The Guardians opens with a story from the July 24, 2008, edition of the Riverdale Press that begins, “An unidentified white man was struck and instantly killed by a Metro-North train last night as it pulled into the station on West 254th Street.” Sarah Manguso writes: “The train’s engineer told the police that the man was alone and that he jumped. The police officers pulled the body from the track and found no identification. The train’s 425 passengers were transferred to another train and delayed about twenty minutes.”
The Guardians is an elegy for Manguso’s friend Harris, two years after he escaped from a psychiatric hospital and jumped under that train. The narrative contemplates with unrelenting clarity their crowded postcollege apartment, Manguso’s fellowship year in Rome, Harris’s death and the year that followed—the year of mourning and the year of Manguso’s marriage. As Harris is revealed both to the reader and to the narrator, the book becomes a monument to their intimacy and inability to express their love to each other properly, and to the reverberating effects of Harris’s presence in and absence from Manguso’s life. There is grief in the book but also humor, as Manguso marvels at the unexpected details that constitute a friendship. The Guardians explores the insufficiency of explanation and the necessity of the imagination in making sense of anything.
Notes from Zachary London:Lauren said you were trying to compile every recording Harris ever made. He played on two Hard Taco songs, both in 2007. “Girls Are So Neat” is the first HT song Harris played on. That’s Russell [Schwartz] doing the backup vocals on the later choruses. This [second] one is called, “Only a Man.”
Finally, I’m not sure if you have any use for this, but this is a song that is sort of ABOUT Harris, although he doesn’t play on it. On several occasions, Harris told me that his favorite Hard Taco songs were not the old-timey or celticky ones, but the all-out rockers. He enjoyed this song because it reminded him of one of his favorite bands, Weezer, and because he liked the idea of being personified as a criminal.
A crappy version of this song was first recorded in 1996, shortly after I met him, but the version I’m sending you was a remake from 2003.
for the past couple of months, we have been taking time to apply for grants and start wrapping our heads around fundraising. wish us luck and do let us know of any opportunities that we may be unaware of. this effort is to keep the wulf. going strong. to be sure though, it is the amazing community of composers, performers, and listeners that have helped make the wulf. possible. our main goals are to provide better for the performers (fees, equipment and being able to invite out of town guests) and to offset the costs of the organization.
the time has come to start things up again in full force. see below a detailed list of upcoming events starting with a concert of the music of harris wulfson. nonetheless, keep an eye out at our website and for our emailings about other events that may happen spontaneously.
@ the wulf. 1026 s santa fe ave #203 (code 2-0-3 to enter) la ca 90021 (for directions see below) **entrance on sacramento side**
10.04.09 8:00 pm **Note change of date from 10.02.09
in memoriam harris wulfson.
friends of harris present his music: LiveScore, Durations, lookatmeiamafish, Hell. performed by eric km clark, april guthrie, orin hildestad, danny holt, mark so, cassia streb, christine tavolacci, brian walsh, and michael winter. (followed by a grill out with doctor hildestad as chef.)
see attached an article from Signal To Noise magazine about Harris and LiveScore.
“As it happens I was just starting work on a chamber orchestra piece here when I got the news. I knew that the piece would be inevitably about Harris in some way, and assumed that the logic in that would reveal itself to me as the work took shape as is often the case. But it never did and the piece was extremely difficult to finish because I simply didn’t understand what I was doing. It was clearly not biographical (I didn’t know much about Harris’ past), it had nothing to do with any of the folk music traditions we were both interested in (though it easily could have I suppose.) And it has nothing to the work Harris was doing as an experimental composer. Nevertheless it’s sincere; the reason it was so difficult for me to grasp what the piece was about is because it is an expression of my own inability to fathom what will forever be impossible for me to understand. Like everyone else, I feel privileged to have known Harris, however briefly, and I accept the situation as we all must. But I’ll never sort it out.”
The piece, “Looking for Harris“, will be premiered in Glasgow at Oran Mor on Monday, September 29th by the Scottish Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Peter Cynfryn Jones.
br>Metropolitan Klezmer between sets at Tonic, early 1999: Debby Karpel, Ismail Butera, Michael Hess, Steve Elson, Pam Fleming, Eve Sicular, Dave Hofstra and Harris Wulfson in the wine cellar on the Lower East Side. photo by Dennis Kleiman
Metropolitan Klezmer’s Eve Sicular has kindly allowed me to share some music tracks from two CDs on which Harris played:
Yiddish For Travelers, 1997
Harris performs as guest violinist on tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 12, and 13 (5 & 6 below)
Remembering Harris 7.31.08
Our dear musician comrade and friend, Harris Wulfson, died suddenly last week.We remember him fondly, for his sweetness with the violin and all else. His intellect and humor were tremendous yet unassuming. He had a great smile, endless enthusiasm, and an easy sense of irony. And he just loved music.
Harris had a deep devotion to Yidishkayt, and also applied his talents to his many other interests, such as bluegrass, funk, rap, new and electronic music of types I am at a loss to describe. He could play le jazz hot as well as Irish tunes, Yiddish swing or Bulgarian 11/4, and imbue it all with gorgeous, fun spirit. His gifts could also be heard through mandolin, accordion, guitar, and however else he expressed his natural musicality.
Many of our New York-area fans may remember Harris as our genial guest artist and outstanding soloist on Metropolitan Klezmer shows at Tonic, Makor, Fez, Cornelia Street Cafe, and others; he also appeared as a guest Klezbian on occasion (I will soon post pictures just found again from Harris on an outdoor Isle of Klezbos show in front of St Mark’s Church in 1999). We even created a New Year’s Eve klezmer band once at Caravan of Dreams. His most recent public performance with us was at Nuyorican Poets Cafe last year, a special Isle of Klezbos show; we also enjoyed performing together for recent weddings in Manhattan and verdant settings upstate. If memory serves, he also performed in our accordionist Ismail Butera’s project Sharqija, playing Music of the Silk Road.
Harris had a special ear for music of Eastern Europe, and called certain parts of that region the Klez Belt (as one of his friends posted this week). Anyone who has listened to our first two CDs Yiddish For Travelers and Mosaic Persuasion has heard Harris’ violin stylings on several tracks where he was a featured guest. It was a joy to mix studio sessions he had recorded, every take was a fresh delight. In the MP cover art, he is the soulful young fiddler in the red shirt all the way to the right side of the Metropolitan Klezmer band photo. This 1999 picture, by Dennis Kleiman, can also be seen on MK’s Gallery page, lower left: http://metropolitanklezmer.com/gallery_metro.html
Harris was also the person who first set us up with a website, which he could casually encode in a few minutes during early dot com days. His own creative adventures took him in so many directions, he leaves remarkable memories for us all. He was also a deeply principled, dapper, occasionally yet adorably spacey mentsh who was constantly open to learning.
To learn more about Harris, and hear his very moving and innovative original compositions, here is his own website. (He attended graduate studies at Cal Arts as well as CUNY; one email to me included a p.s. reading: “Dr. Harris eventually.”) http://wulfson.com
He has left us much too soon, but we are grateful for having known him. It is still very hard to believe he will not be here to play with us next time. We miss him deeply and send his family wishes for strength and peace. May his memory continue for a blessing.
~Eve for Metropolitan Klezmer and Isle of Klezbos