I took this picture last June during Marc Ribot's soundwalk, part of Issue Project Room's first-annual Soundwalk-a-thon. The woman with short hair seated on the bridge is Issue founder Suzanne Fiol, whom I chatted with off and on as we meandered our way through Gowanus and parts of Cobble Hill. She was animated and fiery, with some choice words for the sorry folks who showed up without any pledges.
"I don't want people to just give me money," she said. "The idea was for people to sign up pledges and get them excited about the project. One person giving $10 isn't going to make that much of a difference in the life of Issue: we need people's ongoing support. Believe me, it would be the easiest thing in the world to just let it all fade away."
Suzanne passed away earlier today after her long battle with cancer. For those who knew her, Suzanne was equal parts den mother and junkyard dog, providing a warm and nurturing home (four homes, actually, including a downtown Brooklyn space, set to open in 2011) to some of the most radical and uncompromising - and sweetest and most transporting - music ever heard in this city. For me personally, she was responsible for some of my most magical musical moments: from Rhys Chatham's G3 (with Sonic Youth, Robert Longo and others), to shows by Tony Conrad and Iva Bittova, to Leif Inge's 9 Beet Stretch at sunrise in the old silo. Not to mention Share every Sunday.
I first met Suzanne not long after I wrote this post about cellist Audrey Chen, which remains one of the most haunting and beautiful performances I've ever heard (even though I was only one of five people in the audience.) When I told her I wrote this blog, she put her hand on my arm and exclaimed: "I love Feast of Music! I sent Audrey that piece you wrote about her, which was right around the time she was thinking of quitting music. I said to her: 'You can't quit. Look at what people are saying about you!'" Audrey changed her mind, and now performs all over the world. If there's a better reason for me to keep writing this thing, I haven't heard it.
As for Issue, the show will go on, stewarded by Zach , Michelle and Lawrence, and assisted by a long list of friends, musicians and otherwise. But, there's still much work to be done to realize Suzanne's dream of a permanent home for experimental music in NYC, which would be her lasting legacy. Let's not let it fade away.
Musicians and friends are gathering at the Old Can Factory tonight remember Suzanne with music and cheer, which I'm sure is what she would have wanted. I'll see you there.