Cantara, 1980

The producer of my last movie took this on his patio near the jacuzzi. Sorry, but he kept the nude shots.

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John Wilson, 2018

If this were a Joan Crawford movie, she’d have given him the damn gold cigarette case by now.

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[Portrait by Sasha Gusov]

The Story So Far, with John Wilson on Sarah’s Music

Cantara, ex-ASCAP solfeggist, ex-porn star and screenplay writer, has fallen hopelessly in love with a man on the other side of the world, an English, traditional orchestra conductor who also specializes in movie music and The Great American Songbook, by the name of John Wilson.

Not because he’s a fellow creator (he doesn’t create, but reconstructs and conducts music)—not because of his looks (he’s peaky, scrawny, blinky; his gray-green eyes lack luster; he’s got a facial tic, lousy posture, and the hands of a hod carrier; his nose is an equilateral triangle; his famous cleft chin, supposedly his best feature, always looks slightly askew; his ultra-short mousy hair can’t conceal the fact he’s already going gray; he sweats like a stevedore on the podium; and for the past few years, he’s taken to wearing nerd glasses)—and certainly not for his intellect (his obtuse pronouncements on The Great American Songbook make me want to smack the back of his head like the whippersnapper he is and send him home with a note).

So what is it about him? Honestly, at this point I don’t know. I’ve only been aware of his existence since April 30 and in love with him since May 4. But there are three things I do know for sure: His ear (the way he hears things) is intriguing, his industriousness is something to admire, and his musicianship is kind of brilliant.

Below is a 2016 interview with John and key members of his own eponymous orchestra where his technique in bringing out “The Hollywood Sound” is discussed. Discussion of his string technique with interviewer Sarah Willis and JWO’s first violinist starts at 5:40.

All the rest of this is just Cantara trying to sort out where bonny John fits into her inner life. Which as it turns out right now is in every nook, every cranny…

Catholics Surrounded by Lutherans and Some Conducting by John Wilson

Wishing you two clean and ready handkerchiefs every concert day, John.

On what would have been my dad’s 113th birthday I’d like to remember one of the few times he and I actually went to the movies together. This time we went to see, first run, the warrior epic Taras Bulba (1962, screenplay by blacklisted writer Waldo Salt) on the recommendation of my girlfriend Tamara’s mother, who emigrated from Lviv after the war and was a booster for All Things Ukrainian. (A survivor of Axis bombings, she had a lot in common with my mom.) Our neighborhood was made up mostly of first- and second-generation Ukrainians, Italians, Guatemalans, Poles, and of course Filipinos—Catholics all. Of course the Lutherans surrounded us but being mostly Swedes, they had their own heritage too. And at Christmas, all that pepparkakor—num.

As for Franz Waxman’s “Ride of the Cossacks”, there’s a rather thrilling ostinato toward the end.