L.M. Gottschalk & The Dutch TiltThursday, June 14, 2007
I have written a bit about American composer and piano virtuoso L.M. Gottschalk here and also about my mother's great aunt Buenaventura Galvez Puig. Pianists and piano composers are in my mind these days as I make it a point to put a CD of piano music in the car when I pick up Rebecca on Mondays to take her to her piano lessons. She always wants to know who is playing or the name of the composer. Of late we have been listening to Philip Glass playing his piano sonatas and Erik Satie. I am itching to buy some Gottschalk so she can make the connection through my grandmother Lolita (seen here at left with her aunt Buenaventura, right) to the piano playing heritage of my family.
It was Buenaventura who must have given my mother her first piano lessons. This connection through Lolita is one that will fascinate Rebecca as she knows a lot about her even to my grandmother's fondness for dunking bread smeared with butter, peanut butter and jam in her café con leche.
Today I thought of another angle on L. M. Gottschalk. It is with an American born photographer, James La Bounty who has lived in Vancouver a few more years than my 30. I remember the first time I ever met him (27 years ago) at a Vancouver Magazine monthly contributors' party (we called them piss-ups). I was only then getting started as a magazine photographer and both James La Bounty and Howard Fry were nicely established. The former as an editorial photographer and the latter as a fashion photographer. I asked La Bounty what his home town of San Francisco was like. From his 6ft 4 inch vantage point he looked down on me and with a perfectly modulated FM radio voice he told me, "It's much like Vancouver except the streets go up and down and they have cable cars." He then turned around and moved away. It wasn't too long after that incident that my star began to rise in Vancouver Magazine as his began to decline. But La Bounty always got the lucrative annual reports and the travel assignments I rarely got. In my thirty years in Vancouver I have seen many photographers come and go. Some have stayed. But the only photographer who had and has a style all his own, a style I don't always understand but always admire, is La Bounty. If I ever felt that I had to compete for work by doing my best I have always had La Bounty in my mind.
La Bounty was also first in photographic approaches that we adopted only later. He was the first to tilt the horizon (Dutch Tilt). He was also the first to state that he did not shoot straight portraits as his were conceptual portraits. I thought at the time that he was a bit too lofty in conceit to call his style that. I would now not think twice about stating that I shoot conceptual photographs.
If La Bounty didn't completely push me aside with his superior photographic talent it was in that he had a "tragic" flaw. This tragic flaw is only as I see it. I am sure he sees it differently. I have always thought myself an efficient commercial photographer, no more and no less. La Bounty had three facets. He was a commercial photographer, an art photographer and a composer pianist. My theory is that he channeled his energies three ways.
In my 30 plus years in Vancouver La Bounty is the only person who not only knew who Gottschalk was but also knew he had been born in New Orleans an that those two first initials stood for Louis Moreau.
As for Morte! the legend is that it was the last music Gottschalk (who was terminally ill) played at a concert in Rio de Janeiro on November 25, 1869. Actually it was the last complete work he ever played as he had begun his Tremolo when he had to stop.