Acoustic metaphors exist for the enduring influence of a person after passing. Their echo, reverberation, repercussion… all capture the effect of a strong event from the past on the future. I would invite you to visit the sheet music of unpublished works and the Van Strum Publications. Create from these something wholly unsung.
I spent my teenage years with my father, Donald Cobb, in the burgeoning tech-oriented San Francisco Bay Area. Doing fine arts in the home was culturally difficult. Television was coming into its own and, if I was left to my own desires, I would often watch TV or play video games at 7-11. I have fond memories of these activities but if I was honest with myself, there were also times when they would – to use my father’s words – “fill the void.” My father swam upstream against this current of technological enticements and cultivated music making in my life every chance he had.
It isn’t my desire to moralize about this “void filling” but only to recognize this turn of phrase was, from time to time, apropos. The effect of technology on art and entertainment is unprecedented. We are still struggling to find balance today.
My father would often ask his students what music they liked. On special occasions he would invite them to bring recordings of their favorite music into class. In the Bay Area it was popularly understood, even by children, that to truly “make it” in music you would go to a cultural mecca like Los Angeles. Good musicians did not remain in communities.
It is my sense that my father, and his musician friends, stood as a counter examples to all this. To me, they were the ones who stayed behind to make music with their community and pass along the craft of music to another generation while sustaining a quiet creative life.
He was often asked to recognize the greatness of the music generated by the entertainment industry. I know as a teacher it frustrated him that young musicians didn’t recognize the impact the music industry had in creating an unrealistic and immaculate expectation for their live music.
My father’s creative output was directed straight at this local community and the meaningful occasions that made up its existence. In a world that was increasingly celebrating an esthetic of universality, he was passionate about getting to know places individually and in all their wonderful specificity. If he was an architect, he would have been a regionalist.
His unpublished works as well as the Van Strum Publications available here are largely a reflection of this body of work. Given my father’s frequent desire to NOT have recordings supercede the significance of the event itself, it is my hope that this music might be played by you, or someone you know, as something inchoate and as yet unspoken. It is very much how he would have wanted you to play it.
I want to thank Stevens Van Strum for his enduring support of my father’s work and his invaluable help getting this website up and running. Thank you also to Larry London for being the musician he is and the musical colleague he was to my father. This website has been several years in coming and long overdue. There were over 5000 pages to scan and it took a while to work up to doing it. It is ironic that my father would have found the computer time highly objectionable. I plan on taking some time off.