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Michael LeDonne-Bhennet passes

on Fri, 06/08/2012 - 12:49

Michael LeDonne-Bhennet passed away.  Mike played in the BDR Ensemble with John Duncan and Tom Recchion, as well as Stillife with Dennis Duck, Michael Jon Fink, Tom Recchion and Chas Smith.

John Duncan: 
"Michael LeDonne-Bhennet, a.k.a. Mike Bennet, is gone. After a 20+ year hiatus, he got in contact again last year only to disappear again, as he tended to do. A cut-paste from Chas Smith: 'back in the late 80's, he just disappeared and ended up teaching in the public school system. The last time I had seen him was at a party... and he showed up covered with tattoos, a Mohawk and a pony tail braid that went down his back. He looked fucking scary. Then nothing for over 20 years. A couple years ago, there's knock on my front door and it's Bennett, he wants to go for lunch and we ended up laughing for about 3 hrs. He was looking for work and we kept in touch with e-mail, then 6 months ago he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. With that cancer, you're usually gone in 3, he lasted 6 and was still upbeat last week.' "I learned so much from this man, hope he was aware at least a little of how much. Much of the first music I ever made was together with him and Tom Recchion. When he wasn't actually part of it, he encouraged it. Or didn't. Chas says his ashes are to be released at sea, without ceremony. Mike talked about this decades ago, pointing to the ring in his ear as the way to pay for the service." 

Tom Recchion:
"Mike was great indeed. A rapid intellect and seeker. We would talk about music and art for hours as you do when you're young and have that time. The BDR Ensemble (Bhennet/Duncan/Recchion) is for me some of the best sound work I was ever part of. The Station Event had magic moments musically and kinetically with the ether and electricity of the city. A brilliant idea of John's to have Mike and I cloistered in the KPFK studios unable to hear him where he was taking calls of people phoning in commenting or participating in what Mike and I were playing. John couldn't hear what we were playing ... the group was united and divided. The only person who heard the entire mix that went out to the air was the engineer and the people tuning in to the program. The callers ranged from people loving the alchemy of what was happening to people clearly disturbed by it all or poking fun. One such caller ran to a phone booth and asked if he could play along, him not being able to hear us. He contributed drones on his harmonica just as Mike and I were moving in that direction. Another caller expressed his displeasure of the event and John calmly asked him why he stayed on listening, the old man clearly flustered by the action accused us of being Hippie Communists trying to take over the God-damn world. This was eerie and one of the most satisfying music encounters of my life. Mike and I played together in Stillife, and several times after that, until he disappeared and it all became legend. He was a formidable presence and very gentle. I could go on and on. I'm grateful to him for being part of it all."

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John Duncan's picture

Michael said he had lifted 400 lbs in competition.  Looking at him, at his massive arms and legs, I never doubted it.  This same man could and did make the most delicate improvisations, play oboe and bassoon at the same time (evidenced in photos performing with Hermann Nitsch in Los Angeles), write poetry.  Exactly why he disappeared, repeatedly, remains a mystery.  From his student days, he always rode an edge between the academic world, where to his frustration he was often as well- or better-informed than his instructors, and the grit of the street that he knew just as intimately.  When we spent time together he seemed to need both equally, unwilling to decide to favor one or the other, impatient with the ignorance he saw all around him.  Every high-tension powerline tower I see painted red and white brings back a story he told once of a childhood experience with his father, whose job was to repaint them: "Don't look down.  If you get scared, go to the nearest level and wait for me to come get you."  He said he never did feel afraid. 

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