More to Honor Louis Ballard

(I hope you don't mind, Ray Evans Harrell, Jr. but I've moved your comment up to my blog. Mvto for your eloquent speech on this man we knew for awhile in this place.)

"Growing up within one mile of each other and after study together at Tulsa with Bela Rozsa I saw him again many years later at the Composers Orchestra premiere of his work at Lincoln Center. His old and my new student Jane Lind brought us together after so many years. He was not in my experience a gentle soul as Joy Harjo said but a fierce patriot for Indian music and American Music all over the world. His wife Ruth was an amazing woman, a pianist who was a student of Alicia DeLaroccha and a magician and the daughter of a America's oldest magician (at his death) who would come to our apartment and perform for my daughter. Ruth was Jewish and we had many arguments and hours on the phone but she was 100% for Louis and for our music. Louis honored her and expressed his love on many occassions to me for her person and loyalty to him and Indian Art.

Louis sacrificed for the children, wandered into the fields of Wounded Knee to express the story, struggled with the contradictions of traditional and new music in the Indian context and always thought about the importance of the people even when he was dying these last years. During that entire time he always had time to talk and to give his opinion around issues that concerned us both. But he too followed the edict that one would not truly care or value him and the gift if they wasted his time in idle chat.

He told me a story about bringing Igor Stravinsky to the Deer Dance in New Mexico. He said the great Stravinsky only heard monody "simple melodies" and didn't "get" the complexity of the art. Telling me the story I was incredulous. Now many years later as I have come to know what Louis was saying, I realize that we all must struggle to hear one another and that even the greatest can be foolish when they presume too much.

Louis Ballard was a great man and a great American Artist. A gift of the Cherokee Medicine Priest who was his grandfather and his Quapaw parents. He was my Hunka and will be sorely missed. May we idiots (sichas) accept our responsibility and turn, as Louis did, to the meanings of the original instructions given to the children by the Creator and embodied in all of the Arts that have passed to us by our ancestors to add to without destroying or taking away from.


Grant him peace.

Ray Evans Harrell, Jr."

Thank you for your eloquent testament on the great man we knew as Louis. (My previous blog was a quote from an email forwarded to me, not my words. I will come forth with my own later this week) I knew Louis first as my assigned advisor when I was a high school student, fresh from Oklahoma. Through the years I have come to know what a great man he is, what a great artist. I talked to him on the phone, just before Christmas. Well, actually not just before, as he was the first person I received a Christmas card from! We talked for about an hour and I felt as if I were in the presence of those old ones whose presence I miss. He created that place with his coherent speech, his mere presence. There aren't many around these days and I count myself lucky to have known a few. Now we've lost another.

I feel a ragged hole from his leaving.

I am grieving. And I am inspired to go on with his example.


p.s. Please give Jane Lind my regards

1 comment:

Ray Evans Harrell said...


More should be known about this great Artist-Educator and First American. It is a pity that I have found no obituary in the NYTimes or the Washington Post. We seem so separate that we can't come together at times like this to show the children that we honor our greatest and that they are a standard and a beacon from the past to the future. They carried Verdi's body through the streets as the entire nation sang his song. Where are the songs, the dances that Louis worked so long to sustain? Where is the nation's Indian Museum? Maybe things are being planned. I hope so. If we do not honor our heroes then the song will be passed to those who do.

I will happily pass your regards to Jane. Another great Native Artist.

donada gohv'i

Ray Evans Harrell, Jr.