Bill was phenomenal.
It was May 1995, and Bill and I had agreed to meet at the Frankfurt film museum. When I arrived for our meeting, he was standing at the copy machine. This was typical for him, because he was constantly photocopying, collecting and archiving things. That was something I really related to - and, I suppose, it was something that created a general bond between us. There was also a specific connection: at the time, I was just finishing my dissertation in musicology, a study of the historic roots of color-light music. Bill and I were both busy collecting and evaluating materials, from around the world, about color-light music and color organs.
A short while later, in the summer of 1995, I visited him at his Los Angeles home for the first time. He gave me huge amounts of his time - for city jaunts to countless antiquarian bookshops and record stores ("sights" interested us only when they were right on our way), and for my introduction to the world of abstract film. I stayed at his place, of course, and he showed me film after film and gave me book after book (to keep!). I soon discovered he knew a lot more about music than I knew about film. In fact, he knew more about some areas of music - such as baroque opera (he kept playing Handel operas) - than I did, and he had amassed an amazing record collection that was considerably larger than my own.
Bill's archives on color-light music contained articles I had never even heard of. He possessed original editions of extremely rare books I had been proud to obtain simply as photocopies. He had brought new sources to light in far-away Australia and Austria.
And the truly amazing thing was: Not only was he not protective about his treasures - he would give me unrestricted access to them. He would drop me off at the copy shop with boxes of materials he had painstakingly collected over the years, including materials he had not yet looked at, and then he would pick me up hours later after I had copied them all. In the years that followed, he kept sending me things - books and articles he had copied and videos he had taped. I tried to return the favor by getting German articles for him, but the things I sent him were trifles by comparison. For me - an uptight German scholar who took his dissertation and himself ever so seriously - Bill's never-ending generosity was a revelation.
Bill was phenomenal. Universally educated, fluent in several languages - his German was excellent - he was a real "renaissance" scholar. With his droll humor, abundant even in our "shop talk", Bill also had a relaxed manner about him that was truly inspiring. When in 1999 I went through a serious personal crisis and visited him, he was simply there for me. He didn't ask many questions. Instead, he helped me have an enjoyable stay in Los Angeles and regain my energies, even though by then cancer had almost completely drained his own strength.
I'll always remember him as a profound, witty and sensitive friend and colleague who was always ready to lend a helping hand. If I close my eyes, I can still see him: with his straw hat, checkered shirt and that mischievous smile.
Jörg Jewanski, Ph.D.
Conservatory (Musikhochschule) at the University of Münster, Germany