remembering Grant Beglarian | 1 Dec 1927 – 5 Jul 2002

Today is the anniversary of my father’s death, so to mark the day I unpacked one of the many unopened boxes of his papers that I’ve got up here in Vermont. The box was materials relating to a project he led in the 1960s.

The Contemporary Music Project, funded by the Ford Foundation, put young composers in schools around the country, where they wrote music for the school bands and choruses and sometimes a bit of chamber music as well. The roster ultimately included something like eighty composers (of whom the most well-known is Philip Glass, one of whose pieces is a childrens’ chorus number called Dreamy Kangaroo, something I’d really like to hear!)

According to the files I have in front of me, there were precisely two women composers on the roster: Emma Lou Diemer and Elaine M. Erickson, although it’s interesting to note that Lisa Bielawa‘s father Herb, and my own father were both participants, so maybe the program fostered women composers one generation removed? I hope so! (If you were a student at one of these schools and grew up to be a musician, I’d love to hear from you.)

One interesting outgrowth of the program is that it clarified how comprehensive musicianship skills are needed to work happily with contemporary music. My father gave a talk on that subject of comprehensive music education in 1966, something I was too young to read or remember at the time, but I very much enjoyed reading today. If you work with students or you are a student of music, you might like to read it yourself!

not enough to admire

It is not enough to admire the art of North American Indians; Western man must rediscover the spiritual sources of this art in himself. And until this is done, the power of the sacred will remain out of reach, and the anxiety of Western man living in time will continue to haunt his soul.
Jane Ash Poitras (Cree-Chipewyan)
in Plains Indian Drawings 1865-1935
ed. Janet Catherine Berlo
page 69
Black Hawk Dream or Vision of Himself Changed to a Destroyer or Riding a Buffalo Eagle (1880-81)
Black Hawk (Sans Arc Lakota)
Dream or Vision of Himself Changed to a Destroyer or Riding a Buffalo Eagle (1880-81)


Bear's Heart Troops Amassed Against a Cheyenne Village (1876-77)
Bear’s Heart (Cheyenne)
Troops Amassed Against a Cheyenne Village (1876-77)


Red Horse (Minneconjou Lakota Sioux, 1822-1907), Untitled from the Red Horse Pictographic Account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, 1881. Graphite, colored pencil, and ink. NAA MS 2367A_08569900. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Red Horse (Minneconjou Lakota Sioux, 1822-1907), Untitled from the Red Horse Pictographic Account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, 1881. Graphite, colored pencil, and ink. NAA MS 2367A_08569900. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution


Julian Scott Ledger Artist B Twelve High-Ranking Kiowa Men (1880)
Julian Scott Ledger Artist B
Twelve High-Ranking Kiowa Men (1880)

on being armenian

Grant Beglarian

A couple of months ago, I found a cassette copy of a radio talk my father gave in 1975 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, which is traditionally remembered on April 24th each year. (On that day in 1915, the Ottoman authorities arrested hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople and deported and killed many of them. It was one small outburst in a “nation-building” project that began in the 1890s and continued into the 1920s.)

As a second-generation half-member of the far-flung diaspora created by these events, I know I have been formed by them, even though I will never know the details of my grandparents’ and aunts’ and uncles’ and cousins’ stories.

I’m inviting you to listen to my father’s words: in On Being Armenian, he manages to dream forward while honoring the past. I have posted his radio program as audio and with a transcription, and I have added some photographs, links, and notes to give you additional context. Please feel free to share this widely: I would love for his voice to be heard!

the kaftan era

For the last couple of weeks, I have taken to starting my day by choosing and scanning around forty photographs from the nine cubic feet of totally disorganized photo boxes here in Spencer’s LA house.

Today’s selection included a few polaroids that I took with this very cool white plastic camera I got for maybe my tenth birthday (that would be 1968.) [okay, I just checked: it was a polaroid swinger, and here’s an advertisement for one. too cool!]

Here are my parents opening gifts at the breakfast table. I can’t remember what the occasion would have been: Grant and Joyce’s birthdays were at the opposite ends of December, and I don’t remember ever opening Xmas gifts at the breakfast table. Could it have been their wedding anniversary? Not impossible, as my friend Dembski would say.

That’s Spencer looking on at Joycie’s gift, of course.

Next, we have a picture of Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg with my father, on a deck in Amagansett, where Stefan had a place. He was an amazing person, a true polymath: mathematician, conductor, attorney, et al. You can read more about him here. I remember a really fun evening at Gene’s Restaurant on 11th Street with him and my father just before Stefan died in the mid-90s.

Check Grant’s kaftan poncho thing along with the excellent white socks.

Here’s an extra shot in honor of Bill Morrison:

And finally, here are two portraits of my parents in full late-60s regalia, kaftan and nehru jacket, with my father sporting this fabulous little short-lived goatee:

There’s an enlargement of a color photograph taken the same night. It hung along the staircase for forty years: first in the Los Angeles house and then in Scarborough. I think the big version, strangely washed out in color, is still around somewhere, and I’m sure I’ll also come across the original photograph eventually. I’ll post it when I do.

But in the meantime, I opened Spencer’s hall closet the other day and came upon this:

Yup, the nehru jacket my father was wearing in those portraits, which was moved from Glen Rock, NJ to Los Angeles to Scarborough, NY, to Broome Street, Manhattan, and back to Los Angeles, CA.

It needs a new home now. If any among you develops a burning desire for a 43-year-old green and yellow and beige paisley nehru jacket that fits a person the size of my father or brother, you know who to ask!

first portrait

I’m going through stuff here in Spencer’s house in LA.

physically, I mean — but of course in every way.

there are thousands of books, not really exaggerating — only half the books from our parents’ house, but still, way too many books. I’m not capable of just dealing with them wholesale: I go through each one, deciding which to keep, which to sell on Amazon, which to donate. I enjoy the process, really: finding Joyce’s annotations in Virginia Woolf, a copy of an obscure anarchist novel next to pretentious right-wing Russell Kirk (my parents’ politics are inscrutable), it’s all cool.

so here’s what I came upon in a copy of Jim (not yet James) Beard’s Casserole Cookbook of 1955:

Here’s what I can tell you about this piece of paper. The writing is my father’s, from the summer of 1958, and it’s a slightly mysterious set of accounts of income he expects for August of 1958. I can figure out Interlochen (where he taught that summer), and various music publishers: Holt, E B [Marks], Peters, for whom he did music copying work. Here’s a close up view of the accounts:

The reverse side is a blank form (mimeographed I think), for the service music choices at the First Methodist Church in Plymouth, MI, where my mother was the organist. (I was baptized there in October of 1958.)

So of course, the line drawing below can be none other than a pre-natal portrait of me by my father. I was born 22 July 1958, and my guess is that he was working out the numbers to be sure he could pay the hospital bill for my birth.

I love this portrait of a fetus reading. love it completely. and it makes me patient with this whole process of sorting through books. but I guess I was set up to be bookish from the start, no?!