By Pauline Oliveros
May 1999, Oberlin Review
Well – Evangelism has happened today in Tappan Square. I was hoping for a good excuse to go outside when Corey Dargel called and asked if I would like to come to Tappan Square and do some improvisation with a preacher who was going strong.
At first I declined as I am on deadline with a piece. Corey said he was going to get his Toy Pianos and was wondering how to go about the improvisation. I suggested that he take his Toy Pianos and accompany Brother Jed. Corey called Yvan Greenberg to come out too. By then I realized that this was an opportunity not to be missed: I could do my work on the grass in the sun, listen to some Bible thumping with accompaniment and dance and get educated on several different levels. Maybe as a composer I could pick some Evangelical educational strategies to educate my public. What could be better though than to go out side on a beautiful day?
“God Loves and Creates Queers” by Corey Dargel, Yvan Greenberg and Brother Jed Smock:
As Corey passed by this colorful monument in Tappan Square Brother Jed spotted his red nail polish and said “What color are your nails?” Corey held them up so Brother Jed could see them. “Red nail polish means that you are gay and spreading AIDS. Black nail polish means that you are shooting kids and throwing bombs”. Corey blew Brother Jed a kiss and headed for the telephone to call me and get his toy pianos.
I arrived in Tappan Square about 3:45pm. As I approached the site I could see Brother Jed waving his arms and I could hear the tinkle of the Toy Pianos. Corey had two – one for each hand with very interesting tuning discrepancies. As I arrived I could hear the patterns clearly supporting Brother Jed’s sermon.
“You students are only interested in lust not love.” What is love Brother Jed? “Love is self denial.” Can you tell us more about love? “Love is self denial and helping others.”
Corey held his ground with the accompaniment supporting the speech patterns. Brother Jed rose to the occasion and did some shouting. “All you Oberlin students are interested in is lust!!”
When Corey initially sat down with his Toy Pianos and began Brother Jed said to him “If you had a conscience you would know that playing the piano while someone else is talking is wrong.”
The duo seemed to be locking in together very smoothly. There was no trouble to hear either one of the performers clearly. I worked away at my timings for Antigone’s Dream. (I have to deliver the CD by May 14!) Brother Jed confronted a student who was reading a book nearby. “What are you reading?” “Faust” said the student. Brother Jed said “Are you going to have an exam?” The student nodded. Brother Jed went into a parable about the real final exam that is coming to us all and how we better get prepared for that! He was laying into the fear thing real hard and Corey held steady with his accompaniment.
Out of the corner of my eye appeared a figure in white. It was Yvan Greenberg moving slowly across the green and passing near Brother Jed. He quietly, adeptly picked up Brother Jed’s suitcase. Brother Jed when he noticed yanked it away and moved his chair more toward Corey and I. Yvan continued his slow walk. He turned a right angle and was holding a toy pistol straight out passing in back of Brother Jed at a distance of about 15 feet. Brother Jed missed that one.
I finished my timings for Antigone and turned to reading The Chronicle of Higher Education which I had borrowed from the Dean’s office on my way to Tappan Square. This April issue had a headline about Professor’s salaries. I wanted to find out if I am being paid correctly according to my level and gender. Corey was really getting deeply into his patterns – the notes were flying, interlocking and urging the obviously tired Evangelist on. By now – about an hour later – Orion Keyser had joined the music with his whistling. Nice timbral reinforcement and captivating. I believe a kind of appreciation was developing here. Brother Jed seemed to realize that Cory’s music was attracting people and also enhancing his presence and effect.
As Brother Jed was winding down the performance was gathering more steam. He couldn’t seem to muster the shouting style though and was beginning to mellow out and sit down more. I was beginning to tap my foot in sync with the nice driving beat of the music. Yvan was in a crucified pose against a tree some distance back – a beautiful purity emanating from his relationship to the tree and the green grass all around in his whites.
Jarred McAdams began to ask some hard questions. “Some of our best questions come from Oberlin students” says Brother Jed. By this time his chair was only a few feet from Corey and the Toy Pianos. Corey was really wailing. Brother Jed seemed more and more relaxed and even had a slight smile on his face. Then he opened his case and brought out his books to sell to the students: Who Will Survive?: A Guide to Confrontational Evangelism.
He showed us pictures in the book of Oberlin students and especially of “the little woman” explaining that he at 56 was expressing himself physically with his 21 year old wife (They met when she became a member of his congregation and he had explained to her how sinful she was). Their union is not lustful unlike the majority of Oberlin student who Brother Jed claims are only interested in lust. “The primary purpose of sex is to produce human beings.” They have five children and he wants to make more – “The wife and I need to populate the world with people who think like I do.”
Well there you have it. Who educated who to what? I finished up reading about superstrings, Brother Jed wailed away with his cohort and Corey ended his piece.
I loved it!