Composer James Cohn

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


His two LPs were sitting on a shelf of recent arrivals in the studio of WNIB.  Nothing fancy, mind you
— no impressive photos, no imaginative artwork.  One was peach, the other lime green, with just the simple words indicating who had written the music contained on the discs.  They were not from any of the big labels, nor even from smaller companies which sent us material.  These were quiet and unassuming, waiting patiently to be opened and played. 

Once I had heard the music, I used some of the pieces in my programming and decided to contact the composer.  He lived, then as now, in New York, but was coming to the Midwest for a concert in Wisconsin.  So we arranged to meet at my home during his trip and had the conversation you are about to read.

The music of James Cohn (pronounced co-en) is accessable and tuneful.  It is not simple, but simply genuine, as is the man himself. 
He graduated from Julliard in 1950, having studied composition with Roy Harris, Bernard Wagenaar, and Wayne Barlow.  More details of Cohn
’s career can be found in the box at the end of this webpage.

We stayed in touch over the years, and I produced programs of his music and portions of our chat.  He sent me his recordings as they came out, and I am pleased to say that his success is growing all the time.  More and more performances are being given and his discography continues to grow.  Many of the specifics are included in the biographical box at the end of this webpage.

Here is that conversation from 1987 . . . . .

Bruce Duffie:    Let’s start out with the big question
where is music going today?

James Cohn:    There was once a little girl who wrote an essay for her English class.  She was told to write on anything that she was interested in, so she wrote about the cowboy who jumped on his horse and galloped off in all directions.  [Both laugh]  I think that’s where music is going today.  Today you have a diversity to a degree which you did not have a century ago.  In the nineteenth century, everything seems to be dominated by one country or culture at a time.  In Bach’s time, all of the composers who wanted to really be fashionable
even if they were living in Germany or Scandinaviawere trying to write in the prevalent Italian style.  Then a little bit later, while Bach was still alive, they all decided that they wanted to write in the French style.  That kind of thing kept going on and on, but I would say that all of that changed with the First World War.  Then things started going off in different directions, with the rising nationalism.  With the Second World War, disillusionment set in in various countries.  I think the alienation and the diversity of direction became more and more that way.  That there’s always been a sort of a pendulum swing in taste, as there is with morality and ethics.  For a while, for various reasons we were in the grip of the serial tastemakers and their disciples.  Eventually it became perhaps a little bit too much of a good thing, or these people got tired of playing to such relatively empty houses, and got the message and started changing their profile.

BD:    When you’re writing a piece, whom do you have in mind?

cohn JC:    The same people that I’ve always had in mind.  I do not write primarily for a connoisseur crowd.  I have never aimed my stuff primarily at college people
faculty or students.  I’ve always tried to write for the general public, and have basically the same kind of intention that Arthur Honegger did.  I know my music probably does not sound anything like Honegger’s, but I sympathize with what he was trying to do, particularly in his orchestral works, in the tone poems, not just in things that were very graphic in their portrayals like Pacific 231, or even like the Summer Pastorale and the Hymn of Joy.  I’ve always had the idea that music should not just be rational or logical.  I’ve always had the French ideal of clarity, that you should be able to listen to the music and have a general idea, through its transparency, of how it is put together.  I don’t believe in hocus pocus and throwing dust in people’s eyes.  I would rather that it all be there, clear and transparent.   I think that everything should come basically out of the human voice, and that’s why I’ve always tended to write in a melodic, rather than in a percussive way.  That’s why I don’t have bloops and bleeps with long periods of silence in between, because I believe that that cuts off communication.  I think that music should be communication, and that it should communicate not just sounds, but feelings.  So I’m writing, primarily I think, for people that listen to music for reasons connected with emotions.  I hope that people will have some kind of a reaction which is not just intellectual, but emotional, too.

BD:    You say you write from a vocal style.  Have you written anything for the voice?

JC:    Yes, I wrote a one-act opera based on Archibald MacLeish’s radio play The Fall of the City.  It’s had two productions; the second one at Peabody Conservatory was conducted by Lazlo Halasz with William Walker was in the cast.  That was the first really professional production of the work.  The earlier production was at Ohio University in Athens.  They had an opera competition, and my opera won.  They presented it at the summer theater.

BD:    Did you write it for the competition?

JC:    No, I wrote this opera for the same reason that Elmer Rice wrote The Adding Machine.  The idea for the story seized him, and would not let go of him until he sat down and exorcised it by writing.  I first came across that radio play when I was about eleven years old at the National Music Camp.  I was involved with the radio workshop, and they presented this play.  I was one of the people involved with sound effects.  Years later, during the McCarthy trials in Washington I was in somewhat of a state of distress, and I started thinking about that play again.  There were various parallels in there, so I got out a book of plays, which included one by Archibald MacLeish, and I decided the only way I was going to get this out of my system was to set it to music.  I did ask MacLeish’s permission to do so, and he gave it on condition that I did not abridge his text, or if I must abridge his text that there were certain things that must not be left out.  So I sent him a copy of the book marked to show what I was thinking of leaving out.  He said, “No, you can’t leave out this or that,” so I put them back in.  There was a lot of correspondence, and I explained to him that when you set words to music it can slow down the performance time of the whole thing, and that in order to have a dramatic punch in music, if you want it to proceed at the same pace as a spoken play, certain things have to go.  So finally he said, “I don’t want to argue about this any longer.  I will allow you to have your way as long as you leave in these three lines on page twenty-eight and these four lines on page thirty-seven,” and so forth.  I put those things back, and eventually submitted that to the Ohio University contest, and it won.

BD:    Is submitting a piece of music for a contest really the way for a piece of music to get launched?

JC:    Well, there are so few ways for a composer living in this time and place to get his music performed, that anything is valid
as long as it does not involve selling drugs or shaking hands with the Mafia.  [Both laugh]  At the moment there is a glut of composers of all types and styles and persuasions and philosophies.  There might be enough performers to go around for all the American composers that are writing right at this moment, except that the majority of them are much more interested in repeating the artistic works of the pastthe great historical works, the great fashionable works.  Maybe only five to ten percent of all of the performing groups of all kinds in the United States are really interested in even looking at a new score or listening to a recording of something that they haven’t heard.

BD:    So how do we break this cycle?

JC:    By convincing them that if they at least took the trouble to look at some new material, some of the things that they present might bring the audiences back in to such a degree that they wouldn’t have to ask for so much funding to bail them out.  Of course, this is only a theory, and I am only a composer, and I’ve never been involved in any fundraising, so I could be completely naïve on the idea.  I could be very, very wrong, but somehow I don’t think so.  If the Zilchville Community Orchestra, which has to go out and do a lot of fundraising before the beginning of each new season, feels that they must do the Beethoven Symphony Number Five and the Mozart Forty-One — great works though they are — I think that they’re out of touch with reality because they are getting a tremendous amount of competition from free performances of these same works over the radio!  A large number of people will wonder why they should buy tickets and dress up and leave their comfortable home, and maybe pay for a babysitter and parking fees and bridge tolls and everything else, when all they have to do is go into the living room after dinner and turn on the radio, open a can of beer and sit there and listen to all of these great things for free.  I think television has also done the same thing to live performances of opera and ballet.

BD:    Is it really cutting into the attendance?

JC:    I don’t know, but I think that as long as there is a tremendous amount of music available on public radio and operas on public television, inevitably this may be one reason why those art forms are having problems.  Of course, the labor costs are enormous.  Only shooting a movie would be more expensive than presenting a live opera.  But many performing companies are forced to raise their ticket prices, even though they know that this is going to cut into attendance.  If I could see Eugene Onegin on Public Television, then why should I spend twenty-five or thirty or forty dollars for a ticket to go and see it live at a place like the Metropolitan Opera?  And on public television they might even have younger and fresher singers, with better voices, regardless of what their reputation might happen to be.  On the small screen you lose some of the spectacular ballet sequences and scenic effects, but on the other hand, with the zoom lens of the camera you can get much closer to the singers than you can from a relatively inexpensive seat in the twenty-sixth row, or up in the balcony.  Even though there is nothing that can really adequately replace or substitute for a live performance, with good high fidelity broadcasting the majority of people can get a tremendous emotional wallop out of the radio or television in their home. 
So there’s trade-offs on everything. 

BD:    Are we bringing up, then, a generation of people who have only seen things on the television and heard them on the radio, and don’t coordinate it with the experiences they’ve had in the theater?

JC:    There is that, also.  I have been distressed at symphony performances to see more and more of the audience has gray hair.  There are less and less young people sitting in that audience, which bothers me terribly.  I am very happy when I see youngsters in an audience, whether it’s at a children’s concert or a symphony concert.  It makes me feel that there is still hope.  Also when I see conservatories like Julliard and Curtis graduating perfectly wonderful professional-level youngsters who, in their very early twenties already are on a professional level of musicality, not to mention technique, which is on a par with youngsters like Yehudi Menuhin at the same age, it really gives me a tremendous lift.  I feel like maybe I wasn’t being foolish to devote myself to writing so many concert pieces.  Maybe I did not create a herd of white elephants after all.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Are many of the pieces that you write on commission, or are they done because you feel you have to get them exorcised, as you say?

JC:    There’s a mixture.  The last large commission that I got was from the McKim fund of the Library of Congress in 1982 for Concerto da Camera.  Mrs. McKim, under her maiden name, was a violin virtuoso who toured Europe and the United States.  She was very successful, but then she settled down and married Dr. McKim, who was a physician in the Washington D.C. area.  They had a pipe organ in their home, so they were not exactly under strained circumstances.  Eventually she decided to donate money to the Library of Congress.  In that respect, she was like Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge.  Mrs. McKim commissioned violin and piano works from Darius Milhaud and a slew of other composers that she knew and admired.  She left a bequest that money should be administered by the head of the Music Division of the Library of Congress for new works to continue to be commissioned, either for violin and piano or featuring violin and piano, and that they should be given their first performances in the Library of Congress.  Mine was one of the most recent commissions.  I think Morton Gould got a commission like that, also.  The occasion for the concert was the bicentennial of the Dutch and American Treaty, which was the first recognition of the United States by a European country.  It was suggested to me that since there were nine or ten players that had been assembled for this performance, it would be nice if I could somehow incorporate as many of these players as possible in my piece, so that while my piece was being played, the majority of them would not have to go out into the green room and play cards or read comic books!  So I said I would try to use as many as possible.

BD:    Did that prove a hardship or a joy?

cohn JC:    I’m just giving you how the parameters of how the thing was set up.  One parameter was to feature violin and piano, and the next one was to use as many of the available performers as possible.  The third parameter was that since this had something to do with the treaty between Holland and the United States, it would be nice if I could perhaps incorporate into the piece some authentic melodies that were used by the Dutch settlers in the New World.  It was a challenge, but I did it, and it gave me a lot of fun.  I made my living for many years as the musicologist at ASCAP, so spent a lot of time at the Lincoln Center Library reading various things, mostly in Dutch, and locating authentic materials.  The Dutch musicologists have done a magnificent job in that, so thanks to their work it was very easy for me to find what I wanted, which were folk tunes like O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.  There were things that had originally been used for secular purposes, like drinking songs, that had wound up in slowed-down versions and with new lyrics, used as chorales by the Dutch Protestant Church.  Some of these showed both the religious and earlier forms of these tunes.  I used the earlier in the finale of my work, so the last movement is a fantasia on two Dutch tunes which were probably known to the settlers in the New World.  These were tavern songs and peasant things; I did not use Dutch art music because there were very few of these people in the New Netherlands.  The tunes were mostly utilized for agricultural or money-making purposes.  The fact that the Library of Congress had a woodwind quintet available plus the violinist and pianist made me decide to make a sort of a concerto grosso out of the work.  There are sections where it’s just the violin and piano working together, sometimes the wind quintet works by itself, and sometimes all of them together.  It’s a three movement work; the first two movements are all my own material, and the third is based on those two old melodies.  The first one is known to most Dutch people as Die Burg op Zoom, and those words were added by a Dutch historian.  As a mnemonic device, he used popular melodies of his day as a memory aide for people to memorize his words which were about various things like important battles of the Dutch against the Spaniards, and so forth.  So this was about the siege of Burg op Zoom, a town in Holland, the advancing Spanish armies, and how the Dutch managed to fight them off so that the town never was taken.  The other melody, which wound up in Psalms, in a very doleful setting about how glory has departed and they have been plundered; the godless have taken over everything, and our temple lays disgraced — you know, one of these real downers!  The original words were something like “Oh, merry month of May!  Everything is green and beautiful and the birds are singing all night and all day, and I am going to the tavern and have something wonderful to drink and to toast my sweetheart,” and so forth!  [Both laugh]

BD:    Let me probe this very slightly.  Is this part of the brilliance of music that it can serve two such divergent purposes?

JC:    Oh, absolutely!  I think it was General Booth of the Salvation Army who was asked why he was using all of these popular things for his hymns.  He said, “Why should the devil have all the good tunes?”

BD:    When someone comes to hear your Concerto da Camera, should they know all this background about the Dutch and everything, or should they appreciate it and understand it just as a piece of music?

JC:    I think they should just enjoy it for what it is.  I was fulfilling a commission, so since I had been asked to do all of these things by the person organizing the concert, I complied.  And he needed something for his program notes, so I put all of this into a quickly legible form, and they used most of it as I wrote it.  I wouldn’t recommend that everything be done that way, but in fulfilling commissions, there are always things like that.  Verdi and Mozart wrote their operas for specific singers.  They were usually commissioned by a particular impresario for a particular set of performances.  The performances were not meant to be repeated for posterity, so both composers would have been surprised to hear that those works were going to continue to be done twenty, thirty, a hundred years later.  They were writing for particular singers, with particular vocal limitations or strengths.

BD:    Are you going to be surprised when your music is heard fifty or a hundred years from now?

JC:    I won’t be here to be surprised, but I would be delighted.  Wherever I am, if the word gets to me, I would be very happy if that were the case.  The only thing that I would not like is if my music would be used as a club to beat over the head of younger composers.  If I thought that my stuff was being used to strangle other potential talents, I would not like that.  I love classical music and classical composers.  I have always hoped that my music could be included on programs with theirs, not that a barrier should be built so that their music should be used as an excuse for not playing mine.  To me, older composers are not the adversary.  It is a certain segment of the artistic world who insists on creating an artificial barrier.  Good music is a continuity, like a tree which has its roots in the past and its trunk in the present, and its branches reach up into the future.  I also think that like there are many old trees which fall and become a part of the forest floor, and what is there from them nourishes the new little seedlings and saplings that come down.  That’s a perfectly natural thing, and I would hope that this would happen.  Rossini built on the works and example of people like Paisiello and Jommelli and a whole slew of earlier opera composers who were great successes in their own time, but are mostly forgotten now.  Mozart built to a great extent on the works of composers that he respected, like Johann Christian Bach, and Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach.  This is the natural order of things.  When people start pontificating or theorizing about the spirit of the times, and say we must create the spirit of our own time and force music or culture or art to take the direction that they want it to go, when they try by brute force or by intrigue, like Richard Wagner did, to force things to go into a specific direction, I think the result is always not only unfortunate and unnatural, but I think it produces evil results.  It’s better to allow things to take their natural course.

BD:    You don’t feel that the music of Wagner is inherently evil, do you?

JC:    No, but he was so impatient about breaking into the successful part of the artistic world that he felt that he had to sabotage his predecessors.  He wrote pamphlets trying to destroy the reputation of Felix Mendelssohn, who actually had gone out of his way to help Wagner.  As an operatic conductor, Mendelssohn tried programming Wagner’s music, and sent him to other conductors with letters of recommendation.  Some years after Mendelssohn’s death, Wagner felt that the only way he could advance the career of Richard Wagner was to get Mendelssohn out of the way.  Therefore, he appealed to the anti-Semitism that was always floating around in Europe.  He appealed to the basest instincts of some of his contemporaries in order to advance himself.

BD:    Like the ultimate opportunist?

JC:    Yes.  Looking at it dispassionately and not because I happen to be Jewish, I think this was playing dirty pool, and I don’t think it was necessary.  I think that Wagner was a great enough talent and innovative enough, that if he had simply been patient, he would have gotten his own way, eventually anyway.  His work would have floated to the top.

BD:    So then you separate his music from his philosophy.

JC:    Yes, I would do so with the exception of the Niebelungenlied.  He wrote his own librettos, and some of the passages in his librettos are tainted with his ideas about a master race, and inferior and superior peoples, and so forth.  I think that was a lot of garbage.  There are reasons for that, and there’s enough in history, universally, of people beating up on each other.  The Turks beat up on the Armenians, and the Armenians in Biblical times beat up on the Hittites, and Hittites beat up on the Assyrians, and all of that kind of thing.  Everyone who was proud of his own ethnic group and his history likes to forget about that part of his ethnic group’s history when they were acting in a less than noble manner, and I think that Wagner stirred up a lot of things that were totally unnecessary.  Wagner’s good side can be found in works like The Flying Dutchman and Die Meistersinger, where he does not feel it necessary to beat on those particular drums.  Meistersinger, I think, is a particularly healthy work.  There are also works of his which stylistically have fallen by the wayside, but are wonderful psychological portrayals of characters, like Rienzi, for example.  If there is room in the operatic repertory for a work like Verdi’s Don Carlo, then there should be room for Wagner’s Rienzi.

BD:    Would you be terribly upset if, on a symphonic program, there was a piece of Wagner and a piece of James Cohn?

JC:    Not at all.  In fact, it already happened!  When my Third Symphony had its premiere, on the same program also they had the Wesendonck Lieder.  The essential thing is that those songs were really private love letters.  While he used chunks of Tristan, it was really an open letter to one woman.

BD:    Would it have been more upsetting, then, if it had been Siegfried
s Rhine Journey?

JC:    No, I think that the instrumental portions of Wagner’s music have never caused any deaths or other unnatural acts.  It’s this very exciting and sometimes inflammatory music coupled with Wagner’s own words which has caused a lot of grief for many people in the world.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Let me ask the big philosophical question.  What is the ultimate purpose of music in society?

JC:    I believe as Paul Hindemith did, and as he stated in his book A Composer’s World, that music is something which stands halfway between science and religion.  Basically, the purpose is to give to human beings something which is education in the original sense of the word, which is amusement.  The English had a series of religious songs or hymns published in the nineteenth century, called Hymns for the Amusement of Children.  Now amusement, in that sense, did not simply mean to entertain, like somebody going to the circus or to a slapstick vaudeville thing.  It meant to uplift; not only to give pleasure, but to uplift the human spirit, to perhaps ennoble the human spirit, to provide something that people could partake of that would help them.  If you have friends coming for dinner and you decide to cook a meal for them, you take particular care with the recipe and the ingredients.  You think, “What can I do with this recipe?  What can I add which would really make it even nicer and more pleasing or more memorable?”  I believe that music is social.  When a composer writes music, he is really writing for other people, and it is a social act.  He’s preparing a meal for them, maybe a meal for the soul.  Somebody asked a poet why he bought flowers, and he said, “I buy chrysanthemums as food for my soul.”  Somebody was talking about how expensive these cut flowers were, and that was his answer.  I think music serves a purpose like that.  Confucius talks about this; Plato talks about this.  The Ancient Greeks had one kind of music which they said should be used when their soldiers had to go and march to battle.  They recommended that all music be played in a particular mode which would give them courage.  It would stir them up
— not necessarily that they would forget that they were in danger, but it would give them some degree of courage to face what had to be faced.  Music can be a balm; it can also make people laugh.  Sometimes it is on a wavelength which makes people cry because of its poignance; it reminds them of things which have happened in their own experience.  Felix Borowski once said that music is a mirror, that everybody who looks into it seems to see something which is really a reflection of himself.  When my Second Symphony had a performance, the scherzo movement is in a fast three-eighths time with syncopated six-eight in the coda.  After it was performed, a number of people in the audience came up to me, and one of them said, “You know, I loved that part where the sun came up.”  Another person said, “I loved that part at the end.  It’s like the age of machines.”  And another person came up and said, “Man, that was real boppy.”  [Both laugh]  All that I was thinking about when I wrote the coda was that it was a way of rounding off what had gone before.  I didn’t have any particular picture in my mind; I was not trying to portray anything in particular.  When Toscanini was rehearsing the Eroica with the NBC Symphony, he was getting a little bit annoyed and he said, “Gentlemen, please.  I do not want you to give me Napoleon.  I do not want you to give me the life of a hero.  I don’t want you to give me democracy.  I want you to give me allegro con brio!”  Whether this is good or bad is immaterial; it’s irrelevant.  Let people enjoy music for whatever reason that they want, whether it’s something they have on quietly while they’re doing their homework, or to help them while they’re cooking, or while they’re taking a shower.  If they want to turn off the telephone and bolt the door and just turn up the volume and listen to the music by itself, let that be their privilege.  No two people ever really listen to a piece of music for the same reason.   

BD:    Is there a balance between the artistic achievement and an entertainment value?

cohn JC:    Music is like any other thing.  It can be used for so many different reasons.  It’s up to the user to decide what it should be used for.  A person who supplies beer, let’s say, once the beer has left the supermarket, the seller has no control anymore over what happens to the beer.  It will reach somebody’s home.  That person may drink only one can of beer per night, or maybe only one can per week, or he may elect to down an entire six-pack all in one sitting.  That’s his privilege.  Whether it’s good or bad judgment to do something is up to the users.  It’s that way with art, also.  You can abuse art by using it in such a way as to hurt yourself.  Don Quixote did, reading all of these historical romances!  He read so many of them in such fast succession that he went bonkers and turned into the kind of character that people refer to today as
quixotic, not really of this world, doing things that to the rest of the world seem ridiculous or irrational.  Most creative people in this particular time and place are doing their artistic thing as a labor of love.  They don’t really expect that they can make a living from it, but they go on doing it anyway because each of them feels a calling; he feels there is something where he must do this.  It will not let him go.  For a creative person, when something calls, you really cannot tell it to go away.  When I wrote that opera, I was in the grip of something that I was unable to shake off until I sat down and took out pencil and paper and dealt with it.

BD:    Was the opera successful enough that you would consider writing another?

JC:    Sure, I would be very happy to.  I’ve thought of an opera project, and whether it should be an opera or an operetta depends on who would like to commission it.  I would be very happy to oblige somebody if they wanted to commission me to do it, but an opera is a project where I would not anymore just sit down and write one, because realistically there is very little chance of an opera being performed if somebody has not committed themselves by putting down money.  Once they have put down some money, the only way they’re going to get a return on that is to get a production of that opera.  I wrote The Fall of the City because literally it didn’t cost me anything to write it.  I had the time; I had a full-time desk job and I was writing music in my spare time, and it pleased me to do it.  The pencils and papers didn’t cost very much, so I wrote it.  I wrote a full score and that was it.  When I realized that there was going to be a production, then I took the trouble to whip up a set of parts.  But the whole thing was done on a shoestring because the most expensive element was time, and it was my own time.

BD:    So you commissioned yourself, essentially?

JC:    In effect I commissioned myself, yes, and I did not mind doing it.  I was a bachelor; I could make my own hours except for the nine to five desk job that I had.  So that was fine.  

BD:    Now when you get commissions, how do you decide if you’ll accept them or decline them?

JC:    A lot depends on what’s already in my schedule or on the back burner.  I would not quickly accept a commission like an opera unless I knew that I had a large amount of free time available, and that it was not going to cut into my family life.  A bachelor has only himself to answer to.  I think that’s why Franz Schubert was able to write six hundred works before the age of thirty-one.  He loved to write operas, but for reasons of the libretto, they were failures.

BD:    Would he have been a completely different composer if he had lived another twenty years, and maybe had a wife and a kid or two along the way?

JC:    There might have been some kind of effect or development.  This is like science fiction
what would the world have been like if the Confederates had won the Civil War?  What would music have been like if Schubert’s operas had been not only an artistic but a commercial success, and if people wanted more and started commissioning him to write them?  Maybe he would have stopped writing lieder.  Maybe he would have felt that the big money was in operas.  It was, for a while, but by Beethoven’s day this was already dying out, and so operas were already becoming, commercially, something which people did not get a good return on.

BD:    You don’t look for a good return on your music, do you?

JC:    When I was just graduating from Juilliard at the age of twenty-two, I had the hope that I would only be sitting behind a desk for a couple of years; that eventually something of mine would take fire commercially, and that would free me from being behind the desk.  Then I would be able to devote myself full-time to writing, and then I could do anything that people wanted me to.   I was perfectly willing to lend myself to anything that was asked of me, as long as it was not something despicable.  I have written for cue libraries!  My music has been used as background on films and television.  Some of the music was used in a Rockwell commercial; some of it was used for an episode of Grizzly Adams.

BD:    Is your name part of the credit crawl at the end?

JC:    No, because it was from the cue library.  I am one of the many anonymous people whose cue library stuff has appeared as part of a general mix.  Usually, that material is used in a budget show where they don’t want to pay somebody a regular retainer to write a special sound track.

BD:    You were given the idea that you should write four seconds of such and such, and fourteen seconds of this and that?

JC:    Yes, and usually not for any particular show; they needed general purpose things.  The original cue library didn’t have much in the way of stuff for westerns, so I wrote a set of western cues.  I also wrote a set of cues for circus use.  I would always discuss beforehand with the people at the publishing firm what could they use and what would be of the greatest use to them.  A few times they got in touch with me, having made up their mind in advance.  “We need a couple of neutrals; we need some industrials.”  To figure out what is a neutral and what is an industrial takes a little bit of doing, but I talked to some friends who had some experience and found out what it was that they were aiming at.  Then I went and did it.

BD:    So it’s a complete surprise to you when all of a sudden it shows up on Grizzly Adams?

JC:    That surprised me because I didn’t think that it was going to be showing up in a program like that.  I have no idea where most of the stuff was used.  I get some ASCAP royalties once in a while.  Some of the cues have been dubbed into movies
something like three dozen movies, most of them documentaries, a few budget films, and things made especially for television.  Some of it was used as a signature for network radio shows on a regular basis in England, Italy, Australia.  I got very large royalties in a very short time, so I figured out that must have been what was causing that!  Dick Clark’s show used some of my cues, for some reason.  One of them was used for a streaker record, when they had a vogue for that!  The famous streaker record did not use my music, but once that record caught on, everybody and his grandmother decided they had to come out with a streaker record.  They wanted to jump on the bandwagon and maybe they would make some money.  So they got permission to use one of my circus cues for that purpose, and then they dubbed in various thing over itvoices shouting, crowd noises, and what have you.

BD:    How long are some of these cues?  Are they very short, just a few seconds to a minute or so?

JC:    For most of them I was asked to do thirty seconds to a minute because they already had a lot of things in their cue library which were longer.  Then for the industrials they changed their tack.  They asked for only two of them, but they wanted each one to be three minutes long.  They also had very short ones called stingers which are used like a shock chord once in a while.  I’d never done any of those, but they had some in their catalog which had been done by other people.  Some of the people who have done this kind of thing apparently are very happy with the results
people like Lukas Foss and Irwin Bazelonsome of the great movers and shakers of contemporary music.  I think Charles Ives tried his hand at it.  You’ll find some pieces written for theater orchestras, and later they were rescored for larger groups.  But if you look in the whole Ives catalog, you’ll find these pieces in there.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Let’s talk a little bit about some of the pieces that are on the XLNT records.  Can we say that most of these chamber pieces are generally melodious?

JC:    The orchestral music is also melodious, but the difference with chamber music is that in a smaller hall with shorter reverberation time, you can get away with more complexity; you can get away with more wild counterpoint all over the place and it will all be heard.  In a larger hall that really doesn’t work, so to a great extent I always write
for the kind of instruments involvedlike custom tailoring to their strengths and what they do best.  I try to avoid where they sound terrible, where they fall down.   These works were mostly custom tailored.  On the sonata album, the Flute Sonata was a birthday present.  The Sonata Romantica for double bass and piano was also a birthday present for a double bass player who, after he left Juilliard, became a member of the New Orleans Philharmonic.  He finally had his fill of that kind of a life and wound up teaching in the Detroit School System.  The Sonata Robusta, the bassoon sonata, was written because the flutist gave the premiere of his work, and being a member of the Wind Quintet, the other members of the Quintet were in the audience.  So the bassoonist started bugging me to please write a piece for his instrument, and like the hound of heaven, he did not let go!  Then my wife heard him play and she started bugging me, too.  So there was no escaping from it — I really had to write something for him.  And I did so.  Every one of those works came about as the result of a request.

cohn BD:    I’m an old bassoon player, so I listened to that first and it was a lot of fun.

JC:    Thank you.

BD:    How did you decide that these would go on the records, rather than a symphony or something else?

JC:    Mostly because to get a symphonic performance released on records, you have to pay the union recording scale.  While I have air check recordings from the Detroit Symphony and from other orchestras, it’s a completely different ballgame, either paying union scale or getting permission from a union-based orchestra to use the material for a commercial recording. 

BD:    These chamber pieces you’ve decided to just release yourself, then?

JC:    Yes.  What made it possible was that my uncle left a bequest, and the money enabled me and my wife to put together a retrospective concert at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York, to hire these wonderful young players and to record them in a studio which was owned by Vanguard Records.  We used the Vanguard engineers, and the producer was a young man who owned Grenadilla Records.  He did not want to put anything on his own label because of what was happening in the market.  He would prefer to start doing more mainstream things.  So we were on our own.  We tried interesting a number of record companies before releasing any recordings.  We sent complimentary tickets to the concert and made whatever contacts we could.  I knew some people in the industry, but nobody from any of the record companies came to the concert except the sales manager of one of the companies, and of course he did not make the A and R decisions as to who was going to record what for the company.  So finally we decided we will go ahead and do it ourselves.

BD:    This is how I learned of you
— the discs were sitting on our shelf at the station and I opened them and played them.  It’s a way of promoting and getting your music heard. 

JC:    That’s the whole point of doing it.  I don’t believe in vanity press operations, and I would never have done it, except that back in 1960, the Third Symphony was performed by Paray and his orchestra.  He liked the work so much that he asked me if I was doing anything new.  I said, “Yes, I’m doing a set of variations on The Wayfaring Stranger.”  He said he’d like to look at the score, so I sent it to him, and he introduced that two years later.  I had air check recordings of both of these pieces, and I contracted Mercury Records
which had Paray and the Detroit Symphony under contractand asked if I could submit a tape copy of the air check to the artists and repertory man.  He said no.  Without bothering to look at a score or actually hear the tape, he had it in his mind that on a statistical basis, all contemporary music, all twentieth century music, lost money, and on the basis of the generality, he decided it was just going to lose money and there was no point in his even checking it out.   I then tried to contact every other classical companys artists and repertory man, with exactly the same result!  This stuck in my mind, for many years.  So I put the tapes back on the shelf and went about my business, and that was it for a number of years.  Then I got this bequest from my uncle and decided to try to break through the barrier by creating commercial recordings, paying union scale, sending complimentary copies around, and getting the stuff into the pipeline.  Hopefully this might create enough interest that maybe the symphonic music also would eventually be taken up.

BD:    So you wanted to use these records as calling cards.

JC:    The point of the arrow.  That was our main idea in doing it.

BD:    I hope that this is like a springboard to get some more of your music on other labels, and to get more of it distributed.

JC:    I hope so, too.  There is occasional action with my orchestral music, but it’s unpredictable.  During this trip to Wisconsin, they did two performances with the Central Wisconsin Symphony of the Third Symphony, the one that Paray did.  It was very well-received, and this is a very good orchestra.  It started as a community orchestra and it’s now partially people from the area, including places as far away as Marshfield and Minneapolis and other towns closer to north central Wisconsin.  Also partly it’s people connected with the university system.  They have wonderful first chair people there!  The orchestra has been pulled up by its bootstraps over the last six or seven years by a conductor who’s on the university faculty named Jon Borowitz.  He studied at Hancock, Maine, with Monteux and some of the other masters.  He is a very business-like, polite, efficient conductor.  He gets wonderful results out of them, and they’re doing an almost all-American season.  Besides my work, on this concert was the Gershwin Concerto and two of the Chadwick Symphonic Sketches
Borowitz said that he wants to do other works of mine, and he will do so when the opportunity arises.  He also knows that there’s a certain amount of resistance, so he cannot do this kind of thing every season.  He says he’d like to talk to me about later seasons, so maybe something could be done.  And as a result of this performance, other people are asking for things.  The principal oboist asked me if I would write a sonata for him.

BD:    Fortunately, once the seed is planted, it can grow.  Unfortunately, though, it grows very slowly, and we’re in a society that demands immediate gratification.

JC:    Well, that’s part of it.  I don’t think it’s gratification.  I think that the public will gladly consume what it knows is there, but the barrier is the middlemen who are trying to make a profit.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but they would prefer to give their attention to something which will make a more immediate profit.  A book publisher would rather print something where the whole first edition would sell out in three months, not in three years.  And it’s the same way with music publishers, and probably with record companies, too. 
XLNT is more than just a recording operation.  That was a sort of an offshoot of other things.  After a number of years, what my wife and I decided to do was to set up a publishing operation to take care of those works which were not commercial enough to satisfy the bigger publishers like Boosey and Hawkes, and Carl Fischer, and so forth.  They already had enough things like string quartets in their rental library, and they were not getting anywhere with them.  So, XLNT was set up for that purpose.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    As you approach your sixtieth birthday, what are the big surprises that you have noticed
either good surprises or bad surprises — just in being a musician, or in music in general?

JC:    As to music in general, I think that it’s a healthy sign that more composers are coming in out of the cold of experimental and theoretical music, and trying to just write something which is primarily for people, and not necessarily something which will get them a critical success in the academic community.  I think it’s very important.  There is a great need for somebody to experiment, and there always has been, but laboratory works
let’s say laboratory proceduresshould be confined to the laboratory.  What you do in an experimental set up is a completely different thing than what you should give to general audiences.  I have no disrespect for my colleagues in the academic community, but I think that they miscalculate the attention span of people that come from a different background.  They’re not necessarily at an age where they’re at a university.  People in a university environment who are willingly there, have a far greater tolerance for experimental music or other art forms than people who will only go to a concert hall or an opera house or an art gallery maybe once a week or once a month, or maybe once a year.  To really do themselves a favor, if they want some of their music to survive they must write at least some part of their output for that larger audience.  They should, at least, think about it.

BD:    Are you optimistic about the future of music?

cohn JC:    Yes, I am, because from what I’ve seen after all of these years, I believe that there is always going to be someone who will feel that it’s important to write for people in general, and not just for the elect or for whoever is up there on a pedestal.  In the old days, there were composers who wrote only for the church or only for the nobility, and since that was the only patron or customer out there, they didn’t really bother to think very much about the other people.  But we’re in a different era now, and one has to consider the other people that are out there.   I also think that there’s a question of altruism.  Every composer should ask himself at one point or another,
“Who am I writing for?  Am I writing just for myself?  Am I not writing for other people as well as for myself?  The world gave me things.  I have been eating and drinking all of these years because of the bounty of the earth, or of my fellow men.  What am I giving back to them?  Is it enough just to accept a weekly paycheck and not give anything more?  It’s like people who have been asked to give to some worthy charity, and they say, “Why pick on me?  I earn my living.  I’ve already paid my dues.”  There is a philosophical question in there, whether you use such a phrase or not.  I think it’s important.  Unless you are sacrificing yourself, which I don’t think anybody should willingly do, I think that people should try to leave the earth having given back maybe a little bit more than they took.

BD:    That’s a wonderful outlook, it really is!

JC:    Maybe it’s unnecessarily idealistic, but I don’t think so.  It’s like being polite to people on the public transportation, including the man who drives and punches your ticket.  It doesn’t really cost you anything to be considerate of other people.  It’s not like you were inviting them into your home and telling them to feel free to take all of your furnishings and hard-earned material wealth.  It’s not the same thing!

BD:    It’s refreshing to find a composer who’s not willing to get into the clawing and scraping and beating of other people, just to get the music heard.

JC:    Ultimately, I don’t think it makes any difference.  I’ve known enough slobs, and ultimately it doesn’t help them.  But when it comes down to the crunch, if that’s all they have going for them, then once they are gone and all of their partisans have either died or retired, their music will drop like a stone.

BD:    Let’s hope that your music doesn’t drop at all.  Let’s hope it continues to go up and up and get more and more hearings.

JC:    You were asking how these things got written.  The Suite Champetre was requested by a visiting French flutist named Jacques Castinier who was looking for new things to play with his group — the Quintet au vent de Paris. I just didn’t feel like writing an American or a nationalistic composition at that particular moment, but I love French music.  I didn’t know whether I was making a mistake or not, but since I love the work of Rameau, I thought I would take some of his little harpsichord pieces and transcribe them.  Probably a lot of French transcriptions of that kind of thing exist in many media, but I don’t know when and where.  The Quintet for Winds was another thing.  I wanted to give something to my friends in the Wisconsin Wind Quintet, and I had been thinking that my Third String Quartet would make a great wind quintet.  So after thinking about it for twenty years, I transcribed it.  The Little Overture was written at the request of a bassoonist who had married a trumpeter.  Before she married him, she had formed a woodwind trio
bassoon, clarinet, and flute.  Then she wanted her husband to join herand themon gigs, and they were starting to write their own repertory, but mostly transcriptions.  They said, “Could you give us something — maybe something to open our program?”  So I wrote the Little Overture for them.  The last thing was a spin-off.  There was a publisher of recorder music who was looking for some material, so I wrote something.  He said it was fine, but too difficult.  I had suggested that I could write something for him that was contemporary, and he said he didn’t sell many copies of contemporary music, and asked for a transcription of Handel.  I said, “That’s not my bag.  Let me try something that might hook children, since they’re the main users.”  He was interested, so I said, “How about like a little school play using some of the children as actors, and all the rest of them supply the background music on recorders?”  He said, “Okay, but what can you do for a story?”  I continued, “How about a family of birds that decide to go south for the winter, and incorporate their table manners and etiquette and the pecking order and when they get to a feeder, how they behave with each other?”  He said it sounded like a nice idea, and I asked if he knew anybody who could help with the script.  He didn’t, and I asked a couple of other people, but nobody was available.  One was off in France on a Fulbright, and another one was just not available at all.  So I started writing the thing myself, first as a story for young children, let’s say pre-high school.  Then I wrote the whole thing out as a narrative because it was easier for me.  I showed it to the publisher, and he said he couldn’t use it that way.  I also wrote this set of variations, and since Bach wrote the Goldberg Variations, I thought I would write something called the Goldfinch Variations.  [Both laugh]  Anyway, it was too difficult for recordists.  He said, “If you had a recorder with a Boehm system, then it would be very easy to play with all the key work.  But for regular recorders, all the cross-fingerings make it very impractical, except for very advanced recorder players.”  So I turned the recorder trio into a woodwind trio for any treble instruments available.  The story itself is sitting around as a manuscript, and maybe some day I can interest a book publisher.  It’s called The World of Cecil Siskin.  A pine siskin is a little bird in the Canadian forests which usually stays up there for the winter, unless it’s a very brutal winter and the food supply starts to run out, in which case they will sporadically migrate south.  They never wind up in the same place, ordinarily.  These little birds are the same size as goldfinches; they’re related to them, and their cry is very much the same, only a little bit more buzzy.   So the idea is that Cecil is the youngest of a family; he has brothers and sisters and his parents.  One day they’re having lunch up in the tree, and they feel it’s a little bit colder than usual.  But the sun is right overhead, so why should it be so cold?  The mother says, “Uh-oh, maybe we’re going to have another really bad winter, like the one we had before the children were born.  We better go south again.”  So they get the children ready to go south, during which you learn what birds do when they’re preparing to migrate.  They start flying south and then there’s a subplot.  The mother says to the father, very diplomatically, “Oh, by the way, dear, I know we’re going south, but exactly where?  Were you thinking of spending it again with your friends the Sparrows, or would you rather go over to my cousins’, the Goldfinches?”  And the father says, “Really dear, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I much prefer the Sparrows to the Goldfinches.  The Sparrows are very friendly and they’re unpretentious, and the Goldfinches always give themselves airs, and act like they’re living on a higher plane.”  So the children are taking all of this in, and eventually they get further south.  Everyone that they meet along the way knows about the Goldfinches.  They’ve all met the Goldfinches, or heard about them at one point or another.  The family escapes various dangers.  After having heard about the Goldfinches all along the way, finally you get to meet them, and that becomes a rather slapstick thing.  It ends with a sort of a riot among the birds, something like the second act of Meistersinger.  [Both laugh]  After all of this, they decide that in view of all that’s happened, maybe they’d better spend the winter with the Sparrows instead.  So they go off and that’s the end of the story.  But this music is a spin-off from that project.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    When you’re writing a piece of music, how do you know when you’ve finished it?

cohn JC:    That is the most difficult question for any composer.  The important thing about writing a piece of music is to know, or to realize, not what to include, but what to leave out.  You have to be willing to cut mercilessly.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing words or music, or what the situation is.  It’s better to be too short than too long.  It’s better to be Franz Berwald than Gustav Mahler.

BD:    [Laughs]  Do the things that wind up on the floor get used in other pieces of music?

JC:    Sometimes.  I put things in a notebook, but basically the things that wind up on the floor are needless extensions or repetitions of what remains in there.  There are composers like Bruckner, Mahler, Schubert in the piano sonatas, and it’s just too much of a good thing!  Maybe they are from an era where the audience did not get restless; they enjoyed themselves so much because of their national spirit that they were happy to stay there the whole evening.

BD:    How much of this was just simply that there was nothing else going on?

JC:    That’s quite possible also, because you did not yet have radio or television or the phonograph record.  But in those times, people did have published music for piano four hands, where they could make their own entertainment at home.

BD:    Right.  But wasn
’t life just simply slower?  There were not so many pressures on life.  You had to eke out your existence to make sure you had food and shelter, but beyond that, there were not the demands that we have now in our technological age.

JC:    That’s very true.  I think people in this time and place are far less patient than before.  I always felt pressure to be concise, to get to the point.  If I had a philosophy of writing, it would be to get in there, make your point, and then get out.  Maybe at some time in the future people will be able to be more patient, and it won’t be so necessary to write this kind of a thing or to use this kind of a philosophy.  But for right here and now, I feel that it is very much necessary.  Of course, living in a big city also creates this kind of philosophy.  I notice that outside of big cities, people move more slowly.  They seem to have more time to look around them and to enjoy nature. 

BD:    I hope we always make the time to listen to your music.

JC:    Thank you so much for saying so.  I hope so, too.

cohn Various commissions since the time of the interview...

Piano Concerto, commissioned by the Argentine pianist Mirian Conti;

Violin Concerto, commissioned and performed by the American violinist Eric Grossman;
Trumpet Concerto, commissioned by trumpeter Jeffrey Silberschlag;
Clarinet Concerto #1; Evocations (Clarinet Concerto #2);
these and other works for clarinet commissioned and performed by John Manasse; [It was the  first Clarinet Concerto which precipitated Jim's visit to Ostend Belgium where he wrote Caprice for the Claribel Clarinet Choir in Ostend in 1997, which was the foundation for a great friendship between Maestro Guido Six, which resulted in the commission in February of 2010 for Texas Suite for future performance at the TMEA in San Antonio];

A Grecian Festival for the Laurel Ensemble, based in California [see photo below];
Trio No. 2  for Piano, Violin and Cello, commissioned by Sigma Alpha Iota and given its world premiere at Sigma Alpha Iota’s Convention [see photo below in next box];
Three Dances for Clarinet and Guitar, commissioned by Raphael Sanders and David Galvez;
Mozart Fantasy, Fiesta Latina and Dance of Praise, commissioned by the Quintet
of the Americas;

The Empty Platter (from a poem by Ogden Nash) and Three Bon-Bons for the New York Treble Singers;

Fantasy on Two Asian Folk Songs for Flute/Oboe and Orchestra for Jeffrey Liang & the Chinese Youth Orchestra;
Variations on a Chinese Folksong for Kenneth Chia, Flutist & the La Senorite Trio (Flute/Oboe & Piano);
Texas Suite,
commissioned by Guido Six of Belgium for the Claribel Clarinet Choir at the Convention of the Texas Music Educators (TMEA) in San Antonio, Texas in February, 2010;

Sonata for Violin & Piano, commissioned by Kees Kooper, the renowned Dutch Violinist.

cohn     cohn

Many of the works have been recorded on the XLNT and Naxos labels.  In addition, MSR Records will be releasing a new CD of some chamber works, which will include Sonatas with Piano for Horn, Violin, Oboe, and Viola, as well as Arkansas Reel (quodlibet of Arkansas Traveler & Blue Mountain Boys' Reel), and A Grecian Festival.



JAMES COHN was born in 1928 in Newark, New Jersey, and took violin and piano lessons there. Later he studied composition with Roy Harris, Wayne Barlow and Bernard Wagenaar, and majored in Composition at Juilliard, graduating in 1950. He is married, and has lived and worked for many years in New York City. He was initiated as a National Arts Associate of Sigma Alpha Iota (International Music Fraternity) (SAI) in the Tulsa Oklahoma chapter in 1998.

He has written solo, chamber, choral and orchestral works, and his catalog includes 3 string quartets, 5 piano sonatas and 8 symphonies. Some have won awards, including a Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Prize for his Symphony No. 2 (premiered at Brussels) and an A.I.D.E.M. prize for his Symphony No. 4 (premiered in Florence at the Maggio Musicale). Paul Paray and the Detroit Symphony introduced the composer's Symphony No. 3 and Variations on "The Wayfaring Stranger", and his opera The Fall of the City received its premiere in Athens, Ohio after winning the Ohio University Opera Award. He has had many performances of his choral and chamber music, and world-wide use of his music commissioned for television and cinema. His most recent completed orchestral work is a Piano Concerto, commissioned by the Argentine pianist Mirian Conti, and his most recent chamber music work is the Trio No. 2 for Piano, Violin and Cello, commissioned by Sigma Alpha Iota and scheduled for premiere at Sigma Alpha Iota's annual Convention in the summer of 2006 at Orlando, Florida, [photo below] 3 Dances for Clarinet and Guitar, commissioned by Raphael Sanders and David Galvez and Duo for Clarinet & Violin, commissioned by Julianne Kirk and Adda Kridler.


Commissions for other works have come from The McKim Fund in the Library of Congress (for the Concerto da camera for Violin, Piano and Wind Quintet), Pennsylvania's "Music At Gretna" festival (for the Mount Gretna Suite, for chamber orchestra), Jon Manasse (for the Concerto No. 1 for Clarinet and Strings), Christopher Jepperson (for 3 Evocations [Clarinet Concerto No. 2]), Jeffrey Silberschlag (for the Concerto for Trumpet and Strings) and Claribel (the Belgian 30-piece clarinet ensemble) (for the 3-movement suite Caprice).


"The highlight of the program was the first performance of three (choral) works by James Cohn, to texts by Ogden Nash. They proved to be indescribably funny, the poet's shrewdly nonsensical verses being set in a mock-heroic manner worthy of Sir Arthur Sullivan. The works, moreover, were effective in performance. Mr. Cohn has technical skill, an inventive musical imagination, a flair for setting text to music and a sense of humor. All these qualities are as rare as they are admirable, and it is hoped that Mr. Cohn will soon be heard from again." - THE NEW YORK TIMES

"Mr. Cohn's opus (Variations on "The Wayfaring Stranger", premiered by Paul Paray and the Detroit Symphony) proved to be spectacularly appealing. Moreover it is melodic... The Variations run the gamut of human emotions with delightful solo lines... It was a superb performance of a superb work." - THE WINDSOR (ONT.) STAR

"Cohn's Symphony (No. 3) is an eminently attractive one which makes its claim on the attention with the opening phrases and sustains the interest throughout the performance. There is an economy of means in the orchestration of the piece, but no yielding of inventiveness or imaginative composition. Indeed, the work throughout is marked strongly by individuality, and comes as a refreshing experience in modern music." - DETROIT FREE PRESS

"I am an unabashed fan of the music of James Cohn... Thus I was excited by the prospect of a new clarinet concerto (No. 1)... and I was not disappointed. The piece is easily in a class with (Gerald) Finzi's concerto; it is melodic and charming, without sounding old-fashioned or stuffy... Cohn seems not to mind writing music that one can enjoy, and I applaud him for it." - AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE

"Imagine: here is contemporary music that is easy to listen to and enjoyable... Cohn reminds me of (Jean) Francaix in his expert writing for wind instruments and for his infectious good humor and high spirits, and of Hindemith for his angular melodies. These comparisons are not meant to suggest that Cohn is not original, for he is... I would rank the Wind Quintet high on the long list of such works in the literature." - AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE

"James Cohn's music is light and gay yet thoroughly classical; the wind music has something of the spirit of Parisian wind pieces, but with a distinctly American flavor. Chief characteristics are brevity, wit and clarity; Cohn's melodies are charming." - FANFARE

"Witty and well-crafted music. Cohn's orchestral music is well structured, warmly tonal and rich in grace and wit" - GRAMOPHONE

"The six works on this disk are high on charm and craftsmanship." - CLASSICS TODAY

The travel and home photos are from the composer
s personal collection.

© 1987 Bruce Duffie

This interview was recorded in Chicago on October 19, 1987.  Portions (along with recordings) were used on WNIB in 1991, 1993 and 1998, and on WNUR in 2006 and 2008.  This transcription was made and posted on this website in 2010.

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.

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.