July 4, 2008
Roughly four years ago, I was walking down a street in Manhattan with Jonathan Newman, and he told me about a title idea he had for a piece: “Asphalt Cocktail.” I stopped in my tracks and begged him to let me have that title. He said no.
It turned out that the title was the brainchild of Jonathan’s wife, Melissa, and that when she proposed the title to him, he said he could never write a piece with such a title. “Nobody would ever play a piece called Asphalt Cocktail,” was his thinking. He pointed out that students would reduce the title to a vulgarity like “AssCock” or something like that — as if that built-in marketing approach were a bad thing.
So the years passed, and I kept asking Jonathan for the title. He kept refusing, seeming to know that it was a great title and one that shouldn’t just be passed off, even if he wasn’t confident that a piece with that title would ever be touched by any conductor. I insisted it would. “Come on,” I would plead, “that’s a Mackey title! Pleeeeeease! Let me have it. Pleeeeeeaaase!” No.
I’ve known since I heard that title what that piece needs to be. I can totally imagine it. AEJ and I had even talked about how “Asphalt Cocktail” would be structured. (She has a great idea for it — more about that in the future.) Finally, a few months ago, I became desperate. I sent Jonathan the following email:
Can I please use your “Asphalt Cocktail” title? Pretty, pretty please? I’ll buy all of your drinks at Midwest! I’ll house you in Austin if we ever get a house!
I’m dying to write “Asphalt Cocktail.” I’ve wanted to do it for three years (or is it four?), since you first thought of it! Now it’s making me crazy. I’ll even give you a cut of any commission fee I can get out of it. Back end, even! Anything!!!
To my relief, Jonathan wrote back, and he said yes. Fortunately, he didn’t take me up on my offer for a percentage of either the front or back-end.
Thanks to Newman’s generosity, “Asphalt Cocktail” will premiere next March at the CBDNA National Convention, performed by the Michigan State University Wind Symphony, conducted by Kevin Sedatole. The work, solely commissioned by MSU donor Howard J. Gourwitz as a gift to Dr. Sedatole, will be roughly 8 minutes in length, and it will open their concert.