Remembering David Wessel – Matthew Goodheart
Speaking about the death of someone is like speaking about music. There is no way to voice the totality – each utterance may point toward some real thing, but the whole recedes and remains unsounded. I have tried to find a way to speak about David– that he was a complex timbre in the music of the world, that we have lost a giant, that we have lost a compatriot, that we have lost a friend, that we have lost a visionary, that we have lost. . . it is what gets stuck in the throat that becomes its own articulation: death is a generative absence. One can begin to list David’s import; that he helped found the field of psychoacoustics, that he demonstrated how timbre was central to our hearing of the world, that he helped shape the nature of computer music and instrument design, that he founded one of the most important computer music centers in the world, that he worked closely with many of the great artists of the last half-century, that he gave spaces to perform to international and local musicians alike, that he inspired generations of students from music and neuroscience and computer science and. . . Or one could talk about him personally; that he was as in love with the sensual world as he was with the intellectually esoteric, that he made no personal distinction if you were a “giant in your field” or a “just some interested person”, that his stories would flow smoothly from Pierre Boulez to the sauce he was using on his barbecued ribs, that as a young man his VW Beetle had no surface undented because he kept mallets and drumsticks inside so that everyone could “play the car” as he drove, that he loved music, loved to make music with others, and made some damn good music in his time.
There is no way to voice this totality. He will not make sound again. I have watched in these last days how word of his death has literally spread across the world, and how waves of grief have reverberated back. He will make no sound again. But the resonances of who he was—that still vibrates the living and shapes the sound of what we, and generations to come, will say when our voices will allow.
Be sure to view these wonderful videos of David Wessel, performing with Jon Raskin, Matthew Goodheart and Vladimir Tarasov: How Many Electrons On A Head Of A Pin, and also with long-time collaborator, Roscoe Mitchell: Duo with David Wessel