Sports! I'm writing something about sports!


Marge Laszlo

Well, sort of. Our friend Conrad Cummings, one of the most thoughtful and politically aware composers I have ever met, was part of a concert in January of sports-oriented music given by the Avian Orchestra in the 6th floor gym of the University Settlement on the Lower East Side. His piece, titled In Memorium Marge Laszlo is an hommage to the roller derby champion. She isn't dead, just "retired" by the forces of capitalism. This is how Conrad describes the piece:

Marge Laszlo was one of Roller Derby’s great players. The game was born on the West Coast and grew up with the early days of television. During its heyday in the 1960s a dozen teams bused all over the country. It was one of the first sports that women as well as men could make a living playing, and it provided a home and a livelihood for any number of outsiders.

Roller Derby looked anarchic. Players smashed into each other, collided into huge heaps of bodies, threw each other over the ropes into the audience, screamed at each other constantly, pulled hair, and whenever possible beat up the umpires. The highlight move was the Whip, where five or six players would link wrists to propel the player at the end into the opposing team like a projectile. Bodies would fly everywhere.

But behind all the chaos and apparent violence was actually a big extended family of players who lived and traveled together and worked out every pile-up, Whip, hair-pull, and fight sequence ahead of time. Despite the drama, athleticism, and the passionate loyalty of fans to individual teams and players, it came down to a companionable bunch of people gliding round and round the same oval track. My piece goes around its track four times.

Marge Laszlo herself is alive and well, but the game, alas, is no more. It started to lose TV viewers in the early 70s and was done in by the energy crisis when the teams couldn’t afford gas for the buses taking them from city to city. But Roller Derby lives on happily in my memory, and I’d like to think that the end of my piece is Marge’s farewell lap on her last game. Skate on, Marge!

You can hear this work, plus all of the others on the program, via New Music Box through April 15.

Go buy his CD Photo-Op. After hearing it we tracked him down and became friends with him. It is brilliant politically-aware music.

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