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O sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His Name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
Psalm 96, 1-2

The tones of air, I know not how they flow; where'er they move, all things melodious grow.
Faust PT II, Goethe

Recent
Recordings

Lost World Tango

Two Lonely People

Galaxy

Elysium

Blues for Zarathustra

Wings of the Morning

Cycles

Doloroso

17 Solo Piano Improvisations

Music in Three Parts

House of Counted Days

Voyage to Arcturus

Ron Thomas performances, recordings, teaching, composition and essays.

Fragments: An Autobiography

page 4 -- Click on any thumbnail to see larger photo.


(Thumbnails above are of Ron with Steve Heimer, left; a painting of Ron by Steve, center; and Steve, Ron, and Glenn, right).

Karlheinz returned to Germany in May of l964; Glenn and I returned to Montclair, Steve returned to his parent’s home in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. The three of us decided to live and work together. In the fall of 1964 Glenn and I located and moved into an apartment with (almost) suitable space in East Orange, New Jersey. Steve joined us that winter and took a job as a bank teller. I resumed accompanying for dance classes (a part- time occupation I had discovered while in college) and Glenn was a short-order cook and waiter. I spent my time studying, reading and composing. Steve had introduced me to Alfred Korzybski’s Science and Sanity (a favorite of William Burroughs) which we studied together in search of a fresh approach to problems of modern art. I took up every reading suggestion Karlheinz gave me, Paul Klee’s The Thinking Eye, Corbusier’s Modular, assorted studies in Acoustics, and the writings of Teilhard de Chardin. Karlheinz was the dominant presence in our studio life in East Orange as we tried to define and personalize our own viewpoints and procedures. He cast a long shadow. I grew restless and began to long for the company of musicians. A classmate from Karlheinz’ course, composer Maryanne Amacher (thumbnail, right), had gone to Champaigne-Urbana, Illinois, and was writing to me enthusiastically about the phenomenal musicians there, the electronic music studio, and the big festival of contemporary music going on. She urged


(Thumbnails above left is of Ron Dewar;
above center is of Will Parsons and Ron Thomas;

I joined a carfull of rollicking Physical Education majors headed back to the University of Illinois from New York City in February of 1965. Composers, performers, and conductors from all over the world came to the 1965 Contemporary Arts Festival and I was treated to a spectacular display of luminaries, concerts and lectures. Almost immediately, I met Ron Dewar (Tenor and Soprano Saxophonist), Will Parsons (percussionist and composer), and Jon English (trombonist, bassist, and composer).



(Thumbnail above left is of Salvatore Martirano;

Composer Salvatore Martirano invited me to join his composition class and Jerry (Lejaren) Hiller let me attend his lectures on Electronic music and work in the Studio. John Garvey recruited me to perform with the University Jazz Band.

Ron, Will and Jon introduced me to the great Modern Jazz of the period and my life was (again) forever changed. These three extraordinary musicians were my first and most important jazz mentors. The progressive musical scene in the midwest was more drastic than any I have encountered since, and not a phony in the lot. All first class musicians. Jon English was my closest and longest lasting friend and was the strongest influence on me. I began listening to the music of Gil Evans, Miles Davis (thumbnail, right), and Bill Evans. I immediately got hired for jazz gigs and these jobs introduced me directly to the problems and principles of jazz improvisation. I met Elliot Carter at one of Sal Martirano’s famous “Roundhouse” partys. Later I attended his festival lecture and saw him for a private lesson. My piece Occasion for Four Winds was performed on a concert Sal had arranged -- the first public performance of a work of mine.

Jon offered to drive me back to NJ at the end of my stay in Illinois. We dropped in at John Cage’s Stony Point, New York, home on the way back to East Orange. (Thumbnail is of John Cage.) This came to be the first of many visits I had with Cage until his death. During my stay in Illinois I experimented with many different kinds of morphologies and notation schemes, building upon what I had learned from Karlheinz and also what I was learning in Illinois. I brought back to East Orange new interests, not all of which were compatible with the philosophy of our studio which was, after all, primarily a painter’s atelier, and so in September of 1965 I left East Orange. One evening before I left, however, I went to a jazz club in Newark, New Jersey, called the Front Room to see Miles’ band. To my great surprise, pianist Herbie Hancock, whose amazing recordings with Miles I had first heard in Illinois, recognized me! Herbie had studied with the composition faculty at the Manhattan School while I was there and heard performances of my student compositions at the school! My acquaintance with Stockhausen and my connection to the new-music scene intrigued him. I had many tapes of unavailable performances of notorious contemporary works such as Penderecki’s Threnodies, Stockhausen’s Momente, etc. which he and Tony Williams were interested in hearing and copying. Until he moved to Los Angeles, we had many great visits on Riverside Drive. (In 1968 Herbie suggested that I study with Sir Roland Hanna (thumbnail, right), which I did until 1970).

I moved to Mahopac, New York in the fall of 1965 and lived there for two years, a story too vast for this writing. (Thumbnail left is of Ron Thomas during this time.) Except to note that Steve Heimel joined me there briefly, and it was Steve with whom I roomed when I moved into New York City in the summer of 1967. We lived on East 3rd Street next door to “Slugs” jazz club. These years were difficult. The fierce clash of the “Classical” and the “Jazz” sides of my life was difficult to the point of horrible. I wanted to make both things work but couldn’t figure out how. Desperate to escape the hippie underworld, I applied to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey and was miraculously accepted to their Graduate Program in Composition. After the Montclair house was sold, Buddy and Helen bought 28 Richmond Road in Edison (near New Brunswick) and I moved there to begin my studies in the fall of 1967. I played and studied jazz while studying Composition with Robert Moevs and Robert Lincoln at the University.

Robert Lincoln, a student of Nadia Boulanger, became an exceptionally good friend and remained my teacher after I left Rutgers. With him I studied Chopin and Ravel from the perspective of their harmonic and formal principles, and it was Lincoln's opinion I sought in 1973 when my composing intensified. I went to New York City frequently to study jazz with Art Murphy, a jazz pianist, who later toured and recorded with Philip Glass. I disliked my library-oriented Graduate Program at Rutgers. The moment I was accepted at C.W. Post College, Long Island University, I withdrew from Rutgers and completed my Masters degree at Post with Stefan Wolpe, Raoul Pleskow, and Howard Rovics. (I met Howard in 1960 when he was a student at the Manhattan School, a student of Stefan Wolpe and a friend of Bill Karlins).

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