Composer LOU HARRISON
A Conversation With Bruce Duffie
The word "score" is known to musicians as the bound or manuscript copy of pages which represent the thoughts of a composer. Those ideas get filtered through the imagination of the interpreter and are re-formed as sound in the air, which then reaches the ears of listeners and eventually the minds of audiences both known and unknown. The word "score" can also suggest a time-span of 20 years. In the case of what you are about to read, both of these meanings are appropriate.
Since my guest is a composer, his scores are what is left to us of his creativity. By an odd coincidence of fate, just about 20 years separate the conversation and this presentation of his thoughts. Lou died in February of 2003, but the inspiration and qualities of his music will live on - at least as long as there are people on this planet. He wove threads into music that were charming, original, and unique. His works defy categorization, while managing to please most listeners. His blending of Western ideas with Asian tonalities gave rise to a new path which others have called on, but no one has duplicated.
It was in April of 1987 that I met Lou Harrison. We'd spoken on the phone before, and when he was going to be at a convention of university composers at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, we arranged to meet at his hotel. His 70th birthday was coming up just a few weeks later, and much hoopla and celebration were taking place to mark the occasion. A jolly fellow, very reminiscent of Santa Claus, his hearty laugh and mischievous smile infused our conversation often, and the meeting was a particularly happy occasion for us both.
Now, almost 20 years later, as we begin the year 2007, I am pleased to present this transcription of our conversation as the music world prepares to celebrate the 90th anniversary of his birth. For many years on WNIB, I celebrated "round birthdays." It was an easy way for me to organize my ever-growing list of guests, and to insure that all of them would get programs on a regular basis every five years. It also had the advantage of being color- and gender-blind. With only a fixed number of possibilities, it was interesting to see which ones came up each month as I did my programming. Lou was pleased when I told him the details of my contribution to the station. "You seem to know everybody," he said, and was surprised that we were a commercial station and not part of National Public Radio. "Well, I'll be damned," he chuckled. "That does happen occasionally. That's amazing. Leave it to Chicago!"
We spent about an hour discussing various musical, environmental and political
topics. His unending joy and good humor abounded, and there was much
laughter for us both. He jotted down a couple of notes to himself of
items to send me after he returned home - notes on pages of a score he was
working on, but not so that they obliterated any musical ideas . . . . .
Bruce Duffie: [Leaning over the table at Lou's invitation to peruse the score] I see you're writing on score paper. I hope that's a note page and not a bit of music.
Lou Harrison: This is already the thing I checked. I'll only have to refer to it once again and then I go onto the other pages. You can see that the sketches are smaller than the final product because of my notes to myself.
BD: [As we then sit back and begin the interview] You said there are a whole bunch of 70th birthday concerts coming up in your honor. Is this a good thing or a bad thing to celebrate a composer's 70th birthday?
LH: It's fun to hear music, and of course I've made it the occasion for making some new pieces, too. While one's friends always want to play in such a concert, it's graciously implied that they would also like to have new pieces. The result is that I am writing night and day. It's fun, however, because some of them are very special trials. This new work that you see here on the table I just finished day before yesterday. It's a concerto for piano with Javanese gamelan. The concerto that I wrote a couple of years ago was for piano with selected Western orchestra, and it also required re-tuning the piano. That was less drastic than this one because gamelan tuning is up for grabs, so every time it's done it will have a new tuning. I've written it for the gamelan that is at Mills College and which I know the tuning. It's amazing when you're dealing with pianos, you find very quickly that a big concert grand, for example, is not really an instrument. It's a Holy Grail, or something very close to it.
BD: Is the re-tuning a tremendous change or a little bit of change here or there?
LH: It's a little bit. For example, for the First Concerto, the one with western instruments, it's minute. It doesn't do anything to the piano at all. In the Second Concerto, the soundboard has to get more adjusted. You know, soundboards have memories and they struggle to get back into that awful equal temperament. (Both laugh)
BD: A technician once told me that if you have to pull a piano up - when it's been let go for more than a couple of years, or if it's had a radical temperature and humidity change - you can't tune it all at once. You have to do it in stages.
LH: Yes. When I bring it back, my old piano – the one I've been using to write this concerto – is very much lower. And the responsiveness, by the way, is much richer and more resonant because pianos have been going up. You know, the pitch has been rising like ladies skirts. It goes up and down, as a matter of fact, rather like ladies skirts.
BD: Would you rather set it back at 420 or something?
LH: Well, we've got a split level environment about that now because the symphonic people are chasing Hollywood up the ladder. And the big orchestras on the Eastern seaboard, as well as Hollywood are up around 460 or something like that. That's for more pizazz. It tightens all the strings, you know, and the violins sound racier. But at the same time, all the Baroque people, who are not unnumerous, are descending to Baroque pitches. So, for example, in my own house, I keep the piano which is an 1871 nine-foot Steinway given to me by Henry Cowell and his wife many years ago, and was the favorite piano of Percy Grainger. Bill Masselos liked it too. I keep that one down about 435 or below because it's a 19th century instrument and the pitch was about that when the piano was built. At the same time, you go a step nearby and there is a reed organ from the 19th century which is higher than 440, and then my harpsichord which is down about G# or near G, nestles with the piano and so on. So you've got a choice in my house.
BD: Do you have absolute pitch?
LH: No. There's no such thing, I regret to tell you. There's habituated or exhausted pitch sense. What they mean is that they've heard those pitches enough so they recognize them. It's actual neural exhaustion. The brain comes up with the idea of, "Well, I've heard that one before," because you hear it enough.
BD: But would your re-tuned pianos drive a person with supposed absolute pitch batty?
LH: No, no, because it's easy to get new habits. And besides, the ratio, the relationships in equal temperament and particular A440 and all of that... Right now, people are hearing radio tapes that are up a quarter of a tone or down a quarter of a tone and so on. And the symphonic world is going up and the movies are going up whereas the Baroque people are going down. They're already listening to all sorts of pitches.
BD: Who's right?
LH: Well, I think that there's no such thing as right or wrong in these instances. What is useful is the general principle that a composer ought to be heard on an instrument that he would have liked in a tuning that he approved. I think that principle's gotten around pretty well now. The Baroque people have done that and, as a result, very few symphony programs anymore begin as they used to when I was growing up with a Bach, a Handel, or Vivaldi, or a Corelli Concerto Grosso. The reason is that big industrial orchestras are really not quite proper for that.
BD: Do you use the term "industrial orchestra" in an admiring sense or a derogatory sense?
LH: I say that it is an industrial orchestra because there's just no doubt of that. In the last century, the woodwinds were all re-bored by engineers for Equal temperament. The bassoon escaped, by the way, and it can play almost anything as a result. It's an archaic instrument. It's a leftover. And the string section, of course, has also undergone changes. The bridges were raised and the fingerboards bent back for more pizazz. Same thing as the pitch rising. And the trombone is a happily archaic instrument, too, so I always write for that because it can play in tune, you see.
BD: So you're very much aware of tuning and temperament and all of this?
LH: Oh mercy, yes. I'm a composer. A musician.
BD: Do you like working with Equal temperament at all?
LH: No, I don't. I don't like it at all. 12 tone Equal temperament has been popular for about a century now. Actually, it's just a little more than a century. Not much more. Not even Chopin used it, you know.
BD: What was the temperament that Bach used in the Well Tempered Clavier?
LH: Nobody knows, but it would have been one of two or three. Well tempered is quite different from Equal temperament. Bach is on record as not liking Equal temperament. In fact, he went to the trouble of writing 48 preludes and fugues to prove the beauties of Well temperament. The concerto I wrote previous to this one with gamelan is, in fact, in a temperament that Bach could have used because it was written down by a pupil of his – the Kirnberger No. 2.
BD: Each gamelan is individual, so is there any way of adjusting the temperament that goes through different gamelans?
LH: No. The piano will have to be tuned to each gamelan as it's done. The particular gamelan I've written for is one that was built by Bill Colvig and me, and consequently we know the tuning. It's a form of Just Intonation. It's pretty advanced, but still, it is very interesting. When I got my piano tuned in it, and particularly in the pelog section which is the kind of minorly sounding part of the gamelan, I got scared because some of the pitches were just shocking on the piano, where they are not the slightest bit on the gamelan. They sound quite normal in the gamelan. But when you transfer the same intonation in the piano, some of it's a little shocking. I had quite a time getting overtone 13 into the second movement so I reserved it for a climactic moment where does its trick.
BD: Well, then why did you write for piano and gamelan? Why didn't you do just piano or just gamelan?
LH: It's a combined affair and I wanted a gamelan. I wanted a piano with a gamelan accompaniment cooperating because, after all, the piano is a tuned percussion instrument, in effect. A stringed percussion instrument. It's hard to describe now because those wires have gotten so tight and heavy. They're almost like bars, you know. It sounds less like a stringed instrument.
BD: Do you feel it like a jail cell?
LH: No. Well, look at my little hands. I always thought the piano required a major athlete and I'm not one. I want big hands which I haven't got, so I've not always been happy with the piano. I've never really liked it. But it was fun to write that other concerto and this one. Both concertos have proved fun and it's because I had some way of making it sound right.
BD: Another thing that comes to mind, you've written a little piece for guitar. Do you ask the guitar to be re-tuned?
LH: Yes, as a matter of fact. But I will compromise, and it is now being put out with a note that it can be played in Equal temperament. One of the reasons that I wrote for guitar with re-fretted condition is the fact that a really surprising number of guitar players, if they tune by ear and study carefully classic guitar, make the discovery that there's a discrepancy between their beautifully tuned strings and the frets which are on the fingerboard. They either make some sort of adjustments by pulling and pushing the strings, or they say, "That's enough of that," and they rip off the frets which is very easy to do. Just take the little screw driver and push them off. They're all just set in there. And then you can fill up the wood with plastic wood and polish it again. You've got a nice clean board. And then you can use the lute knot if you want. Before the Turks had gut frets, you tied them off, and you can do that in nylon, of course. There's a regular fret knot to pull it tight. So you can do that on the guitar. But a lot of people have gone into very serious matters, like Hewlett Packard engineers making fingerboards in different intonations. There's a man, I think he's in California now, who used to teach at the San Francisco Conservatory. Tom Stone's his name. He has a company that produces a production line. He gets fine Japanese guitars and then he produces fingerboards of metal.
BD: Are they interchangeable?
LH: Yes. They slip in and then pull up and are locked, and you can do that in just half a second so you can have any intonation you want available just like that. It's quite amazing to hear a guitar in, say, Mean Tone temperament.
BD: Is there any chance that we're getting too much science and technology and too little inspiration and heart?
LH: Well, if you're going to oppose science and technology with what accords with the ear, and art as what does not, you've just crossed yourself up...
BD: Okay. (Both laugh)
LH: ...because equal temperament does not accord with the ear. It is, after the Chinese observed after they invented it, really not fit for human consumption. They bypassed it as an interesting theoretical problem which they solved previous to Europe. And, in fact, its original appearance in Europe is undoubtedly due to Jesuit transmissions of the manuscripts and books from Peking. Simon Stevin, the Belgian scientist, was the first one who worked it out in Europe, and he worked it out to fewer decimal points and using exactly the same process that Prince Chu Tsai-yü did. So, 12 tone Equal temperament. 7 tone Equal temperament is what is pushed in Southeast Asia instead of Northwest Asia, which Europe is. And, that's a caution. But they do in the same way. It's fascinating because just as in the last century or so, the people in Northwest Asia have made "pretend" 7 tone scales out of 12 equal notes. And so, in Southeast Asia, they make "pretend" 5 tone scales out of 7 tone equals. It does exactly the same thing and you can modulate around like Wagner and that sort of thing. I thought it would be fun, in fact, sometime to do a 7 tone serial piece because 7 tone equal is just as out of tune and lacking in any basic tonality sense as is 12 tone Equal temperament. In fact, any Equal temperament is fundamentally atonal in the sense that it has no tonal reference. It's just a dull gray succession of equal intervals.
BD: Now you and some others are working in these kinds of temperaments...
LH: Ben Johnston, for example, and all the Baroquers, too.
BD: ...but, are you living in peaceful co-habitation with people who like equal temperament and people who write for symphony orchestras?
LH: Yes. In fact I write for symphony orchestras. My Third Symphony is going about a good deal now, and my other two have been played successfully and continue to be. My solution to that has been, since it is a disturbing question, once you've heard the real thing you don't want the substitute very well. Ben and I were talking about this this morning, and what I found is if you write large enough pieces in a given modality, a real mode, with no accidentals, that the orchestra will eventually sort of accommodate it and play it with fair success in tune. If you know how to score sufficiently well, that can be done. The real problem is if you give them anything with the slightest chromatic, your woodwinds can't do it in tune because it's not slow enough when they call it up to a certain tempo. But beyond that, they're bored for Equal temperament as they were in the last century and that's it in the allegro. Same is true for most of the brass. They can lip it up to a certain point. But the strings, if you leave them alone and they're any good, will play in Just intonation anyway. That's their nature. So will a good set of singers, if left alone and without bothering them from the organers. By the way, now organs are going through this too. In Davies Hall in San Francisco you pull a plug and you can get Mean Tone temperament on the organ, or you pull another plug and you can get a Well temperament.
BD: Different ranks of pipes that are preset?
LH: Yes. Exactly. And the same thing is true of the new organ at Stanford University in the Chapel. So there are 2 organs now in Davies Hall. A big one for use with a large orchestra, for the Saint-Saëns 3rd which I adore, of course, and then another organ for Bach and Handel and so on for the Messiah. As a matter of fact, Handel had keyboards with split keys. So it's a fascinating thing.
* * * * *
BD: You get so many commissions. Everyone wants a piece from Lou Harrison. How do you decide which commissions you will accept and which commissions you will either put off or decline?
LH: Well, I have been telling them the last year or so that they just take a number. It's like getting in to a line at the bakery. (Both laugh) That's all I can do because it would be unfair to slice through for anyone particular. So they're lined up at this point, and some of them are delayed by common consent and others are sort of pushed and so on. I did break training a little, I must say, when this series of birthday concerts came up. There were several reasons why, but I'm almost through with the things that I said I could get to and which I really look forward to. And such a nice man, Carlton Clay of the Catskill Conservatory. He has a wonderful summer season in the most romantic locale, with the only remaining original Dutch barn in New York State. It's a square with a pyramid roof and there's nothing around it. You look out for miles on these beautiful hills and forests, and the acoustics are wonderful in that barn. And then he takes you to a church miles away for another concert. He repeats the concert in another church in another place which has beautiful stained glass. It's mid-19th century. And then you discern, as the twilight comes and it’s time for the concert, that there is a great chandelier 10 or 15 feet across. It consists of dozens of kerosene lamps.
BD: How lovely!
LH: Well, it's just so romantic you know. It's absolutely marvelous. He gets first class players and these are just two of his locales. Last year, he also put on a week-long Henry Cowell festival in Oneonta, and so he wanted a woodwind quintet. Last year I went to a number of conferences and heard a lot of woodwind quintets. I found that I did not have one in me. I really don't like it. So I talked with him about it and I made a counter suggestion. His wife is a virtuoso horn player and he is a superb trumpeter, and so I kept hearing music for that, you see. I get these little domestic things and they're very nice people and I just kept hearing them playing together. So I proposed, then, a work for trumpet and horn with harp and mandolin and a percussionist. It's a quintet still, you see. I think that will be fun and he agreed, so that's what I'm working on. In a recent letter he said, "I found a wonderful mandolin player so apparently I'll be able to do the rolls." [“Rolls,” as in tremolos.] Otherwise, you know, you can simply ask a violinist to play the mandolin because it's exactly the same fingering and tuning and everything. And they can do it except for the tremolo, which they're not used to. I'm looking forward to going on with that. I've already started sections of it.
* * * * *
BD: As you approach your 70th birthday, is there anything in music that you thought 20, 30 or 40 years ago would happen and has not?
LH: No. I don't think so. I've been surprised, though, at the speed with which ideas that I encountered then have become widespread. Naturally, when you get older you get duller in the head, and so it always astonishes you how many people there are and, of course, statistically it's true there are getting to be more people and then, of course, you realize concomitantly that there will be a wider spread of ideas which were cherished by a very few people, say, 50 years ago. I can speak of that. "Well, when did you write this piece?" they ask. "Oh, it's a half century old, you know." (Both laugh) One which was played today is over a half century old. So it's in the light of living that long and working that long that I see that more and more people become interested in the things that I was doing a long, long time ago. And there is a very rapid progress in things that I'm interested in. Intonation is an example, and the sifting out of period information. The recent understanding that the music of Europe is, in fact, part of ethnomusicology, and this is a gift, I suppose you could call, of the early music people, because it's clear that it was very different than we had supposed by the propaganda of the 19th century industrial period and their critics. And we found the principle that you really ought to play a composer on instruments he would have approved and in tunings he liked. And this, of course, transfers the whole thing into the study of ethnomusicology. I had an interview... I'm not sure that it was the genuine thing, but at any rate, it purported to be with a Vice-Chancellor at the University of California. It was just a student. She finally irritated me very, very badly, but among other things, she kept trying to get out of me how I felt when I mixed a so-called Western instrument with an ethnic instrument. Finally, I looked at her and I said, "Can you name for me, or do you know of, an instrument that is not ethnic?" This struck her with great surprise. She was baffled. And that came up even in an ethnomusicological meeting a couple of years ago at UCLA. A young lady was working in Burmese, I've forgotten what specialty in Burmese music. She said she'd done it, had gotten just to the point about to do a paper and then she took up opera. And, do you know, that nobody in that room thought to ask her whether she meant European opera or Burmese opera? The presumption of universality about the small area of Northwest Asia is, of course, hilarious if you think about it for a minute. And what money and propaganda must go in to maintain that fiction. (Both laugh)
BD: I wish that some of the big opera companies would do a Burmese opera or a Chinese opera or a Korean opera.
LH: Yes. By the way, in Hawaii many years ago, I managed to hear, at the East-West center there, a production of a Chinese opera in English, with all the original sets and the music. Everything was the same except it was in English. I was raised in San Francisco, you know, and Chinese opera is part of my life. And I always wondered what that percussion accompaniment to the sounds, the recitatives and things, would be like if it were in English. Would it be disturbing? At the end of every sentence, for example, you would come to a period. A snap or a clap or a drum or something like this and various punctuations.
BD: Does it work well?
LH: Well, it's wonderful! And so I've been using it since then. I compose that way. Yes, it really does. You know your punctuation with percussionists. (Both laugh)
BD: More than just what Victor Borge does? (Both laugh)
LH: Yes. Oh, I love that. I think that’s delightful.
* * * * *
BD: You talk about the great multitude of people. Are there too many composers running around today?
LH: There always have been. There always have been. But I think that a luxury of composers is a good thing. Somebody's bound to have an idea sooner or later. (Both laugh) The more the merrier.
BD: Then how do we sift out the ideas that are worth hearing and the other ideas which are worth leaving aside?
LH: Well, I'll tell you, Bruce. I'm not saying that we will or do. I think this is an age of communication and thus nobody knows what's going on. I mean that quite literally. For reasons beyond my control or understanding, it's very hard to find out what's going on or what people are doing because they are very involved with their particular means of production. And there are so many, for example, I think it’s what New York critics are mad about. You can do superb art – opera, symphony, all sorts of things, new works - and never get anywhere near New York. And of course, New Yorkers are terribly upset - particularly the critics - because somehow it's gotten out of their hands.
BD: They think that New York should be a magnet for everything?
LH: Oh well, yes. And also Central Distribution Quarters, and it isn't anymore. In fact, if you write to New York now or phone New York, you will find that you will have to contact Philadelphia or Florida or other places to get some of my pieces. So it's no longer the center that it used to be.
BD: Is this a good thing?
LH: I think it is for the nation as a whole. Also, the nation, instead of dividing North/South, is really divided East/West now.
BD: By the mountains?
LH: Well, it's cultural too. We're in Atlantica here in Chicago. On the borders of it, but it's Atlantica. Whereas in California you're very aware that you are in Pacifica. In fact, the big university systems of California maintain two. There's really a third, too, but the two basic ones are UC wherever it is, and the other one is the California State System as it's called, State Universities. Both are revising their curricula on the new demographic studies of California which indicate that in not too many years it will be an Asian nation. It's already very close to it. By the year 2000, English will be a minority tongue in California. I remember to my astonishment realizing that about 15 years ago.
BD: Is Spanish still making the inroads or is it mostly the Asian coming around?
LH: Oh, it's still there. But it's Asian, too – Vietnamese, Burmese. The joy of being able to hear a Burmese orchestra, for example, in Oakland and everywhere. It's astonishing. It's a wonderful mix. We're terribly rich you know. It's just like the old stories about the Roman Empire. We're got everything. Rare and wonderful Buddhist music’s in Alabama and so on.
BD: Well, should we continue the division of the nation or should we try to make sure that everything is integrated East and West?
LH: I don't see why integration need be. It will happen anyway to a degree. For example, I'm assimilating from Asia all the time, as are others in the United States, and also disseminating from the West. So it's a combination. I don't see that there's any need to trim everybody up and get him in uniform. I think that a richness of culture is desirable, and since we're a nation founded on both secular and commercial foundations, and philosophically as well, I think that that variety is a good thing and an enriching thing. It's astonishing now to go to an ethnomusicological conference and find out what there is among the riches in the United States musically.
BD: It's so diverse.
LH: Oh, it's incredible. And how widespread it is, too. It's amazing.
BD: Are all these various musics going in the same direction or are they all going in different directions?
LH: Well, they're all developing, of course. Some new ideas come into them. For example, I noted with astonishment a Cambodian orchestra recently in California that had a banjo. There was some little trouble, I felt, and so did the player for that matter. The toleration is high, but the problem is basic, as you well know, because the banjo is fretted for 12 tone Equal temperament and the rest of the Cambodian instruments were fretted for 7 tone Equal. So this was a 12 and 7 problem. He pulled and pushed his strings a little bit. And, of course, the tone color was right. But it's just a matter of re-fretting and anybody can see that right away.
BD: Here, you're looking for a common denominator. Should we be looking for a common denominator over all the musics?
LH: Technically, I would say it would probably be unwise. For example, we have discovered Asian wind instruments at the present time are much more capable than Western, than the Northwest Asian instruments, for the reason that they aren't fixed into any given tuning.
BD: More capable of what?
LH: Of microtones, of sliding, of all those things. For example, you give me a 6-holed flute without a key on it and I can do things that no concert flutist can do if he or she has a flute bored in its particular way. And that's true of a number of instruments. I played a Korean piri which is, after all, the aulos, and it's the aulos that's alive and well in East Asia instead of in the West. They also maintain that it did come from the West. I remember one wonderful morning I was meeting with my teacher in Seoul. I was playing and finally he looked at me curiously. We had no common language. I had a translator but we almost never used him. He read the newspaper because learning an instrument is easy. You look at the fingering and you hear the sound and if you can't do it, you might as well give up. But that's the thing. You do do it. But he looked at me curiously after about a half hour of the lesson. These were 2-hour lessons. And finally he looked at me. He just moved my fingers on the instrument. It turns out that the first half hour I had been fingering a note below where I was sounding. (Both laugh)
BD: And adjusting to it?
LH: The pitches were alright. Which means, of course, if you think about it, that the instrument is capable of almost anything you can hear and listen to, you can play on it. The fingers are just there for articulation. So really it is from ear to lip is what that instrument is about. And that's a good instance. You can move about in a way that you could not, say, on the oboe. The oboe would simply be impossible in such a circumstance, and it's a double reed too.
BD: Would the electronics be a wonderful thing? You could just punch in this temperament or that temperament, or change a chip somewhere?
LH: Well, some of that would be fun. For example, Bill has long ago told me about something that I thought was just terrific. He never mentions it. I mentioned it this morning in the talk with Ben. Why not if you want to do this? Attach electromagnets to the strings of the piano, for example, or a harpsichord, in such a way that you could train it by feedback to put in any intonation that you wanted because the electromagnets would instantly pull or release the strings, and what's more, by playback, would keep it in perfect tuning. Now there's another use for electronics that strikes me as pretty good, huh?
BD: Right! You should put a note at the bottom of your scores, "If this can be done better by instruments a hundred years from now . . ."
LH: Yes. Then do it this way. That's a good idea. As a matter of fact, Bruce, I found that there's another business about more people and longer time. Years ago I wrote Fugue for Percussion and it made use of all the cross metrics that a fugue does tonally. I had a wonderful time writing it because it's perfectly real if you think about it in that sense. What would be the entries of the fugue and the developments and so on. They were all done rhythmically. For example, the entry of the fifth. Well, a fifth is a three to two technically as an interval, so the entry there was that at a rhythm of three against the two which would make the fifth. But the subject was preserved, you see, all the way through, and developed and so on. The whole fugue goes this way. In the late 60s I think it was, Leopold Stokowski gave it up with a letter to me. He said, "It can't be played yet." But a couple of years later I was invited over to San Jose State University to hear a performance of it which went very well, and within a couple of years, it was a contest piece with percussion ensembles, and recorded, and is now played as a common matter. So my advice to young composers is to do whatever you have in mind, that someday there will come along a generation that hasn't been told it's impossible. Then they'll do it easily. And this is true of vocal things, as we know now, too. Joan La Barbera, for example, was not told that it was impossible to do certain things, and we can hear the results. (Both laugh)
BD: Now some things are becoming easier, so they're becoming possible. Are there some things in music, which were written in earlier times, that are becoming too easy?
LH: Well, now I don't know about that. I'm all for things being easy. I can't think of anything. What do you mean by that, Bruce?
BD: I'm trying to look at the other side of the coin. As we move farther, should we look back and play things that are so very simple, so very elementary?
LH: Oh, I think you should have the whole spread. Let me quote a wonderful writer from the 20s I think it was, or even the turn of the century, who worked in a little red school house in New York. Her name was Satis Coleman. She wrote a number of books, and one of them I've always loved is Creative Music in the Home. It has pictures of children with instruments they'd built, giving little concerts of music they'd made up and things like that. And her motto was, that along the course of music's history lies an instrument suitable for the skills of any child. I've often thought I'm that child hunting around in music's history (both laugh). But we are all, really, because we find more and more is dug up all the time, so we're all hunting around in music's history.
BD: Is there any hope for the generation that just watches MTV and only listens to rock music?
LH: What do you mean by hope?
BD: Hope that they will come to discover more and more music.
LH: Oh, they may. You never know what accidents can occur. I think that those would be happy accidents. My generation can best be described as split-level because I lived a large part of my life before the bomb. My life resolves into BB and AB – before bomb and after bomb - and the big question is whether the bombs will fall or not. That is to be our overriding concern. That and the fact that we're destroying the planet while we're talking here. A certain amount of our breath has been taken away by the cutting down of the rainforests in Brazil.
BD: Are you at all optimistic about the future of humanity?
LH: Not the slightest bit. I think that there's only one probable or possible thing, and that's getting out to space. Because, you know, if we don't do it, the sun will die. You are aware that the sun has a limited life and that if we don't expire as a species before the sun blows up, the whole earth is going to be a cinder anyway. So we might as well take things into our own hands and get out into space.
BD: Then how do you, as a musician, resolve this going into space, where it's a vacuum?
LH: Oh, I'm a great science fiction addict, you know. And not only that, among my friends I was the only person, literally, who knew what had happened at Hiroshima from reading science fiction. I continuously read it to see what the tenor of the subconscious is, because what science fiction writers are telling you about something now is what it amounts to. It's social commentary about present feelings and ideas.
BD: What's the world going to be like a hundred years from today?
LH: (laughs) Well, nobody can say that. I think maybe a more basic question might be, "Will there be a world a hundred years from today?"
BD: Do you think there will be?
LH: A trip around the world is very very discouraging. And, of course, we've entered a period of now irreversible heating. The greenhouse effect is irretrievable. We can't change it now. The weather is changing all over the planet. We've now got ozone holes above both poles which we'd never had before. Thoughtful people who've bored through ice deposited over the centuries have made the discovery that our atmosphere has changed radically within a century and so on. I'm not saying that we're going to survive, but what really gets me is taking everybody else with us. [In an angry tone] That I don't like one damned bit. Sure, if we want to commit suicide, that's our own damned business, but we have no right to take the rest of the planet with us.
BD: All the living things. Well, if you were going to put certain things in a container and send them out into space to be saved, what would you put in that little capsule?
LH: [Smiling again] Oh, mercy. My list would be enormous. I started a list some years ago of the most precious things in Northwest Asia - Europe - and then the most precious things in East Asia, and the most precious in so on and so on. It's quite a list, I can tell you. It's fun. By the way, I have a friend who's on his way out. I have an immortal friend, Pak Cokro Wasitodiningrat, or, as he is known in this country, Wasitodipuro, Java’s greatest living composer. He has a band on the Voyager [the satellite which is leaving our solar system]. And he's my teacher. And he's immortal because some of him is going to go out and is going to be going into the universe after even this planet is a cinder.
BD: If you're trying to pack so much into this capsule, then you must be very encouraged by what mankind has produced over the centuries.
LH: Oh, I love it. I find it endlessly fascinating, and I discovered some time ago that being civilized means being civilized about some subjects. And those I pursue. And, oh, I have enough pleasure and entertainment and joy in civilization to last me at least a couple of centuries. I could easily use a couple of centuries. (Both laugh) Yes. There's so much wonderful, wonderful things that humankind has done. I don't see why it should be so suicidal. And I think, of course, that one of the mistakes was the industrial revolution. It's probably the last one, too. And the collateral mistake of nationalism. The thought that any nation with physical boundaries would actually put its nationness and boundaries above the survival of the planet, the species and all other life is, to me, a disgrace. A real disgrace, intellectually and in every other way. I just cannot understand that. That strikes me as insanity, pure and simple and unretrievable. So, no, I'm a pessimist about all of that. So, since AB, after bomb, in order to function at all, I've had to pretend that it might go on. Then, of course, the corollary aspects of the pretense are that, for example, if I wish to make a symphony that I think might last, presuming that we're going on, then I take 10-15 years, maybe 20 years to do that. I follow the good advice of Horace and Virgil. Horace never let a line of his verse out unless 10 years had elapsed and it had been revised and so on. And Virgil, you know, never completed the Aeneid. Fortunately, Augustus was wise enough to countermand his orders for destruction. But the corollary is, if you pretend there's enough time, then you will take the time to try to make it right, to make a contribution, then, to a presumed ongoing society which I don't believe for a moment is going to do it. So my whole artistic life has been a pretense.
* * * * *
BD: Allowing for your pretense then, when you're working on a piece of music, how do you know when it is right?
LH: Well, how do I know it's right and finished finally? I suppose you could describe it as a subconscious itch – when it stops itching. (Laughs) And also, I've often described, too, as finally being separate. The umbilicus is gone. It's no longer working. It's no longer drawing on my thoughts and so on.
BD: You mean, it's working on its own?
LH: Yes. It becomes an object itself. I'm very much object oriented in that sense. When the piece is finished, I know it, and then it starts living its own life, you see. The only problem with that is, like irritable adolescent children, they come and demand distribution and advice and all this sort of thing. And an allowance. (Laughs) But I know when they're done, and if they're not, I'm miserable. The Third Symphony required three different finales, but, I won, finally. And when it was done a few months ago in Cincinnati, Dennis Russell Davies, who conducted it, met me at the stage after he finished, he said, "We won, didn't we?" I said, "This is it."
[Photo at left: With Dennis Russell Davies. See my Interviews with Davies.]
BD: Had you heard the other previous versions?
LH: Oh yes. All of them, you see. But I knew that it was wrong and so I tried two others and no, no still. But now it's right. We both know it's right.
BD: When you're working on a piece, does it write itself or are you in control of it?
LH: No, it writes itself. And sometimes they're just as stubborn as all get out. What I had in mind for the Third Symphony, for example, the first movement wouldn't write itself. It was based on a work I did a long time ago and that was right. I knew that much. But it would not take the shape I expected it to. And finally I said, "Well, alright. Just do what you want." (Both laugh) I let it do that and it turns out to be exactly what was needed. I couldn't make it be what was needed. It had to do it itself, so to speak. This sounds funny, but there is a certain lifeline that the piece has of its own, and you can't push it out of bounds. It won't do that. Otherwise, there's a falsity.
BD: Is this like raising a child?
LH: Oh, I suppose so. (Laughs) Yes, I suppose so. In a way, they're children and they go out and live a life of their own and go among a great number of people.
BD: You had said that when the piece is done, they're like adolescent children and they come back for other things.
LH: (laughs) Yes. That's true.
BD: But when you're working on the pieces, you're actually guiding their development and teaching them, but yet you can't control them.
LH: Yes. That's right. They're growing. They're growing all
the time, and you can sort of help in certain directions. But the pieces
do grow from tiny little cells. Sometimes it's just an idea about an
instrumental combination. Sometimes it's an actual motif or theme or something
like that. But I've been a composer for so long now that many of the functions
that I use to work intellectually are no longer done that way. There are
so many instances of them they become subconscious practice, and I really
don't have to work them out anymore. I can depend that they will be there.
BD: It's not routine, though, is it?
LH: No, it's not routine at all because even there, as I say it, it'll surprise me. It doesn't want to do that.
BD: Have there been some dissertations written about you and your music?
LH: A stack of them like this [gestures with his arms indicating a huge pile].
BD: Have you read them?
BD: Are they right?
LH: Oh, a lot of them are. Yes, yes. And I'm happy to say that Heidi Von Gunden has just signed a contract to do a book about me. And before that, by May 14th there will be a whole issue of Soundings called A Harrison Reader which has a marvelous cover and back cover by an artist friend of mine, the husband of the woman I'm writing this concerto for. Wonderful artist. So I'm looking forward to that.
* * * * *
BD: Since you're here for a conference of university composers, are university composers different from other composers?
LH: A little bit. A little bit. The musical world is divided into a great number of sections. There's the theatre world and the symphonic world, which more or less correspond but don't actually because there's the world of Broadway and Hollywood as opposed to symphonic. And then there's the problem of how to earn a living as composers. Roy Harris was the first, you know, to discover that a university would pay you to live and compose. (Both laugh) But now it's regarded as common to inhabit a university. It's a kind of cloistered existence.
BD: Is it too sheltered? Too isolated?
LH: I have sometimes thought so, but not necessarily. And between the big time symphonic, operatic and so on world, and the cloistered, I think, at the present time, more importance can be attached to the cloistered. That's where the intellectual life is. And the great tendency of the big symphonic and operatic institutions to continue to repeat only given works and to exclude newer things, for example, tends to make museums of them. This is why American opera is turning into chamber opera because we don't have access to play with the big houses. And, in fact, I complained about that. I've always been pushing under my heel ideas for operas because, you know, I was put on stage when I was 2 ½, and I have an instinct for it. But I can't play with a big opera house in this country. I could have played with Stuttgart, that I know, but at that time, they were insisting on German. Now, of course, they know better. But, finally I was asked a few years ago, at a party in San Francisco, and this was serious. Would I write for the San Francisco Opera? I thought about it seriously for a few minutes. There was silence, and then I said, “No, I'm sorry. It's too late. It's too late. You have to have something to play with before you can do anything, and my days of playing that way are gone. I’m too old." You can't play in an academy. That's what I'm trying to point out.
BD: But your other music is very theatrical.
LH: Yes. Yes, well, I've been working with dancers for years and I still do. I wrote a ballet last summer for Erick Hawkins which he hasn't completed, and I did a whole new one on the basis of another one, an old one, for Jean Erdman. I did that by videocassette. It was grand fun. It worked. It worked. Of course, I've known her for years and worked with her a lot. I still love the theatre.
BD: I'm sorry we didn't get a big opera out of you.
LH: Well, I'm afraid it's too late. (Both laugh) In the meantime, I guess my first opera's not too bad. It's been done a few times. I hear it every so often in cassette and it's not bad on the tape. And also my second opera, which was supposed to be redone in German and which I finally just closed the book on in New Zealand, is going to be redone in Portland next year. So that will be fun. That's the opera Young Caesar and you've got favorite tunes there from. The theatre's been hired and we're going to do a bang-up multi-media thing, and I'll probably change a fair amount of it. It's on a subject of Caesar's affair with the King of Bythinia, and it's an historical occasion. But we're going to do it with the Portland Gay Men's Chorus and we're going to do it with masks on sticks and togas and whole screen projections and things on stage and it'll be grand fun. I think that's the way it's going to be done. And, of course, I'll have to change the opera because there's practically no choral music in this. But it'll be fun to do and I'm looking forward to that. That will be a revival because we did it a number of times when I first did it and then dropped it because it was originally designed for 5 puppeteers, 5 singers and 5 players, but the players played about 75 instruments in both Asian and European.
BD: Do you do any teaching at all?
LH: Yes, I do. I'm formally retired from Mills College and that means that I retired from teaching a general course in World Music, a very specific course in World Tuning, so to speak, which is much more advanced, and, as far as I know, is the only one in the United States. I taught it at 4 or 5 universities both in the LA region and the San Francisco region. And many pupils are still doing it. Those were the three main academic courses that I did.
BD: Did you ever teach composition?
LH: Yes. One-on-one basis and also seminars at Mills. And then I've been doing gamelan for a long, long time. When I retired from Mills, I stopped the three academic courses and also composition. I stopped doing it also from San Jose State before, and just now, in my own studio which is quite big. Bill and I built a house. Actually, we could rehearse a small symphony orchestra in our music room. It's big enough to house three gamelan and two organs and harpsichord and virginals and piano. (Laughs) And I teach there, through Cabrillo College, Beginning Gamelan, Javanese Gamelan, and Intermediate Gamelan.
[Photo at left: With William Colvig at their house]
BD: Is composing something that really can be taught?
LH: I never felt so. And that's probably due to my own history. When I was younger, I would become very excited about certain things and then I would go to the person. For example, Henry Cowell taught me for free. And I had another scholarship with a composer from Mills College so my connections from there are very, very early. Then I went to a symposium of Schoenberg's in UCLA. Most of what I learned was either free or very nearly, so I don't really accept private paid pupils. I did once, but that's about it. I feel a responsibility to offer what I can to anyone who asks, so I do.
BD: Are you gratified by what you see and hear?
LH: Often. Yes, yes. Some have been quite brilliant choices. Also, I'm an heir of Charles Ives, literally, and when I told that to a class in the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, one fellow, the second time I was at the class said he, too, is a relative of Mr. Ives. And I said, "Well, that makes us distant cousins or something." (Laughs) I'm not a relative, but I am an heir, a legal heir, and I still receive checks from the estate. Early on when that first happened, after Mr. Ives' death and particularly during the bicentennial festival, there was lots of Ives played and the checks were sizable. They were bigger than my own royalties which are now bigger than Ives'. At any rate, I took it very seriously because it was my feeling that Mr. Ives had distributed help to younger people. Certainly he helped me. I did scores and he would give me gifts and so on. Because I was editor for awhile, I know that he sent a regular monthly check to the New Music Edition, and that he did a life-sustaining thing for Carl Ruggles and so on. So I took that seriously when I became an heir of Mr. Ives. I chose younger people in whom I had confidence as composers, and I would help them in their activities and I was very serious about that. My choices were terrific. But then the terms of the will read later, at a certain period, then, which is this, the American royalties of Ives now go to the American Academy Institute of Arts and Letters, and that sort of took that part of it off my hands because there's a music committee that deals with that now. We're able, from the Academy Institute, to offer many Ives fellowships and scholarships and prizes and so on. And that grows. So that's off my hands. I have still foreign royalties for a large list of works which comes in, and you never know what it's going to be. It's like my own royalties. I look up the alphabet soup that comes with the checks and with the listing of where things are played to see where I'm being played most during the year.
BD: Does it surprise you?
LH: Yes. I never know. It used to be, many years ago, that it was France and Japan that were always there. And then, all of a sudden, Finland entered with a bounce and Germany and Sweden more recently. So I keep looking up the alphabets to see which are, of course, the acronyms of the societies for collection. But it's fun to know where your music's being played. Last year I had my first foreign disc too. It was from Sweden. It's a superb performance of the little piece that was done here this morning, the Concerto for Flute and Percussion.
BD: The recording is all your music?
LH: No. It's just that piece, but I think it was mostly American music on that disc. An excellent, excellent group. And it's available. I've forgotten now what the name of it is. It's splendidly done. And also, just before I left to come here on this trip, I got a big box from Finland. Well, this was a kindness. A young man did a thesis on some of my music in Finland at the university, and he wrote then to tell me what had happened. I thanked him and I said that I didn't know anything about Finnish music and would be fascinated to know what they wrote because I had had, through Dennis Russell Davies, quite a training in the new Russian music which I found absolutely fabulous. And then last year, I got acquainted with Arvo Pärt. Do you know him? There are some recordings available. He's a fabulous composer. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, since Stravinsky, he's the biggest thing to come out of Northwest Asia. He's wonderful. We got acquainted last summer. I heard much of his music. But there's a big backlog of quite astonishing Russian music. For instance, Schnittke...
BD: I've heard a couple of Schnittke pieces recently.
LH: Oh good. And there's another important Russian composer, too
and his name is Shchedrin. [See my Interview with Rodion Shchedrin.]
At any rate, this was all a big surprise to me and quite an education.
And in fact, in California at the Cabrillo Festival, we actually had a Russian
premiere of a new symphony by the nephew of Nicolas Slonimsky. Very beautiful,
in fact. Wonderful. [See my Interview with Nicolas
BD: Sergei Slonimsky?
LH: Yes, I think so. It was very startling. And, of course, unfortunately at that time, the United States had no exchange program with Russia. We invited them but they didn't come which is too bad because they would've come this year. All of a sudden, we're back doing that, you know. Politics is not friendly to the arts at all. Not at all friendly.
BD: Isn't Yun is coming to Cabrillo?
LH: Yes. He's also a 70er this year. He visited me many, many years ago in Aptos just before he had his political trouble. And Gerhard Samuel, who's in Cincinnati now, was instrumental then in helping Isang Yun. [See my Interview with Isang Yun, which was done at Harrison’s home, and for which Dennis Russell Davies provided the translation.] Generally, our special foreign guests come for at least a week and so one can get a little acquainted with them. I always try to throw a party if I can to get us all together, but I don't know if that can be possible. It wasn't last time. Of course, there were no Russians. But Arvo Pärt was living in Los Gatos while he was here and he has very little English. We had a little problem there because I don't speak German fluently which he does. But still, we got along very well and loved one another's music, so that was a joy.
BD: The music transcends the language barrier.
LH: Yes, yes. I think so. And body language can express that.
* * * * *
BD: Are you pleased that many of your pieces have been imbedded in plastic?
LH: (laughs) Well, yes. Yes, indeed. I bought for my secretary, who was given it as a wedding present, a compact disc player because I'm destined to have a piece on compact disc, so I'll have to hear it at least. In that way, of course, I'll be able to make cassettes which I think is the real solution. In fact, how did modern industry come up with such a marvelous thing? Because, if you think about it for a minute, it's almost the only thing that has one speed on a planetary basis and the same size and can be used by anyone on the planet both on an in and out basis. You're not just a customer. You can use it creatively too. How did the industry come up with this? Well, of course, what they did is frighten themselves, so they put out compact discs and they're putting out a lot of propaganda about it. That's so we'll turn into customers again. Sure you can buy a compact disc recorder. It's only $80,000. (Both laugh)
BD: Like buying a lathe cutter in the 1930s.
LH: Right. And even today the videocassette thing... Different systems. I got myself an opera in Surakarta, Java that turned out to be in PAL, but it was the only one available in the whole of Indonesia. And, of course, I finally just gave it to a British friend because he's the only one who can play it. (Laughs)
BD: Are you pleased with the recordings that have been made of your works?
LH: Oh yes. And as a matter of fact, I won't deny that I've been a bit choosy, fussy, and how shall I put this – cantankerous. I've actually refused a recording by a major European orchestra and conductor.
BD: What do mean, refused it?
LH: I told the company that it did not represent my work and that I could not give it to my friends.
BD: You mean, it's all ready and in the can?
LH: It was, yes. All ready to be issued. So I put my foot down on that. It was later recorded to my standards. Gerhard recorded the Symphony on G to my standards with the Royal Philharmonic and that was fine. I've also put the squeebash on a couple of other recordings that I didn't think were up to snuff. A fellow doesn't need that kind of help, you know.
BD: Even if people come to you and say this was a good recording when you think it wasn't very good?
LH: No. I know how my pieces should sound, you know. Besides, as a composer these days you have to go fast. Everything's happening at once and you can't go around and tell everybody how to play it. So if you don't have a recording that you can send out that is an approved performance, that is one of the ways that you like it, how are they going to know?
BD: How much leeway do you allow for interpretation?
LH: I leave a fair amount of leeway. But there are certain things that are indispensable, and one of the things I learned early on is that I cannot handle a metronome. If I go to metronome mark as I've composed, it's an absolutely wrong one every time. I have to hear the piece in sound. I have to hear it played or sung before I know what the metronome mark is. Then I take a cassette, if it's going well, I do a quick cassette, then I take it home and struggle with the metronome until I get what it was, you see. This is the only way I can do it. I simply cannot predict from my own playing of it or my own thinking about it. It has to be in sound.
BD: And yet, all of the other marks that you make on the page accurately represent what you feel it should be?
LH: Yes. I don't write for improvisation except occasionally. For
example, there was the question when I did the Concerto for Keith
Jarrett. He's a good improviser, you know, and he's not given sufficient credit
along those lines because he does long-scale pop things in a way. But actually
he's an extraordinarily gifted composer/pianist in the sense that he does
apprehend idiom very quickly. We found the place, finally, in my Concerto
where he could take off. It's in the second movement, not in the first movement
at all where I supposed it would be. But it's a Brahms-style concerto with
a scherzo second movement, you see. It's this big, long, roughneck
thing, and there's a place marked quasi-cadenza, and I wrote it so in the
middle of that there's a place where just suddenly, in 5 minutes, both Keith
and Dennis and I realized that's the place. Right there. And this was in
the morning rehearsal of its premiere the afternoon. We found it just like
that, so it isn't where you expected it. Now Ursula Oppens is learning it.
She's going to play it in Minneapolis. She phoned me just the other day and
said, "I have in my part a place called 'optional cadenza.' I'd love to improvise,
but it doesn't feel right there." And I said, "Where is it?" And she said,
"It's toward the end of the first movement." And I said, "Oh, erase it. We
found out where it should go," and then she agreed completely too.
[See my Interview with Ursula
BD: Obviously, it's right.
LH: Yeah. And I'm looking forward to her cadenza, too, because I've only heard Keith's. I've heard 4 of Keith's and they're all different, by the way. I'm sort of a collector of cadenzas for this concerto, but there have been one or two of them that have revealed a surprising idiomatic knowledge on his part. Just the experience with this Piano Concerto has proved quite enlightening. Also, with the other concerto, because Keith has played it a number of times. He's been given, on occasion, a second piano – an old rattle trap, you see, because, it has to be re-tuned. This one fellow I know decided he was going to provide his 7 foot Bechstein right away when he heard about the concerto. That was going to be his contribution for it, but then I got a call a little while later saying that his wife objected because it was going to be re-tuned, you see. But, of course, what Keith did was to have his private piano tuned into the temperament of the Concerto tunings. So in the recording of the Tokyo premiere, there were incredible waves of applause. And so it went on and on and on. Finally, he consented to come back and do an improvisation which he is famous for. And of course, it was in the tuning, the Kirnberger No. 2 which, by this time, he had known for a year on his own piano and playing the Concerto. Well, it's just lovely, and he knows how to get around in that tuning just beautifully. I'm so happy to have it. He sent me a cassette of that performance with the little improvisation. It's just beautiful. And again, several of his cadenzas have been first class. You don't know where my score stops and enters again. It's that good. Just so idiomatic is what I'm trying to say. He understands the idiom and the tuning. He's not normally given credit for that kind of knowledge, you know.
BD: Is he ever going to write a piece of his own and say it's in the style of Lou Harrison?
LH: I don't know. I don't know. But we do have some things in common. No doubt about it. And I'm very eager to find out what Ursula Oppens will, how she will do that, you know, too. That will be fun.
BD: When you are writing a piece, are you conscious of amount of time it will take to perform?
LH: Oh, well, I'm more or less conscious of that. One thing I've discovered in later years, is that I tend to write over a longer period than I've been asked for or intended. For example, I asked for 20 minutes for the First Piano Concerto because, for example, Frances Thorne had to organize the concert that close, and also Dennis wanted to know. I think I asked for 20-25 minutes, somewhere around that. Well, the concerto is 35-40.
BD: So they came to you and said they wanted a piano concerto and you told them how much time you needed?
LH: Well, Keith had already asked me for the concerto a long time ago, but Dennis decided to program it, and so I had to produce. I met my own deadline by three weeks ahead. I was very happy about that. I tend to write very rapidly if I know that there is a deadline coming up. But I don't think the pieces are getting lax at all. They seem, if anything, to be getting more excited and more exciting. But I'm under high tension because I have a list in my head, you see, of things that have to be composed, and the subconscious mind is working on each one of them. And there are deadlines set ahead, so every minute that I am free from the inroads of civilization and the telephone and so on, I'm at work. And, of course, there's no way to avoid the person who knocks at the door.
BD: Thank you for spending some of those special moments with me.
LH: Oh, no. It's a great pleasure. It's a great pleasure, Bruce.
BD: Thank you so very much for this wonderful conversation, and thank you for being a composer.
LH: Well, aren't you nice, Bruce. Yes, you are.
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© 1987 Bruce Duffie
My thanks to Charles A. Hanson, Project Archivist for the Lou Harrison Archive, Special Collections, UCSC, for his help in preparing this transcript for presentation during December of 2006.
This conversation was recorded on April 10, 1987 in Evanston, and portions
were broadcast on WNIB the following month, in 1992 and again in 1997.
A small section was also used as part of the in-flight entertainment package
aboard United Airlines in November & December of 1988, and that package
was also placed aboard Air Force One, the Presidential Jetliner at the same
time. This transcript was posted on the internet in January of 2007.
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.