for trumpet and bass drum
In April of 1992 I attended the Houston Foto-Fest, a huge international exhibit of photography. I was especially interested in a large and varied selection of photos – both historical and contemporary – from Latin America, since I lived for six years in El Salvador and Mexico, part of the diaspora of young American musicians seeking a few years experience abroad before tackling the difficult professional audition scene in the United States.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the exhibit was a selection of wonderfully lyric photos of indigenous life by Mexican photographer Flor Garduño. Músico en la nada (Musician in the nowhere) shows a barren, foggy mountainside in Bolivia. Standing on a muddy roadside is an old itinerant musician, flanked by bundles of his belongings. He has a beat-up bass drum and, lying on it, an old trumpet.
The picture is absolutely haunting – no words of mine can possibly do it justice. I was perhaps especially moved because of the years I spent as a musician wandering around Latin America, occasionally lonely and homesick. Although I was a symphony musician and I was never poor, as this man so obviously was, still I felt a kinship with him as he stood there alone. Perhaps he was waiting for the bus to take him to the next town and the next “hueso” (the Spanish term for “gig” is almost too appropriate – the literal meaning is “bone”). Perhaps he was just standing there.
It has been recorded on trumpeter Michael Tunnell’s CD Mixed Doubles (Coronet 402-1), with percussionist Chad Stoltenberg.