Joe Catalano (1952-1998)

Listen Deeply Beauty
Surrounds You



Joe Catalano's works in the
Deep Listening Catalog

From Wendy Burch

Joe Catalano, composer/performer, passed away at home on May 27, 1998, of a brain tumor, with his wife Wendy Jeanne Burch at his side.

Joe was born in Elmira, NY on November 29, 1952. He attended St. Joseph's Collegiate High School in Buffalo, N.Y., received a B.A. in Music at the University of Buffalo, and received his Masters Degree in Musicology at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. He and his wife Wendy were married on July 2, 1988 in San Francisco, CA.

As a composer and performer, Joe was primarily concerned with drawing the listener's attention to long time structures, forms occurring in the natural world, and the archaeological record. He wrote music for the concert hall, theater, film, and gallery spaces, using various instruments including keyboard, electronic drones and harmonics, piano and harpsichord, harmonic singing, the didjeridoo, and an instrument he invented, The Spirit Stick, as well as many others. He was also a member of the Didjeridoo Ensemble, and the Strawberry Creek String Band, where he played guitar and didjeridoo.

His most recent theater/film music was written in collaboration with John DiStefano for Kwan and Iger's Pins and Noodles, premiered at Center for the Arts Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco, CA, in November of 1993 which was transformed into a film and premiered on PBS's series POV in May of 1997. In November of 1994, DreamFrame for guitar was premiered at Roulette, NYC.

Joe was currently developing and performing variations of As Oceans Curve as well as his most recent work, An Arc of Gathering: The Mississippi River at Minneapolis, St. Louis and New Orleans. The first of these and Joe's last performance was performed in March of 1997 in Minneapolis at the Red Eye Theatre. These are nine hour performance/installation pieces. These series of site specific sound installations are a meditation on different aspects of the physical and psychic nature of the world's oceans and the Mississippi River, as well as the physical space in which the pieces are performed. Joe performed with his wife, poet and musician Wendy Jeanne Burch in their collaborative piece, Traffic Prayers, which is a meditation upon the bardos, written about in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, at Stoa Gallery in Petaluma, at Pauline Oliveros NonStop Flight (now available on CD) as well as various performances throughout California.

During January of 1992 he created and produced YesterDay Foretold/Ayer PreSagio, a multi-media theater piece with visual artist Charles Rose at the Mission Theater/Teatro Mision, in San Francisco whose temporal form is based on the meso-american 52 year calendar and whose content is the retelling of the eight dark omens experienced by the inhabitants of Mexico city 10 years before the invasion of Cortez in 1519.

In October of 1992, Joe conceived and organized a six-city live, interactive teleconferenced concert of experimental music, poetry and performance art between The Experimental Intermedia Foundation, New York, NY; Phil Davis' Shadow Productions Houston, TX; Pauline Oliveros Foundation - The Parlour, Kingston, NY; The Homestead parlor home of Joe Catalano and Wendy Burch, Oakland CA; The Electronic Cafe, International, Los Angeles; and The Interarts Consortium, UCSD La Jolla; featuring the work of 50 artists including, among others, Robert Ashley, Linda Montano, Charles Amirkhanian and Pauline Oliveros. The event is documented in the article Electronic Midwifery: A Videophone Celebration of Pauline Oliveros's Four Decades of Composing and Community by Joe Catalano in Leonardo Music Journal, Vol.3, pp.29-34, 1993.

Joe's other major works include Five Terrestrial Projections for Guitar and Other Instruments , a set of five major chamber pieces for guitar premiered at New Langton Arts, San Francisco, CA and It's In The Cards, an evening length Multi-Media, multi-artist musical performance work based solely on mail art presented at The Lab in San Francisco, CA.

Joe was actively involved in many events presenting other artists. In 1992 he conceived and curated the annual High Tides: San Francisco New Music Festival of Bay Area Composers, presented by the Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco, featuring new works by Bay Area composers and sound artists. For many years he and his wife Wendy have been presenting The Homestead Series, which they organized and held in their home, presenting musicians, poets, and other artists. His wife plans to continue this popular series.

Joe was also employed at the UC Berkeley Music Library.

He was survived by his wife, Wendy Jeanne Burch, his Mother and Father Luise and Leonard Catalano, two brothers Michael and James and sister Marie. His ashes are buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Piedmont, CA. Joe requested that the words to one of his compositions be placed on his marker: Listen Deeply, Beauty Surrounds You.

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From Pauline Oliveros

We met in 1986 through His Emminence Tai Situ Rinpoche in San Francisco. Joe - you came to the workshops that I gave for three nights under the auspices of Rinpoche's Maitreya Instutute. Your presence in the workshops was outstanding. In the following years we met again and I met Wendy as I returned each year to Maitreya Institute. After you and Wendy married you moved from San Francisco to Oakland where you now live on Jordan St. You communicated with me by email from time to time from your job in the library at UC Berkeley.

In June 1991 you and Wendy attended the first Deep Listening Retreat on Rose Mountain. I have a photo of you Joe in Moon Meadow dancing with your shadow in front of a big boulder. You and Wendy are prominent in a group photo on the big boulder in the meadow where we gathered for Wendy's reading. You both helped to initiate the first Deep Listening Retreat in your beautiful ways.

In November 1991 Joe you coordinated my Forty Years of Composing - a celebration involving six cities in a video telephone hookup. Remember the six city improvisation? You made that celebration possible with your organizing of the technology. There are video tapes from the six sites. Your article Electronic Midwifery describing the celebration and the technology was published in Leonardo Music Journal. What a happy occasion for me.

Both Ione and I performed in your Homestead Series on Jordan St. in your home. What lovely occasions these Homesteads were. How wonderful to gather people together for sharing food and art in an intimate surrounding.

You organized a get together of Deep Listeners in the Red Woods when I came to the Mills in 1995. We had a wonderful picnic and a Sonic Meditation with about twenty people in that deep grove.

Out of the goodness of your heart you volunteered to be the web manager for the Pauline Oliveros Foundation Web Site. You did a marvelous job and helped so much to bring more order to the site.

You composed Listen Deeply Beauty Surrounds You especially for the Tenth Anniversary of Pauline Oliveros Foundation. What a beautiful score with the map of Kingston in the center with mandalas on each side.- the coordinates for the rising of the Milky Way just as the concert was to begin and the lovely sound meditation we performed. It was a marvelous gift. The score is hanging in our Gallery at Deep Listening Space now.

Joe you came to Deep Listening Retreat again in 1996 - Wendy was too busy to attend because of her very successful new business - Mother's Care for Dogs. Your presence in the Retreat had a lot of impact - your kindness - caring and musicianship is well remembered by everyone. Wendy's clients all love her and so do the dogs!

In the Fall of 1996 I taught Deep Listening as an undergraduate course at Mills College. You were a very effective guest instructor. The Gift of the Didjeridu - a poem written for you by class member Chris McClelland is a beautiful testimony to your impact on the class. (This poem is in the DEEPL archive).

You and Wendy were both guest artists with the Deep Listening Band at Mills that same semester. Your performance is included on the CD forthcoming from Music and Arts - Non Stop Flight: A Trope on 4'33".

Joe you organized the High Tides Festival for the Intersection in San Francisco for several years presenting composers that you felt passionately about. Your work created a much needed forum for many composers - a real service to community. You did this despite the full time work at the library and some sacrafice concerning your own composing.

Here is your own description of your work for DL Cerification which you once gave me permission to quote:

Dear Pauline! The Arc of Gathering piece (the Mississippi River piece) begins this coming Saturday 3/8 in Minneapolis at the Redeye theater. On the eve of the Mississippi River piece I feel that I'd like to use this project as a DL project for certification. I'll be documentating it in unusual ways. Keeping journals, field recordings, and a ton of images I've been collecting all relating to the river. The St. Louis performance will be 4/26 next month but I've yet to secure a New Orleans site but I know I will. It is just a matter of time and timing. So, if it meets your approval, I'd like to enter into the certification process and include An Arc of Gathering as a project. Each performance in each of the three cities will last nine hours. Nine hours of continuous sound, continuous listening. The piece is literally a listening to the river and the city at each of these three points on the river. This listening to the site forms the content of each performance. The entire project is a meditation on the Mississippi River system and the cultures that inhabit it. Wish me luck in this project as, on the eve of this river journey, I feel soberingly overwhelmed and humbled by the hugness of the task. Can I do the project justice, a justice that it deserves? This is what weighs heaviest on my mind now. Doing right by the piece and thoes who have supported it up to this point. It is an honoring of the river. A bringing attention to the river. A long prayer really. Wish me luck! Hearing Fearlessly and with Love, Joe

Joe your work is listed in the Deep Listening Catalog and it will continue to be a wonderful resource for Deep Listeners.

Thank you Joe and Wendy for the invaluable contributions you have made to my life and work. I really appreciate the support and love that has emmanated from you both. Your courage and forbearance at this time is inspiring to say the least. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Wendy and so beautifully. Despite the pain and suffering your gift is shining for all of us and will help us with our own encounters with transformation.

My thoughts and prayers are ever with you.



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Message channeled by Anne Burne on May 27, 1998, when Joe died:

"'You know,
It's like a river,
like being in a river,
all is like a river,
and if the river is..., if ou are troubled by the river,
if the river troubles you,
then you've got to get yourself
'out of there'
which is 'flow'
just flow in the river, as part of the river...which isn't really getting yourself anywhere, because when you think you're at the end of the river.. '
(I see a wide mouth a bay a widening of a body of water .... water rising in the air)

'...when you think you're at the end, you're at the beginning again' (clouds rising over the mountains misit teardrops of rain
the source)
''and then you are back i the river again,
which means you haven't really gone anywhere
So you don't need to do as much as just flow, be the river,
let the river be for you, of you."

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