Thursday, May 4, 2017

Joanna Brouk - Farewell to a Friend


I just lost my oldest friend, the composer, poet and writer Joanna Brouk. We were young artists in the halcyon years of Berkeley, and her art has travelled with me across the years. Joanna was one of the early composers of synthesizer music, and she worked at Mills College and the University of California in the early 70's, and she was one the early collaborators of the Hearts of Space radio show. I remember her "Gong Piece", a beautiful work using a Japanese gong.........I had a copy of it on reel to reel tape, and carried that around for years until it finally disintegrated.   She and I and another friend, Felicia, collaborated on a book of poems,  and it was my delight to reconnect with Joanna many years later, in 2011.

Since then we've visited several times a year, and I've watched Joanna's music be re-discovered (she was invited to perform in France this Spring), as well as she was finally ready to release the first edition of her "Lost Eros" books, a project she was excited about.  Creativity was flowing for Joanna, it was my privilege to experience her inspiration and enthusiasm,  and it seems impossible that that conversation is suddenly not to be continued.  But what I find I remember best.......the two of us just sitting on the beach,  watching the pelicans come home. Or watching movies with popcorn.  Or working on her garden, hauling humongous bricks around.  I remember she had a bee hive in a tree, and I was planning on visiting in the summer, to see how the garden was coming along with the new improvements.  


Lost Lovers of Atlantis

In  a recent release of one of her albums I heard the sound of a woman's voice singing - and suddenly remembered that was me, singing at the bottom of the stairwell at Kroeber Hall, while she recorded me, 45 years ago. The last time I saw her she visited me in February for the Gem show, and was excited about going to France for a concert. We talked about the book she was working on, how weird it was to be growing old. We were sure we had more adventures ahead......


I remember Joanna used to say that she just "heard the music of the spheres" and she did strange abstract drawings trying to "write down" what she heard. In many ways her music was an effort to re-member that music that was already there. The same with her poems, which she said were more about "the space in-between than the actual words". She's fine, I know, but I feel grief for her son. And for me. Grief is always really about us, the ones who are left behind.

 I don't know how to honor her except to share a bit of what she contributed to the world, the world she was a true artist in:   a pollinator of souls.




light
light
light of morning
the fairest light, the fairest light
has come

softly, I feel its coming


night has given
night has given
a place to morning
breath returns and moistens
the grass the birds feather


no longer do I hide
no longer do I hide
gone into darkness


light has come

Joanna Brouk (1972)





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