 x 10 minutes of the several verses that I spare you gives 10,000,000 minutes of wasted din, which, musicologically, would have provided 200,000 renditions of Vivaldi, Beethoven, Stravinski and Mahler, and which, historically, broadcast two errors, plus one imponderable, plus one veracity, because, in fact, the dirty white monsters blighting generations of black neighbors had not disappeared; the azure waters, always greyish blue and now polluted, had been driven a mile to the East; the longevity of the City Grey was problematical sub specie aeternitatis; but, then, Professor Anton Carlson, despite his neanderthal appearance, was nobler than curvacious, belly-waggling "Little Egypt," that no one can deny, yes, for that no one can deny.
The Student evaded the "Mixers" offered in the Fall term of 1935. Social mixers and receptions were not his dish of tea whether they mixed sophomores and freshmen, men and women, fraternities and women's clubs, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Humanists, the Deans, or faculty and students. He was foolish. He could have eaten many free cookies and had a little tea with his milk; he once slipped off with a couple of cookies from a reception at Ida Noyes Hall, without going through the line. He would have met some students -- and remet them, for the same people seemed to go to the several mixers, a mixer type. Like George Probst, for instance, for, according to the Cap and Gown yearbook, he found himself as leader of the Debate Union, member of Delta Sigma Rho, a Board Member of the Chapel Union, a member, too, of the Student Settlement Board, and belonging to some conglomerate holding company named the Leaders Organization, who was a good friend of a real producer, first woman Editor of the Daily Maroon, Laura Bergquist, who was in turn a good friend of another productive editor and agitator of good causes, Adele Rose, who wrote about him, not that George and his eternal girl friend Audrey were not the nicest folk that you could ever hope to meet.
Unreasonably, the Student, given a questionnaire to fill out, would have checked the adjectives "useless," "crowded," "snobbish," "womanish", "pointless," "stuffy," "snobbish," "dressy," (he was not well-dressed, you know, and he knew it) and plain "dull," to describe the gatherings. Besides, standing amidst strangers, he would not speak, while other students -- there was a special type who were so -- would capture attention, whether of faculty or students, with a glib inanity, unceasing. I think, too, that he was at heart pragmatic, reasoning always in terms of consequences, and could see little or nothing following up his social encounters. He could not afford to pursue a girl, even with an ultimate decent probability of sex. Whatever led to whatever: the path between was paved with expenses. And if not money, oodles of wasted time. He would rather preserve his anomie.
Americans were always famous for mixing easily, but perhaps less at Chicago. There the Student was not so exceptional; true, he felt embarassingly young and hid his age, he was penniless and concealed that fact, too, and he was ill-clothed but luckily not ill-featured and, also, he could tie a bow tie by hand, patch together a tuxedo, manage his hair, and keep his shoes shined, so he was not ill-coutured. He did get himself trapped into the annual women's inter-club Ball by Barbara McCann, a cheerful, pink, snub-nosed, round-of-face-and-figure creature, accepting her invitation because it was supposed to be entirely paid for by the women, according to tradition, but, when the Ball was over, found himself remonstrating over her idea of transporting her home by cab, which seemed to be near the South Pole, yet accessible enough by trolley car, at a fraction of the cost. She burst into tears, was sternly lectured by her Club President for not appreciating her handsome escort, who fixed them up with a ride in someone's car, whereupon Barbara recovered herself sufficiently to think to complete the perfect evening by hot kisses on the back seat, gestures coldly acknowledged by her companion.
There were many like him, Quequogs; not cannibals but studious inner-steering, up to something mysterious and weird but it had to be more directed than not, more serious than casual, doing as well as talking. I hate to use the term "individualistic" but there it is, and, if you think that you might do better, here is a list to apply to him: anarchistic, freedom-loving, free-wheeling, liberated, uncontrolled, independent, unattached, unconfinable, degage', free-ranging, fancy-free, uncommitted, uninvolved, unaffiliated, autonomous, autarchic, self-sufficient, self-reliant, free-thinking, owning no master. Practically all would apply. Not nearly correct would be: lone wolf, dissenting, solitary, libertarian, bohemian, egotist, self-seeking, self-centered, opportunistic, self-absorbed, deviant, non-conformist, eccentric, kinky, aberrant, misfit. And enough of that.
The fraternities were schizoid. Their past was briefly glorious, their present ambiguous, their future fearful. If they were to cut a swatch from Chicago's multi-splendored cloak, they would have to pretend to seriousity, diligence, maturity, civic-mindedness, egalitarianism, super-alma matrism. Insofar as they were national orders, they would have to behave just as stupidly as their chapters around the country, hazing freshmen, touting the football team, chasing women sexistically, regularly appearing drunk and disorderly, measuring themselves by false standards as superior to whoever might be within range, giving the cold shoulder to Jews, bewailing the New Deal and F.D.R., and generally mucking up the ideals of higher education. It was suspected that Mr. Hutchins, himself fallen into a fraternity while at Yale, had gone over to the enemy and would abolish the frats if given half a chance. But they held on, and promised to behave, and did put on a better act than their brothers elsewhere.
They were segregated by "religion" into Jewish and Gentile fraternities, as well as by race, the Jewish houses being, if anything, a bit more stupid and dull than the Gentile, more inert, leaving it up to the Gentile houses to put on the silly stuff and engage in the race for the several score offices of student society where incompetency was only a light handicap. The good side of this was that the Jewish fraternities, measuring up sizeably well against the Gentile ones, interposed a guarantee against the perverse and destructive anti-intellectualism usually encountered among American fraternities; there could be no lynching of iconoclasts and tormenting of non-belongers at Chicago.
There were women's clubs, not sororities, and these contained few Jews, nor, surprisingly, were there any equivalent Jewish woman's clubs. All in all, there were about twelve hundred students of Jewish origin at the University, some 15% of the total. Of these, a mere fifty attended Jewish Student Foundation meetings. "Free souls," then, numbered about a thousand, or ten in twelve. The same ratio, perhaps a little less, existed among the Gentiles. Practically all of the creative activities on campus were well misculated.
The toughest social problem of a University is to induce the larger community to fractionate naturally into small groups that manage to be maturing and nurturing at the same time as they are intellectually and artistically creative. This should be said, by way of consoling the fraternities and clubs. The dormitories did not accomplish the function well; the residents were not mutually selective, nor working upon common or even focussed tasks, and had only proximity, a wing of a building, say, as the basis for forming communal groups. Anyhow, the dorms excluded the poorer students and the commuting students perforce.
It took a while for the Student to catch on to the University's fiscal setup for himself and confreres. The bursar was a gentleman named Mr. Mather, the cashier a personage called Mr. Cotton. Between them they nourished you and held you tight. Now the father of Cotton Mather emigrated to America in the wake of the "Mayflower" and was called Increase Mather, which took a while for the Student to discover, but it confirmed him in his faith in the Great University, for it was to their brick building across from the Bookstore that he repaired whenever in need of a loan, which was invariably just before registration for each quarter began, and he was never, never turned down. Said Cotton Mather would have sympathized with this sixteen-year old student at the University for he himself had entered Harvard University in 1675 at the age of 12 and left it with a Master's Degree at the age of eighteen. Mr.Cotton and Mr. Mather were slight, delicate, banker-groomed, sober and upright in their hardwood chairs, ready to believe your story, provided that you had paid for the profits of the previous tale.
And who could not but be touched by the Student's story, once its truth had been vouched for, which Mr. Earl Johnson was all too ready to do at any time. To wit, and if you've heard this before, skip it, the Student had been disappointed for not having his sterling qualities turned into a scholarship until the last moment before the beginning of the Fall Term; he had been casually tossed a half-scholarship; he, penniless, had appealed to his Father, who, dollarless, had called in some favor to the tune of a fifty-dollar loan; and, with this, and a couple of dollars more, he had registered and joined the ranks. Now the Winter was setting in, and once more fifty dollars were needed. Certainly said Mr. Mather, amen said Mr. Cotton. (Cotton Mather composed over 400 written works during his Ministry of God at Boston.) And the Student could resume the best education ever struck off by the mind of man.
He had other resources now as well. He helped Chuck Towey set up the band and fit out bandsmen in uniform for the football games and a smaller group would be playing at the basketball games of the winter. For which he was paid fifty cents an hour. Too, the University placement office and the gossip-mongers foretold a generous lot of jobs for indigent students under a new program of the Federal Youth Administration, and he went and found the source, shortly to be revealed. The fiscal gap was closing.
His trumpet did him the next good turn. Harking to the most beautiful woman's invitation, he showed up for Symphony Orchestra try-outs. Mr. Talley (a prissy, swish non-simpatico humpher whom brass pained) heard his tone, asked his experience, gave him a folksong to read and play by some Hungarian (well, so what if it were Bartok, he was not all that professional!), and was invited to take a chair, second chair, at rehearsals.
Befitting its presumptive social status, the Orchestra met later than the Band by half an hour, but on a different evening, so those misguided souls who chose to pipe up for both aggregations might enjoy the both. Actually there were no more than several of these, the percussionist, two trombones, two clarinets, a flautist, and two trumpets, the other being an ebullient character called Harold Hitchens or Hitch for short. And I think that the reason for the later hour was to allow time for several downtowners to reach the Campus, for with the Orchestra as with the Band, outside talent had to be enlisted, in extreme cases even paid, to fill the gaps in the ranks.
The Student's favorite fill-in was Helen Dworskaya, who played the French Horn impeccably. She performed with the Women's Symphony Orchestra of Chicago. (Music was quite sexist, still is.) She had a lot to do, owing to the tone-prejudices of the great romanticist composers, and, for the same reason, the Student had long stretches of empty bars to count out between blats, time that he put to good use admiring Helen's profile and heaving bosom, her fetching manner of pushing back her unbkempt blonde hair and then her eyeglasses and frowning as she pursed her lips to play once again a passage that the Conductor felt should be more obligato: "let yourself go," yes, he lusted, let yourself go, Helen; he was a little perverted, he reacted to a woman's removing her eyeglasses as if she were pulling off her shift. But why not: did not generations gasp at a lifted skirt that revealed an ankle? A student's perversion, to be sure.
And then to witness the femme fatale of the orchestra, of all orchestras, the handsome cello player whose dark woolen skirt must, yes, must be raised to her silken knee, or higher, if she is to play freely, and there between her legs clutchng the lewd willowy gleaming tawney lucky pasha box, fingering its long neck, hugging and swaying with it, while stroking it with her hairy bow, now gravely, now smiling, now vigorously, passionately, and pluck and bend forward, pluck again, bow it rapidly, harder, forte, piu forte, fortissimo!
Carl Bricken was the Conductor, a handsome man, ruddy fervent sympathetic countenance open to what you were, striving, intent upon being better than he needs be, with a fine wealthy pretty ambitious wife, lucky man, too, to be charged with calling in with his prickly baton Helen Dworskaya the french horn and Muriel Bellow the cellist, waving them in, embracing them with both arms, with sixty-five maddened minions sawing and pounding and blowing to heighten his passion!
Oh, yes, this Carl Bricken was a great one. He tried hard and variously, and was never down and out. He had a miserable budget. This the Student could tell from the very beginning, there was nothing to encourage Mr. Bricken about the premises afforded him, his faculty, his budget, his building and his orchestra. He had beautiful women about, his Departmental Secretary already alluded to, whose husband -- the Student couldn't conceive how handsome had to be her husband to attract her, he, the student living still at that age when he believed that beautiful women invariably are attracted to handsome men and then discovered it was the tennis coach -- a nice guy, all these fancy schools without good football teams have nice-guy coaches, but a homely gawker with a face out of a Swedish bog, but then I haven't said all that the Student ever observed of her great beauty, because, while he could never say a word of reproach (or admiration and envy) concerning Mr. Bricken's relationship to her -- or for that matter to any other woman not excluding Mrs. Bricken, so correct or discreet was Carl -- he was a little put off by her special mouthpiece to keep her telephone from picking up germs and her habit of continually wiping it off with a clean handkerchief. Chicago germs were admittedly a nasty and pestiferous lot, but they did not congregate on telephone mouthpieces to the exclusion of all other prominences of the environment, and it may have been that a particular kind of paranoia combines an awareness intensified into an unconscious phobia of the telephone in American life of that age and earlier as an agent of character assassination and other kinds of gossip with the compulsion toward strict cleanliness against the germs that were and are reputed to lie in waiting for us at every turn of a hair.
When Mrs. Millicent Hebert wasn't wiping her mouthpiece, she was dusting her desk, already a mirror in walnut. She needn't have touched a thing. She was that perfect. From her glistening mahogany pumps, upward via her beige silk stockings, trapping the mice-tripping beams from the tall old window kitty corner behind her, via her campbell-plaid skirt and smoothly molded green cashmere sweater, that tolerated not the slightest aberrant particle, stopping at the features of a lovely pert doll, but straight-nosed, coifed like a nun in a straight blonde bob. If he may have wondered how she would ever go to bed, he would have in any case preferred her as she was, not nude: he was not a fancier of skin for its own sake. Secretaries even then ran innumerable college departments around America: Mrs. Hebert ran hers.
In defense of our Student's wavering attention, I must point out one of the lingering deficiencies of the format of orchestration and rehearsal. You, as a musician, whether trumpet or cellist, are given a sheet of music that contains only the notes that you are to play during the performance of the composition. Little or nothing else. You are treated as a kind of robot. Count thirty bars of 3/4 time, allegretto assai, and bow or blow with a feeling to be imparted by the conductor, or by some extra knowledge and feeling that you may have acquired, for three or six or nine bars, and begin to count another ten bars, or fifteen, or six-and-a-half. John Johnson, the professional ringer and first trumpet, liked to count to himself, but the other trumpets were different, they had no pride, they counted for each other. Harold Hitchens would sometimes read in a book he brought along to prepare for a test the next day -- he was a formidable biologist, equanimous of temperament, ejaculating "jumping jehosophat!" and "Hell's bells!" when disturbed -- letting the Student count the endless bars of interdiction, who then with a slight gesture or a muttered "62..2.3.4, 63" would bring Hitch back to attend to the upcoming spurt of sound.
Which is as good a place as any for displaying the phobias of the Student as Trumpeter. Probably the worst fear of the trumpet is to conclude a climax with a solitary blast, the orchestra having terminated. It is such a commanding instrument that it can destroy a concert by a single misplaced note, say in the Fifth Symphony of Tchaikowsky, when towards the end of the First Movement -- but it happens numerous times -- the trumpets explode in a marvellous " ta,ta, ta-ta-ta-ta, ta,ta!! and you had damned well better strike that last note as if you meant it to be the imperative absolute, and yet it was hung in the air, neither ending a phrase, nor a chord, nor a true end, but enormously effective, and followed after a deafening silence by the entrance of a a mild new theme: miss that one, and you destroy the concert! And if you would wish to know how so complicated a creation as a space mission can be despatched to Mars, given all the chances of the slightest mishap bringing destruction, well then, look at the countless flawlessly instrumented details of the passage of the eight-score-handed symphony orchestra on its way through the vast radioactive spaces of Wagner or Berlioz.
Next worst fear is to enter play at the wrong moment, too early or too late. It was expected to happen in rehearsals, but never in a performance. There came to the Department of Music at Chicago in the last undergraduate year of the Student Mr. Sigmund Levarie, a refugee from Austria who could have gotten work in one of those Hollywood movies lampooning Nazis, as an idealized straight-nosed, blond, blue-eyed Nordic type, a terrific musician, organizer and conductor, and besides he liked the student's flaring kind of trumpet-playing for his favorite pastime, The Collegium Musicum, that gathered in two dozen musicians and singers to play baroque music, and there came an evening at Bond Chapel featuring a Johann Sebastian Bach chorale calling upon the trumpet to enter with its most dangerous note, a high B-natural, after a lot of stringing and chanting had occurred and it was about time to call in God for real, and the Student couldn't wait; maybe not Bach, but he the Student, felt it was time to soar, and off he went, hitting the B-natural as if he lived there and winging away, one after another, great round tones, yet instantly perceiving what, as he glanced up, the agonized cyclopean blue eye of Mr. Levarie also revealed, that his time should not have arrived! What could be done, he did: he continued to play for two full measures, and then repeated himself on the same two bars, to the grateful amazement of Mr. Levarie at such presence of mind, and so far as could ever be told, to the complete satisfaction of the audience and most of the performers, and perhaps J.S.B. might even have altered his score had he been there to hear it.
A more disastrous breakdown occurred with the Football Band one time, through no immediate fault of his, but I shall leave that for a later chapter. What is the probability of so stunning an error as bitching up the Bach? Not high. If a musician lets it happen more than once in a professional career, he will have no career to speak of. That's what can make the thought of it so terrifying. Disciplined concentration, singlemindedness, prevents such accidents, yet who asks a would-be young musician to count bars properly a hundred times against a background of diverting noises before advising him whether to take up music? (For that matter, most high skills are learned before it is known whether the habits that go along with their use are learnable: psychic misfits rarely are kept from studying political science with the aim of going into politics.)
Jazz can suffer many errors, if only because the hearers and dancers expect improvisation, and depending upon one's skill in recovering from a blooper, an error can be turned into a happy lick. And since the goal is improvisation, occasional errors are professionally forgivable. But now we are talking of different kinds of goofs, not merely coming in and going out. The probability of error depends upon the difficulty of a composition, adequacy of practice and rehearsal, one's physical and mental state, and a conductor's ability to generate total morale. A trumpet can give the wrong entrance cue to another, or to other instruments, so that they go sailing off from the conductor and orchestra. Or one can race a tempo or slow it, pitching other instruments headlong or dragging them backwards in time. Or you can play too loud, troppo forte, and distort the total ensemble, or too soft, yes, a trumpet has been known to play too softly, or what is worse, too hesitantly, too mildly, oh, yes, there are many colors to the instrument, as with all the rest of them, and, as with being a good writer, to be a good musician amounts to satisfying an incredible number of variable demands and combining them nicely.
For, you see, I have not mentioned all the technical virtuousity that needs be acquired, the proverbial ear for music, the memorization of a great many passages from hundreds of compositions, the development of purity of tone, of timbre, of control of volume to the infinite nuance, the perfect pitch, the ability to respond phonetically to the myriad demands of composer and conductor. Again like the writer, what for? To earn a measly pay, and catch a lot of shit -- when learning, when auditioning, when rehearsing, when performing, and after it's all over as well. Opportunistic, power-grabbing, and fully competent monsters like Herbert von Karajan can handle the full symphonic scene and prosper hugely, not so those whom one would want to do well and live well in music.
The Student came over years to know personally only a fourth of the orchestra of seventy (averaging a dozen absences from rehearsals and even more when the weakest were culled before a performance); who can know all the second fiddles? He came to know many more of the Band, which was larger, rehearsed more, and involved dispensation of tickets, uniforms, and instruments in most cases. The bandsmen required more personal attention. It must be remarked, still , concerning the band as well as the orchestra, that the musicians were not great mixers, the orchestra members much less. The orchestra, totalling an effort of seventy people, would at the end of rehearsal break down into one's, two's and three's, mostly solitaries, and disperse. (Somebody should make a study of this: the individualism of musicians, or the togetherness ratio of different types of music and musical aggregations. A sociology of musical performance and a wissensoziologie of musical content are needed. I should just say "Ssmst" whenever I think of a question to be studied.)
Reforms, reforms! Now is the time to venge oneself, the writer's revenge, for all the missed reforms of life. We have had our revolution in printing, in photo-copying: now pass the gains of it to the patient counter of bars of rest: give every musician in the orchestra the full conductor's score. Let her or him know and feel what all of his companions are endeavoring to play; let one understand, learn, and play better -- or disagree with the conductor, too, criticize him. Like the old Catholic Church, where parishioners were supposed theologically to help serve the Mass but were given a document in Latin, if any at all, for the purpose, the Impresarios and conductors give their musicians only a bit of the revelation of the whole, hoping, yes, unconsciously, that they will therefore follow more obsequiously and more correctly and can be told when to raise or lower their voices, when to get in and get out, -- no question about it, the breaking down and handing out of the parts of the composition to the individual musicians is a handing out of tasks to suppressed mechanics. And as a social theorist, I can tell you that the leg-watching and day-dreaming of the bar-counter is the least of the harm, and that the whole rigamarole is an exercise in authoritarian art enforcement.
So give us all the full score, with our line of play outlined in green or red and other appropriate colors. It is a marvellous teaching device, but it seemed never to occur to the professors even though they were in business to teach the members of the orchestra about musical composition and its rendition. The same could be said for the Band music. Give the drummer the totality of even "Wave the Flag for Old Chicago," and he'll be a better man for it. It was then the age before the Xerox; still the planograph and the mimeograph machine were in full flower. In fact, this is not done now, anywhere. The performer is treated as a specialist, with lowering aims, who should feel lucky that he is only one of 15 violins instead of 1 in 30: "Shoemaker, stick to your last." So much for a great reform of bands, orchestras, choruses, operas, ballets, musical comedies, theatre -- all the performing arts should provide their actors with the fullness of their art.
And not performances, but rehearsals are the most important time for learning. There one learns what needs be learned, as the violinist is taught not to scrape, the oboe not to rush, the trumpet not to blat, the tympani what pianissimo can mean. The players and the watchers are encouraged. They see that an ultimate perfection is an excrescence from all-around mistakes of every player, of every ensemble, of every dimension of tone, rhythm, timbre, and intensity. The human interaction which is the nucleus of music becomes startlingly evident. Students of all disciplines -- from astonomy to zoology, since we agree, do we? -- should attend rehearsals and be actually examined partly on their appreciation of how the conductor solves the problem of a slightly overdone forte by two violins, a flute and a horn. Does he note the subjection of personality into the instrument: "See here, horn, do try to get less vibrato in your 4-beat A-sharp." "And all of you, don't march, don't slide, swoop, swoop, into the next measure, za, za, za-za-zazaaaamMMM!!" Attending a rehearsal is much more enlightening than a performance, which should be considered like a good drink of champagne after a hard day's work.
Great music burst upon the Student as instrumentalist. Ludwig von Beethoven and Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky, glimpsed by him years before as fiddler of "Minuet in G" and blaster of "1812 Overture," came within reach now as all that they really were: facing him on the music stand were the trumpet parts to Beethoven's Third Symphony and Tchaikovsky's Fifth. The one used the trumpet as a percussion instrument and bugler, the latter as a percussion, a bugler, and a supporter and developer of melodies. Whom did the Student like to play the more? Piotr, of course. Wouldn't you? He liked the work of Sibelius, too, for the same reason. And then came Stravinsky, and Hindemith, and Weinberger. The trumpet was ever more present and versatile. (But, there were after all in the beginning Telemann and Bach, before the sonata, the symphony and the concerto took so much away.) Was his prejudice simply that? Not quite.
There is room for all in music, for all kinds of music, any ensemble that can be dreamed of, conjured up. Still, except in jazz and the military and concert bands, the trumpet and its brassy associates saving the french horn were underemployed.
His disposition being initially rather arrogant, whenever he was committed to some part, his infinite counting of bars of rest was unquestionably of help in hearing the preferred instruments, the bassoon, the oboe, the clarinet, the violas and violins, the cellos -- he would never have understood them if he had not been forced to listen to them, listen to their being corrected, trying, trying again. No more than in the Band, did the Conductor waste time explaining the theory of composition and performance. He was the old style captain, they the soldiers. The language could be different. He would tap his music stand with his baton, and instant silence and attention would follow, every bit as perfect as the better infantry company. But then he would plead, too, "Why, please tell me, violas, when I ask you for a largo, you fall asleep. Try it again. Please now, wake up, this is not a marche funebre."
Or, on the opening night of the American premiere of "Schwanda the Bagpiper," April 20, 1936, when Mr. Bricken looked distressfully at the Student as trumpeter, informed by Harold Hitchens that the reason why he was bent over in agony was that he had sprained his ankle boxing, "Why, please tell me, why did you have to get hurt just now?" The Student grimaced. "My lip is O.K." He was lucky at that. What foolishness had seized him to hang around Bartlett Gym that afternoon and to seize upon Bill Brandt as a sparring partner, and Bill hit him so hard on the jaw that he slumped back for a split second and twisted his foot. He was lucky it wasn't his lip, which usually gets injured before anything else. It swelled painfully and there was nothing to be done about it before the pre-performance rehearsal was called, and thereafter came the opera itself. Afterwards he dragged himself over to Billings Hospital and insisted upon a bed for the night rather than riding the trains to the North Side. "Schwanda" was a success; the audience laughed when Schwanda fell through the floor into hell when he sang "May the devil take me if I lie!"
The Student thus learned much of music and more of boxing, but less than he might have of music, and became less interested in its theory. He could figure out some things by himself, and, of course, no one prevented him from reading about musicology in the little library of the Music Building, to which he had access, and used for listening to records on a quiet day alone. He could see what Beethoven was up to, and Tchaikovsky and the classicists as well, when they started off a theme with the strings, built it into the flutes and oboes, passed it along to the flutes, and finally called upon the trumpets and trombones.
The first flautist was Hilmer Luckhardt, a quiet and reliable musician with a fine tone. They were cordial nodding acquaintances for a long time. From behind he could follow Hilmer's flute, watching it stir, raise up, put to the lips, and seconds later blow sweet and hollow. Hilmer lived at the new men's residences, Burton-Judson, across the Midway. He invited the Student for dinner there. They chatted at table and when they drew back their chairs, Hilmer did not want the Student to leave right away. "I would like you to come see my room." Arrive there, he said quietly and earnestly, "Do you like me? Would you make love to me?" He was not visibly aroused, it was something long thought of. Not, however, the Student, who had not thought of him as a lover and could not prefer him now. "I am not very interested in that sort of thing," he replied, "I hope you don't mind." Hilmer's eyes clouded slightly, regret, embarassment, he had a large nose, the Faculty in Music thought highly of him. "I appreciate how you feel," he said. "Maybe some day..." He stetched a period into an indefinite extension of possibility. "Well, I guess I'd better get going," said his friend.
The student listened for a few moments to Hilmer Luckhardt's flute and then had to shift his attention to the next phase of the build-up. The solo clarinet had become a particular friend, because they helped set up and put away the orchestra property together. No ringer he, no more than Hilmer; he was a fulltime student from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, physiognomically the archtypical Nordic, not a coincidence inasmuch as he was of Swedish origin. Well, his hair could have been even lighter, but he couldn't have been much more long-headed or taller, and his eyes were bluer than they seemed, because Norman Pearson had to wear glasses, rather thick ones, except to bed, and except when he was busily breathing upon them and polishing them, or putting drops in his eyes. He was ungainly but he moved fast, flapping his hands. The Student never questioned whether he was ugly, which he was, because he was cheerful and spoke to the point and did not entail his brain in trivialities. He had important matters on his mind. He was a first-class student, sober as they come, worked steadily and heartily, moving straight to his goal of a Ph.D. in Political Science, in international economic relations. He played the clarinet very well, classically, and studied his parts with great care. When the Student turned up on the scene, Norman Pearson was pleased to have a junior instrumentalist hitting notes passably well sitting behind him. Unlike the Student, Norman knew what was best for himself, and had never considered playing in the Band. He would never do so until one time, late in their short lives together, the Student would go all out to assemble a proficient one-shot Concert Band and Norm condescended to immure himself within it for the occasion. Not that he berated or scorned this or anything else; he was of an opinion, his own, and that was it.
Norman's clarinet owned a round resonant tone that the Student loved. Why shouldn't he; it recalled to him his father's, the big sweet sonorous wood. It carried the Fourth Symphony of Tchaikowsky right along and despatched it nicely to the brass. After a rehearsal one evening Norman told the student that he was now living in a room on the top floor of the Music Building in return for his services to the orchestra, and he might ask Bob Remer, the Manager of the Orchestra to ask Mr. Bricken whether the Student could occupy the next room, which was vacant. He did so, and the Student was let to move in with his brown plastic box of goods and his trumpet just as the winter fell fully upon the Campus. The nights came early and bitterly cold, but the radiators of the old Music Building thumped and hissed a cloud of pleasant moist heat into his room. There he could forget the miserable trips up and down the length of the City, and he could sleep angelically. There he could stand and look out upon Mandel Hall and the Reynolds Club stretched out on the other side of the street. To the right were two faculty tennis courts and next to them the Quadrangle Club of the Faculty. How awesome the fat flakes of snow drifting down among the buildings that were gathering in his life. He could rise in the morning and cross the snow-packed street to have his bowl of oatmeal and cup of coffee at the Commons, and from there move to the Reynolds Club to read the morning papers that the desk attendant was affixing to individual holders and placing neatly ordered upon their rack.
He would now go home to the North Side only fortnightly, with an accumulation of laundry for his Mother to wash and an appetite unsatisfied by the dollar a day that he allowed himself for food. There were the folks to see, and the young boys, and the dog. All seemed happy enough to see him, yet easily adjusted to his absence. His older brother Bussie was hardly to be seen, for he worked regularly as pianist with a night-club combo, he often attended classes at Wilson Junior College of the City of Chicago, in a desultory manner, it must be confessed, and he had a heavy romance going with a yet unknown girl. The Student now slept on a couch when at home. His younger brothers, Eddie and Vic, had taken over his room.
Winter was the time for swimming races and water polo. He began swimming in the Fall. First he came from day to day outside of team hours, then he asked the enormously fat Coach how fast a person might have to be to swim in competition; his best offering, he considered, would be the breast stroke; he had gotten well into it playing tag with his cousin Howie's gang off of the rocks of the Lake at Addison Street. Maybe I can try out, he told the Coach and the Coach thought that he might make the grade. So he was invited to practice during team hours in the pool, and finally, after a couple of months of tiresome plodding up and down the grey tank ever a little faster, he was clocked at 200 yards in time to qualify for the award of Freshman Numerals, which consisted of a lightweight wool maroon sweater carrying the numbers of his class, "1939". In his second year, he might be able to compete in the intercollegiate races. Provided that the older racers or Phil Schnering, the best of the Freshmen, didn't beat him out.
Water Polo was quite new to him, but he took to it well, because the main requirements (aside from rapid global aquatic propulsion) were a dexterity at handling the ball and aggressiveness. It was a team sport like football, more like rugby, since the players were unprotected by equipment -- naked save for the elastic breechclout and an identifying colored cap -- and could tackle whoever held the ball. The breechclout held the genitals out of reach of most kicks.
There were outside lockers in Bartlett Gym's main locker room, and a separate shower room for outsiders entering the pool area, while the team had its own locker room and showers, assignment to which was a step up in the world of athletics. At an annual dinner of the Order of the C, the University Director of Athletics, Mr. Metcalf, gave him and other select Freshman their "Numerals" and turned to the main order of business, which was to induct into the Order those upper classmen who had sufficiently distinguished themselves in intercollegiate competititon to qualify as members. These were given heavy woolen sweaters with an Old English "C" knitted into them, the "Minor C" for lesser achievement, and fine leather and wool maroon jackets with large modern "C's" sewn upon them, for major achievement, and they felt to the last man that they had arrived at some lofty eminence within the University, enabling them, for instance, to complain about the President's attitude towards athletics (bad: reputed to have said, "Whenever I feel like exercising, I lie down until the feeling passes."), to sit on a stone bench supposedly reserved for "C-Men", to join the venerable succession of athletes running back to the earliest days (not so long ago), to pose handsomely for impressionable women, and generally to be sought after, including being dunned for the rest of their lives for contributions in the name of the Order of the C for the support of sports at the University. When Mr. Hutchins finally did make an appearance before the Order, it happily coincided with the induction of the Student, and he would note admiringly how with a joking self-demeaning reference, "I was told I had to be dressed for the occasion and all I had was this ill-fitting tuxedo," the self-assured, debonair idol mastered the ambivalence of the crowd.
But in the first hard winter the Student wrapped his woolen scarf tightly around his neck and pulled high the collar of his thin woolen coat when he went out the heavy door of Bartlett Gym hatless into the icy wind. He'd say "So long," to whoever might have left with him, and turn into the Reynolds Club for a glance at the evening papers before going to his room across the street. It is six o'clock and almost time to set up the Band or the Orchestra. No time to eat, but maybe a chocolate nut bar, maybe some cookies and a glass from the bottle of milk he kept in his room. The stomach shrinks from exercise and trumpeting and being on the go continuously. He weighed 128 pounds, not enough fat on him to fry an egg.
Song and shouts wafted often now from Mandel Hall at odd hours, and since he kept perfect pitch, had a good range and reach of voice, and since, too, the scene was so handy, he went across the street one afternoon when Blackfriars was rehearsing its annual musical comedy, and volunteered for its chorus, all-male; all the cast was male, though several privileged women hung around, helping to direct and arrange this and that. This year the play was titled "In Brains We Trust," a double entendre of the New Deal's famous "Brain Trust" and the University's novel famed intellectualism. The quite unmemorable script at one point had the cast exclaiming in unison the stunning phrase: "Henry! You Bast!"
He was too late for any major part in the play; anyhow it was one of those affairs of a happy self-congratulatory clique of leftovers from the year before, a competition, too, between fraternities, great fun, mind you, nevertheless. He sang out, good and loud, in a vigorous tenor that could pluck notes from the baritone range as well, so he gathered a compliment from a pretty dame, Leslie, a kind of director's advisor, who wanted to know who was the singer who stood out of the line. Great promise withal, it was the last of his Blackfriars. I wouldn't say that they were worse than the recent troupes on Broadway. It was a high period of the art. Blackfriars lacked the boards and broads, the frenzy and fury, of a maniacal bunch from all over really hungry and murderously greedy for jobs and fame and profits, also the screaming mad coaches. Musicals belong in whorehouses, faute de mieux on Broadway, but then they whimper and wither away.
Shouldn't the University anyhow have been experimenting with new forms? Not the musical comedy cliche. The idea never entered their puddingheads. They were out to mimic the art. Isn't that strange? Students who are capable of the most original work in the arts and sciences are told that they are in school -- from nursery school to post-doctoral curricula -- to copy others. Mr. Hutchins or a minion should have been on hand there each year to inaugurate Blackfriars, orating, "Now, gentlemen, what are you going to do this year that is not done much better on Broadway?"
Musical comedy was great, the Student figured, if you could write it or direct it. There was a lot of hanging around doing nothing for nearly everybody except the leading clique that were always in too heated a discussion to be interrupted by ideas and when they broke up it was to shout something like "O.K. now let's try the last scene over again, you, you, and the rest stand by." The band was professional, so far as he could tell; he recognized no one in the pit. Ringers. He thought about organizing a jazz band. There seemed to be none on campus. He needed a motto. As was the vogue. "Swing your partner to Al de Grazia's Maroons." Something of that order might turn the trick. When the proper time came.