Richard Francis ~ 1948 - 2009
(NOTE: I originally posted this on my personal blog last week and intended it for those who might not necessarily be familiar with KBOO or its programming, hence the preamble that might seem superflous (and perhaps inaccurate - Sorry!) to those closer to the subject.)
As I started writing this, Richard Francis, host of A Different Nature, was in a medically-induced coma after suffering a heart attack on the eve of his last show. He didn't show up before the broadcast, which alarmed those that knew him well; Richard was a meticulous planner and was always early for his shows, often polishing up the details to the last minute. When he failed to show up - most of the show being pre-prepared by other participants, no one had to be told that the show must go on while a friend traced his route back to his apartment and finally calling area emergency rooms. Her worst fears were realized when she learned that he was indeed in Emmanuel Hospital's ICU, having collapsed in a market. As of this writing, he's unresponsive to any stimuli and shows no brain activity. The plan was to slowly take him out of the coma to assess the damage while his family descended on Portland from the Midwest.
Richard is KBOO's Dean of Avant-garde and Surrealism. He's hosted his program of adventurous music since the early Eighties and each program is carefully planned like a class curriculum. I've been fortunate to have listened to it since I've been in High School, which is to say well over 20 years. I feel like I've gotten quite an education from Professor Francis. He turned lucky and brave listeners onto Musique Concrète, historical Dada recordings and writings, early electronic music, environmental recordings and so much more. I remember what an epiphany it was hearing Lucier's I Am Sitting In A Room on Richard's show all those years ago and him explaining what it was about and why it was important. It changed my view of art and music forever. He also curated the 2001 Dada Fest marathon and was Field Marshall for its five-day revival in 2008. Richard fearlessly led us into much mayhem on that hot summer and I was fortunate to have participated in a few of those events. The atmosphere of surreal creativity was most contagious. He's also largely responsible for the considerable collection of Avant-Gard music - both historic and modern - in KBOO's labyrinthian library. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of strange and experimental music, which he loved sharing with people. When he flies away, it'll be as if a giant museum burned to the ground. I can't imagine KBOO without him. And so it goes... I just received the news from Daniel Flessas that his family and the doctors thought it was in the best interests of Richard's wishes - given his situation - that he be taken off of life support:
"At about 4 pm today, the family has decided to take Richard off the respirator, and it will be just a matter of time then how long his body will stay alive. The neurologist and others have decided that that the higher function areas of his brain, which made Richard "Richard", his ability to think, to know, to communicate, what made up his very identity, seems to be not coming back. There is a question of how much time his brain was without oxygen, unconscious at the convenience store, before the response team arrived. But he has not been responsive since then (Monday late afternoon).(...) But Richard is having some new experience without us, has moved into it now, and has left this one, whether we're ready or not."
I'm not and am not sure when I will be. I can only say thank you, Richard, for one hell of an education and for showing me how to bravely plow forward for art.
This was originally posted at Kill Ugly Radio.
There's a nice write up over at Luke Lefler's blog as well.
Here's a link to a nearly complete episode of A Different Nature from 2006.