EARInterview: RON HEGLIN by Loren Means
LM: but you didn't want to become a jazz musician yourself?
RH: No, I didn't want to play in that context. As I said I couldn't find a context in which I wanted to play. I stopped playing in 1958, and didn't start playing again until 1969. I listened to rock, but I also heard the birth of New Music scene here, with Pauline Oliveros and Morton Subotnick. In 1965 I saw Stuart Dempster play John Cage's "Solo for Sliding Trombone" at the Dancers' Workshop in San Francisco. In the late Sixties I went to Europe and listened to some ethnic music in North Africa. Then I moved to Seattle, and it turned out Stu Dempster was living up there. I went to a concert of his at the University, and he played Robert Moran's piece where he rolls around the stage in a bag while playing. The exuberance Dempster showed, the spiritual approach to the instrument, came through to me. So I picked up the trombone again, and started studying with him, and did that until I left Seattle eight months later.
LM: What did Dempster teach?
RH: he gave me buzz-lip exercises, which were important for me because I hadn't played in eleven years. he also stressed the quality of blowing, getting enough air through the horn and getting a clear passage. he also stressed Yoga and Tai Chi and breath control. I found those disciplines very important, not only for the body but psychically--they wash away a lot of negativity.
LM: Were you interested in the theatrical-conceptual context Dempster played out of?
RH: No. I responded to his energy and independence and voice amidst all of the traditional roles that it was possible for a trombonist to occupy. I haven't played any of the kind of music Stuart plays. I haven't had an inclination to get together the standard repertoire.
LM: So when you came back to the Bay Area you were playing again but still didn't have a context you identified with...
RH: That's right. I had my eyes wide open, and I took a synthesizer class, even though I didn't even own a tape recorder, let alone a synthesizer. I met Paul Kalbach there, and we started jamming on synthesizer and trombone. We played some concerts and some performances on KPFA, in 1972, and this was the first situation in which I'd done free improvisations with anyone. And I guess that was what I'd been looking for. It was exciting because it seemed to allow a trombonist to scan tonally and timbrally over wide ranges and to move very fast. It allowed a liberation of energy that I hadn't felt before. I never failed to get really high in those encounters, and I felt like I was really playing things on the instrument that were meant to be played on it. It seemed to be what the slide was made for--I'd play microtonal things, and I did very little tonguing.
LM: So the context you'd been looking for all along turned out to be Free Music?
RH: Yes, although it wasn't defined as a context then. This was before the Blue Dolphin and Pangaea opened. In 1973 I met a group of people at a party and we all had our instruments, so we started playing. They were Sybl Glebo, Erv Denman, Kay Sato, and Jim Guzzetta. And it was like a musical home, for all of us. We began playing together every week, and called ourselves Music for All Occasions. And as far as we knew, we were the only group playing that kind of music in the Bay Area. We were playing homemade instruments, and we were using instruments from other cultures, koto and cheng and Indian flutes. And I felt in that period that I had to learn the instrument right from "A". I had to adapt my playing to achieve softness with presence and multiple voices through timbre or through moving so fast that the afterimage of the note before is still in a person's mind so that you get an illusory kind of density that seemed to be suitable to play in that kind of context. That group still performs, and because it relies on each person's energy being clear and each person being able to relate personally and being in their own space musically in a very competent way, it works. It's a non-power relationship that's very precious to me. p.9
LM: Do you find much audience support for your free improvisation?
RH: The audiences are small and are more of a ritual situation for other musicians and a few friends and aficionados. p.10