With more and more musicians creating than ever and more and more of these creations being released, what does this mean for you as an artist in terms of originality? What are some of the areas where you currently see the greatest potential for originality and who are some of the artists and communities that you find inspiring in this regard?
I certainly can’t keep up with everything that’s going on, but every so often I hear something that I really like, sometimes maybe just one piece by that person. I think part of getting older is that sometimes ideas seem to come around again. Originality is born in that inner zone of the artist, where they’re not trying to “be something” or “do something,” but just “be.” I think there’s too much emphasis on what’s “out there.” Go inside and there is originality. Please yourself, no one else matters.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
I think of composing as architecture, almost like a building. It has space and proportion and flow and structure. I think of improvising as dancing within that building – one needs the framework, the structure, to be free.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition and what are some of your strategies and approaches of working with them? How does music relate to other senses than hearing alone?
Sound takes place in space. I’ve always been a fan of environmental sound. That’s why I perform in quadraphonic, because it can fill the space and dance in it. I’ve done installations of music that moves through an aquarium, very gratifying. I don’t think one should judge music by whether it is “background” or meant to be “intensely listened to.” It’s important that music can stand up to intense listening, but I’m also a fan of background music, just bathing in it.
I think music marries with visuals very readily. When I used to do picture scoring, I always took great pains in the synchronization… if you watch “The Incredible Shrinking Woman,” which I scored, every gesture, every subtle movement is acknowledged by the music, in a conscious yet subtle way. But the truth is, we will make most of the connection ourselves; our eyes want to integrate with our ears. Many people say my music is visual, and I confess to being inspired by visual things, but to me music is not the handmaiden of anything else; it is its own statement and the associations are secondary.
What's your view on the role and function of music as well as the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
I don’t know about the role and function of music in a social sense.
Listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
I think we need to be aware that our listening can be deepened as we practice listening. I remember when I first heard Indian music and it just washed over me; in fact, I once played it at the wrong speed and didn’t even know it. It’s a joy to deepen a sense. I go to museums with my sister who’s a visual artist and I see through her eyes, eyes much more educated than mine. I get to see what I couldn’t see before. Everyone can hear, but listening is a skill.
Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What's your perspective on the promo system? In which way do music journalism and PR companies change the way music is perceived by the public?
I try to keep some distance from that process, but, in fact, am involved in it right now with the release of the Sunergy album. Let’s just say no one hears your own music the way you do. So, there is an interpretation going on by definition. At best, promotion and publicity might make someone aware of something that otherwise they might have missed. But I think it is an error to think that some “expert” can tell you what to think. You either like it or you don’t. Some people think they should like something because a critic said it was good, they don’t trust their own reactions. That’s sad.
Do you have a musical vision that you haven't been able to realise for technical or financial reasons – or an idea of what music itself could be beyond its current form?
When I first had a concert planned in Lincoln Center in New York City in the 70’s, I couldn’t do it because the theater wouldn’t install speakers for a quadraphonic set-up. They were remodeling Avery Fisher Hall at the time and I tried to get them to make the theater conducive to electronic music. I formed an entity called the “Electronic Center for New Music.” No one knew who I was and no one listened to me. Now they are once again re-designing that hall and I’m not even trying to change minds, but I do think that we need a new kind of theater and soon! Spatial sound has begun to happen in film theaters, which is quite amazing, given that Hollywood was slow to embrace even stereo in the day. But now we have 5.1 and 7.1 and so forth. But what we need is an adaptable space for sound and lighting of all kinds, with environmental seating. It’s so crazy that music groups carry truckloads of gear and have to set up all that stuff and it usually sounds just awful. My vision for music is that it has a new space in which to happen.