My father is a geophysicist and my mother is a creative spirit whose focus has changed through the years from interior design to Japanese gardening to painting to exploring alternative life-styles. My brother is eleven years older than I am and has been a star jazz saxophonist ever since I can remember. My sister, Becky Sander-Cedarlof, is seven years older than I am and played flute but focused mainly on sewing and fashion design. She is now a fashion designer and my brother, Lon Price, is a studio saxophone player in Los Angeles.
Both my mother and father come from the rural Texas town named Nevada where my father, uncles, cousins, and I are members of the Masonic Lodge. Nevada is the town closest to where my ancestors are buried. We are said to have come from Tennessee over one hundred years ago, are part Cherokee, and are related to the Confederate General, Sterling Price. That would tie us in with a line of Prices that can be traced back to Wales and to 933 AD. My childhood fantasies have been greatly influenced by the Arthurian legends and by thinking of myself as part Indian. My mother's Japanese garden was nestled in a wooded area between Ft. Worth and Dallas where I explored with my dog, Happy, and imitated the song birds. My parents say that I have been able to do a very convincing mockingbird since I was three years old. My friends would sometimes call me the Birdman.
There was no question about whether I would go into music. Both my sister and brother were in the band and I seemed particularly sensitive to sounds. I started playing clarinet in the seventh grade when our school considered us old enough to start band. Unlike my brother, my musical training was mostly classical mainly because my private teachers were symphony players. I did pretty well because so much was expected of me (my brother's reputation preceded me) and because I was a little bit more disciplined than the other students. The strongest features of my playing were my phrasing and a good sound. I won lots of contests and performed as a soloist playing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto at the Sewanee Summer Music Center in Sewanee, TN. When I was in high school, we moved to the Highland Park area in Dallas. I was a season ticket holder with the Dallas Symphony and became the principal clarinetist for the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra.
My father was reluctant to pay for my music education in college because my brother had not done well in school academically although he was in the North Texas One O'clock Lab Band. However, my interests became more and more limited to music alone. I went to North Texas State University on an early admissions program before finishing my high school diploma. There, I played the more important pieces of the classical repertoire for the clarinet and found my place among the sixteen hundred music majors. I spent most of my time in non-credit activities improvising with other musicians, playing student composers' work, accompanying dance classes, performing with dancers, etc. I co-founded a new music ensemble called BL Lacerta. My parents moved to New York for two years and over the summers I studied French and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, jazz saxophone with Lou Marini, and absorbed as much of the culture of New York City that I could. I kept returning to North Texas for the school year and eventually supported myself by working with the developmentally disabled at the Denton State School, accompanying dance, and playing at other colleges with BL Lacerta.
Eventually I moved to Dallas and worked for the Texas Broadcast Museum as a CETA employee and put together a proposal for a residency program to Chamber Music America. The following year, my ensemble and I were in residence at the Dallas Arts Magnet High School and performing a concert series at the Greenville Avenue Theater. For the next five years we received grants from Atlantic Richfield, C. Michael Paul Foundation, Mobil, NEA, Texas Commission on the Arts, Dallas City Arts Program, etc. Although I had much help from the ensemble, I was the one primarily responsible for the administrative duties for the ensemble. BL Lacerta performed with many guest artists including John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Deborah Hay, Stuart Dempster, Cathy Ward, and Jerry Hunt, and performed all around the country in places like Carnegie Recital Hall, Case Western Reserve, International Tuba Symposium, International Computer Music Conference, and New Music America.
Our residencies moved from the Dallas Arts Magnet High School to the Dallas Museum of Art to the University of Texas at Dallas. Throughout some of this time I taught at the Dallas Arts Magnet High School and was Composer-in-Residence at the Bath House Cultural Center. I was able to interact a lot particularly with those associated with the Judson Church Group including Deborah Hay, John Cage, and Robert Dunn, as well as Pauline Oliveros with whom I went to India to perform. I began using other media in my work and gave many workshops in the style of improvisation BL Lacerta had been doing. I worked with children, the elderly, the emotionally disabled, and the developmentally disabled testing out my artistic ideas on as many different kinds of people that I could. I was married by this time and had a daughter.
All four members of the ensemble were promised tenure-track positions at The University of Texas at Dallas as part of our residency there but, because of the budget cut-backs resulting from the oil glut and the fierce university politics that come with budget cut-backs, our residency ended in two years with none of us ever teaching more than part-time. I taught Music Ensemble and a class called Music of the Whole Earth. We lost most of our other financial support because Dallas' economy was depressed and the university residency had weakened our case for public funding from other sources. I lacked the educational credentials to go along with my good professional credentials. I could not get another job teaching at a college without a degree. I got divorced and pieced together a living for my daughter and myself by composing music for plays, playing in restaurants, doing workshops, and playing "for the door" at clubs in Deep Ellum with BL Lacerta, Poetry Circus, Daagnim Theoretical Big Band, and doing solo performance art work.
In May of 1987, six other musicians and artists and I performed a work by Karlheinz Stockhausen entitled, Aus den Sieben Tagen. This seven-day piece involved four days of fasting, sleeping and thinking as little as possible, and no talking. We performed this work and spontaneously made art installations in an empty warehouse in Deep Ellum. Next, I wanted to do a nine-day piece of my own design that would build on the experiences we had performing Aus den Sieben Tagen. I was told that the planets were converging in a way that rarely happens and that the horoscopes for those days were considered very auspicious. I decided to use the movements of the planets to help determine the performance instructions for each day. I also juxtaposed verses from the I Ching and the T'ai Hsuan Ching to add other random elements to the process. I called it A Novena for Quetzalcoatl. I did not realize that a major international media campaign for the Harmonic Convergence was also going on at this time. I thought that this piece would be very intimate like the one we had performed in the warehouse in May, but by August our event became the Harmonic Convergence Event for Dallas. People were even driving up from Houston for our "medicine wheel." When over one thousand people showed up on the first day, this piece was no longer mine but belonged to the group of people participating. My own concepts about performance were greatly expanded by this experience.
From 1987-89, I filled up about six journals with my ideas and soul-searching. I developed my own internal cosmology from my dreams and dreamed about future Novenae that I wanted to perform around the world. I read books about shamanism and ritual that were recommended to me by anthropologist, Michael Oppitz and ethnomusicologist, Les Gay. I read The Mayan Factor by Jose Arguelles and began experimenting using the shape he calls the Mayan Factor to help me determine where the future Novenae should be. I layered the shape over the Western Hemisphere on a Rand-McNally World Atlas and noticed that the pattern almost fit along the edges of the geological plates. Then I drew the shape two more times and the three together stretched completely around the distorted two-dimensional world meeting at the top sections of each figure. It did not bother me that these coincidences were occurring on a distorted two-dimensional map of the world. I am still inclined to use the Rand-McNally Atlas in honor of the original vision. I liked playing with the shape without buying completely into Arguelles' sci-fi interpretations.
In 1989, my father offered once again to help me finish my BA. I went back to UTD as an undergraduate and took many classes from my former colleagues while I also worked for my father as a geotechnician and leased seismic data that he had acquired from Texas Pacific Oil Company. My commission from leasing a couple of areas not only helped me support my daughter and myself but allowed me to start a semester at the Graduate Institute at St. John's College in Santa Fe and buy an Amiga computer. All my undergraduate work was devoted to acquiring the needed skills to help me realize my dreams about the Novenae. I tried transferring my skills in improvisation to work in other media including video, poetry, prose, environmental installations, etc. While I was going to UTD I performed another Novena called the Arkoma Basin Piece in which my daughter and I camped out near Euphala, OK and installed a hidden art piece over the Arkoma Basin where my father had discovered some natural gas. The piece that was installed was a statigraphic model of the Arkoma Basin stuffed with an origami puppet with my pony-tail taped on to it. I documented the Novena with Polaroid photographs, my five-year-old daughter's drawings, and a journal of my dreams, T'ai Hsuan Ching verses corresponding to each day, daily wake-time entries, and pertinent environmental information corresponding to the other texts. All of this was made into a video and an environmental installation at UTD. I used the Amiga computer on the video. This piece was about the Earth as the Great Mother, my being both mother and father to my child, and a giving of thanks to the Earth and our ancestors who give us our oil and gas from their bodies.
I graduated from UTD summa cum laude in Art and Performance in the Fall of 1990. I continued at UTD and completed over a semester of graduate work there focusing primarily on video and medieval literature, philosophy and culture. I then wrote A Novena for the Order of Euphonius Monks in a very medieval style. I had to make Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, and Olivier Messiaen saints in this work in order to merge my post-modern performance ideas with the concerns of a medieval Roman Catholic contemplative order. I had enough graduate hours to teach part-time at Collin County Community College and taught Introduction to Humanities there for two semesters until May of 1992.
The following Summer, my new family (Nancy Coscione and her two children, my daughter, and I) camped on the Tesuque Reservation near Santa Fe in a seventeen foot diameter army hexagon tent and a 69 Volkswagen van so that I could finish my master's degree at St. John's. I chose St. John's because my Novenae were to be so interdisciplinary that I wanted my background to be as broad as practicable and I wanted to immerse myself in the Native American cultures in Santa Fe. My preceptorial papers helped deepen my ideas about my personal cosmology as I explored the classics about love and the Upanisads about the self and the Unmanifested Brahmin. In the Fall of 92, I completed the requirements for an MA in Liberal Arts at St. John's College.