Resonating motherships

The effect of a piece doesn't merely depend on the performance of the musicians, but also on the place it is performed at. How do you see the relationship between location and sound? In how far do you feel the current system of concert halls is still the right one for your music – or for contemporary music in general?

Every room has it’s own unique acoustics.  I adore performing in great sounding rooms and have had the pleasure of resonating some pretty spectacular Motherships in the last few years. The Sydney Opera House, Queen Elizabeth Hall,  The Temple of Dendur to name a few. I adore reverberant spaces. For some work these can be problematic but for my work they are ideal.

The role of the composer has always been subject to change. What's your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of composers today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?

Being a composer or any kind of artist is a solitary endeavour. It’s not like being in the military. One must go one’s own way.  Personally, I try in my own way to make work that feels relevant at a particular time to me. Sometimes the time is right and sometimes it is not, but nevertheless, I am affected by the world in which I live and try intuitively to present my reaction to the feelings I experience through my work.  Often the references can be obscure.

How, do you feel, could contemporary compositions reach the attention of a wider audience?

In my experience it is the young people coming of age who through the abundance of stimulation have managed to develop very sophisticated ears. It is happening. One thing the orchestras of the world must do is to promote new music more. Their core audiences are aging and dying off. To stay afloat and remain relevant, they must attract younger audiences.   

Usually, it is considered that it is the job of the composer to win over an audience. But 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? 

As I said earlier, learning how to listen … how to stretch my ears, was the most important lesson I ever learned. Not that every composition presented is listenable. Sometimes you have to follow your instincts and discreetly bolt at the earliest convenience.  A particular experience with Tony Conrad at Cite de la Musique in Paris comes to mind … sheer torture … (love you, Tony!)

Music-sharing sites and -blogs as well as a flood of releases in general are presenting both listeners and artists with challenging questions. What's your view on the value of music today? In what way does the abundance of music change our perception of it?

Ohhh … that’s a loaded question.  In my opinion, people should pay for music just like they pay for food, clothes, tattoos, computers and any other luxury. Just because it is easy to steal doesn’t make it free. Someone had to pay for it. And generously presenting something to the whole world that is not yours to bequeath is a tacky ego trip.  

That said, there doesn’t seem to be anything anyone can do about it, and I’ve come to realize that this is the reality of our world at the moment. Blogs are like the new radio, and that most people that love my work will eventually buy it when they can afford it.  I really appreciate that.  I’m very lucky. My fans are very loyal, smart and gorgeous.

Composers have traditionally found it hard to secure a living with their art. What are the financial realities you're living with and in which way, do you feel, could they be improved?

I feel extremely fortunate to have made it to a point in my life I never thought I would experience. It was a long time coming but because of my loyal fans, I am able to pay my bills through my work.  It’s a lot of work.  Besides having a great booking agent, Danilo, who handles touring, I still do everything myself:  making the work, running the label, the office, email etc. but it’s my job, and I’m happy to do it. Buy the music you love, it makes you feel good.

Please recommend two artists to our readers that you feel deserve their attention.

Well, I’m obsessed with David Bowie’s new album, The Next Day It is the best work he’s done in years. I love it and have just ordered the deluxe LP/CD set from OtherMusic.com in NY. And people should certainly collect and go see my darling daughter Antony (and the Johnsons) perform at any opportunity.   

To read about and buy William Basinski's albums, visit www.mmlxii.com

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