Lukas Foss’s ‘Map’ May 10, 1973

It’s a beautiful spring evening here in the Whitney Museum, and it’s still a close contest. Jesse Levine is now launching into some tricky violin passages that Jan Williams is trying to imitate on a recorder. Petr Kotik, who is primarily a flutist, is following along as best he can on another violin but... No. Referee Virgil Thomson has decided that it wasn’t good enough and has taken Kotik’s violin away from him. There were a few jeers from Kotik fans on that decision. Things were looking good for him, especially a few rounds ago, when he managed to play his flute without breaking, even though Julius Eastman was sticking a toy whistle into his mouth and Williams was holding down some of his keys. But he is falling behind now. Score keeper Lukas Foss chalks up a penalty for Kotik on the large scoreboard, and now Williams will have a chance to challenge Levine, who appears to be going into his round with a cello... Yes, he’s starting to play sustained tones on the cello now, and it looks like Williams is hanging something onto Levine’s bow. Wait a minute. It’s a little hard to see. It appears to be some kind of rings. Yes, they are little metal rings. Williams has looped them around the tip of the bow, and they are giving Levine a good deal of trouble. He is still playing, though, and it looks as if Williams has failed to stop him. Yes. There’s the decision. Levine gets the point. I think one reason why Thomson gave the point to Levine is because his cello is blended so well with the prerecorded instrumental sounds which are being played in the background. Most of the time, no one appears to be paying much attention to the background music, but it seemed important in that round.

(Several rounds later) Eastman is still ahead, despite the additional penalty he received when he dropped a mallet, in an unusually clumsy moment. But Levine is moving up, thanks to that nice maneuver when he thwarted Williams’s vibraphone playing by clanging a big chain across the vibes. Now Levine and Williams are confronting each other in one of the most intense challenges of the game. The audience is quite still now, listening to the tricky patterns they are tossing back and forth. It is quite remarkable how Levine, with his violin, seems to be able to imitate anything Williams plays on his vibraphone. Williams, in turn, has been doing some fine imitating himself. But now. Wait a minute. Williams has just ended one of his vibraphone phrases with a soft cymbal crash. How will Levine ever manage to imitate that on his violin? The audience is hushed. Levine takes his bow and plays. Will he make it?... No. Thomson’s decision is immediate. Levine’s cymbal imitation was not good enough, and that, unfortunately, gives Levine his third and final penalty, leaving only Williams and Eastman to battle it out in another round of imitation and... Williams wins the point easily. Thomson declares Williams the winner, and there is a nice round of applause. But wait. Scorekeeper Foss is intervening. Apparently there is some technicality which I do not understand, as Foss has declared that they must have another play-off round. Eastman wins that hands down, and now he is declared the winner. Most of the audience seems to feel that the referee was right and that the prize, which is a small bell, should have gone to Williams. But there is not much point in arguing with Foss, not only because he is the scorekeeper, but also because he is the inventor of this curious and totally involving game called ‘Map.’