The Seabag Letters
The canvas seabag went everywhere with my father during WWII. The place names
written on it tell their own story: Pearl Harbor, Saipan, Tinian, Iwo Jima, and
Kyusha Japan (Nagasaki). It sat in the corner of an attic for 60 years. Dad died,
mom moved to assisted living, we cleaned out the house and the seabag came with
me to Missoula. I didn’t know the empty ammo clip was in it until TSA saw it at the
Minneapolis airport. They detained me, emptied out the full contents, and called in
the head honcho. She asked me to explain the giant stack of old letters – all bundled
and tied with twine. The tough TSA woman said, “Now you’ve made me cry.” She
ordered the paperwork torn up and everything to be carefully placed back in the
bag, looked at me through tears and said, “These are so precious, my grandfather
was in WWII, get out of here and don’t say anything.”
All the letters written to dad from 1943 to 1951 are in that bag. Now, 75 years
later, I’m opening the letters from his father who’s on a ship in the Pacific; from his
brother writing from a foxhole on the front line in Italy; from an aunt back home on
her farm, and from girlfriends hoping the war is quickly over. One particularly
persistent writer is fifteen years old in her first letter and eighteen in her last. She
writes about how they’ll marry someday and name their first son Eddie Jr., which is
precisely what they do.
The writers share their experiences and thoughts: stories of tragedy, concern, love,
fear, daily life, and news of the day. They reminisce about good times from the past
and express hope for a better future. They hope that they will simply see each other
John and I will use this session as an incubator for a larger project to tell these
stories. I want to hear how musicians across genres, genders, and ages react to the
stories and put them to sound. To kick it off, John Sporman and I will use my
father’s own reflections about his experiences in the war — especially about the first
wave of Iwo Jima — as creative triggers to freely improvise sound.
We’ll then create multiple small-group sessions – that’s you — and read excerpts
from the seabag letters. Together you’ll use those words as creative triggers to put
those stories – be it emotions, themes, concepts – into sound. We will record the
FreeSessions to use as ideas in a bigger project to come.
While you are welcome to just come and observe, the primary purpose of this
session is creation from a diverse group of musicians — so we encourage you to
come with your instruments, an open mind and heart, and most of all, your ears.
Drummer/Percussionist Ed Stalling moved to Missoula is 2006 from Minneapolis where he played with several jazz big bands and in over thirty musical-theater productions. You see him on stages all over the state with The John Floridis Trio, Ed Norton Big Band, Captain Wilson Conspiracy, Basement Boyz, Jim Driscoll Trio, Kimberlee Carlson, Joan Zen Jazz, and Contra Brasil. Inducted into the Missoula Blues and Jazz Society “Hall of Fame” in 2016, Ed likes to “gives back” by helping with all three local high schools jazz bands, and teaching out of his home studio.
John Sporman is a Missoula-based musician and composer. After studying music composition and technology at the University of Montana, John moved on to score over 30 silent movies, dance shows and theatrical productions. He has scored for The International Wildlife Film Festival, The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, The Bozeman Film Society, Bare Bait Dance, The Montana Repertory Theatre, MCT Community Theatre, Sunshine Unlimited, Viscosity Theatre and for an array of independent artists. John is currently working as a national touring musician.