Composer  William  Bergsma
Two Conversations with Bruce Duffie


William Bergsma, A Music Professor And Composer, 72

Published in The New York TImes, March 21, 1994

William L. Bergsma, a composer of symphonies, chamber music, songs and other works, died on Friday at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. He was 72 and lived in Seattle.

The cause was a heart attack suffered in the hospital, where he was being treated for a broken hip, said his daughter, Anne, of Seattle.

Mr. Bergsma was born in Oakland, Calif., and studied at Stanford University. He was a teaching fellow at the Eastman School of Music and earned an a bachelor's degree from the University of Rochester in 1942 and a master's degree in music there in 1943.

From 1946 to 1963, he was on the faculty of the Juilliard School of Music, where he was associate dean from 1961 to 1963. He was a professor at the University of Washington, in Seattle, from 1963 to 1986 and the director of its School of Music from 1963 to 1971.

In 1972 and 1973, he was a visiting professor at Brooklyn College. He received numerous awards, grants and commissions, including Guggenheim fellowships in 1946 and 1951.

In 1981, after the world premiere of his work "The Voice of the Coelacanth," a set of 10 variations for horn, violin and piano, at Alice Tully Hall, one critic noted that the coelacanth was a fish that had long been thought extinct until a specimen was found in the 1930's.

It was said at the time that Mr. Bergsma had adopted that unlikely survivor as a symbol for himself -- a composer, then 60, who had never deserted tonality and, at that time, saw dozens of his former avant-garde colleagues returning to the fold.

In addition to his daughter, a classical soprano specializing in the 20th-century repertory, Mr. Bergsma is survived by his wife of 48 years, the former Nancy Nickerson; a son, Laurence, of Seattle; two half-brothers, Edwin Bennett of Portland, Ore., and David Bennett of Oakland, and two half-sisters, Shirley Bennett of Maui, Hawaii and Gloria Olson of Hillsborough, Calif.

One of the more interesting, or dare I say
‘quirky’ figures of Twentieth Century music was composer, teacher and administrator William Bergsma.

I had the pleasure of interviewing him twice, the conversations occurring exactly one year apart.  The first one was on the telephone, and the second was in his home in Seattle, Washington.  Portions of both were used at various times on WNIB, and once as part of the in-flight entertainment package aboard United Airlines.  That package, incidentally, was also placed aboard Air Force One, the Presidential Jetliner. 

What appears on this webpage is an entire transcript of both conversations, one after the other.  Amazingly, there is very little duplication of ideas, and when those do come up, there is usually a little different slant or additional examples given. 

He mentions quite a few names of other composers, and those which are links refer to my interviews elsewhere on this website.

The first conversation is an interesting snapshot from 1986, when the recording industry was in an upheaval.  Much would settle down quickly, but this moment-in-time captures the reactions and reflections of one of those who started and steered the way early on in the LP era.

In my career presenting musicians on the air and in print, practically all were friendly and amenable to speaking with me.  Obviously, a very few were not, and they simply declined my invitation.  I encountered a few who were apprehensive at first, but I managed to put them at ease.  In this case, however, my guest made his feelings known at the very start...

WB:    [With regards to editing the conversation]  I can’t say that I trust your judgment, because after all, you are a journalist.  What I’ve been taught over many years by hard experience is that journalists are very nice people, and one must regard them as mortal adversaries.  Their interests are not identical with mine.

BD:    Well, my interest is really to try and present you in the best possible light.

This seemed to satisfy him, but later, after we had been speaking for about a half hour, there was this exchange...

BD:    I’m getting some interesting insights into the workings of your mind.

WB:    Well, that, too, is dangerous.  Pardon me if I sound suspicious.  I don’t really mean to sound suspicious.  I do mean to sound wary.

We did continue, of course, and in the end he seemed pleased with how it went.  We stayed in touch, and he even invited me to his home the following year!

Here is the first of the two interviews from the point where he picks up the phone . . . . .

William Bergsma:    Hello?

Bruce Duffie:    May I speak with William Bergsma, please?

WB:    Mr. Duffie?

BD:    That’s right. 

WB:    Hi.

BD:    How are you?

WB:    Good.  How goes it?

BD:    Just fine...  Adjusting the levels here on my equipment.  Everything seems to be rolling fine.

WB:    I figured, a radio man you’re going to be prompt.

BD:    I try to be.  Everybody seems to comment on that, on how accurate my time is when I make the call.

WB:    I was trained at Eastman, and when I was Vice President of CRI, a lot of recording sessions had to start precisely at the dot and end precisely at the dot.  So, I’m conditioned.

BD:    Good.  For this I have an accurate start time but no finish time.  We can go as long as you like.

WB:    [Laughs]  Well, you cut it off.

BD:    I didn’t realize that you were Vice President of CRI.

WB:    Oh, yes.  Founding Vice President.  In default of anybody else, I ran the place for about the first two years.  My opera was on CRI 105, so I had a vested interested in seeing that the firm got off the ground.  I write in the mornings, so I spent probably three or four afternoons a week being vice president of what was then a profit-making corporation.  At that point you couldn’t get into the Schwann Catalog unless you were profit-making, so the original incorporators, who were both non-profit, decided that was that way to go.  Then after a couple of years of this, it crossed my rather lame brain that I might as well get paid for administration, so William Schuman offered me the job of Associate Dean of Juilliard.  I decided, okay, I’d move over.

bergsmaBD:    So you would teach at Juilliard, and work for CRI, and try to compose?

WB:    I wrote and I composed.  Juilliard was compassionate.  Schuman took the point that if he was going to hire composers, he wanted them to compose.  He managed to do that until the Rockefellers at Lincoln Center practically killed him off with a major heart attack.  None of us ever showed up before noon, and we taught as long as we had to, or administered as long as we had to.  He also took the point, which is perfectly true, that no musical crisis blows up before noon, when rehearsal breaks.

BD:    [Laughs]  Very sensible.  As VP of CRI, were you involved in the decisions of what would and would not get recorded?

WB:    Yes, after the first twelve releases, which were pre-set. 
CRI, by the way, was the second in existence in the United States of a label run by composers, the first being Henry Cowell’s New Music Edition, to which I was a subscriber for a while.  Anyway, CRI was formed by the editorial board of the old American Recording Society [example of one of their discs is at right] which was Doug Moore, Quincy Porter, and Howard Van Desto, the President of Desto Records, and a bunch of other people.  Desto kept us commercial.  Doug Moore at ASCAP heard about this, because that was going to come through the American Composer’s Alliance, which is BMI.  Doug’s position was that with such an important potentiality as a recording company run by composers that ASCAP ought to have an input.  He got together enough money from the Ditson Fund and other places to not quite match the BMI input, so we became non-partisan.  The board of directors, then, had about an equal number of BMI people and ASCAP people. 

BD:    Is that a good thing?

WB:    Yes.  If we had any substantial number of people in CSAC, which is another performance arts organization, I would be in favor of that, too.  It’s like industry counsel with Ford and General Motors.  It’s sort of stupid to go off on your own unless you’re BMW, a firm for which I have inordinate admiration.

BD:    Then what constituted the criteria for deciding which pieces would get recorded and which would not?

WB:    I pushed for certain pieces.  I pushed for Copland’s First Symphony and Sessions’ First Symphony.  I wanted a great big chorus and percussion piece which was recorded later but we didn’t do it.  And I pushed for sort of Americana, because I have, through my wife’s side of the family, a songbook from about 1848 to 1850 published mostly in St. Louis.  The family by that time on her side was in Hannibal, Missouri, having abandoned Georgia just in time to escape the Civil War... though to hear them talk, you would never believe that.  [Both laugh]  At any rate, some of the things I pushed for worked.  Some of them didn’t sell, but it was the board’s decision, not mine.

BD:    Now you say that the company had to make a profit?

WB:    No, I didn’t, because it certainly never did.  It lost money hand over fist.

BD:    I thought you said it had to be a profit-making organization.

WB:    It had to be incorporated as one in order to be listed in Schwann.  Then about ten years ago they decided that this was nonsense, that they’d get more money from non-profit organizations by being a non-profit organization.  So they wrote each one of the people who had records on CRI, which they or their publishers had sponsored, or some foundation had sponsored, and said, “Would it be okay if we became nonprofit?  Would you sign the enclosed release?”  Which we all did, I guess.

BD:    Anybody who held out would just simply be dropped from the list?

WB:    I don’t think they did, because CRI’s great boast, as you know, is that they never dropped anything.

BD:    So everything is always available?

WB:    That was the original policy thirty long years ago.

BD:    But CRI is still continuing to release material.

WB:    All over the place.  They’re into cassettes which are very nice.  I haven’t been active with them really since I stopped being Vice President.  I think my last piece on CRI is on #140, and they’re in the 200s and going on 300s now.


BD:    I assume that without CRI, a lot of these pieces just simply never would have been recorded.

WB:    We took the position that any piece worth being done is worth being recorded, at least in one form or another, in those days before cassettes.  There was no possibility of doing what’s very easy now, simply to put on your own concert, pay the extra money to the performers and get a usable cassette which you can sell at your next concert.

BD:    But you were not trying to compete with Columbia or any other recording company?

WB:    We sure were!  We got into a fierce, almost bullfight with Columbia Records because they objected to our use of
‘CRI’ because they were Columbia Records Incorporated.  I was a great deal of fun having to correspond, with our lawyers’ help.  Then Columbia Records Incorporated dis-incorporated to take a loss from somebody going broke.  Columbia had, unadvisedly, recorded Guerrelieder with a piano pick-up group, and RCA casually re-released the Stokowski 1933 version on RCA.  So nobody bought the Columbia Records thing, but every record retailer did.  Sam Goody went broke, and in order to take the loss against Columbia Records B, Columbia Records Incorporated went out of business.  So I had the pleasure of sending a letter pointing out that ‘CRI’ no longer existed, except with Composer’s Recordings.

BD:    [Laughs]  Gave you some satisfaction, then?

WB:    There are a few pleasures now in this job.  Not many, but a few.

BD:    So you are still very supportive of CRI, even though you’re not directly involved?

WB:    Yes, I’m supportive of it, in principle.  I’m sort of supportive of things in proportion to the propinquity I have with them.  I haven’t been in the CRI offices for twenty years.

BD:    Would you rather one of your pieces be released on CRI, or on RCA or Columbia?

WB:    Obviously, RCA or Columbia... except that both are monumentally stupid, and haven’t even gotten into the CD market yet.

BD:    [Laughs]  That’s not necessarily monumentally stupid.  That could be just lagging behind.

WB:    Which is monumentally stupid in the business world, isn’t it?  Aren’t they paid a large salary to think ahead?

BD:    That’s true.  Of course, we’re seeing a repeat of 1948 now, with the CD market.  Back in ’48, when Columbia introduced the LP and RCA went with the 45 and EMI stayed with the 78 format, and it was a long time before everything got straightened out.

WB:    CRI got into the LP market right away, but not into the stereo market.  All the early releases were mono.  Some of them had been reprocessed in stereo, which is generally a dreadful idea, including a couple of pieces of mine which sounded much better in mono.  The interesting thing about the LP market is that it doesn’t seem to exist anymore.  Cassettes, at least in Seattle, sell very well.  At least they’re only being marked down to 50 percent of cost.  Compact discs are selling at only a discount of about two dollars from their $16.69 price, and LPs you can hardly get rid of.  Chicago may be a different market.

BD:    CDs are selling very well, and we know that a number of things are being released only in the CD format.

WB:    There was some talk about The Murder of Comrade Sharik.  Brooklyn College has a benefactor who has a record company, and he distributes through a national firm.  He issues only in CD and cassettes, which sort of shook the teeth out of some of the record owners I know in Seattle when they heard about it.  Things move fast.

BD:    Probably in not too far down the line we will see the replacement of CD with another format, and then all the CDs will become obsolete.

WB:    Well, that’s excellent for the manufacturers.  It’s simply hell on the musicians.  It simply means that you have to record the Unfinished Symphony yet another time.

BD:    Is it hell on the consumer also?

WB:    I’m not that much of a consumer.

BD:    Should the composer or the performer be concerned about the consumer?

WB:    I probably should be.  Actually, this conversation is now occurring to me as a composer, and I’m delighted to see the trend.  This is a dreadful confession, but I really write for the dress rehearsal.  I write for the musicians who are playing.  I’m not a performer myself.  I can conduct all right, but I’m very clumsy with piano and viola, which are my instruments, and I sound like hell.  Since the tape recorder, I’ve hardly played them.  But the most satisfying thing to me is when you get through the dress rehearsal with the players knowing what I want, and I knowing that I’ve written them music that they can play happily and sound good, because if they don’t sound good, I can’t sound good.  The audience is simply there.  They’re wonderful.  They’ve paid their admission, they pay the freight, and I must admire that pertinacity, if not perspicuity in some cases.  But so far as I’m concerned, the real delight is not what a real performer feels, which is, “My God, I’ve got this gut feeling between me and the audience.”  You know you just stand on a stage and you know it’s there.  It may not be physically measurable, but it is supposed to be animal magnetism between people.  You’ve stood on a stage and talked to an audience, and you know very well that there is something there between you and them, and if you lose it, you’re dead.

BD:    Some nights it’s there, and some nights it’s not.

WB:    Right.  Same as composing.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    You’ve taught in Juilliard?

WB:    Yes, it was my first teaching job.

BD:    A note I have says you were involved in the curriculum reforms of the 1940s, so how has the teaching of composition changed over forty years?

bergsmaWB:    Please remember that I studied with extraordinarily great teachers.  I studied in high school and in between high school and college with Al Frankenstein, who was teaching a course in 20th Century Music at San Francisco Extension of UC Berkeley.  I would go up once a week, and Al would play Bartók, Schoenberg, Ives, everything that was on 78 at the time.  He promised us he was going to bring in Blitzstein
’s The Cradle Will Rock, and then he didn’t like it, so he said, “I’m not bringing it in, because I don’t like it.”  That was Al.  He was absolutely wonderful!  Then I had Howard Hanson, who was my principal teacher.  I hid my credentials, because I was still in high school and not in college, and went down to his seminar at USC in Los Angeles in 1936.  It was a weekly thing, and at the end of his two-hour session, I shyly took out a score and said, “Would you have time to look at a page or two?”  So he sat down with me.  He played the whole damned thing through, and he wanted to recruit me for Eastman.  It took me two years to grow up to that.  My parents decided that I should not face the wild east while I was still not dry behind the earswhich in retrospect was a very sensible thing — so I spent two years at Leland Stanford Junior University.  There I studied with Warren Allen, who is the author of Philosophies of Music History, which is a superb book.  It deals with what musicologists don’t pay much attention to, which is historiography, the study of history as the way you look at it.  He went through the great man theory, and the evolutionary theory, and the “We are all fallen from Paradise” theory, which go behind all music history books.  He wasn’t a terribly good teacher, but in this book he had a great perception, and did it with great thoroughness.  Then there were other teachers.  Pierre Monteux, the conductor who played me while I was still in high school and college, is a teacher.  He teaches his orchestra.  He teaches his audiences, and in my case certainly, he taught this composer.  He had a concept which is quite rare in major conductors, a responsibility to the community, to the whole area.  I was scared to death of him.  If he wanted to know about a young artist, Monteux put him or her not on a series, of course, but on the broadcasts and all sorts of other things which the San Francisco Symphony did for a living.  And he did the same with me.  He did the same with any talent that came around, and it was sort of wonderful.  It does happen with a few conductors, and I will not name them for fear of annoying others.

BD:    Is there too much talent around today to be accepted or worked with by the major people?

WB:    Quite seriously, that is the problem of the major people.  They can’t look at every manuscript.  They can’t hear every pianist.  But they have to have tentacles in their community, be that Tel Aviv or Minneapolis or whatever, so that somebody can come to them and say, “This is somebody you should hear,” and they’ll hear them.  Somewhere around 1960 I was talking to Roger Sessions, and bitching that in my generation there were 200 trained composers, and one could tell one from the other.  They came from a very few schools.  They came from Eastman, and possibly from USC, or maybe
but not very likelyfrom New England Conservatory, Juilliard, or Curtis.  If you look at my generation, that’s where we all came from.... mostly Eastman, because Hanson was an absolutely superb teachernot of composition, but of music.  Bitching to Roger, I said that there were probably 2000 well-equipped American composers, and twenty years from then there would probably be 20,000.  How was one to tell one from the other?  Roger looked at me owlishly and said, “How would you like to be in my generation when there were only two?”  I told that to Otto Luening, who rather waspishly said, Charles Ives and who else?”  [Both laugh]  That was naughty, but the point being that if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.  That’s a Harry Truman phrase, if I remember correctly.  In my contest judging years, which ended when I had my heart attack and I retired, I used to judge three or four major contests a yearNational Endowment, a number of the foundations, who would like me to be nameless, Prix de Rome, ASCAP, BMI.  There you would look at the work of 500 composers inside two or three days, a lot of them you knew from before.  But there is a cadre of composersand I will not name them, because again, they might like to be anonymousof maybe twelve to fifteen American composers of my generation and the generation immediately below, guys in their forties, who know these pieces, who have a very firm idea what each judge thinks of the piece or the pieces, and, moreover, has insight into how these pieces are going to sell.  Now with that knowledgewhich is very painfully acquired, let me assure youhe can go conceivably to a conductor, who asks him, I’ve got this commission.  Who would you recommend?”  I would say, “Go see Mr. Y.”  Mr. Y sometimes would get the commission, sometimes would not, sometimes would get payments and get a post, and sometimes would not.  The point of it is there are people who know who they are. 

BD:    So you’re saying that the number gets reduced to a certain few who stay in the mainstream, and the rest fall by the wayside?

WB:    If a composer, by age thirty, has won an ASCAP or BMI award, has been commissioned by a local arts council, that’s important.  If he has won a national prize or two
the American Academy Institute of Arts and Letters’ Charles Ives award, which is better than a fellowship, for instancehas got a commission from the Koussevitzky Foundation or one of the major foundations...  [pauses]

BD:    If they’re arrived at one of these things?

WB:    Not one of them, five or six of them, then you’ve got a built-in selection.  [Retrieves a book from his desk to read the list of composers...]  I’ve got it here.  This is the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters 1986-1987 Members Book.  It’s my club.  We are two hundred and fifty gentry, who don’t like each other very much.

BD:    [Laughs]

WB:    Let me read off the list of the members in the Department of Music.  Dom Argento, Milton Babbitt, Leslie Bassett, Jack Beeson, Arthur Berger, William Bergsma, Lenny Bernstein, Henry Brant, John Cage, Elliott Carter, Chou Wen-chung, Aaron Copland, George Crumb, Mario Davidovsky, Norm Dello Joio, David del Tredici, David Diamond, Jake Druckman, Vivian Fine, Ross Lee Finney, Lucas Foss, Miriam Gideon, Morton Gould, Lou Harrison, Alan Hovhaness, Andy Imbrie, Betsy Jolas, Ulysses Kay, Leon Kirchner, Ernst Krenek, Otto Luening, Don Martino, George Perle, Vincent Persichetti, George Rochberg, Ned Rorem, Gunther Schuller, Bill Schuman, Steve Sondheim, Louise Talma, Virgil Thomson, Vlad Ussachevsky, Bob Ward, Hugo Weisgall, Charlie Wuorinen.

BD:    That’s quite a list!

WB:    And they decide, or committees from them, decide who shall get the $80,000 or so a year, for young composers, the American Academy Institute has to give out.  I can give you list of fellows.  Give me a year from 1942 on.

BD:    Let’s say 1951.

WB:    1951...  Alan Hovhaness, Leon Kirchner, Frank Wigglesworth got the music award.  Give me another one.

BD:    1960

WB:    1960...  Arthur Berger, Easley Blackwood, Salvatore Martirano, Gunther Schuller.  In other words, we pick well.

BD:    Yes, you have selected rather well.  It reads like a Who’s Who.

WB:    It is.  This organization essentially doesn’t give any money to its members.  Its members give their time in order to give money to youngsters in their field.  There are similar lists for art and literature.  The members are awfully good people.  Now, they’re sort of survivors.  I said in my introductory speech that in 1945 I received $1000 from the organization in my trembling hand, and I looked at the assembled multitudes on stage, probably about 180 of them, and I knew most of the names from the text books.  They looked three times older than God and twice as distinguished.  I never thought that I would be among them, but it turned out, if you live long enough, you are.

BD:    So back to my original question.  How has the teaching of music, teaching of composition, changed over all these years?

WB:    For the worse. 

BD:    Why and how?

WB:    Go back to J. S. Bach.  If I studied with J. S. Bach, I would get beaten regularly by him or his assistants, but I would have had to learn the keyboard and violin much better than I did.  I would have been forced to copy out the music of my master and the people he thought well of, which would have included Domenico Scarlatti, Alessandro Scarlatti, Monteverdi and God knows who else.  Copying out music is not a bad idea, if you pay attention to what you’re doing.  In my generation, Howard Hanson at Eastman set up a situation where I received forty-four orchestral readings in four years.  Some were broadcast, some were stage performances, but that’s an average of eleven readings or performances in an academic year.  That’s an awfully good background.  I’ve not been able to do that for any of my students, and I’ve had some very good students.


BD:    Is there any way of recapturing this, or has it simply gone the way of the dinosaur?

WB:    Well, unlike J.S. Bach, you can forget about the beatings, and with Xerox you can forget about the copying of music.  It can be done if you simply give somebody of Howard Hanson’s imagination and ability to talk to an orchestra
who are his employees and his studentsand who has done this for year after year, and you can convince them of the value of it, and attract the best students in the United States so that Eastman, in provincial, frigid Rochester, was the musical capital of the United States.  New York never realized it.  You get the man who has vision and competence with, let’s say, instead of the twenty-two million dollars that George Eastman gave the Eastman School, multiply it by ten, to 220 million dollars, found it in Tulsa and you have a first-rate school.

BD:    If the money was appropriated properly!

WB:    Howard was quite sure that it was, including a bribe to the University of Rochester.  He always gave them back some money every year, so that they wouldn’t claim that he was hogging it.  We all could have used it well, but he decided that the bribe was the best way.  Same with Juilliard.  The first recipient under the will of Augustus B. Juilliard was not Juilliard School, but the Metropolitan Opera, which snubbed him by not having him on the board of trustees, and refused his bequest.  So, the second beneficiary for the benefit of music in the United States, was construed by the lawyers to mean to set up a school.

BD:    The Met turned down money???

WB:    Yes, but in my time, Juilliard was still paying $20,000 to the Metropolitan Opera to keep them quiet. 

BD:    Are you, then, not optimistic about the future of music?

WB:    [Laughs]  Musicians will always manage to survive.  We’ve been very poor most of the time.  Sometimes we hit it rich.  The field of music is by no means as rich as painting is now.  The painters are so rich, with huge canvases selling at $120,000 each, and painting three a week, that they have their own secretaries.  They’re too busy to devote time to the kind of juries that the musicians and literary people do at the Academy.

BD:    But is the music that is coming out worthy to stand beside the music that has already come out?

WB:    I like some of it.  I shouldn’t.  It’s my competition, but for what a composer ought to like, it’s quite a lot of it.

BD:    Is there competition amongst all these composers?

WB:    Basically, there’s the kind of competition where there’s too much money thrown around, so that a talented composer is going to get a lot of it.  Money equals time, so he’s going to get time thrown at him.  For instance, Sessions had the reputation of being a
foundation-bum.  He’d been on fellowship for so long that he had a hard time getting a decent teaching job.  He had to while away some years at the University of California at Berkeley before he was allowed to return to the east coast and a decent job at Princeton.  Is there an opportunity for young composers?  Sure.  If there are 20,000 with music composition degrees in the United States, most everybody’s going to have a regional or a local reputation.  For instance, in New York, Dom Argento is still considered a regional composer.  You read John Rockwell on the new opera that Dom produced, Casanova, and he says, defensively, and I’m quoting from memory, that “He is not well known in New York City.”  Hell, he’s been played by the Minneapolis Symphony in New York City time after time.  I’ve heard him.  Aside from being a first-rate musical intelligence, he is a very good composer, as far as I’m concerned.

BD:    Do recordings allow you to break out of your locality and become national and even international?

WB:    George Crumb was the first one to prove that.  He had no solid publisher.  He changed performance organizations in mid-stream because he was furious at a certain ASCAP publisher.  He moved over to BMI and moved to a certain BMI publisher.  In the middle of this he got enough recordings from various sources, including the American Academy and Institute, because these prizes now include one side of a recording from CRI.  He’d accumulated enough recordings so that he could bypass the critics, he could bypass the music publishers, and suddenly appear as somebody with a popular following, which was very difficult to obtain.  It took John Cage years, and George did it relatively overnight, only a year or two or three.  So the answer is yes.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    In reading a little bit about you, Baker
’s Dictionary has a very interesting thing to say about your music.

WB:    That’s Nicky Slonimsky.  Great man.

BD:    He says that your style “is that of classical romanticism, having a strong formal structure without lapsing into modern formalism.”  Can I get you to translate that?

WB:    No!  [Laughs]  I’m as impressed as you are.

BD:    Is it not accurate?

bergsmaWB:    I would never dispute Nicky Slonimsky on fact.

BD:    But is that fact or opinion?

WB:    I think it has to be considered opinion.

BD:    So then, is his opinion accurate?

WB:    His opinion is as good as mine is.  A composer is not a jury of his own compositions, for God sake.  He just writes the stuff.

BD:    Do the performers who play your music find things that you didn’t even know were in the score?

WB:    Rarely.  Sometimes, but rarely.  Of course, I’ve palled around with performers since I was a pup, and been serviced by conductors the likes of Monteux and Leinsdorf when I was in my teens and twenties.  With organizations such as the San Francisco Symphony, and pick up groups in New York, and the New York Philharmonic, and teaching at Juilliard as long as I did, I can’t go to an orchestra or any chamber group or conservatory in the world where there aren’t one or two, or maybe five or six students who I have probably taught myself.  I’m dependent upon performers, except for being a moderately good conductor.  I’m a very bad performer, and I have to work through other people, particularly since my chosen medium is the voice, or its extension, the string quartet.

BD:    It’s interesting that you make the connection of the voice and the string quartet.

WB:    My old teacher, when I again was a kid, said in effect, “You’re never going to be a violinist, but you’re going to be something interesting.”  So he sent me up to San Francisco.  It meant going up in the trolley, eighteen miles from the peninsula.  I would bring back violin sonatas.  He had all the Mozart, Beethoven, etcetera, so I would bring back Honneger and Milhaud.  I don’t think I brought back any Schoenberg and Webern wasn’t published then.  There isn’t any Berg for violin and piano, but we would sight-read the others with me at the piano.  That was my violin lesson, and I learned to sight read very well.  I can sight read better than I can play.

BD:    Have you basically been pleased with the performances that you have heard of your works?

WB:    When the performer has had the time, and this is critical.  I haven’t written for a large orchestra since 1950, unless I’ve had a soloist or a chorus, because I know that I’m going to have something like three times the running time of the piece in rehearsal.  In other words, if I write half an hour symphony, I’m going to have an hour and a half rehearsal.

BD:    That’s not very much.

WB:    It certainly isn’t.  I’ll get a lot more with a chamber orchestra, or chamber music, or opera, so I write for them.  If I’ve got a soloist, he can force his way through.  The conductor can only do so much, and if the score hasn’t been done and there isn’t a tape of it, the conductor is faced with the problem of being perplexed with a great volume of sound.  He’s studied it, that’s for sure.  He’s worked on it, but he hasn’t had that much time. 
I’ve envisioned it.  I’ve spent a year on the thing.  If he’s spent thirty hours, that’s a lot.  That’s a full working week for a conductor, aside from doing other things that conductors have to do.  So I am perplexed...  Is this a mistake in the parts?  Is this volume balance correct or not?  Having to make split-second decisions with the time runningat what used to be $180 a minute, but it’s probably more nowmy margin for error is not that comfortable ten per cent plus or minus which an electrical engineer or an architect has.  My margin for error in a three hour rehearsal is if I waste five minutes I’m in very bad favor with the performers and the conductor.

BD:    Do you ever make revisions in your scores?

WB:    Regrettably, yes.  Well, you look at Slonimsky, for instance, or the New Grove, any list of my pieces, you find that a lot of my pieces have been revised.  [See my Interview with Stanley Sadie, Editor of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.]  In the last year or so I’ve been discovering that revisions were a bad idea.  Not the ones that I made at the time of the performance, because that was directly fact on fact.  These were the ones in listening to dear friends or critics or somebody saying, “You know, this really needs to be fixed up,” and fixing it up.  Well, it didn’t need fixing.

BD:    That’s the Anton Bruckner syndrome.

WB:    I never thought much of Bruckner’s intellect, but I’m beginning to doubt my own.  That’s the Anton Bruckner syndrome, yes.  For instance, I’m conducting A Carol on Twelfth Night in New York at the not-glamorous Brooklyn College.  I’ll have to be in New York, alas, from Thanksgiving until almost Christmas for their rehearsals and performance.  I’m going to ask for the un-revised version, the one that’s recorded in Louisville.  I did the more flashy version, which is current and which has been done, according to my publisher, more than a hundred times, because the beginning was “obscure.”  Well, I happen to like the beginning, and I’m going back to it to see how it sounds.  I may be wrong.  I may go back to the revised version.  I’d like to find out.

BD:    So you need to hear it again with new ears?

WB:    I’d like to find out what I did first.  I was not all that untalented.

BD:    Part of my reason for asking all of this is the current rage among musicologists to dig up first versions and urtexts, and play them either alongside revisions or in place of revisions.

WB:    Let’s take Mahler.  The First Symphony had five movements.  The Blumine thing, I think, Mahler was perfectly right to cut out.  That was a rational decision, and he adhered to it.  Bruckner didn’t have that much rehearsal time with orchestras, and he suffered from the defect of being an organist.

BD:    Organists have to do their own registration.

WB:    Yes, and you have a jerry-built instrument every time.  You don’t know what you’re going to get, so I don’t write for organ.  Beside which, in Bruckner’s day you had to stop everything and rearrange registration if you wanted to change things, which I think explains the grand pauses in Bruckner’s music... and for that matter, in Cesar Franck’s.  They automatically were accustomed to the grand pause so they could readjust the registration.  The instrument the musician plays is very important to his output.  Berlioz played guitar and flute, not piano until much later.  That’s one reason he sounds very much different from any other orchestrator of his time.  He had what in the guitar was called the decaying instrument, and the flute, of course, a completely sustaining instrument.  He used those things; he knew about them.  You do what Berlioz tells you to.  I discovered something in the Symphonie Fantastique the other day, doing a bit on counterpoint in the twentieth century.  When the bells come in, in the fifth movement before the Dies Irae, they’re marked derrière la théâtre, behind the theater.

BD:    Offstage?

WB:    Does that mean offstage, or does that mean behind the audience?  I’d like to try it with an orchestra some time, or get a conductor to, but my feeling about Berlioz is you must follow his instructions completely correctly.  In the first performance, I’m afraid he substituted something like six grand pianos on stage, but he may not have been able to fit them behind the audience.  He says derrière la théâtre, not derrière la scène or derrière l’orchestre.  He was a very, very good man with the French language.

BD:    Are you this specific in your scores about writing out all these details?

WB:    Nobody else is going to be.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Earlier I asked if you are pleased with performances of your music.  Are you pleased with the recordings that have been made of your works?

WB:    In the main.  I’ve had absolutely devoted performers and performances.  I’ve been extremely lucky.  Where people have not had enough time, or mistaken a concept, or a soloist who demanded more rehearsal time, then naturally, the new guy suffers, and the composer’s automatically the new guy.

BD:    You say that you like to write for the voice, so let me ask you about your operas.

bergsmaWB:    Okay.  May I first say that the most beautiful sound to me is the mezzo soprano on G on the staff, going from piano up to forte, and back down again.  One of the reasons I’m glad not to be teaching anymore is that I had a student this past year, who, upon hearing that in my two operas I considered the test of truth was in the mezzo soprano role, asked what voice my mother had.  I should have said I’m off to a psychoanalyst, but I didn’t have the wit to do so.

BD:    One of the articles about you said you learned a bit from your mother, who was an opera singer.

WB:    She sang in the chorus.  I played under Gaetano Merola at the Bach Festival in Carmel for awhile.  One time he looked at the section I was playing in and he said, “You sound like a mosquito with intestinal flu,” which was perfectly proper music criticism.  But he looked at my mother’s section of the chorus and said, “Each of you is saying to herself, ‘How dreadful is that soprano next to me!’”  He was never a great international success, but he did found San Francisco Opera.  He also wasn’t a terribly good conductor.  I knew that because not only had Monteux played my music, but I played under Alfred Hertz!  He conducted one of the all-high school orchestras once and I was in it.  I had enough time in the second violin section to watch his technique, which was very, very good.

BD:    So you enjoy writing for the voice?

WB:    Yes.

BD:    Does that enjoyment carry over to writing for the voice on stage?

WB:    Oh, especially.  I’ve not written very many songs, but I’ve written two full-length operas, not counting one I’ve thrown away.  I’m working on a third, and very possibly a one-act.  One does not commit to an opera without a certain sense of exhilaration and despair.

BD:    So the joys and pains are multiplied?

WB:    I don’t think I’ve ever felt as completely used as I was in the rehearsals of The Wife of Martin Guerre at Juilliard.  I was revising the orchestration like crazy — not so much voice because I’d had a chance to do that in the vocal rehearsals.  But it was a steamy.  I don’t know what season it was, but I was stripped to the waist and running a blueprint machine and sweating like a fool for the revisions.  Then I was going on stage to make sure they were in the orchestra parts.  It’s just absolutely wonderful when you get into that.  I missed that in the recent Brooklyn performance for a number of reasons.  I was away from the initial rehearsals until the dress rehearsal, so I missed all that fun.  On the other hand, I survived, which I may not have otherwise.  Composers have a rather dangerous period after an operatic premiere.  Bizet did not survive Carmen.

BD:    I’m glad to know that you survived The Wife of Martin Guerre!

WB:    I am, too.

BD:    Did you write this for young voices, or did you just write it for voices?

WB:    Knowing what I know now, I would say I wrote it for young voices, but that’s the view after the event.  I wrote it for voices.  I knew the kind of theater I wanted, and in particular the kind of theater I did not want.

BD:    What did you not want?

WB:    I did not want a large opera house.

BD:    So it would be useless for you to try and solicit the Metropolitan to do it?

WB:    I never did.  I also never did City Center.  Any place that’s above twelve hundred seats I would look on with suspicion.  In other words, I’m writing for the theater.  I’m writing chamber opera, reducing my orchestral forces, and not necessarily reducing my vocal forces, but not asking for Pavarotti.  I was not asking for anybody to force the voice.

BD:    Then did you purposely go and solicit Stockholm or Vienna, where they have theaters of smaller size?

WB:    No, because I was based in New York.  I had the Juilliard Opera Theater, the present Manhattan Hall, which fits my specifications perfectly.  The piece has been done in small halls.  My operas have been done in small halls.

BD:    But now that it has been produced, are you looking for that kind of theater to get it produced again?

WB:    Oh, sure.  There’s no point at all at putting on an opera which requires the words to be heard.  I’m thinking, for instance, of works like Britten’s Turn of the Screw, or Monteverdi.  There’s no point at all in putting them on in a theater bigger than the Uris in New York, which is the biggest “legitimate” Broadway theater used for musicals.  It has 1200 seats and it has to be amplified there.  Once you get beyond eighty feet from stage center, you lose the faces, you lose the gesture.  You have to be amplified, and the economics of the grand opera are such that it’s in an impossible situation.  I think it would be probably on videocassette, almost certainly in twenty years’ time.


BD:    Do operas work well on videocassette?

WB:    Well, there’s a superb performance of Elektra, and an excellent one of Nozze di Figaro.  Yes.  You don’t get what you get in the opera house, but mostly what I get in the opera house I don’t want.  After all, let’s face it, when you went to an opera in early Verdi time or Rossini time, you went from a palace to a box, or if you paid for your seat, or for standing room, you went from a cold hovel into a warm, lit theater, much more opulent that anything you’d ever seen.  This was a treat!  You stood for four hours and the singers were close to you.  You could hear everything.  You could watch the dramatic action.  It was the equivalent of television in functional terms.  Now I leave a very comfortable house and a very nicely set up play-back system, and I commute two and a half miserable miles to a too large opera house to hear singers I don’t particularly want to hear do an opera, which I will manage to avoid, so I generally don’t go.

BD:    In your own operas you want the diction to be heard.  You work hard on the libretto.  The second, Comrade Sharik is your own libretto?

WB:    Yes, and the third is likely to be my own, too.  I’ve invited Janet, my old comrade in arms, but her special kind of insight and humanity in poetry just go against the grain in the opera I have in prospect.

BD:    If your operas are done in Europe, do you want them translated?

WB:    I’ve enjoyed, for instance, the von Hofmannsthal-Strauss Elektra very much more, and appreciated the libretto very much more, with supertitles or subtitles.  It seems to me that’s the way out of this dreadful dilemma of translation.

BD:    That was my next question, about bringing the supertitles into the theater.

WB:    I’ve only seen that once in Eugene Onegin, and it was so dreadful a production in theatrical terms that it was simply another impediment.  So I can’t really say.  I do know that on a cassette or VCR, I like the subtitles very much.  For the first time, I didn’t think that von Hofmannsthal was being too talky in Elektra.  He isn’t.  He’s being extraordinarily pointed, but you got the difficulty — not in reading, but in listening.  When I first saw the movie M*A*S*H in Italy, it was translated into Italian.  My Italian was not all that good, but it was serviceable.  The problem is that the English titles went lightning fast, and the Italian had to have a syllable or two extra in every word in order to make sense.  The result was super-bad.  It was just incredibly difficult to understand.  The Italian audience was getting a fair amount of it, but I didn’t know what the picture was about until I came back to the United States and saw it in English... or American-speak.

BD:    [Laughs]  That’s right.  There’s a difference between English and American.  Have your works been done in translation?

WB:    I don’t think so, but I don’t know.  Once they’re published, or in the hands of a publisher, you don’t have any real control.  I think that I would have heard about it, because there would have been some right I would have had to sign for someplace or other.  According to my contract, I would still have to approve translation to another language.  I’m not absolutely sure about that, but I would hope so.  Not that I’d be very good in Hebrew, but I’d try.

BD:    If your opera is being done in Tel Aviv, you’d have it done in Hebrew?

WB:    Well, the Jerusalem Post, in a review of a concert I gave there, described me as “the wandering Jew of American music,” which sort of threw me.  I first checked around to see if being a wandering Jew is very good in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. 
Flying Persian would have been more accurate.  What they were talking about was my habit of going back and forth between coasts and jobsSan Francisco, to New York, to Seattlethat sort of thing.

BD:    Are you still teaching, or have you retired?

WB:    I’m retired as of September 15th, so, officially I’m not retired yet.

BD:    When you were actively teaching, did you have enough time to compose, or did it have to be squeezed in?

WB:    I had enough time to compose.  They kept my mornings free.  I wake up at about four in the morning and think best in the morning, so it was no great hardship.  But what I discovered upon quitting was that I didn’t think I was concerned with the affairs of my institution that were outside my control, but I was.  I felt like a balloon with helium when I made the decision to retire.

BD:    Will you now have too much time to compose?

WB:    No, I don’t think so.  I’ll find out.  All I want to do is write the Collected Works of William Butler Yeats.

BD:    As song texts?

WB:    Song cycles with orchestra.

BD:    That should occupy your time very well!

WB:    Well into the next century!

BD:    I hope we have a lot more things coming from your pen.

WB:    Well, that’s a nice thought.  Thank you.

BD:    Thank you for being a composer.

WB:    [Laughs]  That’s an extraordinary statement.  Thank you for interviewing me. 

===    ===   ===    ===    ===    ===    ===    ===

Exactly one year (less one day) later, I was in Seattle for performances of the Pacific Northwest Wagner Festival.  Having let Bergsma know of my impending visit, he graciously invited me to his home to continue our chat. 

The drive out from the city went through winding roads and up many hills until we reached a remote and quite isolated locale.  I was met at the door by his daughter and their Golden Retriever, and escorted upstairs to his studio.  This room had windows which overlooked the forest and mountain range, and seemed the ideal place to formulate ideas and allow them to blossom into new sounds.

Here is that second interview . . . . .

BD:    First, my favorite question.  Where is music going today?

bergsmaWB:    Onward and upward, and onward or downward, depending on where you’re standing.

BD:    So where is William Bergsma standing?  Is his music going upward or downward?

WB:    [Laughs]  I wrote a piece a few years back for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center called The Voice of the Coelacanth.  The coelacanth is a nice fossilized fish that everybody thought was extinct until 1936, when an unwary specimen was caught off the coast of South Africa and hauled, indignantly protesting, into a fisherman scientist’s boat.  The only thing I know about it from a scientific standpoint, which is not very scientific, is that it has a very primitive gut and exuded large amounts of a pungent oil.  Despite these attributes, I sort of adopted it as a mascot.  I figured that with the various things that are going around I could certainly pay attention to them.  I know pretty well what goes on.  I seal what is mine where I find it, and intend to continue doing so.

BD:    [Laughs]  It is interesting that you seal what is yours.  I like that.

WB:    I think that’s perfectly fair.  God knows, most of the composers in this and every other century have done just that.  You have just been through some little pieces of Mr. Wagner, and he ate up all the Spohr, the big Spohr.  And Mozart, of course, ate up C.P.E. Bach, skin, bones, eyes, and all.

BD:    Do you feel that you’re part of a lineage of composers?

WB:    I’m part of it.  I came to my study of music as a very bad performer, not through any kind of theory, not through any history.  I didn’t get to those formal studies until I went to school, which was a couple of years after I had my works played by Monteux, among others.  I learned my craft by playing violin, and then viola in the back stands of everything including a string quartet.  My teacher, Howard Hanson at Eastman School, did not have a course in tonal counterpoint in the curriculum.  He’d been over-trained in it and thought it was a waste of time.  So the first time I studied tonal counterpoint in any sense was when I had to teach it, which is a good, honored tradition.  On the other hand, since I’d played Bach on the keyboard, and Roy Harris’s arrangement of Art of the Fugue and String Quartet, I knew damned well from my fingers to my ears what counterpoint was about.  I think that’s the way to go.  Said this elderly gentleman showing his infirmity, the thing that bothers me a little bit is that in my youth the theory of music came from the practice of music, and particularly since Schoenberg, the practice of music is coming from the theory of music.

BD:    So it’s the wrong way around?

WB:    From my standpoint, but not from the standpoint of Milton Babbitt.  Milton’s an old and dear friend and wonderful musician, but his way of analytical thinking is not something which I learned from the back stands as a viola player.  Another influence is jazz pianists.  He was coming at it from that way, too.

BD:    Do you see music reviving and coming up?  Are you optimistic about the future of music?

WB:    Oh, sure.  Why not?  Things may happen.  Things could very easily happen.  All that you have to do is kill all the piano players and kill all the violin players, and you will have ruined most of the music of the Nineteenth Century, and the Eighteenth Century, for that matter.  Dinosaurs died.  On the other hand, music is where good musicians are, doing what they want to do.

BD:    All musics?

WB:    Why not?  I’m on record on that theme.  For the hundredth anniversary of the New England Conservatory I gave a speech in which I asked for an enormous room in which the music of all cultures
jazz, rock, classiccould meet and mate.  It was then an impossible thing because the recordings were not available except for specialists.  Now it’s obviously happening.  I think I’m a better composer than I am a prophet, but if you put me on my prophet channel, I think I would write that.

BD:    What has been the offspring of this mating of the different musical cultures?

WB:    There’s an awful lot stolen by commercial music, from “standard music” to far out music.  In C, for instance, has been stolen all over the place with the driving, insistent, repetitive high C transformed into a bass for rock.  Roy Harris, for instance, has almost been completely destroyed by 1930s westerns with the things they stole from him right and left.  I had a piece recorded by the Goldman Band called March with Trumpets, and it suddenly began appearing on the movie screen.  Varèse has been looted like crazy for science fiction television, movies.  It’s the way of the world.  You’d have to wait for a generation which didn’t know the movies to go back to Roy Harris the way Roy heard it himself.

BD:    For you, as a composer, what constitutes great music, or greatness in music?

WB:    There is a very good book by Alfred Einstein
not the physicist but a cousincalled Greatness in Music, in which he goes into that.  It’s one of the books, along with Warren Allen’s Philosophies in Music History, which kind of formed my attitude.  Also Philosophies in Music History by Warren Allen, who was my teacher, too.  That is seminal among ethnomusicologists because it was the first book to cast into question how you looked at musicor is it Paradise descending into hell, which is the way some historians looked at it; the great going down, or is it Darwinian up to excellence, or is it the Great Man School of Music?  Those are the main things.  There are some Marxist theories, and some sociological theories.  I would say the great music is where musicwhich, after all, has been written by a human beingappeals to the greatness in you as a listener, and that’s highly subjective.  I’m not prepared to subscribe to any doctrines my old teacher would not have approved of.

BD:    So then it’s the public that is deciding?

WB:    Yes, or the publics, because the publics change.  When you have a bad first performance, there’s always the possibility that the composer was wrong.  There’s always the possibility that the interpreters were wrong, or didn’t have enough time.  There’s also the possibility that the audience was wrong in the sense that it was not prepared for it.  A lot of the famous scandals of the twentieth century have been of that variety.  Ideally, great music ought to appeal to everybody all the time, and I question if that can be done.  I gave away my score of the Eroica Symphony last year.

BD:    [Genuinely surprised]  Why???

WB:    I’d played it and I’d taught it enough in class, and I’d marked up that copy so that I really couldn’t see it.  A student wanted it and didn’t have a copy, and I gave it to him.  If I ever go back to the Eroica, as I’m sure I will, I will want to have an unmarked copy.

BD:    Ahhh, come back to it fresh.

WB:    Come back to it fresh.  But I can’t think of any pleasure which is unending.  Is Paradise imaginable?

BD:    It should be imaginable but perhaps not attainable.

WB:    I’m not sure I would want to attain it on those terms.

BD:    What do you feel is the purpose of music in society?

WB:    Delight.  I’m not looking for any moral improvement.

BD:    So you’re not trying to make a message?

WB:    So far as I’m concerned, whatever message there is for my music is in the music itself.  We will look high and low to find any kind of statement in words of what I propose to do in music.  It isn’t that I don’t respect words.  I respect them very much and happen to be rather good at them, but it’s like paraphrasing; any kind of end is abstract and non-verbal.  Nobody tries to say in words how to tie a rope.  There are mathematical formulas that will let you do it accurately, or since I don’t understand them, I can take a cord and tie a rope.  So it seems to me that talking about music, as we are doing, is...  In a sense the evasive animal, that’s me.  When we are talking we’re building analogies, and the tendency, then, is to try to make the analogy work in its own terms, to make it perfect.  I would like to take the bit of analogy that I am prepared to erect and tear it up, and not try to make it a consistent philosophy.  I’m not a philosopher.  I’m a composer.  In that same speech at the New England Conservatory I said, “Tie me to the rack; throw me over the precipice.  By a thread I will confess, I’m not a scholar, I’m a clown.”  Basically, I am the performer that I started out being, just a very clumsy performer, and I happen to be quite a skilled composer.

bergsmaBD:    In your composition or any composition, where is the balance between the skill and the inspiration?

WB:    Hopefully nobody will ever know.  You cannot say that in any of the works of art which I truly treasure.  I can tell you in cases, let’s say Borodin’s Second Symphony, exactly what he did wrong and how he could have done it better.  I can wail, because I just don’t like it, about some of the more turgid passages in Johannes Brahms, but I can’t tell you how to improve them.  The skill is enormous, the craft is enormous, so was the genius. 
Inspiration is sort of indispensable, but if it doesn’t get on the page, which takes technique, nobody hears it. 

BD:    When you’re writing, do you look at your scores with the same kind of critical eye that you look at the Borodin Second and the Brahms pieces?

WB:    Not except by a learned reflex.  I knew that a long time ago, unless I was setting words.  I’ve had my productions since I’ve written two operas and a lot of choral music and songs, dealing with the setting of words, and I don’t do that.  I have to immobilize the verbal part of my mind.  When I was a kid, I used to — and I still do — take something which is very well written, so that it doesn’t get in my way.  It can be thoroughly uninteresting and rather familiar.  I recommend The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in three volumes.  That is the sort of stuff which I find useful in doing that, and detective stories sometimes, too, if they’re well written.

BD:    As you’re writing the piece, how do you know when you have finished?

WB:    This is apparently something that painters have great problems with, and I don’t.  Essentially a piece gets easier for me to write as I become familiar with it.  I have to figure out first just what I’m trying to say, walk around it, and by the time I get to the end, the end is already a consequence of what’s preceded it, just as the preceding is a necessary antecedent to what followed if I make any sense at all.

BD:    But once you planned it all out and gotten most of it all written, I assume you go back and tinker with it just a little at least?

WB:    What I tend to do differs.  I’ve written five string quartets and I’ve written two operas.  In string quartets it’s quite impossible to tinker.  Either it’s there or it isn’t.  You may have to rewrite some stuff, but essentially it’s so architectural.  That doesn’t exist in a stage work.  Sure, you write in great splashes and come back and fill in.  I have a nice precedent.  I have Mr. Mozart in the sketches, as you know.  In the operas, he would write the vocal line in the bass and the violin line of the voices, and then come back with a different quill and different ink, and fill in the remainder.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    You’ve alluded to painting.  Do you feel that you are painting in sound?

WB:    No.  I think the analogy is as far-fetched as word.  It’s nice to have a pretty title like Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, and it helps sell copies, but I don’t see any significant relationship between any music and painting.  You can say, of course, that Beethoven lived in the age of Goya, as Beethoven lived in the age of Goethe.  They had a commonality and vision which is a lot easier to see in retrospect than it was at the time.

BD:    Sure, just as it’s hard to see today everything coming together.  We’d be able to analyze and understand the twentieth century twenty-five or fifty years from now better than we can now.

WB:    It’s a lot easier, I can tell you, to teach the music of the twentieth century, and the technique of writing music of the twentieth century, than it is classical techniques.

BD:    Really?  Why?

WB:    To put it in slightly technical terms, when I was in my first teaching fellow job at Eastman, it was common knowledge that if you had a 6/4 chord in the wrong position in the left hand or the right hand, the upper two notes had to resolve.  You would simply say, “Can’t you hear it?  Resolve it.”  Then Hindemith came into the ears of the young, and that “natural thing” no longer existed.  It’s perfectly easy to analyze practically any piece of the twentieth century and say, “Okay, these are the boundaries.  These are, in the jargon, the parameters.”  The student
or for that matter, Iwill grasp this a lot more easily than I will a tonal scheme, such as Schenker finds in Beethoven.

BD:    That seems upside down.   Our common perception of music of the twentieth century is that there are no boundaries.  There is nothing you cannot do.

bergsmaWB:    That’s not really true, once you’ve written the first bar, once you’ve set up the first section, or whatever it is.  Otherwise it becomes pastiche.  Admittedly, Varèse, for instance, is awfully easy to analyze.  Stravinsky is also, even when he gets classic.  You can point to existing pieces without any particular problem.  Schoenberg is rather hard to analyze, more so in the twelve-tone music than in the atonal music.  You can analyze, for instance, the Five Pieces for Orchestra, which is a gorgeous piece, much more easily than I can the String Trio.

BD:    Is it easy to analyze the music of William Bergsma?

WB:    I tried out of curiosity, a couple of years ago.  I took a recent piece and said, “Okay, I’m teaching this to a class.  Is this composer compatible with twentieth century mores, and can I understand it and explain to somebody else?”  I could.  It took study.  I wasn’t looking at it the way I wrote it, but I could say, “This is what’s happening.”

BD:    Were you surprised by how it did analyze?

WB:    A little uneasy.

BD:    Once you got through analyzing it, did you ever wish that maybe you would have changed a little thing here, or something else there?

WB:    No.  The piece was Four Songs; perfectly simple and they worked very well.  Anyway, I didn’t do it until it was published, and it was too late.

BD:    Is musical composition something that can be taught?

WB:    It can be badly taught.  For instance, early Britten was dominated by Frank Bridge and a peculiar system of added thirds, which he kept in a very attenuated form later on.  Debussy was badly taught.  He was taught by Guiraud.  I was forced to use one of his texts when I was a teaching assistant.  The idea was you wrote two bars, and sequenced it up an irregular third; two bars, two bars, two bars, two bars.  I’ve seen the sketches of La Mer.  They’re in the Sibley Library of the Eastman School of Music, where I went to school, and Debussy was doing that.  He was sketching with sort of ditto marks.  He got out of that, but some of the early music, the String Quartet for instance, is frightfully symmetrical because of that, frightfully predictable because of that.  It’s a case not of Debussy not being a very great talent, because God knows he was.  He was also a very limited composer, in the sense of numbers of works.  Schoenberg, for instance, never got above sixty, if that.  Webern, obviously, but Debussy...  When I was a graduate student I could see that the idea was that I would go through the works of Debussy in chronological order, every last one of them.

BD:    Did you?

WB:    Yes, and it’s fascinating to find the idea of grabbing your own where you can find it
Debussy starting from Massenet, essentially.  The foreground of one piece becomes the background of the next, and the whole thing gets chewed up, thought over, mulled, considered, and becomes an autonomous part of Debussy.  Each of the works is extraordinarily different.  I have no idea what Debussy would have written in 1920.

BD:    And yet it follows in a logical progression.

WB:    Yes, but if you went from Afternoon of a Faun to the three last Sonatas, you would not believe they were written by the same person... or from the Études to the Préludes.

BD:    Is there a logical progression in your music from piece to piece?

WB:    It certainly changes.  There’s things I keep coming back to, and they make me wary because you have to be aware of your own clichés, but I think I’m recognizably me.  Last year Gerry Schwarz revived, for the first time since 1946, the Symphony for Chamber Orchestra.  I had to learn the damned thing for the rehearsals because I’d forgotten it, and I had to be able to tell where any misprints or mistakes were.  But I found myself aware of what that brash young man had meant at that particular time.

BD:    Is there any desire to change it at all?

WB:    I thought of re-scoring it for a bigger bunch, and actually worked up a copy.  Then I just said, “This is perfectly silly.  I knew what I was doing at that time, and I’m just going to louse it up.”  I made the mistake of lousing up some pieces for pretty right reasons, and this time I wanted my mistake intact.  I’d leave the ideas where they are and leave the piece alone, not try to have my 21 year-old self overseen by my 65 year-old self, as I was then.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Have you basically been pleased with the performances you’ve heard of your music over the years?

bergsmaWB:    I’ve been very lucky to have had the best performances anybody could have with the best groups anybody could have.  I’ve had my share of bad performances, too, but it’s wonderful.  I won’t name any of the performers, but the best ones I’ve had have been in chamber music, where they’ve been able to take the time to work something out
with me present and with me awayand mulled it over and tried out in trial performances.  I had one glorious experience with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, which I will mention, but I’ve been played by some very distinguished quartets.

BD:    Do the so-called great performers play your music better than the non-great performers?

WB:    The great performers of my generation played me when I was young and they were young.  Today, an eminent performer with a concert manager and touring schedule does not have the liberty, the freedom, or the time, or the ability to tackle new works.  It just doesn’t happen.

BD:    How can we get more new works into the concert repertoire?

WB:    The old die off, and the young come up.

BD:    Is there no hope, then, for teaching the old performers the new music?

WB:    Not really, given the exigencies that you’re on the road for weeks, and the publicity of the rivalry of recorded performance
because in the review and the minds of the audience who come, you’re up against every pianist who was ever recorded, from Paderewski or Busoni on.  That is just the same as a conductor who cannot responsibly take too much time for a new piece when he has to play the Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony in the same program and will be compared with every recording artist that ever was.  With a good American orchestra and a devoted conductor, you can count on getting, perhaps, three times, four times the playing time of the composition in rehearsal.  It’s not the kind of luxury that Mendelssohn had, that Mahler had, of trying out a movement for a symphony in the provinces by playing a performance of it.  I’ve seen a photostat of the Mahler Seventh Symphony as engraved, but it’s not the version that’s printed.  It’s engraved, and he slashes things out for a purely mechanical reason.  It’s very much easier to say, “Trumpets tacet here,” or have just one trumpet if it’s in the parts for the four or five that Mahler might have.  This was how that particular man worked in this particular piece, and it may explain why Das Lied von der Erde and the Ninth Symphony sound different, because Mahler never heard them.  They have a less chambered score.  It was the way he worked.

BD:    He was much more inclined to hear something and change it, rather than see something and change it?

WB:    He had that luxury.

BD:    Most composers today have to know their mistakes on the paper before they hear them.

WB:    Either that, or you go by what one distinguished contemporary conductor states, that he will not rehearse twentieth century music unless he has hours of rehearsal time for every minute of playing time.  I’m asking substantially less than that, but a lot of the music of the twentieth century is just exactly that, even in so standard a work as Symphony of Psalms.  Listen to the first recording of that on the old 78s.  The a cappella choral music was dreadfully out of tune and lines up a half tone or more flat.  The first recordings that I know of, of the Bartók Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste was the Los Angeles Pick-up Orchestra led by a dead conductor, and it chills the blood!  When I was Vice President of Composer’s Recordings and working with composers in the studio, it became impressed upon my mind that you must make a recording, good or bad, so that a good recording can be made.  You find out from experience where the pitfalls are, and they are not the same in concert as they are in the recording studio.

BD:    Who was the dead conductor of the Los Angeles recording?

WB:    Werner Janssen.

BD:    May I correct you?  He is still very much alive.  [Janssen lived from 1899 until 1990.]

WB:    I’m glad to hear that.

BD:    I contacted him recently, and had an interview with him before I left for Seattle.  He had just gotten back from a conducting stint in London.  He’d been in London for six months and he said that he’d be glad to talk to me when he got back.  We had the chat, and he said he was only going to be home for a few weeks and then was going off again.

WB:    They look forward to travel now that they cease to be absolute masters of their orchestra because of boards and union restrictions.  I have been a good union man, and I’m all in favor of unions, but conductors live forever.  Nobody contradicted them.  They got good physical exercise and regular adulation.  In Seattle in the past few weeks we lost Stanley Chapple, who was Koussevitzky’s associate at Tanglewood, and who made the first complete recording of the Mendelssohn Italian Symphony and, with Ravel present, the first complete recording of Tombeau de Couperin!

chappleStanley Chapple was born in 1900. He studied at the London Academy of Music where he was successively student, professor, Vice-principal and until 1936 principal. In 1920, at the age of nineteen, he was hired as director of the City of London School's opera, and he was also hired by the Aeolian Vocalion (record) Company as and piano accompanist. By 1924 he became music director, a position he held about 1929. A fascinating article by Chapple was published in the Gramophone in 1929.

By 1922 he had been invited to appear as a guest conductor with the London Symphony Orchestra; and shortly after he was made head director, although I can find no mention of this in the history of the LSO publish a few years back. In 1930 the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra invited Chapple to appear as guest conductor, and by the end of the decade he had become one of the most coveted guest conductors on the European Philharmonic circuit, travelling to Vienna, the Hague, and Warsaw.

Chapple also frequently travelled to the USA making his first voyage I believe in August 1931. Chapple’s dream of going to Russia was ruined when war broke out in 1939. He was in Boston at the time when the tour to Russia had to be cancelled. Philip Kerr, Lord Lothian then British ambassador in Washington D.C. asked him to stay in America to ‘promote good will’. During the war, Chapple conducted the National Symphony in the Watergate concerts.  In 1940, the director of the Boston Symphony opened a school for conductors and orchestra musicians in Massachusetts and made Chapple its director. Thus was born Tanglewood, a music academy that is still going strong today. Leonard Bernstein was Chapple's first student there. Chapple was invited to teach at the University of Washington and to be director of the University of Washington School of Music in 1948, when the active dean of the department heard him at Tanglewood. When the Seattle Symphony lost its conductor in 1950, Chapple took over and virtually remodeled Seattle's culture. He used the Symphony as a means of introducing Seattle to the opera, ballet, and the theater. During his tenure as conductor, he greatly enhanced the professional level of symphony players In 1962, Chapple became director of symphony and opera at the University of Washington, and when he retired in 1971, Mayor Wes Uhlman asked him to direct the Seattle Senior Symphony (Musicians Emeritus), a program providing ‘encouragement and help to former music-makers wishing to resume their participation in music-making’. For the next fourteen years Stanley Chapple was the much beloved conductor of Musicians Emeritus Symphony Orchestra and Thalia Symphony Orchestra. Chapple died in on June 21st, 1987, in Seattle.

--  From a blog by "Jolyon50" 

There was a gorgeous pianist named Carl Friedberg.  When I met him he was in his seventies, and had just been fired on grounds of age from Juilliard School
the first and only time, to my knowledge, that had ever been done.  No human could have thought, coming from a liberal arts college, that seventy was a good cut-off time.  Hell, it’s when the Juilliard faculty is just beginning!  Anyway, Friedberg had studied with Clara Schumann, and in his last years, in the sixties it must have been, he recorded, for his own pleasure, some of the music of Robert Schumann that he had studied with Schumann’s wife.  Bob Blake, who was the recording engineer at the old Carnegie Hall, one of the few recording engineers who, in my experience, could read music, clambered down his iron gantry and said, “Mr. Friedberg, I think you should know that you played C-sharp twice in this phrase, and the score says B.”  Friedberg waived one eagle-like claw at him and said, “That’s all right, my dear young man, Clara told me I might play it that way.”  [Both laugh]

BD:    Is music a continuum, then?

WB:    It’s one of the few fields in which you still say,
“My students are X and Y and my teachers were A and B.  It’s kind of apostolic succession.  For God sakes, my best known students are Phil Glass and Steve Reich, as well as P.D.Q. Bach.  I know and respect these people, whose music is far from mine. 

BD:    Are you pleased with the music of yours that has been embedded in plastic?

WB:    Yes, essentially, almost all of them have been done.  Well, that’s not true, but a great number of them have been done with me around.  Of the ones that haven’t, Grant Johannesen did one book of my Tangents, and I’d never met the man until after he’d done it.  That was because I was going backstage to kiss his wife, Zara Nelsova, never having met Johannesen.  [Laughs]  It’s an elegant performance.


BD:    When you’re involved in the recordings, do you make a lot of suggestions, or do you basically stay in the background unless there’s a major mistake?

WB:    Control room etiquette
— you can make your corrections before the recording session.  I have seen the Juilliard Quartet stop in the middle of a recording session and argue about what Beethoven meant, but in general that’s not done.

BD:    [Laughs]  Should they argue about what William Bergsma means?

WB:    They can always ask me.  Here again, the chances are if the piece has been done a number of times, their opinion will be just as good as mine.  I put it on the notes.  I’m interested in knowing the music, which may affect the way I look at a particular piece in question.

BD:    Does what you mean about a piece change at all, or do you leave the piece and then go on to something new?

WB:    Where I’ve re-written, I’ve been wrong, most of the time.  Not entirely.  Operas were made to be re-written.

BD:    [Laughs]  What I’m getting at is your opinion of a piece.

WB:    It’s like a cat with kittens.  I suppose you’re interested in a new kitten.

BD:    Then you let the kitten go off on its own?

WB:    Yes.

BD:    Are you ever surprised by where your kittens turn up?

WB:    Yes.  You’re supposed to be able to predict audience response, etcetera, but I’ve never seen any good way of doing that.  If you write predictably to formula, the problem is the players won’t feel particularly interested in it.  And if it’s not particularly interesting, why take the time?  There isn’t that much money in music.  There isn’t there much time in time.

BD:    Should there be more money in music?

WB:    I don’t know of any composer who truly is a composer that has supported himself for a ten-year period, by writing, without writing film music or conducting or teaching, lecturing, or are being born into a family with an oil well.

BD:    What do you expect of the audience that comes to hear your music
either an old piece or a new piece?

WB:     I feel much more comfortable with rehearsals.  If I’m conducting, then I’m wound up with being a conductor, and it’s a different matter.  I’m not considering myself as a composer at all.  I’m considering that this is something to be played.  If I’m in an audience, I would much rather be someplace else while my music is being played. 
There was one lovely time when a performance that included one of my pieces also had a child performer.  I was not sitting in a seat I was supposed to sit in because I didn’t want to be looked at.  I incautiously sat next to that child performer’s entire family, who, once the child performer had finished, rose in a body and went out.  It took me some time to figure out what had happened.  All of a sudden, rows around me were vacated, and I thought it was me.  [Both laugh]  I’d much rather be at the rehearsals.

BD:    Or a private performance?

WB:    In a recording studio; I suppose that’s a private performance.  It’s a sense of not having anything to say about it.  The music is going on, so of course I’m interested. 

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    How do you decide which commissions you will accept and which ones you will say, “No, thank you”?

WB:    I’ve turned down commissions.  Most of the time I take them with great pleasure because they’ve fitted something that I wanted to do.  Generally, I would turn one down because I didn’t think I had anything to say in the medium.  For instance, I’ve never wanted to write a piano trio.

BD:    It just doesn’t interest you?

WB:    The whole idea, it seems to me, is something that I just don’t want to get involved with as a composer.  Obviously, there are very great piano trios.  I don’t particularly want to hear them, either, but that’s not an influence.  No, it’s very difficult for me to explain.  It isn’t that I mind dealing with disparate forces.  It’s sort of fun balancing things that can’t balance easily in this top-bottom-heavy medium with the violin up there and the cello down there.  The Ravel Trio seems to me exemplary, but it doesn’t try to balance.  It literally tries not to balance.  When I wrote a Horn Trio for Lincoln Center, the Voice of the Coelacanth for violin, horn, and piano, I picked that group knowing damn well that Brahms had written an absolutely incredible piece for that medium.  He had managed by sheer musical force to subdue those incredibly unbalance-able forces into a homogeneous whole.  I did my damnedest not to emulsify them, to dis-emulsify them, if there is such a word, to make the horn the horniest horn, the piano the most pianistic piano, and the violin the most wonderful violin, but to keep them absolutely independently in their own characters.

bergsmaBD:    And out of those three, then, comes the unity of the whole?

WB:    Yes, if there is a unity of the whole.  I think there is, but they never try to do what each other did.

BD:    That was just an assumption on my part, that you wanted it to be unified.

WB:    Nope.  There is no way of doing it in my aesthetic.  Can it be done?  Brahms did it fine.  I can’t do it his way.

BD:    Let’s talk about a couple other specific pieces.  There are some works for percussion?

WB:    These are the four percussion pieces, or pieces with percussion.  The first is Illegible Canons for clarinet and percussion, the second is Clandestine Dialogues for cello and percussion, the third is Latent Hypotheses for trombone and percussion, and the last which is called Clown Time, and manages to combine How Dry I Am with When the Saints Come Marching In, and Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.  It’s quite a nice cozy bit.  My pupil, P.D.Q. Bach, would have approved.  Then there is a concluding group called Four All for the clarinet, cello, trombone and percussion.  It’s about 33 or 34 minutes all in all.

BD:    Can they be performed separately?

WB:    They’re totally separate.  They’re seldom performed together.  That would be a virtuoso effort for the four percussionists.  These are some of the most difficult percussion musics ever written, and since both Bill Smith (clarinet) and Stu Dempster (trombone) are specialists in multiphonics and other nice sounds, of course I wrote for them.

BD:    Do you always write with the performer in mind?

WB:    Yeah.  What I love to do is to write where I know every last performer, when I know the whole, when I know the music’s going to proceed and follow.  If I knew that I were going to follow the Marriage of Figaro Overture, it would be a different piece than if I follow the prelude to Parsifal.

BD:    Is that not limiting for that specific piece of music?

WB:    It’s got to worry about itself, doesn’t it?  What I like to do is build a very real green world; as Marianne Moore wrote,
Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads.  Puccini had a small theater with puppets which he moved around, and that was essentially to visualize.  It seems to me that whether the music is theatrical or not, I love knowing the performers.  I sort of revel in that.

BD:    I assume you want your music to be played in different locations at different times by different groups?

WB:    Rimsky-Korsakov said, quite properly, that if it will sound good with one orchestra, it will sound good with another orchestra.

BD:    And yet you want to conceive it differently, even not in and of itself, but where it’s going to be and relative to what it’s going to follow and precede?

WB:    That allows me to build the reality and the wonder in my mind.  It helps.

BD:    I see.  So that’s just on the building end, not on the appreciating end?

WB:    I don’t know whether a piece is going to please performers.  I think it probably will, because I think that they ought to be able to make a piece sound good whether it’s hard or not.  But there’s nothing courageous in giving a performer difficulties
except perhaps in listening to them in the performance where he’s stumbling over those difficulties.  I first started with the sound of music as an instrument in my hands, and that is the substance of my art.  All instruments are beautiful, including the ones I’ve never written forif you know how to do them.  I’ve never written for contrabassoon.  I’m sure I would love the contrabassoon, if I ever — oh, wait a minute, I did once.  It’s an alternate instrument and the section sounds very good with contrabassoon.

BD:    [Laughs]  I’m an old contrabassoon player, so I will pounce on that!

WB:    This was a woodwind quintet and it’s one of my most recent compositions.  It is called Masquerade, in part because the flute uses piccolo and alto flute, the oboe uses English horn, the clarinet uses bass clarinet, and the bassoon uses contrabassoon.  Unfortunately, I left the horn alone.  I could put him on waldhorn or anything in that particular vein.

BD:    Perhaps a Wagner tuba?

WB:    Well, it’s probably impractical to ask a wind quintet to go through these Masquerades, but it sounds really quite attractive.

BD:    Each player has to use both instruments in the same piece?

WB:    Yes.  The start of the last movement is for English horn, bass clarinet, contrabassoon and horn all in the lowest possible registers.  The sound, which has never occurred on earth, is followed by the alto flute, so that was fun.  I liked that.

BD:    Is composing fun?

WB:    Obviously, it’s sort of an obsession; otherwise nobody in his right mind would continue it.  Maybe the mistake is that nobody in his right mind should be one.  I’ve certainly never encouraged anybody to be a composer.

BD:    Have you discouraged someone from being a composer?

WB:    No.  I’ve given them every opportunity, and would say, “You’ve got talent,” but everybody’s got talent.  It’s true.  Talent is cheap.

BD:    It’s developing that talent that’s expensive?

WB:    It’s developing that talent which is, in most cases, impossible.  That’s the sort of thing you can’t know.  It was commonly agreed, when I was on the Juilliard faculty, that Richard Wagner never would have been allowed entry into a school of music before, probably, Flying Dutchman... maybe Rienzi.

BD:    Speaking of opera, let’s talk about your newest one.

WB:    My new piece, The Murder of Comrade Sharik, just got a premiere last year.  It’s to a banned Russian novel by Mikhail Bulgakov.

BD:    Banned by whom?

WB:    All Soviet society, until quite recently.  It was published in the west only in 1968, and in the Soviet Union just this year (1987).  It’s the story of a doctor in Moscow in 1925, who specializes in sex transplants, and who in the course of his experiments, inadvertently transforms a dog into a Soviet citizen.  The plot follows logically thereafter...  [Both laugh]  I should say, by way of historical background, that there was such a doctor in the 1920s.  Serge Voronoff, a French surgeon born in Russia. He was director of the experimental laboratory of College du France from 1921.  He specialized in the transplant of animal-, chiefly monkey-glands for rejuvenation in old age.  He made all the papers.  He was the Dr. Ruth of his age except that he was actually concerned with transplanting monkey’s testicles to men and ovaries to women.  So obviously this is an apt and significant subject for opera!

BD:    For this day and age, or for any day and age!

WB:    Right, any day and age.

BD:    How did you come by it?

WB:    I read it when it came out in translation, and a friend of mine said, “What you ought to do is to set Master and Margarita.”  I said, “If I’m going to set any Bulgakov, it’s got to be The Heart of a Dog
which was Bulgakov’s titleand promptly went to work on it.

BD:    Why did you change the title?

WB:    I used the original in The Wife of Martin Guerre.  I took it from my librettist’s novella.  I just felt that The Murder of Comrade Sharik
Sharik is the Russian for darling — was more of what my opera was about.  Bulgakov essentially did not finish that story.  There’s an end to it, but there isn’t in a lot of Bulgakov.  He just did not finish things because he was out of favor.  But there is no kind of dramatic ending to this one.  He builds up to something, but then I found myself cliff-hanging and having to move back to my idea to fulfill the logical premises which would have gone along before the illogical premises.  That ending stood me up on my nose for about eight or ten years until I finally got it.

BD:    Does changing the title reflect the different slant that you as the composer and librettist made in reshaping the work?

WB:    If you were in the habit of buying tickets to theatrical productions, would you rather buy a ticket to The Murder of Comrade Sharik or The Heart of a Dog?

BD:    [Laughs]  I see what you mean.  Thank you for spending this time with me.

WB:    Thank you very much for wanting to talk to me.

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© 1986 & 1987 Bruce Duffie

The first of these two conversations was recorded on the telephone on August 9, 1986.  The second was recorded at the composers home in Seattle, Washington one year later, on August 8, 1987.  Material from the first one was used on WNIB in 1986.  Portions of the second interview were broadcast on WNIB in 1990, 1991 and 1996.  A portion of the second interview was included in the In-Flight Entertainment Package aboard United Airlines (and Air Force One) in July-August of 1988.  All of these uses also included recordings of his works.  This transcription was made in 2014, and posted on this website at that time. 

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.