Composer / Conductor  Anthony  Iannaccone

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie




 
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Anthony Iannaccone (born New York City, October 14, 1943) studied with Vittorio Giannini, Aaron Copland, and David Diamond to learn principles of music. During the 1960's, he supported himself as a part-time teacher at the Manhattan School of Music, and as an orchestral violinist.

His catalogue of approximately 50 published works includes three symphonies, smaller works for orchestra, several large works for chorus and orchestra, numerous chamber pieces, large works for wind ensemble, and several extended a cappella choral compositions. His music is performed by major orchestras and professional chamber ensembles in the US and abroad. He is an active conductor of both new music and standard orchestral repertory.

In addition to conducting numerous regional and metropolitan orchestras in the US, Iannaccone has conducted European orchestras including the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, the Bavarian Festival Orchestra, the Janacek Philharmonic, the Moravian Philharmonic, and the Slovak Radio Orchestra.

Iannaccone's WAITING FOR SUNRISE ON THE SOUND was chosen as one of five finalists in the 2001 London Symphony Orchestra Masterprize competition from a field of 1151 orchestral works submitted. Other recent commissions include a quintet for clarinet and strings for Richard Stoltzman.

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From 1971 to 2013, he taught at Eastern Michigan University, where, for 30 years, he conducted the Collegium Chamber Orchestra and Chorus in late 18th- and early 19th-century repertoire.

More information about Anthony Iannaccone is available at www.iannacconeworks.com.

--  Names which are links refer to my interviews elsewhere on this website.  BD  





In August of 1993, Anthony Iannaccone was in Chicago, and we arranged to meet for a conversation.  He was about to hit the big five-oh, and that year, and in subsequent years, I was able to air portions of the interview (along with some recordings) on WNIB, WNUR, and Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.  Now, twenty-five years later, to mark his seventy-fifth birthday, it gives me great pleasure to present the transcript of the entire chat on this webpage.

Late in each interview I usually asked each guest to pronounce their name, but in this case, he brought it up immediately without my prodding . . . . .


Bruce Duffie:   Do you feel that you are part of a legacy of American composers?

Anthony Iannaccone:   I do.  I identify myself as an American composer.  With the name like Iannaccone [yah-nah-CO-nay], sometimes that’s hard to project... but even there my name is sort of a mixed bag.  My family splits down the middle with the pronunciation.  My father shortened it from Iannaccone to Ianna [eye-AH-nah] because some people pronounced it eye-AH-nah-cone.  Then my cousin, Arnold, dropped the Ianna and just used the name Arnold Cone.  He played professionally in New York and elsewhere, including under Toscanini for years.  This always angered my grandfather to no end because his son had the first half of his name, and his nephew had the second half.  So between them it was complete.  Grandfather said,
If you two move around together I can forgive you, so that we can get the entire name, but he really thought they had butchered it.  My mother, to please her in-laws, would say yah-nah-CO-nay, so you can take your choice of yah-nah-CO-nay, or eye-AH-nah-cone.

BD:   Which do you use?

AI:   I end up pronouncing it the way people do in the region that I’m in at the moment.  Yah-nah-CO-nay is the way I usually say it, but a lot of people say eye-AH-nah-cone, and that’s fine with me.

BD:   I’ve been saying yah-nah-CO-nay, so hopefully that’s correct.  I like to get it right on the radio.

AI:   That’s correct.


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See my interviews with John Corigliano, Leslie Bassett, and Daniel Pinkham


BD:   Let’s go back to my original question.  Do you feel that are you part of a lineage of your teachers and the whole collective of American composers?

AI:   I do, but I’m not trying to be an American composer.  You’re born in a place, and you reflect where you were born; you reflect what’s around you, and you reflect the times you live in.  Aaron Copland once told me that.  He was one of my earlier teachers, and he said that in the
20s and the 30s, being an American composer was a major issue.  He also noticed that this issue was replaced by other things in the 60s.

BD:   Such as?

AI:   Such as a more international outlook
not so much trying to be an internationalist, but simply being a member of this school or that school.  That really began more in the 50s.  You can find roots of it earlier than that, but there was certainly a very important schooljust a group of composers and artists who were out to establish an identity that was different from what was, at the time, a somewhat overbearing European heritage.  It tended to dominate the whole profession in such a way that a lot of people didn’t believe you could be an American and a Great Composer.  These people had a real mission and purpose in putting us on the musical map, and they’re being rediscovered now after a long eclipsepeople like David Diamond, for instance, who was also my teacher.  Suddenly his music is being played all over.  [During this time, much of his chamber music was being recorded, as were his symphonic works with the Seattle Symphony conducted by Gerard Schwarz.]

iannaccone BD:   Did the thought that you had to be European come from Europe, or did it come from America?

AI:   It came from both.  One of my teachers, another important composer, was Vittorio Giannini, and he felt that you had to follow European models.  He was part of that generation between the two Wars.  He came to maturity at that time, but was different from that generation in that he went to Europe as a teenager, and his roots were thoroughly European.  His influences were basically formed and solidified in Europe, so he tended to pull me away from the direction that Copland was trying to move me into.  Copland would find two measures in my music he didn’t like and he said,
[sternly] “Sounds awfully European, Iannaccone!  [Laughs]  So sometimes, just to please him, I would emulate something like a passage in the William Schuman Violin Concerto, and he’d say, [enthusiastically] Now, that sounds more like it!  [Much laughter]

BD:   Is this right for a composing teacher to try and get you to sound like something, rather than getting you to be yourself?

AI:   No!  I don’t mean to give you the wrong impression.  Both Giannini and Copland were fine teachers in that they tried to foster your own voice.  They wanted to see you develop an individual voice, but their tastes were different in music, and they tended to pull me in different directions.

BD:   So where did you land?

AI:   I landed on my feet, but I didn’t end up a direct descendent of Piston and Copland and that group of American composers.  In effect, probably the strongest influences in my music were Bartók and Stravinsky, but other influences
like Copland and Samuel Barberwere there, not such much because I sought to emulate their music, but because I loved the music and just absorbed it.  It became part of my taste, part of my sensibility, part of the sound that I liked.  This was not so much a conscious effort to study and to learn to absorb, but it was just there.  It’s sort of like speaking English with a certain accentyou learn that accent just because you’re there in that community, and people close to you speak that way.

BD:   So, you don’t try to rid yourself of any accent that’s in your music?

AI:   I really have never tried to conform or be a member of any special school.  One composer’s music I love very much, who was also a teacher of mine, Samuel Adler, defines himself as a member of the ‘Radical Center’.  I like that phrase.  I certainly worked a lot with serial techniques in the
60s.  I conversed with Lutosławski when he was in Ithaca, NY, and worked with his music, as well as that of Penderecki.  They were really the big gurus in the mid 60s after the Webern and twelve-tone pieces that Stravinsky wrote had had their day.  Then the Polish school came in, and I certainly did a lot with walls of sound and textures.  All of that has made my musical soup.

BD:   Was that where you were pulled, or is that where you wanted to go anyway?

AI:   [Thinks a moment]  Without trying to do this consciously, I ended up with the phrases I have used to the chagrin of some of my publishers.  These have been large-audience music and small-audience music.

BD:   Leaving out all of the middle-audience music!

AI:   But I don’t make a value judgment there.  Bill Karlins, who’s a Chicago composer, told me he liked those terms, and in fact I’ve seen a lot of composers using those designations in the past ten or fifteen years, so maybe I’ve had some influence!  I don’t like to categorize myself because that can be a very deadly thing.  We have a tendency to handle movements and events in the art world, and just label them.  The trouble with that is when you get categorized, then people somehow identify you with a school with which you may only have one or two aesthetic notions in common.  As a result, I never really thought of myself as a neo-romanticist, or a dodecaphonic composer, or certainly not a minimalist, and yet I’ve tried to remain receptive to all those things.

BD:   Are you one of those ‘radical centrists’?

AI:   Right!  I think I am a ‘radical centrist’ in the sense that most of those people are often left out of things because they’re not part of a particular movement that tends to be trendy at any one time.

iannaccone BD:   Does it please you that it seems the current large trend now is more towards this radical center?

AI:   Very much so.  I couldn’t be more pleased.  It’s amazing because it was predicted by a number of composers.  I’m paraphrasing, but Honneger said that if you continue to give people this kind of carbolic acid, they’re going to turn to candy eventually... not that minimalism is necessarily candy, but it’s certainly easier music to listen to.  As part of that, there’s been a return to basically more basic kinds of musical values
music that is not so much easier to listen to, but which addresses issues that are more audible.  There was so much music that was being written according to pre-composed plans, and instincts were left out.  Musical instinct was put on the back burner for a long time, and that’s changed.  There’s a lot of very refreshing, very beautiful music being written right now, and much that is being rediscovered as well.  But this business of large-audience and small-audience music is very useful for me because I write individual pieces.  For example, my Rituals for Violin and Piano [recording shown at right] is a piece that people would call hard-edged, in that it is not particularly tonal.  It uses a lot of serial techniques and aleatoric techniques.  It does not have an obvious thematic shape.  Most of the shapes are abstract, and it doesn’t use a thematic basis, yet at the same time I write music that’s much more tonal in naturelike many of my orchestral pieces, such as the piece that the Civic Orchestra did here a while back, the Divertimento.  But they’re both part of me.  I’m not a schizophrenic composer.  I don’t change personalities.  If you examine them more superficially they might seem very different, but when you get close to them, hopefully you’ll find there’s one personality that’s shaping all of it.

BD:   Do you find that your style continues to evolve?

AI:   It does, but more slowly than most composers whose work I’m aware of.  My music has not changed very radically over the years.  It has evolved very, very slowly.  If you heard a piece of mine what was written in the late
60s, you might very well recognize that the piece was written by the composer who sits here in front of you.

BD:   Is that good thing or a bad thing, or just a thing?

AI:   I can’t put a value judgment on that.  Some of my performer friends like that, and maybe it is only because they won’t be filled with too many jolts the next time they sit down to play a new piece of mine.  They know what to expect
not to expect the same piece, but they know that I’m not going to pick up a new style in the way the fashion industry throws out last year’s clothing and requires a new wardrobe.  Giannini used to say that one of the problems, but remember that he was an arch-conservative, which I’m not.  He used to say that the problems with the art world, in particular with regard to some critics, was that we look at it the way the fashion industry works.  We expect each year to have a new line, and it doesn’t work that way, of course.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   You’re about to arrive at your fiftieth birthday.  Are you where you want to be in your composing style and in your career at this point?

AI:   Any composer will tell you in his or her career that things that are not happening... although I suppose if you had someone like John Corigliano sitting here today, he would tell you everything is going just perfectly!  [Both laugh]  But no, I’d like to see a lot of things happen with my music that aren’t happening, and yet a lot of good things have happened as well.  In terms of the actual art that I practice, I’m happy with that.  I feel good about what I’m doing.  There’s a sense of discovery in what I do, and, at the same time, I feel confident that it’s expressing what I want to express.

BD:   You’ve completed more than twenty years of teaching at the University.  Do you get enough time to compose along with your teaching duties?

AI:   Is there ever enough time to compose?  [Both burst out laughing]  Composing in music is not really a job, it’s a way of life, and it could easily begin to replace eating and sleeping and all the teaching.  But I suppose to achieve some kind of normal balance, I have worked things out with my teaching schedules so that I can compose.  I would like more time to compose, but I have been able to write the pieces I want to write.  I’d like to be able to write more music, of course, and if I didn’t have a teaching position I probably would write more music.  But then I wouldn’t have financial security that the day job gives me.

BD:   Does the daily contact with music students and ordinary people help to keep you in the real world?

iannaccone AI:   Yes, I like that, and especially being with the serious students.  There are always some really gifted ones in every batch.  Also I’m a conductor, so I enjoy that... although sometimes learning another Mozart work and coming back to a Brandenburg Concerto is so engrossing that it begins to diminish the amount of energy I have to perform my own music.  But it’s something I do by choice.  I do enjoy conducting, but when I change hats, I tend to divide up my available amount of energy, and you might say that while my composing benefited from my work over the years as a conductor, the time available for composing has been less.

BD:   Coming back to your teaching just a little bit, are you pleased with what you see on the pages of your students?

AI:   It changes.  Students are good barometers of what’s in the wind right now, and it’s interesting to see how the heroes given by a group of students will change from decade to decade.  My first teaching position was in the
60s in the Manhattan School of Music, and then I moved to Michigan.  I’ve been teaching there for over twenty years now, and in this time it has been interesting to watch students change from one group to another.  As styles change, different composers emerge and become popular, and students tend to follow different leaders and different styles of trends.  But the gifted students really are not as swayed by what’s in at the moment.  They tend to really be looking for some very basic musical issues, and expressing those in their own voice.  While they’re learning to perfect their craft, really what I’m there for is just primarily to help them with their craft.  I don’t want to clone students.  I don’t want students coming up writing music the way I do.  While I’m there to help them, I can also observe some wonderful things happening in them.  Then those things are rejuvenating for me as an artist.  I get to watch a student grow, to hear a student bring in ideas that I had never thought of.  I learn from my best students.  They are wonderful sources of stimulation for me, and that part I wouldn’t trade.

BD:   Now you mention the word craft.  In music of your students, or in your own music, or even in music in general, where is the balance between the inspiration and the craft?

AI:   When you’re young you have to be preoccupied with the craft part of it.  You just have to be.  It has to be a conscious effort to observe as much technique as you possibly can.  You can never have too much technique.  It’s like money.  You can never have too much money!  [They burst out laughing]  That’s an odd saying coming from a composer, but after a while, you have to become less conscious about it, or the music suffers.  For most real composers, the music will sound studied, and you don’t want that.  There are differences, certainly, from composer to composer, and I am one of those people who will just work at a piece obsessively.  I will tear it apart.  I’m a reviser.  Some composers don’t revise much, but I am one of these people.  If I’m writing a new work, whether it’s a large or a small work, I tend to write the whole piece out.  Then I let it sit for a while if I possibly can... if the deadline isn’t tomorrow morning!

BD:   [With a gentle nudge]  Or yesterday morning.

AI:   [Laughs]  Or yesterday morning!  I’ll try as hard as I can to find things that can be improved, and I usually can.  I suppose to some degree I can be a little obsessive about it, but finally, when I let it go, it’s done, and I tend to disengage from it.

BD:   This brings me to one of favorite questions.  As you’re working on it, how do you know when to let it go?

AI:   I’m not sure how I know, but I know.  I certainly know when it’s as good as I can get it.  I should be thankful for that, but until it gets to that point, I’m uneasy about it.  [Laughs] In fact I dream about it, I eat it, I sleep it, and finally when it’s done, I have a sense of relief and I can go on with life and the next piece.  That sounds like it may be compulsive behavior, but it’s actually part of the life of a composer like myself, and it’s enjoyable.  There’s a challenge in getting that piece as good as I can possibly get it, to get it as close to what I hear in my head as I possibly can, and then to saying,
That’s it!

BD:   I assume it’s absolutely necessary for a composer to be able to do that.

AI:   It is, it is.

BD:   Are you ever surprised by what you hear when you give it to the performers?

AI:   Not so much, really.  I can’t think of any surprises that I’ve had in the past fifteen or so years.  Certainly, when you’re younger, surprise might be somewhat regular.

BD:   Are you one of these guys that leaves a fairly clean score, or do you give indications and ideas all the way through?


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AI:   I’m really quite precise about the way I want things to go.  I love working with musicians, and working with a good string quartet or a good violinist or a good brass quintet, mingling with the players, talking to them.  Hearing them play a piece of mine is always enlightening and stimulating for me, and I learn from these players.  I learn something for my next piece from the way a great trumpet player or a great violinist wants to interpret a phrase.  It’ll make an impression on me, and it’ll become part of my conscious memory.  I’m very grateful really to people who take what I think are blueprints.  When I write a piece it’s a blueprint, and they breathe life into it.  But there are certain limits that you really can’t go beyond, or else you destroy the blueprint, and it’s not the same structure.  That’s where I don’t like to be surprised.  I don’t want surprises in terms of changing the tempo so drastically that it really bears little resemblance to the original concept.

BD:   How much interpretation do you want?

AI:   I’m one of those composers who gives precise enough directions
metronome marks within two or four points, or maybe more than that in certain pieces, the balance between voices, etc.  All that is so the color comes out and the gestures will come out, the shape will come out, the lyricism will come out or the drive will come out.  Perhaps it’s supposed to be very static music with a blend of colors spiraling out of the texture and then dissolving.  All that should work, given the dynamics and the tempos that are written.  If there are surprises, it means probably something is going wrong in the performance.

BD:   Have you basically been pleased with the performances you have heard?

AI:   Performances vary, as musicians do.  I get some great performances and I get some performances that I’d rather forget, but that’s the nature of performing arts.  Once you’ve written the piece, and it’s published
and most of my music is publishedwhen someone buys the music, I’m grateful for them doing that, and being interested in looking into the work.  It’s really in their hands to decide what the fate of that performance will be, but it’s been useful to be a conductor.  In the past I have done some recordings of my pieceseither conducting them myself, or being involved with conductor friends.  In some cases, I have done rehearsals and someone else will actually come in and do a recording or performance.  That is valuable because working with the orchestra or the chamber ensemble, as a conductor I can immediately impart all of the nuanceswhat was the large shape or the big musical issues without writing paragraphs of interpretive verbiage.  I found that very, very useful.  In fact, I strongly urge most of my composition studentsespecially the good onesto be involved as conductors or performers.  I think that’s important.   For too long, the composers were separating themselves from the performance of music, and that’s not good.  It’s easy to get into that trap at a university.  There are some real pitfalls in working at a university if you become the composer in the classroom, and the composer in the studio, and don’t get out there and actually involve yourself in the performance of music.  That can be an unhealthy situation.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   I asked you if you were pleased with performances, but have you been basically pleased with the recordings?

AI:   Unfortunately, a lot of them disappeared because they were all on LP.  [Remember, this conversation took place in 1993.]  I’m of that generation that was recorded on LP.

iannaccone BD:   Theoretically they can come back, or they’re in libraries, or you can hear them on the radio.  [Again, this was in the days before the ubiquitousness of the internet and downloads, etc.]

AI:   That’s true.  They’re beginning to come out on CD now.  My Trio, for example, will be released on an Opus One CD, and my Third Symphony (Night Rivers) [recording shown at right] will be coming out on the Vienna Modern Masters label.  Some interest has been expressed in recording my first two symphonies as well, which would be very, very nice to have those available.

BD:   So it’s good to go back a number of years and have these older things recorded, also?

AI:   Yes, absolutely.

BD:   Good.  Most composers that I talk to almost disown their early pieces.  They only want us to hear their latest things.

AI:   No!  That’s part of what I was saying earlier in response to your question about how my music has evolved.  My music has evolved more like that of Johannes Brahms
very, very slowly.  If you look at Brahms’s early music, and you look at his late music, you can certainly see a difference, but it really is very much the same composer, as opposed to Stravinsky where there’s such an enormous difference between the last works, and the middle works, and the early works.  This is not to say that my music sounds like Brahms, although certainly it was influenced by that kind of rhythmic sweep.

BD:   Is there any chance that maybe Brahms had found a style and was developing it
just as you areand maybe Stravinsky was looking for a new style as he proceeded through this century?

AI:   I don’t know.  Stravinsky is always a puzzle to me.  I love his music, but the music I love most is that from the Russian period to the neo-classic period, up through about Agon.  I know some people are very, very fond of the really late pieces, but I don’t find as much of the Stravinsky personality in those pieces.  Some of them are wonderful pieces, but they just don’t speak to me with the same distinct and unmistakable voice that I heard in most of his other music.

BD:   What is it that you look for when you listen to, or see on the page, a new piece of music
or an old piece of music for that matter?

AI:   [Thinks a moment]  I don’t come with a preconceived set of notions about what a piece has to have.  I try to remain open to every new piece.  It’s important to come, and I know you can’t be a tabula rasa, a completely clean slate.  You come with a set of tastes and preferences, but I really want to try to enter the world of that artist for the period I am listening to that work.  Having said that, I would say that I look for something that is memorable and engaging.  It can be thematic, it can be textural, it can be rhythmic, it can be just the way a composer handles some very simple sounds.  It can be a wonderful sense of line, it can be how the composer handles orchestration, or the way something evolves very slowly, yet it all seems so inevitable when it gets where it’s supposed to be.  In saying that, you can probably guess that I really don’t have a special school of composers that I’m fond of, but I certainly have my favorites.  You had one right here in Chicago
John Corigliano.  I think his music is fantastic, but I also like some more angular chromatic stuff as wellserially organized musicso my taste is fairly universal.  My own music probably has been described as ‘neo-romantic’ most often, but not ‘neo-romantic’ in the sense of Howard Hanson or Samuel Barber.

BD:   You are part of the next wave after them?

AI:   Yes, I think so.

BD:   You’re saying you like this and you like that.  Do you like the music of Anthony Iannaccone?

AI:   Yes, I do like it.  There are some pieces I don’t like [laughs], but by and large, the pieces that are recorded now and that will be coming out on recordings are pieces I’m very happy to see get out to the public.  The pieces that are still in print, by and large, are pieces that I feel represent me, and that I’m happy with.

iannaccone BD:   We’re dancing around it a little bit, so let me ask the big question straight out.  What is the purpose of music?

AI:   [Laughs]  The purpose of music???  What’s the meaning of life?  [Thinks a moment]  First, I don’t know if I can answer that.  Each individual who listens to music takes away something somewhat different.  Take a work I happen to like very much, such as Joan Tower’s Silver Ladders.  We may both react positively to that piece, but we may take away different notions of what was most memorable about it, and what it meant to us personally.  So, I don’t know if I can define what music means.  It certainly touches something that I don’t think you can put in words.  It touches a well of sensitivity, a well of feelings, associations in the human spirit, in the human soul and mind that simply are not capable of being expressed any other way than through sound.  Certain pieces do that, and other pieces don’t, and it’s different for different people, obviously, because not everyone is touched by the same kind of music.

BD:   Are you pleased when people are touched by your music?

AI:   I am overwhelmed.  That’s what it’s all about.  It’s extremely important to me to communicate to an audience.  I know some audiences will not like my music, and some of pieces like Divertimento [recording shown at right] get standing ovations while a piece like Rituals for that same audience, might not.  That’s what I’m talking about when I say large-audience and small-audience.  For a lot of twentieth century music there will never be a large-audience.  It’s simply impossible because it doesn’t have the kind of niche, nor immediately ingratiating characteristics that we find in simpler, tonal music.  [Laughs]  Does that mean we should all be writing church hymns, or pop music, or minimalist music?  I don’t think so.

BD:   But should we try to get the pop audience or the church-going audience into the concert hall for concert music?

AI:   I would like to see us do that because out of the large numbers of people whom we would bring in, there are going to be some people who stay after the first thrill.  After the novelty has worn off, there are going to be some real music lovers who will be engaged permanently, and those are the people who form the core audience for art.  We talk about the aging of audiences for the symphony orchestra, and it’s true, it really is true.  I remember when the Detroit Symphony played a work of mine.  Günther Herbig conducted it a few years back, and looking around at the audience just to see the people who were listening to these pieces in this particular concert, and I was dismayed that there were so few people under thirty.  There were so many in their forties, fifties and sixties
which I’m thankful forbut I’d like to see as many people under twenty and under thirty.

BD:    So, it’s like the forests
they need to do a lot of replanting?

AI:   Absolutely, and I don’t care where they come from.  If they’re rock fanatics, or people who like minimalist music, or whatever, I’d like to expose them to the kind of music I write, and the kind of music I like, and composers whom I admire and love to see what they get out of that, because I’m sure that out of large numbers, there will be some who will be very responsive.

BD:   What advice do you have for audiences
if indeed any at all?

AI:   Don’t get a terrible disease, which is what I call
Hardening of the Categories.  [Both laugh]  It goes back to that labeling, the idea that I know what I like and I like what I know.  You go in circles that way.  Be adventurous!  Try on something new!  It may make music have a lot more meaning.  It probably will make music a lot more meaningful in the long run, especially if you have a capacity for some kind of growth.  That’s what I would say to people who only listen to one kind of music, or who only come to hear what I call the classical top forty.

BD:   Are you optimistic about the future of music in America?

iannaccone AI:   I’m optimistic about the art of music in America.  We’re going through some tough times financially, as you know, and so that makes it tougher.  But tough financial times really don’t stop the production of great art.  I can’t give you the words exactly, but in The Third Man, which is a wonderful Carol Reed movie, Orson Welles plays the character of Harry Lime, and Lime says something to the effect that basically chaos and difficulties can sometimes produce wonderful results.  The example he gives is Italy, which is beset with chaos and produced Michelangelo, while Switzerland had 500 years of peace and produced Swiss cheese!  [Much laughter]  I’m not sure the Swiss would agree, but there’s something to that.  In other words, stress and difficulty don’t preclude creativity.  In many ways it can help foster the production of a very deeply felt kind of artistic work... not that I’m advocating that composers go out and starve to death.  [Laughs]  No, but I think it actually helps to produce a healthy body of work to support yourself, and I would like to see artists given a chance to do that.  I think we would have more art and better art as a result.  But I don’t think you can create an equation whereby as the standard of living goes up, the quality of art goes up.  I don’t think there’s any kind of formula to that effect, unless you get to the point where a society is so depressed politically, socially, and economically that people are just basically going with the prospect of staying alive, or just keeping body and soul together.  That does make it difficult for any kind of large community of artists to work in a meaningful way.

BD:   I guess you would not find any great music coming out of Sarajevo these days.

AI:   Exactly, exactly, but what about Poland?  I think some of the best music of the twentieth century has come out of Poland.  There is a country that has been terrorized and pummeled by its  neighbors since as far back as you can remember, and still produced artists of incomparable strength and individuality.

BD:   The Czechs, also?

AI:   Absolutely.

BD:   So, we’re looking to discover all of the  suppressed music of Eastern Europe now that it’s been freed?

AI:   It’s certainly a wonderful area to mine.  There’s much there to be savored, and to be relished, and brought to the public awareness.

BD:   Is there still a lot of music to be mined here in America?

AI:   Absolutely, and I don’t just mean the gifted younger composers.  I mean composers who weren’t in the right place at the right time.  There are a number of very, very wonderful pieces.  David Diamond is a case in point.  If he hadn’t lived as long as he has, he never would have seen his music enjoy a renaissance.

BD:   That’s good!

AI:   It is good, but not every composer can guarantee that he or she will be around that long.

BD:   One last question.  Is composing fun?

AI:   Composing is fun, but at the same time it’s hard work.  Sometimes it
s hard to separate the two because the fun aspect of it can suddenly come up and the hard work can suddenly drive you down.

BD:   I
m glad you keep doing it.

AI:   So am I.

BD:   Thank you for being a composer!  I
’m glad we were able to get together.

AI:   It’s my pleasure.  I love Chicago, and it’s really a pleasure to be on your program.




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© 1993 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded in Chicago on August 20, 1993.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB later that year, and again in 1993 and 1998; on WNUR in 2005 and 2009; and on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio in 2006 and 2011.  This transcription was made in 2018, and posted on this website at that time.  My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.

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.