Copyright © 1988 Folke Rabe and the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation.
Public reproduction - wholly or in part - without the written consent of the copyright owner prohibited.
Folke Rabe: FROM HOPEFULNESS TO WHAT? Program 5/5, manuscript.
Premier broadcast: 9th March 1988, Swedish Broadcasting Corporation, Channel 2. Light adaptation 2006 for the Internet publication.
The signature tune of the radio program Musikjakten [The Music Hunt; a music quiz]
No, no, be cool! There is no Music Hunt on, and no other quiz either. Not even Kvitt eller Dubbelt [another famous Swedish quiz], though he won the quiz once in Italy - the subject being mushrooms. No, but it has to do with hunting… Thing is, John Cage has reminisced. He compares the 1980s with the 60s, and finds that he is interested in more things now than he was back then. When he was young, he was mostly concerned with hunting, for example mushrooms. But what is he interested in now, in the 80s?
Interview with John Cage, 1985, New York: ”I think the difference for me… but I have added gardening to hunting, eh?” 0'37
FR: Now in the 1980s Cage is interested in gardening. This does not mean that he's abandoned his interest in hunting, but gardening has been added to hunting.
Well, that is one way of describing the development from the 1960s to the 80s, and that can probably serve as a basis for a separate meditation. The subject of this series, the fifth an last part of which is broadcast as of now, is the story of what has happened to a group of American musicians during the twenty years from the 60s to the 80s. In the preceding programs I've portrayed a line-up of composers and musicians from California whom I got to know in the 1960s. In this program the gallery is supplemented with a few New York profiles. Then I will parade the different fates - shoulder to shoulder - and try to sum up common and discriminating characteristics.
We started with John Cage, and that may have been significant. So much in the 20th century, and especially in the USA, begins with Cage. He's in a class by himself and has, in various ways, been a source of inspiration for many of the musicians that have moved through this series. Now he's 75 years old and has moved into Manhattan, where he resides in an open and light flat, in fact a part of a rebuilt former department store.
The flat is almost a greenhouse. There are flowers, bushes and small trees everywhere, and they are exemplary tended. He must devote half his days to watering and tending his protégés. He's surely showing interest in gardening in the 80s, and smack dab in the high-rise forest, at that. He also collects stones, beautiful stones from all over the world, grinded and polished by nature itself, by the waves of the ocean and the sand storms. Now all these stones lie in decorative rows, coils and Cairns amongst the flowerbeds.
One of the thoughts brought forth by John Cage, which had an especially great impact among the composers of the 60s, is that all sounds - not just sounds from musical instruments - are useful in music. You should keep your ears open and be sensitive to all sounds of the environment, sounds of traffic, the humming of fridges and other household machinery. And he congratulates us on our “happy new ears”.
He returned to this thought in our conversations, and I asked him if it hadn't become inopportune these days when we worry about the rising level of noise in society. Cage dismissed this. He doesn't see the surrounding sounds as acoustic pollution. You should strive to keep your senses and your mind untarnished; not the surroundings.
Interview with John Cage, 1985, New York City: ”I don't think of them as pollution…There is nothing harmful - as far as I'm concerned with the sound of the present New York environment." 0'45
Well, he modifies his statement some. You shouldn't be stupid and ignore the fact that the environment can poison the senses, but up to the level where the changes may bring danger, the environmental sounds can be very interesting. And then he adds, with his characteristic, roguish Sphinx-grin: “As far as I am concerned, there is nothing harmful in the sound environment of New York today.”
That was John Cage…
Now we will meet one of the somewhat younger composers that I got to know during my first stay in the USA in 1965. Clear the stage for Malcolm Goldstein and his fiddle!
ENTRY 4, RECORD:
Malcolm Goldstein: from Soundings for Solo Violin. 2'35
This is one of Malcolm Goldstein's so-called Soundings; improvisations for solo violin. It's a genre he began to cultivate in the 1970s, and this is perhaps what's he's most known for.
Sounding is an ambiguous word. It can mean something that sounds - is sounding - but it can also mean probing, take a bearing and sounding the depths. The relation between Malcolm and his fiddle in these pieces is, to say the least, complicated.
As a listener, I think you experience these Soundings as being very expressive. I saw an article where someone had written that they gaze inwards with an overwhelming intensity. Malcolm himself doesn't think that they exactly express him. Rather, something is being expressed outside of the self, in a transcendental way. It hasn't got to do with Malcolm's feelings or modes.
True, he's the one playing, but in an other sense, it's him being played by the violin to the same extent. It can be uncertain who really is the voice and who is the sounding board; he or the fiddle. Sounds mystical? Malcolm maintains that when he is in the midst of it, it's completely obvious and really very simple.
Interview with Malcolm Goldstein: ”I know that from other people's response… it transcends me in my particularness.” 1'04
FR: It's true that Malcolm is the one who initiates the sounding moment, but then the fiddle, of course, contributes, but also the performance space with its properties and characteristics, together with the consciousness of time, history and many other cultures. It extends into something far beyond the individual Malcolm Goldstein.
When I first met Malcolm in the mid 1960s, he was active in something called The Judson Dance Ensemble. It was a dance group affiliated with a church; Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village - at that time an important center for the artists of Lower Manhattan. The progressive priests of the church wanted to serve the congregation, and since the residents of the area mostly consisted of artists and intellectuals with lack of space, the church opened up for dance, theater, exhibitions, happenings and other stuff.
Carolee Schneemann's - as she said - “cinaesthetic” theater play Meat Joy, was staged there, for example. Carolee had collected a gallery of characters who rubbed themselves with colors, make-up and dead animals: it was fish, chicken's legs and more. I later heard that the priests of Judson Memorial Church associated to the Holy Communion on watching Meat Joy, and that they pondered borrowing some of the expressions for high mass…
In this environment Malcolm Goldstein produced quite a bit of music, for example a piece for a vocal ensemble, with a notation that simply consists of variations on how the text is written; with different size letters and various type-faces, in straight or winding lines. Malcolm's scores are usually very beautiful to the eye, and they always imply engaged participation on the part of the musicians. They are points of departure for improvisation.
At the beginning of the 70s Malcolm acquired a house in the countryside of the scenic state of Vermont, and when he's not touring he either lives there or in Boston. (Nowadays, in the 21st century, his permanent residence is in Montreál, Canada.) The environment in Vermont has affected him strongly, and it was around this time he began using the sounds of the surroundings in his music. In his four-movement work The Seasons: Vermont the musicians often play graphic scores that in various ways are based on Vermont circumstances. One of the pages for example builds on maps. Moreover, the musicians play against taped and rather unaltered environmental sounds from up in the forests; the sounds of nature or sounds of work and activity.
ENTRY 6: RECORD:
Malcolm Goldstein: from The Seasons: Vermont.
Malcolm Goldstein is by now 50 and a few years old. Charlie Morrow is a little younger - 46 - so he still studied in the 1960s. It was a time of split personality. The academic studies were - very academic. The teachers belonged in the Establishment; the Uptown expressionists of New York. But Charlie spent all his free time with the New York avant-garde in the studios and so-called lofts Downtown, i.e. in Lower Manhattan. In those days the thoughts circled a lot around the concept of style, and Charlie tried to find his stylistic identity.
Interview with Charlie Morrow:: "My own music in the mid sixties… for me I was just trying to find my own identity within style.” 0'39
FR: Charlie studied composition and the trumpet. He became a trumpet virtuoso. He learned from his studies that it was important to find the right playmates. If one were to find a job within the Establishment one should be an Uptown expressionist and not belong to the Downtown avant-garde. Charlie went his own, third way. Already in 1968 he started an activity that is about this:
Charles Morrow Associates Inc: Train to the Plane. 0'30
Commercials, that is. Radio commercials. Here it concerned The Train to the Plane, the new train line between New York City and Kennedy Airport. This is such a profitable trade that a few commissions a year will do. The rest of the time Charlie can devote to composing, playing, improvising and working in the New Wilderness Foundation, an idealistic organization that produces concerts and publishes a magazine.
Nowadays Charlie doesn't worry at all about questions of style and identity, and he is not anxious at all to have his personality built into the work.
Interview with Charlie Morrow: "My music today is no longer concerned with style whatsoever…so I proceed right from the situation to the music." 0'25
All his new compositions are different from each other. Each starts from its situation, and the situation is sometimes a very extensive one. By now he's done a good number of monumental works, embracing a whole lot of participants across large areas, at times whole city districts, utilizing spectacular resources, like, for example, a whole fleet of ships, and including great media involvement, like live broadcasts from a number of countries simultaneously.
During the New Music America Festival in Chicago 1982 a monumental work by the title Toot 'n' Blink Chicago was performed. Out in the darkness on the vast waters of Lake Michigan a whole armada of ships, and directed through radio transmissions these ships tooted their foghorns and blinked their lanterns in a huge and sluggish marine ballet.
ENTRY 10, TAPE:
Charlie Morrow: Toot 'n' Blink Chicago, jam session part. Circa 1'30.
An improvised section of Charlie Morrow's Toot 'n' Blink Chicago for two ship choirs out on Lake Michigan.
Well, if the music does not express Charlie's own personality, what then, is their content? He likes working with traditional folklore instruments like shell trumpets and rattle instruments, and he enjoys cooperating with ethnic minorities, especially the North American Indians. There are traits of rites in his works, and they often connect to basic events in nature, like sunrise and summer solstice.
But then there is the media aspect; the utilization of modern technology. That is another thread in the web. A third thread concerns social and political matters. Life under Reagan is much worse than under Lyndon Johnson.
Interview with Charlie Morrow: "My work has remained almost constantly acoustic…getting the works done; I've become more scheduling-oriented." 0'53
Charlie is also interested in the healing possibilities of music. And he has become effective, and on time. The large ventures require planning.
In the midst of this activity, Charlie Morrow feels like an outsider. He doesn't feel like anyone at all is interested in the same matters that engage him. No colleagues think like him, and various works of his attract completely different groups.
It may be Charlie Morrow's trend in the 80s, to remain outside and go his own way with his music. He's definitely not mainstream.
Interview with Charlie Morrow: "I guess I feel that I'm kind of an outsider…mainly outside of the concert hall, taking more to media space and the street space.” 1'03
The concert hall is no longer Charlie Morrow's environment. He acts more through the media - and in the streets. In Stockholm we have met him lately at Fylkingen, sure, but just as often in the bushes at Djurgården [a large, wooded park area in Stockholm]. The he has often performed with Sten Hanson, his accomplish since many years.
In spite of all these monumental ventures, Charlie can still achieve tight, concentrated performances in intimate settings with subtle nuances and the simplest possible means. He is also a particularly sensitive improvising partner, which I have experienced myself.
In his youth he was also a trumpet virtuoso. Here he plays an old horn with one single valve, with Glen Velez on a Brazilian tambourine. A little Bugle Tune from 1980.
ENTRY 13, RECORD:
Glen Velez/Charlie Morrow: Bugle Tune - Horizontal Vertical Band.
OTHER Media Records 80-7-1, 3'14
Bugle Tune by and with Horizontal Vertical Band, alias Charlie Morrow and Glen Velez.
In this program series I have presented a dozen American composers and their development from the 1960s to the 80s. My original purpose with this was to check if any patterns appeared, some common main points of reference that might establish a more general perception of the times in which we're living, some common tendencies that could plot a course. I have tried to analyze the recorded conversations with my old American friends, and the remainder of this last program I will devote to account for what I've found, but - be cool - there will be music to!
But - first of all - don't misinterpret my ambitions. I definitely do not aim to conduct a statistically waterproof study of the average American composer's view of life. My friends are not representative for anything average. On the contrary, it's an exceptionally homogenous group. Most of them are 50 plus, and belonged to the same set in San Francisco with Robert Erickson as their common teacher. Almost all of them - whether from the East or the West Coast - were in opposition to the academic musical establishment in the 1960s. It even went so far as the expulsion from the Conservatory of San Francisco for some of them. However, it wasn't an aggressive antagonism, but an opposition in good spirits. There was often a good deal of humor in compositions and performances.
Ann Halprin was the leader of the dance-theater group Dancers' Workshop of San Francisco in those days, and cooperated with most young composers in the city. Nowadays she calls herself Anna Halprin. When she looks back, she sees a host of old and since long established boundary lines between one form of expression and another, and barriers between what was allowed and that which was - prohibited and improper. The 60s was the time when these boundary lines where put in question and attacked, and the tool - the battering ram - was a completely incomprehensible discharge of creativity and collaboration. It was an exciting and dynamic time.
Interview with Anna Halprin, 1985, San Francisco: "And that's what it was all about…that I could never have anticipated." 0'33
FR: So unforeseen possibilities and resources opened up to Anna Halprin.
Almost all of my American musician friends were engaged in cross-artistic ventures of various kinds. Pauline Oliveros composed chamber music in the form of theater pieces. Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender made multi-media works with projections by the visual artist Tony Martin; in La Monte Young's Theater of Eternal Music, his wife Marian Zazeela were in charge of the projections. She is a painter and a calligraphic. And so on, and so forth.
Another discipline cultivated by almost everybody at this time was improvisation, albeit with rather different methods and points of departure. Those who wrote scores included the possibility of improvisation, perhaps with certain indications or rules how to go about it. The more theatrical pieces maybe didn't build on scores, but rather some sort of scenario with verbal performance indications.
The Afro-American improvisation music didn't seem to play a big part for these composers of the 1960s, except for Terry Riley, who was affected by the attitude of the jazz musicians towards music-making. But when it comes to methods of improvisations, there are no similarities between his music and the Afro-American forms.
During the 60s, anyhow, many musicians became curious about other musical cultures. At the music-ethnological faculty of one of the main universities in Los Angeles, for instance, indigenous drum masters from Ghana were engaged, teaching their knowledge the traditional way, through oral tradition.
The possibilities of getting in touch with even the more distant musical cultures have increased through the development of media and intensified travel. This is also apparent in the interest of the composers. Robert Erickson, in his orienting instrumentation tuition, has always included examples of instruments from all the world's musical cultures. He was heavily influenced, himself, from a visit to Bali in 1974, and you will find influences from there and other Asian and African musical traditions in his music.
Terry Riley and La Monte Young were disciples of the Indian temple singer Pandit Pran Nath at the beginning of the 70s. Charlie Morrow and Ramon Sender have, each in their own way, been strongly attracted to traditions and ways of living of indigenous peoples. Yes, Ramon Sender even founded his own tribe, with its own religion, ceremonial and the works.
This commitment is definitely not on a tourist level. No, it's deeper than that. A characteristic of musical cultures beyond the Western art music is that they're seldom result oriented. The importance we put on result - the product - must be a view that originates in industrialism and commercialism and the achievement demands. With many - perhaps most - of these American friends the tendency has rather gone towards placing importance on the creative and work process, instead defusing the result orientation.
Pauline Oliveros, for example, has since the beginning of the 1970s devoted herself to individual and collective meditation, with music as a means. In her performances, as in Stuart Dempster's, the audience is often invited to participate in the music making in some adapted and meaningful way. For example through singing extended drones.
La Monte Young's music (and it's also valid for Terry Riley's, at least during the 1960s and 70s) is like a segment from an eternal continuation. It is never completed or finished. Never reaches a definite state, but it is as it is at the time of presentation, reflecting the level of training, concentration and innovation that the instigator has reached in his continuing advancement into the working material.
Meditative, ritual or mythological elements have, for almost all of these Americans become more important during the 70s and 80s. Several of them have gradually taken deeper interest in the spiritual - yes, in some cases even in the healing - capacity of music and art. This medical aspect is especially cultivated by Stuart Dempster and Charlie Morrow, but also by Anna Halprin. In the beginning of the 70s she was subject to a very serious illness, but managed to subjugate it. She is known to have maintained that she danced it off.
For Anna Halprin, rite and myth are central concepts today. After having worked intensely with opening and widening the means of expression during the 1960s, and include social aspects in the 70s, she felt forced to halt in the 80s and ask herself why she did these things. What is the content? Who cares? We have a meaning with our lives, and the world is at a crucial, decisive crisis. Do we do this to improve the world?
L'art pour l'art wasn't sufficient for Anna any longer. A vision of rites began emerging within her.
Anna Halprin lives in Marine County north of San Francisco at the foot of a high mountain; Mount Tamalpais, which also is a valued recreational area. But at this time - in the beginning of the 80s - there hade been a series of assaults and homicides on the forested slopes, and people didn't dare go there anymore. Then Anna Halprin and friends began annual rites to reclaim the mountain for the people, which in due time also succeeded. The killer was apprehended after a time.
This ritual originate in authentic symbols and myths, but aren't limited to one religion. On the contrary, Anna Halprin strives for a more universal practice, so when I was there a few years ago, a rabbi participated with a ceremony, a group of indians from a reservation executed a cult act, and so forth. The intention is to have the citizens re-connect with, on the one hand, life, and, on the other hand, ancient symbols and myths, to facilitate a change of their lives in a more meaningful direction, and in time achieve a peaceful co-existence.
Is it hard to follow? I have summarized as good as I could. You will soon hear Anna say it in her own words. I will just add that Anna has combined this series of mountain rituals with her regular educational courses. In time for such an event, large numbers of people gather in Marine County: pedagogues, culturally interested people and others. With Anna they shape and rehearse elements in the rituals that are to be carried out up on the mountain. The sounds that have been audible now for a while are recorded at such a rehearsal.
Interview with Anna Halprin, 1985, San Francisco: "So, then, in the eighties…because they are enactments of symbols and myths.” 0'58 /As the voice falls silent, a song from a separate tape lingers by itself for a while. /
This little song that one of the participants of the course sings, Terry Riley had written for Anna for this particular occasion.
Out of my old American 60s-friends its probably Anna Halprin and Ramon Sender that have gone so far in their ritual and mythological engagement that it has affected them deeply and influenced their entire way of living.
Another strain that is characteristic but isn't embraced by everybody is the incorporation of environmental sounds in the compositions as a musical means of expression with a special power of association. Malcolm Goldstein used sounds from life and nature in Vermont as components in his seasonal portrait of the state. Robert Erickson has recorded the sea, traffic, brooks and other sources, treated them electronically and used them with instruments. As a prerequisite for this attitude towards environmental sounds you may of course perceive John Cage.
For a couple of these American composers, the electro-acoustic sound tools never meant much. All the others have periodically worked intensely with electro-acoustics, and some have even been pioneers within electro-acoustic music in the USA, but more than half of them have lately reduced their engagement in the field. It may be a matter of curiosity that the one who most radically “dropped out” and abandoned urban life in the seam between the 60s and the 70s - Ramon Sender - today is one of the most computerized of the old gang.
Yes, roughly like that the main emphasis has shifted amongst these composers during the course of the last twenty years. If you ask Terry Riley about his overall view on the three decades, he replies that the 60s was a time of hope. You counted on things to get better in the world, and Terry thinks that his own music as well as the rock music from that time expresses this sentiment.
The 70s became a little grayer. Maybe it wouldn't get that much better after all. People slumped and asked themselves why they really created music. It was an introverted time, and it was consistent that many got interested in Indian and other musics from the Far East.
The 80s is a totally catastrophic period. Fascist governments and monetary power structures have taken over the world and oppressed the poor. For the musicians, confusion increases, and it is hard for them to grasp the significance of their lives when even their own administrations tries to force us head on into global destruction.
Interview with Terry Riley, 1985, over the telephone: "And the sixties, you know, were a time of hope…the way I see music history of the last twenty years." 1'49"
FR: Well, that's how the last 20 years of music history looks to Terry Riley. This was a telephone conversation from the spring of 1985. It was a time when the American plans for a defense system out in space - which was named Star Wars - were put forth with great force, which probably gave Terry's view on the 80s and extra dark accent.
Another comprehensive analysis of this period is presented by Morton Subotnick. He recalls the 60s as a time of uninhibited and sometimes rather chancy experimentations, and it was the media you gathered round. Like Terry, he describes it as a time filled with trust and hope.
A little later he changed course. He constructs mythologies as a basis for his compositions, and sees it as a classicist period. Today he's in an almost romantic period, where the content is the main thing, and questions of media and form have receded. Right now he's working with large-scale music-dramatic projects and feels that he's in a way back in the beginning of the 60s, when he also created big music-theater pieces.
Morton thinks that all his old pals from San Francisco in one way or another have returned to earlier grace lands, even if they've come to different places. He mentions Steve Reich, who made tough, experimental pieces in the 1960s, and now writes choral music with text, and Terry Riley, who has returned to a more narrative form and furthermore has began writing scores again, one might add.
Interview with Morton Subotnick, 1985, over the telephone: ”One thing that's interesting…Maybe it's because we're human beings? he-he-he.” 1'03
FR: Like the Big Bang at the dawn of the Universe. All us small particles spreading in different directions, but our behavior still in a way moving in parallel. Maybe it's just that we're humans? - So much for Morton Subotnick.
Of the fields of interest that have become mutual for some of these composers, there is one I haven't mentioned.
Interview with Terry Riley, 1985, over the telephone: "eh, tuning in just intonation…it's one of the most challenging, you know, areas to work in right now for me." 0'17
Terry Riley mentions just intonation, just tuning, as the most interesting field for him to cultivate as of now. A host of potentialities are opening there. It's a challenge.
It is a matter of retuning e.g. a piano from the common well-tempered tuning with twelve equally wide semitone intervals, which in fact is a compromise in order to be able to play in all the 24 major and minor keys. You re-tune to the pure, beatless intervals in the harmonic overtone series, but even there various systems are applicable. One result is that the degree of beats will change according to how far you move from the tonality that the instrument is tuned to. Superficially you could say that it sounds un-tuned in varying degrees when you make deviations in the tonalities. Simultaneously, the instrument can take on a rare clarity of sound when you stay in or close to the fundamental tone of the tuning.
This seems to be a field, which interests more and more of my old American colleagues. I recently heard that Pauline had obtained an accordion in just intonation, so that surely will be her medium up ahead. However, the real pioneer in this field is La Monte Young, who is Terry Riley's friend since many years, and his supervisor in this subject. I presented him in the second program of this series.
Since 1962 he has almost exclusively devoted his time to making music in just intonation. He has experimented and investigated interval construction in an extremely exhausting way. His gigantic masterwork in the field has a title that contains an innuendo for Bach: The Well-Tuned Piano. It has recently been made available on a monumental release on the label Gramavision: a box with 5 CD (or, if you prefer, 5 LPs or five compact cassettes), with a total duration of circa 5 hours*.
We hear La Monte Young in a section of his Well-Tuned Piano with a characteristic subtitle: 25 October 1981 18:17:50 to 23:18:59 New York City.
ENTRY 19, RECORD:
La Monte Young: from The Well-Tuned Piano, Gramavision 18-8701-1.
- THE END -
*) The Well-Tuned Piano was broadcast in its entirety but sliced up in five different broadcasts on Swedish Radio, Channel 2 in 1988 or possibly 1989.
English translation: Ingvar Loco Nordin