Tinman Too: A Life Explored

Tinman Too: A Life Explored

by David Cope


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Continuing the insights into the creative processes of contemporary composer David Cope, Tinman Too presents another 150 vignettes from the author's life begun in his previous book Tinman. Some of the notable individuals discussed in this innovative autobiography are Alfred Hitchcock, Buckminster Fuller, Benoit Mandelbrot, Vincent Price, Jerry Lewis, and Philip José Farmer. Tinman Too offers a fond music journey including encounters with William Schuman, Max Mathews, Lejaren Hiller, John Adams, Donald Erb, Mort Subotnick, Walter Piston, Karel Husa, and Witold Lutosławski.

The title, borrowed from L. Frank Baum's book The Wizard of Oz, is an aphorism affectionately attached to Cope in the late 1990s. The reference reflects the many attitudes about his work with his computer music program, Experiments in Musical Intelligence; critics felt the results of this program lack heart.

Though Tinman Too covers many other aspects of Cope's life-from his love of the cello, to his days as a graduate student at the University of Southern California, and to his work as a composer, author, and teacher-the main theme centers on his search for self-identity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781475950670
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/25/2012
Pages: 544
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.21(d)

Read an Excerpt

Tinman Too

A Life Explored
By David Cope

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 David Cope
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4759-5067-0

Chapter One

Forest of the Night

by approaching them with SignAls, we were iNtelligent but deFective, because without noticing the soldieR's music ANd the rites of war we hid the slain, from this time forth, and beCause I waS not able to overCOme my effort.


I was born in 1941, just a few months before the attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entry into WW II. I don't remember much about those early years except for my introduction to the piano at a very early age, the pain of asthma, along with the doctors' attempts to limit its effects, and Culver City near Los Angeles, where my parents lived until 1946, when they were forced to move to an arid climate to keep me alive.

I also remember my favorite possession during that time—a quadricycle covered in an aluminum skin painted like a Flying Tiger airplane. Many of the authentic ones were then busy winning the war in the Pacific. I loved my Flying Tiger, and everyone in the neighborhood knew me as the little boy pedaling a tiger, since, aside from practicing the piano, sleeping, and eating, I seemed always to be riding around in it. I'm also sure that many who witnessed this found it mysterious, since it neither flew nor resembled a tiger, except for the painted one on its nose.

My parents took many photos of me in my Flying Tiger. I enjoy viewing them occasionally even now, for the memories take me back to a time during which—aside from constant physical afflictions—life seemed more simple and exciting. These pictures, at least those that I still have, show me smiling broadly, proud of my indirect participation in the war effort, and attempting to look like John Wayne in his plane from the movie Flying Tigers, filmed around that time.

My experiences with the quadricycle tiger came to an abrupt end when we moved to Arizona, however. I was never sure why, because the moving van that packed our family's furniture seemed plenty big enough to include it. But the tiger never made it to Goodyear, and my life in an imaginary sky came to an end.

I immediately asked my parents what had happened to my Flying Tiger. My mother took a lot of time answering—a giveaway for when she was making something up, or preparing to lie. She finally told me I'd crashed my tiger into a tree and demolished it. I couldn't remember this happening and told her so. I've long since forgotten her exact reply, though it went something like, "You've probably erased it from your memory to avoid the pain." I didn't believe her for one minute. Foul play was at work, but I had no idea what kind.

My father couldn't lie or even pretend very well and told me that it was too hot in Arizona to ride it anyway. At age three, my sister had no more idea than I what had happened to it, but I wouldn't have expected her to.

And so my days as a wannabe pilot were over, at least as far as being a Flying Tiger were concerned.

Sometimes, even today, I look back on those events and at the photos and wonder what fate my Flying Tiger met. Does someone still ride around in it? Or has it been melted back to basics and now forms parts of other toys that children enjoy? And on and on. Occasionally, when reviewing the pictures for the umpteenth time, I consider scouring the Internet to see what I can discover. There's so much information available today. But I don't. Part of me worries, I think, that I might find it. And God forbid I should discover the word "Rosebud" painted in small letters somewhere on it.

the obscurity of the subject arising from the forest above, there is no intention to investigate here the righteousness by which he doth judge to make war, and can also be comprehended by his mind.

Chapter Two

Model T

at first, i could distinguisH nO people at all, though i peered intently at them. would that you at such times seeing me never shall one moving body across the sky break the skull that had a tongue, and could see his feet as pillars of fire.


The first car I remember my father driving was a black Model T Ford. He'd bought it used and spent most of his driving going back and forth between Goodyear, Arizona, where we lived for a while, and Phoenix, about thirty miles east. I don't actually remember being driven anywhere in this antiquity, but it's likely I was.

One day in 1948, my father left for work early in the morning, as was his custom. According to him, he stopped to fill up with gas in Goodyear, since there were no other stations from there until Phoenix. About a third of the way to work he realized that the station attendant had forgotten to replace the gas tank cap. Before he could stop, the passenger in a passing car flipped a lighted match out the window and into the open tank. He quickly pulled off the road and escaped before the old Model T exploded.

An exciting story, and one I'm sure my dad felt was true. He never lied, even to embellish a potentially exciting story. The truth is, though, that a lighted match entering a full tank of gas will just go out. Even if the cigarette had ignited the gas, the fire wouldn't have lasted long for lack of oxygen. Most likely, the cigarette landed on the backseat and set the cushion on fire. Either way, however, our transportation had gone up in smoke. Literally.

This, of course, became the inspiration for the Copes to purchase a new car. Or a newer used car, more likely. And we did. I remember it as a big, green, low-to-the-ground Ford something. It also had a radio, antenna, soft seats, separate roll-down windows in the back, air vents, and so on. This car so impressed my sister and me that we couldn't wait for my dad to return from work each day so we could go for drives. It even smelled great.

The lure of evening drives wore off over time, of course, but the memories linger. Even now I remember traveling back and forth several times a night between Goodyear and Litchfield Park, the little town to our north near Luke Air Force Base. And the vacations we took to California in it. Particularly stopping for lunch at a little restaurant below Mount San Jacinto, a great granite mountain just south of Beaumont or Banning, I forget which. Unfortunately, that restaurant burned down. Or the time we spent an unexpected night in a small motel room because the road had been blocked by a large truck loaded with hay burning in the night.

the very conveyances of his lands Will scarcELy Lie in his palCe, and the inheritOr himself no more time than qualifies the sPark and firE of it.

Chapter Three


for the devil has come down unto you. for he suffers that father lOsT and tHE Survivor found. i will for tHAt purpose anoint my sworD.


Before television came to our house, radio reigned supreme. I spent most of my time listening to washing machine static on my shortwave radio, using the dipole antenna I'd built. I was sure this static contained patterns representing evidence of life elsewhere than on earth. Unfortunately, however, there were many times during the week, mostly in the evenings, when certain regular radio shows were mandatory. The entire family had to listen.

Topping the list of these mandatory programs was You Bet Your Life, with Groucho Marx. This show, which lasted for years on radio and then on television, had a quiz-show format, with Groucho making it all worthwhile with his jokes and puns. Groucho was followed by Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, and less frequently by Sergeant Preston of the Yukon Mounties, Superman, the Cisco Kid, and many more of their ilk.

Those were the days when even adults sat staring into space, listening attentively to comedies and melodramas for hours on end. Many of the voices we heard had unique qualities that we could identify without hesitation by ear. Fred Allen, for example, had a nasal twang to his speech. Funny, no matter what he said. The same with Tallulah Bankhead, whose growling voice had us rolling on the floor.

And, of course, this was the era of imagination. While we knew that the actors stood in front of microphones reciting prescribed lines with sound effects to make things seem real, it didn't make a difference. Our imaginations made it all realistic.

Along came television, however, and things changed. Radio became music and news, and television took over the comedies and sitcoms. But Old Time Radio, dubbed OTR by those in the know, lives on. Many sites on the Internet provide thousands of OTR shows for geezers like me to listen to again and again, reviving the wonderful programs we heard in our youths. It's even better now, actually, because we no longer need to wait a week between shows but can pick and choose among them whenever we wish.

Is this just fondness for our childhoods, or was it truly a golden age? Many feel strongly it's the latter. I wouldn't believe them, for their average age is most likely seventy, and most of my students find it a sorry state of affairs to have to listen to such drivel without pictures.

and call it tO define true madness. i could not see that you are naught. and the play has only been started and We maKe mistaKes. i've read that iN sOme book, but i don't remember which one. Were that thoSe who hold to the mathematical argument would think of accePting tHOse that play clowns, speaking no more than is set down for them.

Chapter Four

"Für Elise"

he stopped astride the fence, in doubt as he looked anxiously over his shoulder, as he spoke let hercules himself do what he may. and as soon as ever we told him there did seem in him a kind of JOy to wHich he may coNTribute in a special way to my present undertaking. for tHat new piece Of Music.


When my mother bought her first piano—an upright—she shoved it against the other side of my bedroom wall. I thought this no big deal. After all, the music her young students played was the music I liked. Mozart, Haydn, Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, and so on. The classics I listened to anyway on our old 78-RPM record player. Little did I know then what this would eventually mean to my life.

Before the first week of students had finished their lessons, I had an inkling of what was in store for me. Each of them had taken up "Für Elise" by Beethoven—a simple little ditty with a cute tune to it, but nothing of substance, at least as far as I was concerned. It didn't really matter, though. For even if it had been his fifth symphony, it wouldn't have made a difference. Something played in that many wrong ways that many times gets on your nerves. Big-time.

By the end of the second week, I even hated the title. Of course, I had no idea who Elise was, or why Beethoven had written this piece for her, but I began hating her, as well as hating Beethoven, the students, the publisher, and the piano. I figured I wasn't allowed to hate my mother, so I let that one go.

As the weeks turned to months and the months, years, I got away from it for a while by going to college and graduate school. After that, I met my wife, married her, and soon found myself listening all over again to "Für Elise." (She too is a piano teacher.) At different tempos, mostly with the same mistakes, and more times than there are grains of sand on the earth. Maybe in the universe. And it continues to this day. We have a grand piano now, and our bedroom, where I occasionally sleep late, is just above that piano on the second floor, where I can hear the notes loud and clear. In the next room is my studio where I can hear them as well. Softer, I admit, but hear them nonetheless.

I have now listened to all or part of "Für Elise" more times than any human should have to endure. And none of the performances have been correct. No matter how much I pull in favor of the students getting the notes right, it never happens. I'm not sure I even know the right order anymore. I certainly don't care. I wear earplugs when it gets to me. But even then, since I know it's "Für Elise" they're playing, I hear it messed up in my head.

Most of the composers that lived after Beethoven went crazy in one way or another. Maybe they too had just heard "Für Elise" one too many times. I don't know. But I do know that I never want to hear it again. Right or wrong. But if I must, I'm going to do my best not to run screaming from my house and into the mountains above Santa Cruz, wailing about the torturous nightmare that one Ludwig van Beethoven has cruelly put me through by composing that damnable piece of music.

his life as the best actor in the world, either for tragedy or the imminent death of twenty thousand men. will i make a Pillar in the temple of my god? the foul crimeS dONe in my days of nature on a musical or pictorial impression.

Chapter Five

White Tank

thus the force of the same load-stone is greater at less distance. but through the twilight, the jutting arches left in ruins gave that dignity and testament that leads us back to the argument of consciousness, and from afar the idea of surprise. besides all this i could see all the way down the snow-capped MountAiN.


Summers in Phoenix often bring temperatures above 120 degrees, so hot that, even with the lack of humidity, people are driven indoors. In the early 1950s, this meant that few even drove, as this was long before refrigeration in cars. The city grew quiet under the baking sun.

After four in the afternoon, however, things got cooler, and residents began peeking their noses out of their front doors and going outside again. Occasionally that meant that the Copes took a drive. With the car windows open. Once in a great while, we even had picnics in the desert.

I remember just such an event taking place at the south end of the White Tank Mountains, so named for the large water storage tank standing on their highest peak. Special occasions like this one meant hot dogs roasted over an open fire, followed by burnt marshmallows. What fun!

Since the sun didn't disappear for several hours after our early dinner, I looked around for something to do. I always had to do something. Sitting and thinking, or whatever people do when they remain stationary, was not in my vocabulary. So I decided, for whatever reason, to create a trail. From the edge of our campground up the side of the mountain. I also decided it should be a really good trail—completely smooth, so no one would stumble. And lined with rocks so that no one would wander off and lose their way.

And so I began, fending off questions from my parents and sister as to what in God's name I was up to. It was clear that in the few hours left before darkness there was no way of finishing the trail, but that didn't matter. I'd also figure out where it was going as I went along. Or some other time. For now, it was going up. I'd finish at some future date.

I walked a few paces, using a stick to mark the path the trail would take, then turned and created a switchback, which roads tend to have when climbing mountains.

After I'd gone about as far as I thought I could marking the trail's path, I returned to my starting point and began collecting propersize rocks and making stacks of them at appropriate distances along the trail. Then I began in earnest to create the true trail. I cleared all vegetation—not that there was much to clear. This was the desert, after all, and nothing much grew here. I pounded my feet on the sand and soil to make it as flat as possible and then lined it with the rocks I'd piled along the way for just this purpose. And up the trail went.

I suppose my earnestness was contagious, for after about a half hour, I found the rest of the family busy clearing, pounding, and stacking along with me. And the trail continued its way upward. It was great. No one spoke a word—everyone as busy as any city homebuilder might be.

When darkness came, the four of us had finished maybe forty feet of switch-backed, rock-lined trail on its way up the side of the small hill, maybe thirty feet in elevation. And then it just stopped, looking incomplete but incredible. No one could resist giving it a try. I imagined someone arriving at this spot several years in the future, taking the trail, coming to its end, and wondering where in hell it was supposed to go from there. No view, nothing much to speak of by way of interest at that point, but a great time getting there.

As we drove home, I expected questions but got none. Apparently my message had gotten through, whatever the message was. And we never returned to the picnic area at the south end of the White Tank Mountains. I don't hold anyone responsible for that. After all, we were busy with other things. Life, for example. But occasionally I wonder whether the trail's still there. It pleases me to imagine that some part of it is. We certainly built it sturdy enough. And the rains come rarely in that area of Arizona.

over the rIdge he Carried me away in spirit.

Chapter Six


whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea as if against some ghost in meditation or the thoughts of Love whIch can profiTably be thought of as being drowned. and that i hope i will teaCH you to imagine hell and burial there must be no more than be done a with a wheat FIELD.


Sometime during my tenth year of life, a friend of mine and I convinced our parents to allow us to walk to a public swimming pool several miles away and spend the day there. It was a great victory for us both, being on our own so far away from home.

Once at the pool, we belly flopped, dog-paddled, swam a bit, played with some kids we knew, and had a good time. That is, until around two o'clock, almost three hours before we had to leave. Suddenly the lifeguards got busy, and before we knew it the pool had emptied, and we were sent away, even though we had a full day's pass.

The reason for the evacuation, we discovered before we left, was that an eight-year-old boy had "gone under"—a euphemism for drowning. This bit of news hit my friend and me fairly hard. We'd not actually seen anything, but our imaginations made it worse, if, in fact, there can be many things worse than the drowning of an eight-year-old boy.


Excerpted from Tinman Too by David Cope Copyright © 2012 by David Cope. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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