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 Forum index » Artists » Beth Anderson
Interview with Beth Anderson
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mosc
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2004 11:56 am    Post subject:  Interview with Beth Anderson Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Beth, thanks for the opportunity to talk with you using the electro-music.com online forum.

I knew you when you were a student of Robert Ashley at Mill College back in the mid 1970s. Then, you were working in experimental and avant-garde music. Unfortunately, I lost contact with you for about 25 years. Last month, I saw your concert at carnegie Hall where you presented music that was more from the Romantic era. This is a unique progression. In this interview, I'd like to explore this with you.

When and how did you get started in music in the first place. When did you first want to be a composer, and what did you think that would involve?

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2004 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

When I was very small I would go to visit my mother's mother (Nanny) and bang/try to play on her piano and ask to be shown how to play songs . My grandmother could play by ear and she gave me her piano and I started lessons when I was about 7 just as my parents were divorcing each other for the last time.

Nanny loved to hear me practice and would say after every piece, "That was pretty. Play that one again." She was a booster. I had two women piano teachers who encouraged me to compose--Margie Murphy and Helen Lipscomb. Helen was also a composer and we used part of my lessons for composition.

When I was in high school, I read John Cage's books and fell in love with the ideas and the excitement of the avant garde. My music, as a result, moved over to what John Rockwell in the NY Times called post-Cagian, non-academic. That lasted until about 1979 at which point I changed. My music is now quite lyrical, sometimes called neo-Romantic or post-minimal (and other things, of course), and full of cut-ups/collage of newly composed materials. Since 1985 I have been composing mostly swales for various instrumental combinations.


In case you're interested: A swale is a meadow or a marsh where there is nourishment and moisture and therefore, a rich diversity of plant life. My work, since 1984, has been made from swatches (of newly composed music, rather than found music) which are reminiscent of this diversity. When a horse named Swale won the Kentucky derby several years ago, I discovered the word and have used it extensively.

I first wanted to be a composer when I was about 10. I got tired of practicing piano and started composing something or other. I showed it to my piano teacher at the time who was not particularly interested. I kept writing and when I was 14 I got a new piano teacher, who I chose because she was both a pianist and a composer--Helen Lipscomb, of Lexington, Kentucky and she had a lot of things published.

I don't think I had much of an idea about what being a composer, as a profession, would involve when I was ten. When I went to movies I would always write down the names of the composers in a little notebook--especially those who wrote for the old cartoons. When I went to the movies you got two movies and two cartoons for 10 cents, if you can belive such a thing. So I guess I hoped to write music for cartoons. I never did anything to make that a reality. I still clap for the composers of the movies I see.

At thirteen when I was asked to write a paper in English class on what I wanted to do in life, I said that I wanted to be a musicologist and teach in a university and be a touring piano virtuoso and play first flute with the Boston Symphony. At that age I was not being encouraged to write music and it showed.


what did you think that would involve?
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2004 7:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

So you read the book of John Cage and you're inspired. Did you get an undergraduate music education where you could explore his ideas?
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2004 8:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

John Cage
I read Silence by John Cage and fell in love. Everything he said was a delight. It was all so exotic and interesting and beautiful and led in such different directions than my usual musical studies.

My undergraduate music education began at the University of Kentucky in Lexington where I did Schoenberg analysis and took aural dictation on chorals and played Bach and Beethoven. It was a very Germanic school where I learned a lot about music but it was not a school in which I could explore Cage, happenings, women composers or electronic music. And of course those were the things in which I was most interested.

I did have a wonderful music history teacher, Kathy Adkins, who introduced me to Pauline Oliveros' and Steve Reich's music as well as the approved composers. She even offered to build UK an electronic music studio and they would not give her a room and $500 for this purpose. That was all she requested. They simply weren't interested.

At UK we were told that we could only study composition in the junior year after completing Music Theory 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B, but I had been writing music since I was 10, and that didn’t make any sense to me. So I would write music and take it to Dr. Ken Wright when he had office hours free to talk to me about my work. Performances of my music took place on the noon concerts in the music department.

And the most amazing thing happened in the spring of 1968. John Cage was invited by the university to come for three days to do concerts and lectures and performances with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company to help celebrate UK’s 100th anniversary. I met him and we talked about what I wanted to learn. He was a very friendly person and his telephone number was listed in New York and I used to call him whenever I wanted advice. He didn’t teach anywhere on a regular basis so he did not suggest that I study with him.

I had a part-time job at UK in the music library and I read all the musical periodicals and decided that I wanted to find a composition teacher and a school that was more supportive of innovation. In the summer of 1968 I went to Utah to meet Ned Rorem.

Did I call and make an appointment? Nope.

Did I call at least and make sure that he was going to be there when I arrived? Nope.

Was he there when I arrived? Nope.

He had just gone back to Europe. I was 18 and for some reason, had no idea how to plan. I believed in Chance.

So I went on to the University of California at Davis. Davis published the important new music magazine called SOURCE. I figured that any school that would publish such a fantastic magazine would have interesting composers with whom I could study. I loved Davis right away. It is the agriculture college of the University of California system and the veterinary school there is very famous. (Tigers from zoos and circuses come there for their check ups.)

I met Richard Swift (then a composer and the head of the department; recently deceased) that morning, by chance. He was very kind to me and that was very important. He also wrote me back when I wrote him later to ask if he could arrange for a scholarship or a job for me if I came there to school and he did. He got me a job in the vegetable crops department cross-pollinating tomatoes to design a tomato with a thick skin that could be easily picked by machines.

But again, the most interesting thing happened. I got off the bus and checked in at the co-op where I was staying and went by the music department to say hello and there was John Cage. Richard Swift had invited him to teach at UC Davis the fall term of 1969. So I got to study with Cage after all.

UCD was quite different from UK but I did bring my piano-performance habit along with me. I studied composition of one sort or another with Cage, Swift, Larry Austin, Art Woodbury and Jerome Rosen and piano off-campus with the marvleous Aria Chung. There was an electronic music studio with Buchla and Moog. It was a wonderful supportive school and I had a lot of freedom to explore whatever interested me.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2004 10:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Ahh, Source magazine. Stanley Lunetta published that one. He was a mentor of mine, but that's another story.

So you got to take a real formal course with John Cage himself. What was that like? What what his method?
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2004 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

There were about 90 people in Cage's class at UCD and he gave us all A's. The university made him write A 90 times on the class list. They would not accept a sentence saying that we all got A's.

His method was story-telling and performance. He taught us how to use the I Ching. I later used it to make a realization of his CHEAP IMITATION for piano.

Every lesson he told us stories, read from his books, and once he brought us mushrooms he had picked. He organized a performance of Satie's VEXATIONS for 18 hours and 30 minutes in which I participated. Later on at Mills I organized two more performances of it. We also performanced his music in a Cage/Satie Festival that term.

He talked to us privately. He asked me what I wanted to do and I told him I wanted to build instruments and live in a commune and grow my own food and write music. So he sent me to meet Bill Colvig and Lou Harrison and the famous gardener at US Santa Cruz. That didn't work out so the next week I was back with Cage at UCD.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2004 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Interesting. I meet him a few times when I was at Mills. I was surprised that he was so uninterested in impressing people, for someone so famous. I tried to impress him by telling him I studies music with Bill Hoskins at Jacksonville University. He immediately got excited, very interested. It turns out that he loved the Jacksonville area because of the mushrooms that grow there, one species in particular. I was disappointed he wasn't interested in me. I wasn't really into mushrooms when I lived in Jacksonville, except for the ones that grow in cow patties and get you high.

We could talk about Cage for hours, but let's move on. So after your experience at UC Davis, you started graduate study at Mill College with Rober Ashley. You were already better connected with "the scene" than many established composers. What was Mills like? Were there any surprises?
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2004 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I started graduate study at Mill College with Bernard Abramovitch as a pianist going for an MFA in Performance. After the first year with Abramovitch studying mainly Brahms and Schumann when I wanted to play Beethoven, Liszt, Stockhausen and Cage, I changed piano teachers. No one could believe I did that because he was revered but he wasn't right for me. I studied my second year with Naomi Sparrow who was a pianist much more interested in 20th century music. My May 1973 MFA recital included a west coast premier of Christian Wolf, some Morton Feldman, John Cage, John Dinwiddie, Anthony Gnazzo, a piece of my own, along with the Stravinsky SONATA and L'UNION by Gottschalk.

Robert Ashley
But on March 3, 1973 my composition PEACHY KEEN-O (released on a Pogus CD in November 2003; it only took 30 years, folks!)) was part of a Hysteresis (a women composer-performer group) concert on the Saturday afternoon Mills new music concert series. Rober Ashley was there and he told one of his graduate students to have me come talk to him to see if I wanted to get an MA in composition too. It was an incredibly helpful conversation. He said, in effect, "Yes Beth you can be a composer." No one had yet said that to me and I will be grateful forever.

So I stayed at Mills an extra year and got an MA in composition.

The thing about Mills that was the biggest surprise was the looseness of it. At the time I thought it was possibly a failing but looking back, it definitely gave me enough space to go in the direction I needed to go. There was no composer saying you must write music like mine which one hears about from time to time at other schools. Certainly Ashley had a bias toward process music as opposed to collage music.

Terry Riley
I studied Cyclic Composition ( Indian singing) with Terry Riley one term and that turned out to be a bigger aesthetic influence on me than most things at Mills. It was a music with modality and rhythm in which one used segments of a musical idea repeatedly if desired. The modularity and the beauty/wholeness of it appealed to me.

The other influence on me at Mills aesthetically was my work with dancers. I played for modern and ballet classes to earn part of my tuition and I had never improvised before. It was like being thrown into a pool without knowing how to swim, but it was necessary so I did.

The dancers needed music in clear meters and they usually prefered tonal/modal music. They needed music that implied particular emotional states and music that helped them get off the ground for leaps across the floor. It was interesting and it was a way of looking at music that I had not had since I had stopped playing music for church services. It was particular music that was needed for a particular reason at a particular time.

Generally composition of concert works did not give me the sense that anyone was waiting for me to create something in a particular meter or feeling state, nor did they want it at a certain time (if ever). So dancers returned me to useful music. Music for people who were not new music specialists. Music for the people. Music that solved a problem.

And there was immediate feedback. If they hated it, I heard about it and if they loved it, they clapped for the music just played. They clapped at the end of every class no matter what. Dancers gave me appreciation and eventually tendonitis...

I don't know what I expected at Mills except that I would practice 6 hours a day and try to play as well as possible. I got two degrees instead of one. I met a number of world famous composers who visited Mills due to Ashley getting the Rockefeller funding for that purpose. I had enough time left over from graduate school and work to learn astrology at the San Francisco Astrology School in a well organized program and to participate in Hysteresis. The big surprise was that I got to be a composer.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2004 2:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Ahhh, brings back a lot of memories. You read my chart. I must have been one of your first clients. I took a few piano lessons from Naomi Sparro too.

Congrats on the release of PEACHY KEEN-O.

Did Hysteresis do more than that one concert? Did you stay involved with that group after your Mills study? Seems like that was just the start of your involvement with women's composers organizations.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2004 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hysteresis did quite a few concerts. One especially memorable one for me, aside from 3/3/73 was at Live Oak Theatre in Berkeley 7/1/73. My mother had come for a visit and I talked her into doing a performance with me on that concert. The piece was TORERO PIECE and she did a great job. Tony Gnazzo heard the show and invited us to his school in Hayward where he recorded us in their studio. And eventually part of that tape got onto 10+2=12 American Text-sound Pieces, an LP that 1750 Arch Street made/Charles Amirkhanian edited. It was the only thing people had heard of mine for quite a while because I didn't have anything else out on disc. That piece in that original recording also appears on my new Pogus CD in full and has, almost at the same time, been reissued on Other Minds CD in the 1750 Arch cut version.

Hysteresis did performances at Lone Mountain and in Olympia Washington at Evergreen College I think. It was an active group of women: Betty and Shirley Wong, Hzung Zee Wong, Ann Sandifer, Jill Kroesen, Ana Perez, Marsha Mikulac, Rae Imamura, Linda Collins and there were others who I can see in my mind's eye but I can't get their names to come to me. It was my first experience with women composers groups. We used to have really long meetings discussing why we did not need a leader/president. They were anxiety provoking for me but good things came out of the group.

Pauline Oliveros
While I was at Mills Ashley gave me another opportunity. He encouraged me to run a women's music festival. Pauline Oliveros, Vivian Fine, and Charlotte Moorman were the people we invited to do performances. Charlotte stayed with me and insisted on eating hot Mexican food even though she had serious health problems involving her stomach. I loved having her around. We performed together. Vivian Fine had a multi-cello piece performed, among other things. And Pauline was wonderful, as always.

I can't remember what happened with Hysteresis. I got my second masters degree in June 1974. I only stayed in the bay area until I got my National Endowment for the Arts grant (for career development) and moved to New York in March 1975.

Women composers' groups are still very important to me. I'm currently treasurer of New York Women Composers. And this month I'm hosting a series of three concerts for Greenwich House Arts and NYWC entitled Women's Work. There will be three women performers performing a great many women composers' compositions on 2/12, 19, and 25. Exciting stuff.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2004 4:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Well, before we leave the Bay Area, I recall you as the editor of Ear Magazine, a source of information about avant-garde music and art. How did you get involved in that?
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2004 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Ann Kishe came to that fateful 3/3/73 concert of mine and heard PEACHY KEEN-O. She asked if she could publish it's graphic score in the next issue of EAR Magazine which was currently in its 4th issue. I said yes of course. When I didn't hear from her by the logical date, I called Charles Shere who was her co-editor. He said that she had moved to France and that he needed a new co-editor. He asked me if I wanted to do it and I agreed and did the 5th issue. We continued together until February 1975. That was my last issue on the California EAR before I moved to New York and started the New York EAR Magazine in March 1975. The California EAR continued for many years. For a while the country had two EARs.

I loved doing EAR. It was exciting to be in touch with lots of composers and performers to make the issues. I wrote the articles, begged other people to contribute scores and articles, wrote the subscribers to ask them to resubscribe and contribute, got ads, typed it, laid it out, took it to the printer, did the mailings, and distributed it to concerts--sometimes five a day. My car's trunk was always full of various EAR issues. It was complicated and fun.

I did it until 1979 when it was arranged that New Wilderness Foundation (Charlie Morrow) would take it over and keep it running. They did so for quite a while--into the 1990's I think. It ended I think primarily because it became so big and "glossy" and couldn't be afforded by the community it served. But I don't really know since I wasn't there. It just looked that way from the outside. Certainly when I was involved in its production, no issue cost more than $200 to produce in several thousand copy runs.

I stopped doing it because my music became more complicated and took more time to write and copy and my aesthetic was already changing. That transformation made it impossible to continue doing EAR. It wasn't appropriate aesthetically.

Pauline Oliveros' Foundation is collecting back issues and hoping to archive and sell them. I think that is a wonderful idea. I could never sell back issue runs because it did not end while I was involved. When I handed it over to Charlie, Dick Higgins told me I was making a mistake. He thought I should have killed EAR and sold back issue sets, but I wanted the magazine to continue. By the time it did end, I didn't have all the more recent issues.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2004 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I think you did a great job with Ear. It was a great service. We're doing something similar here at electro-music.com. Of course, with the internet technology, it's easier to get people involved and it is less costly to operate.

So, to get back on track, you got a NEA grant and you moved to New York City Was the grant to compose music?

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2004 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

No, the NEA grant was specifically for career development. I couldn't think of anything that would be more useful to my career than moving to New York so that's what I did. I had also just won the opportunity to have a half a concert of my music produced by Composers' Forum at Donnell Library. And I had a Kitchen concert and one more lined up. So I either needed to move to NYC or commute and I decided it was cheaper to move. I don't think it was cheaper but it was what I wanted to do.

The Composers' Forum concert turned out to be quite something. I hired Phil Corner's ex-wife to play cello in the cello and tape piece GOOD-BYE BRIDGET BARDOT OR HELLO CHARLOTTE MOORMAN. (It was my transitional piece saying good-bye to California and hello to New York...) Charlotte Moorman performed TORERO PIECE with me and discussed playing Nam June Paik's topless cello piece on Johnny Carson's show as her part of that piece. I'm sure there was a third piece but I don't remember what it was unless it was SHE WROTE.

In any case, I moved to NYC and got a job playing a few classes a week for the Martha Graham School of Dance and then for Alvin Ailey and that whole 20 year round of accompanying began.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2004 9:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Charlotte Moorman
with Paik's TV Cello (1971)
and TV Glasses (1971)

Sounds like an interesting way to spend a career development grant - move to New York City. So, here you are in New York, having worked with and working with all sorts of people were were movers and shakers in the avant garde and experimental music scene. When did you, bravely I think, start composing music that was counter to the trend; music that some might think was stylistically more appropriate for the 19th century?
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2004 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

stylistically more appropriate for the 19th century...Them's fight'n words!

When I first moved to NYC I made a lot of text-sound pieces mainly because I had no money and string players cost a lot and dance accompanying did not pay well. Plus I kept having opportunities to perform in places like art galleries with no pianos or in places where the pianos were so old and poorly maintained that I couldn't bear to use them. So with no performers and no instrument I could play I was left with being a vocal soloist. So I made YES SIR REE, I CAN'T STAND IT, IF I WERE A POET, THE PEOPLE RUMBLE LOUDER and so on.

The reason I made IF I WERE A POET was that Richard Kostelanetz told me that he would help me get into POETS & WRITERS if I had 25 pages of poetry to submit. They considered text-sound to be sound-poetry so I wrote more. The purpose of getting in was so that I could be eligible to get $50 here and there to do "readings" which I considered concerts. $50 made a big difference when my rent was $50 a month!

I was also trying to get my old instrumental pieces performed. I met, for example, the wonderful flutist Andrew Bolotowsky. In 1975 or there abouts he looked at my 1973-74 pieces and said that no one in NYC was going to take the time to read instructions and make their own realization and most people wouldn't improvise and I needed to make scores that weren't graphic or instructional. In fact, he thought I needed to make scores with pitches on staves with thorough dynamic markings and metronomic markings etc. I was appalled. The bay area had not prepared me for that attitude. I wanted to work with players and this was a top-down approach that I had not worked with since Kentucky.

He asked me to write something for flute and since he was the only person asking me for a piece, I wrote it and when I finished that one, I wrote him another one because he asked for it. Eventually I wrote him THE BLUEBIRD AND THE PREYING MANTIS, SHAKUHATCHI RUN, PREPARATION FOR THE DOMINANT: OUTRUNNING THE INEVITABLE, SKATE SUITE, and THE EIGHTH ANCESTOR and more recently, FLUTE SWALE.

Andrew got me writing instrumental music again but the music itself had to be entirely different to suit the NYC lack of interest in everthing I had been doing prior to that.

There were other influences. For example I could not easily do electronic or electro-acoustic music any more because I did not own my own equipment and I had a lot of trouble getting access to existent studios. Sorrell Hays helped me get the use of the Queen's College Studio thru the indulgence of Hubert Howell. I partially made ODE there. I won the opportunity to use ZBS Studio upstate with Bob Builecki as the tech and I made an underlying tape to be used with the live portion of PEOPLE RUMBLE LOUDER, among other things. Marc Grafe helped me get access to the Wesleyan College Studio where I also worked on ODE. I did the multi-channel recording of JOAN at the SUNY-Albany Studio. But I had no ongoing connection to a studio and I certainly had no money to spend on commercial studios, so that sort of music was blocked.

The other thing that happened to me, aside from my own growing sense of boredom with what I had been doing, was that I met Michael Sahl. Michael had a big influence on me. He's still my closest friend. He had been through all the sorts of modern music that I had but 20 years earlier and he had come out the other side writing music that crossed back and forth between jazz/folk/rock/classical/modern. He wrote whatever he felt like writing. It was very freeing to listen to Michael's saga and his music.

Before I met Michael I had still been using coding systems to write music on staves for Andrew. SKATE SUITE was decoded from definitions of the word skate--including the blade, the verb, the insect... TWINKLE TONIGHT, a song, was decoded from the words itself. I was very interested in the many ways of making words into music. Michael thought it would be a good idea for me, as an experiment, to try making the things I heard in my head/ear into music, rather than using a system. I tried it and my music began the transformation of which you speak.

The music I began to write really offended almost everyone. Naturally the uptown people did not like it but they had expressed no interest in my systematic music either. The downtown people were doing minimalism and had no interest in what Michael eventually called my Merry Melodies. My friends in California were appalled. It was a problem for many years. It is only recently that people have begun to understand what I was doing.

What I was doing was writing melodies and then cutting them up (like my text-sound) and arranging them as though they were modular (like my sense of Terry Riley's music). I also felt as though my music was an outgrowth of Cage's RADIO MUSIC because he changed the channels and it didn't matter where he landed. It was CHANGE. And my music changed....violently I thought. But other people listening less intently perhaps, couldn't even hear the cut-ups. They were too gentle or too seamless or too romantic. People thought I was kidding or that I was cutting up famous pieces or something. But I was actually composing these things and then cutting them up in various ways that interested me and "sewing" them back together. Kinda like a Crazy Quilt.

This was eventually the birth of my swales.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2004 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Interesting. There was a musical culture where writing music that you hear in your head would be experimental. Where doing that would offend people. It seems ironic that John Cage, who was so unjudgemental as a person, would be the sage of what would turn out to be an artistic movement that embraced narrow mindedness. Also, New York City, considered by those who live there to be the center of new music, could become a bastion of convention, even though the conventions were different uptown and downtown. Am I off base?
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beand



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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2004 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

This is all from my point of view of course. It is as true as I can make it but I only know about the part of the 'elephant' with which I was involved.

I don't know if writing music that you hear in your head would be experimental but it was an experiment for me... I had been involved for so long in doing electro-acoustic collage, graphic score realization, instruction pieces and decoding/numerological based music that the "old fashioned" method of writing down inspirations, was an experiment for me.

It certainly did offend people.

John Cage was generally non-judgemental but he did avoid music that affected him emotionally. If his music was on a concert with Beethoven, he stood outside until the Beethoven was over. And he really disliked elevator music, although he wished he didn't... I loved John.

He didn't come to hear any of my music until the music was changing. John Rockwell wrote in the NY Times about my Kitchen concert when I first got to NYC that the music was "post-Cagian non-academic". Cage finally came to hear it around 1979 at a Soho art gallery where the Del Barton Ensemble played SKATE SUITE and THE EIGHTH ANCESTOR and I did text-sound playing drum-set at the same time I did the vocal part. So it had my more avant-garde music (text-sound) as well as the decoded music on staves (SKATE) and the new mixolydian lullaby and hora of ANCESTOR (cut-up melodies). My mother was there and she got to meet Cage. It was a charming evening and very unexpected.

I don't blame John for the narrow mindedness of other people.

New York City is considered by those who live here to be the center of new music and compared to the Bay Area it, in certain respects, was a bastion of convention and the conventions were different uptown and downtown. You're not off base.

The Bay Area was the origin of minimalism and probably still is the height of technologically based music. Recently I heard about somebody putting mikes on plants to make music from what they picked up and that was being done in California in 1972.

The Bay Area had its own 'uptown' area at UC Berkeley with Andrew Imbrie. I didn't stay long enough to be able to tell all the aesthetic regions of the Bay Area. But is was a complicated scene too.
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mosc
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2004 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I liked John too. He was really a nice person. I liked his music better with my mind, than with my ears. I loved his books and his scores, but I never enjoyed listening to his music very much.

OK, enough about other people and the scene and all that. Let's talk about your music. I'm not sure I understand the difference between the "system" music and the "collage" music in your previous statements. When you write melodies and cut them up and put them back together, you call that "collage". How's that different from "system"?
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beand



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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2004 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

A system is when I decode. For example the initial coding system I used for my oratorio JOAN (about Joan of Arc) was:
A B C D E F G
H I J K L M N
O P Q R S T U
V W X Y Z

So if you decode the word "saint" it is the pitches: E, A, B, G, F.

In this piece the code modulated getting smaller each time by one pitch until it eventually was:
A B
C D
E F
G H
I J
K L
M N
O P
Q R
S T
U V
W X
Y Z

So with the final code the word "saint" would be the pitches: AAABB

There were also rules and layers of orchestra/vocal soloists/tape/live electronic modulation, but this is a classic system piece.

I also did a kind of layered collage (like a trifle) that included systematic decoding. SHE WROTE from 1974 is such a piece. I decoded the words to a Gertrude Stein letter that appeared in her early novel Q.E.D. and then rewrote it several times adding repetitions of phrases to make it more like her later style and decoded those versions. The vocalist sang the decoded pitches using multi-phonics. The two violinists played the decoded pitches using the rules that were part of the piece. And underneath all this was a tape of someone reading a Kathy Acker text. The point was that in Q.E.D. there was obfuscation in regard to the level of physical involvement of the three women characters. In the Kathy Acker there was complete revelation about their physical involvement. Kathy's words were the hot description of Gertrude's cool story.

JOAN and SHE WROTE have a lot in common but the swales are completely different.

To make the kind of collage that is a swale, I would write a lot of melodies and cut them up and try different parts of the melodies up against the other melodies until I liked the connections. It was an entirely musical connection of pitches and rhythms. It was not a process or a systematic thing. I didn't usually, for example, use 5 measures of one melody and cut that into 5 measures of another melody, trying to make a mathematical connection between the two. I just did what appealed to me musically.

And this turned out to be a rather radical step.

I wrote an article about 1979 called BEAUTY IS REVOLUTION. I think you put it up on your site actually. That was the way I thought about it.

Music seemed to have gone as far in the direction of noise and disorganization as I thought it needed to go, so the most radical thing that I could do was to try to make beautiful music. And that's what I've been endeavoring to do and that's why people hated it so much. It was a revolution amongst those who I felt had once been revolutionary but were no longer--to me.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2004 4:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I think I get it. The earlier system music involved the music being generated by a process that once defined, more or less mechanically generates the music. A bit like John Cage throwing dice. The process distances or disconnects the emotions of the musician from the music. In the later "collage" based pieces, there is still a process, but it is a tool or technique that is controlled by what you feel or what you like.

When I listened to your music performed recently at Carnagie Hall, I didn't get the impression that there was anything arbitrary or automatic about them. They sounded like you "wrote" every note, like Mozart or Gershwin would have, or maybe Steven Foster or Antonin Dvorjak. There is a lot of emotion in your music, and it evokes images, often of rural landscapes.

You sent me your 1980 article "Beauty Is Revolution" via email. I'll post it. In it you say, "Life is worth living and beauty is worth making and, in relation to current attitudes, these ancient ideas are radical." That was almost 25 years ago. Do you think, the world has mellowed out about art since then. Is your music still offending people? Do you still care?

Last edited by mosc on Fri Mar 05, 2004 10:37 am; edited 1 time in total
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beand



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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2004 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I don't know if the world has mellowed out about art since then. Sometimes it seems as if the world has become disinterested in art music since some time in the 1980's but that may just be that the New York Times cut a lot of the space that used to be dedicated to art music. The Times still prints a few reviews but nothing like they did in the 1970's. I know its illogical to equate 'the world' with the New York Times but I do think they often mirror trends.

I'm sure my music is still offending people. People don't stand up in the middle of my concerts and throw things or hoot and holler. They just avoid it because they don't agree with me or want to experience my take on music.

I'll always care. I want people to love my music and perform it beautifully and commission more of it. I want to feel as though my contribution to concert music is worthwhile.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2004 7:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Well, we don't want to start measuring things by what's in the New York Times. Electro-music.com is where it's at now. Laughing Around here we believe that beauty is in the ear of the beholder. To these ears, your music is beautiful.

You have been down a very interesting path; to be on the inside of the new music elite as a rising yourg star, then to move back to what you have called the ancient traditions of expressive music. In doing that you have still been very distinguished and successfull. You have a somewhat unique perspective.

Before we wrap this up, what is your view on the future?

Last edited by mosc on Fri Mar 05, 2004 10:47 am; edited 3 times in total
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beand



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 05, 2004 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

In general the future of music seems to hold massive variety and new ways of making music available to people. For me the future is about the March 29th concert that includes my large piano piece, QUILT MUSIC, along with music by my friends. Here's the info on that: http://electro-music.com/forum/topic-1531.html

Thank you.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 05, 2004 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thank you, Beth...

[Editor's note: I'm locking this topic. If you want to make comments or ask Beth questions, please open another topic in this forum. --mosc]
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