Composer Alan Stout
A Conversation with Bruce Duffie
|Alan Stout (b. 1932) is an American
composer. He studied concurrently at Johns Hopkins University (BS 1954)
and the Peabody Conservatory. After a year at the University of Copenhagen,
he completed his formal musical training at the University of Washington
(MA 1959). His teachers included Henry Cowell, Wallingford Riegger, Vagn
Holmboe, and John Verrall.
In 1962 he joined the Northwestern University School of Music. His diverse
musical interests are reflected in the various societies to which he belongs.
He is a founding member of the International Gong Society and the International
Double Reed Society, a patron of the Schoenberg Institute, and a member
of the board of directors of the International Percy Grainger Society. In
addition, he has completed numerous performance editions and realizations
of unfinished works of composers such as Charles Ives, Anton Webern, and
Percy Grainger. He is also an advocate of Scandinavian music.
A prolific composer, Stout has written over 100 works. His style exhibits
a blend of American experimentalism and more traditional writing. Often
based on a relaxed application of the 12-note system, his music makes use
of tone clusters, transcriptions of natural phenomena, and rhythmic notations
that allow performers a certain degree of rhythmic flexibility. A consistent
concern for timbre is also characteristic of his music. Many of his works
revise and re-use material from earlier compositions. The Music for Oboe and Piano (1966) and the
Music for Flute and Harpsichord
(1967), for example, rework sections of the Second Symphony (1951–1966). That work,
as well as the George Lieder (1962),
the Fourth Symphony (1970) and
Passion (1975) were given
premières by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Adapted from Kathryn Gleasman Pisaro's article in Grove Music Online.
-- From the Northwestern University
-- Throughout this webpage, names which are links refer to my Interviews
elsewhere on my website. BD
In this age of full disclosure, let me say up front that my guest
for this conversation, Alan Stout, was a colleague of mine at Northwestern
Having grown up in Evanston, I knew of him while in high school, and after
undergraduate work elsewhere, I returned to earn my Master's degree at NU
in 1973. As the Graduate Assistant to Dr. Thomas Willis, I
knew most of the faculty no matter which department they were in. After
teaching instrumental music in Evanston for the next two years, I began my
quarter-century at WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago.
As part of my series devoted to mostly American composers, it was a special
pleasure to look up this distinguished man for a 65th birthday program in
1997. Portions of this interview were used on the air along with the
few commercial recordings of his music which were available at that time.
The station was sold and changed format in 2001, and a year later, the
Dean of the School of Music invited me to return to NU as a lecturer.
It was great fun to do the Introduction to Music classes for the next few
years in both the regular and the Continuing Education programs
— the day school and the evening school, if you will. I ran into Stout
on many occasions in the office, and indeed, it was my old friend who showed
me his secret shortcut between the Music Administration Building
— the old white building as it’s known
— and the then-new location of the music library elsewhere on campus.
All of the interviews I have done are important to me and special in some
particular way. Usually I keep this bit of personal memento to myself,
but somehow it seems fitting to share it as I present our entire conversation
. . . . . . .
I assume that music is your all-consuming passion?
Yes, one could say so.
BD: Is it too
AS: I don’t
know. What does that mean? I always feel that there’s more that
I have to learn.
BD: You have
more to learn. Do you also have more to teach?
BD: For many
years you have been teaching at Northwestern. Did you get enough time
Nobody ever does.
No teacher that I know does. Northwestern doesn’t give sabbaticals.
You have to take time off when you can get it. It’s a bit better now,
but when I was full-time there it wasn’t the case.
BD: Is a major
teaching institution a good place for a composer who wants to compose?
AS: Where else
is there? Unless you’re extremely wealthy, I don’t know the answer
to that. But I think yes, it is a good place because it brings you
in contact with very bright minds. We have very good students there, and
I get a lot from the students.
BD: Actual ideas,
or just the inspiration to create your own ideas?
very aware, and it’s also very gratifying if you can spur them on to do
things. You can’t do everything yourself, despite what I said that
I like. I feel that I always have something to learn. But there
are students that you can sort of steer in certain directions, and they turn
out to be experts in those fields.
BD: So you’re
guiding them with a gentle push, rather than an exact direction.
AS: Yes, and
it’s not just composition. When I think back over the students I’ve
had, one comes to mind especially, and that’s Daniel Stepner, who’s the leader
of the Lydian Quartet and also the Director of the Aston Magna Music Festival
of early music in Connecticut. He has been Concertmaster of the Orchestra
of the Eighteenth Century, and Concertmaster of what they call the Handel
and Haydn Society of Boston. He plays both Baroque and modern violin.
He was somebody that I think I guided in a certain way.
BD: Have you
basically been pleased with your students over the years?
I’ve had two that have had national or international reputations in composition
Schwantner is one, and Augusta Reed Thomas
is the other. And then there are others. I had a student at the
exact same time I had Augusta Thomas, named Steven Taylor. He’s now
teaching at Illinois State University, and he had a major performance with
the American Composer’s Orchestra last year.
BD: You’re able
to inspire them in what they’re doing?
AS: Well, not
anymore. They’re on their own. [Laughs].
BD: Is that
your ideal position, then — to cut them loose and get them on their own?
BD: Do they
ever call you and say, “I need a little tip here and there?”
does. She still sends me things for comments.
BD: Are there
times when you would like to send your compositions to someone else to look
at and maybe make suggestions?
There’s nobody I really would send them to. The person I suppose I’m
closest to is the British composer and conductor Oliver Knussen, and I
trust his opinion very much.
BD: He has performed
AS: He hasn’t,
but he’s been responsible for performances. When he was director of
the Tanglewood Contemporary Music Center — I think he had that position
for five years — he scheduled a work of mine, and he’s also done some of
my Grainger Reconstructions in various
places. He’s done them in Australia and he’s also done them in the
BD: When you
write a piece of music, are you aware of who’s going to be listening to it
here or anywhere in the world?
AS: I have no
BD: Does it
please you to know that someone a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand miles
away will hear it?
It’s always surprising when I learn that people have heard a piece.
I never know when it’s going to happen. I don’t do anything to promote
myself, as you know.
BD: Should you?
AS: No... well,
if you want a superficial type of recognition. But it’s another thing
that I don’t like about what’s going on in this country, that composers
have agents who are hawking their scores.
BD: How should
the music get around, then?
always been a strong underground network. I think that’s one of the
best ways of getting knowledge around.
BD: Would you
be more pleased if there were more performances of your pieces in various
AS: I don’t
know. I’ve had good performances of certain pieces, and not good performances
of others. I would like to have good performances of pieces, and then
have those performances preserved somehow or other.
BD: You don’t
look at a composition as being a one-shot, do you?
AS: No, but some of the performances I’ve had
have really been quite poor.
BD: Have there
been any that have been perfect?
no such thing. But I’ve had some awfully good performances from Sir Georg Solti [shown with Stout in photo at right] and
from Margaret Hillis
and from the late Thor Johnson and various other people. There’s a
conductor at Northwestern who does not have a conducting position.
He’s the orchestra librarian, named Mitchell Arnold, who’s another former
student. I now give premiers to him because he conducts my music very
well. And one of Thor Johnson’s students, Harold Bauer, who’s out in
DuPage County, does very good work. There have been others, but when
you start mentioning names you’re bound to leave someone out.
BD: I assume
that when you write, you’ve been asked to write a certain piece?
Right now I just write pieces that I want to write. I don’t care whether
anybody asks for them or not.
BD: Then why
do you write them?
I want to write them. They’re exploring things which I’m interested
BD: Is that
what you are, a musical explorer?
AS: In a certain
way, I guess I am.
BD: Then are
the compositions the discoveries, or are the performances the discoveries?
AS: The composition
BD: Then you
share the discovery through the performance?
BD: You never
have the audience in mind at all?
AS: Well, the
audience is a strange thing. It will respond if the music is strong.
No matter what idiom the piece is in, the audience will respond if the piece
itself is a strong piece. That’s why I’m dissatisfied with the excessive
tendency to praise ‘comfortable music’,
as I would call it.
BD: You don’t
want your music to be comfortable at all?
Not comfortable, no.
BD: Do you want
it to be uncomfortable?
AS: No, but
I want it to be something that you don’t listen to passively. I don’t
know if you’ve noticed the programs of most orchestras these days
— say, within the last twenty years — but unless you
are a very established composer the contemporary work is the light piece
on the program. It serves the same function that the obligatory overture
did in the earlier days. Instead of Oberon or Meistersinger Overture, you’ve got the
contemporary work, and it’s generally an upbeat, easy to listen to piece.
BD: But not
all composers are writing like that, are they?
AS: Of course
not, but that’s what gets played.
BD: I see.
If you could be manager of an orchestra for a while...
AS: ...I would
look at something like the Cleveland Orchestra, which I think has probably
the best programming in the country.
BD: What is
it they do that is so significant?
perform difficult works, and they have an extraordinary work ethic there.
They get four rehearsals for every concert, and the orchestra has the ethic
to want to get things right. I also think that Esa-Pekka Salonen is doing
a marvelous job of programming in Los Angeles, and Michael Tilson Thomas is
exploring some very unusual repertory in San Francisco. Even though
it’s not contemporary music, Sawallisch has dug
up some interesting things in Philadelphia. He knows every note Richard
Strauss ever wrote and he’s been doing pieces that ordinarily wouldn’t be
heard in this country.
BD: So if you
could give one bit of advice to managers, it would be to expand the repertoire
no matter what?
How many orchestras play the symphonies of Franz Berwald? That’s just
one that comes to mind.
BD: [With optimism]
Any orchestra that has Herbert Blomstedt involved
with it, probably.
AS: I think
he’s much too fast, but he actually edited the Sinphonie Singulière for the Berwald
collected edition. So he’s somebody who would be very good with Berwald,
but that’s one name that comes to mind.
BD: What about
Stenhammar? The Chicago Symphony did his Second Piano Concerto with Cristina Ortiz a few years
yes, but not the First Symphony.
There are only really two orchestra pieces by Stenhammar — one
is the Second Symphony and the
other is the Serenade.
BD: Where did
you get this real intense interest in things Scandinavian?
AS: I don’t
know. I’ve have it for a long, long time. I got a Danish government
grant in 1954, and lived there and studied with Vagn Holmboe. He’s
another composer that, as far as I know, has never been performed by a major
orchestra in this country. Oh wait, yes, he has... Sixten Ehrling,
when he was conductor of the Detroit Symphony, did the Tenth Symphony, I believe.
BD: He’s getting
some recordings now, so that’s a help.
They finished all the symphonies and now they’re on the string quartets
and the chamber concertos. He wrote a lot.
BD: Do you try
to write a lot?
AS: I used to,
but I do less now. It’s physically hard. I get knotted up muscularly.
One thing I find that’s very hard for me to work on is orchestra music,
because the scores are just too large. It’s too painful to work on
a page very long.
BD: But the
ideas are still there?
BD: You should
rig up some method of dictation...
AS: There should
be a way, but I haven’t found out yet what it is.
BD: If there
was some new computer gizmo that could take your ideas and put them directly
into the computer for transcription, would that work?
AS: That might
be possible. It’s funny. I like the look of computer print-outs,
but I don’t like to do the actual writing at the computer.
BD: You’ve never
worked with electronics?
AS: No, I haven’t.
I don’t find electronics per se
that interesting, although I like the combination of electronics with live
players. I think the great future is in the realm of computer and live
players. What computers can do in response to the stimulus of a live
performer is quite remarkable.
BD: Is the stimulus
the composition, or is the stimulus the performance?
AS: I really
BD: Or should
it be both?
AS: It should
be both. I remember how astonishing the performance of Répons of Boulez was about ten years
ago in the old gymnasium.
BD: Do you believe
in putting musical performances in any space at all?
AS: If the space
works; if the space has the sort of acoustic you’re looking for, certainly.
I think we’re not like England or Sweden or Denmark. Our churches
are not used very much, but churches very often are extremely flattering,
of the big reverberation?
Sometimes it’s too much, but there are some churches that have just the
ideal amount of reverberation. That’s why so many churches in these
countries are being used for recording studios.
BD: Not too
many of your works have been recorded.
AS: No, they
haven’t. I’ve never tried to get them recorded.
BD: Should you
AS: Well, I
don’t know. I don’t know how to approach people and say, “I need X
number of dollars for a recording.”
BD: Of the recordings
that are out, are you pleased with those?
AS: Yes, for the most part.
BD: For better
or for worse, the recording will have a certain kind of universality.
I was present at the recording of my Cello
Sonata because that took place in Milwaukee. [Photo of record jacket is farther down on this
webpage.] I couldn’t be present for the recording of my big
organ piece because the recording session was during exam week at Northwestern.
So another composer I knew, Robert Cogan was sent in my lieu. [Note: A piece by Cogan is also on the record,
as is a piece by his wife, Pozzi Escot. Photo
of that record jacket is at right.]
BD: That’s something
I never thought of — asking someone who has your kind
of sympathy to be present if you couldn’t be there!
AS: Yes, but
that recording could be better because the acoustics at Harvard Memorial Chapel
are too dry. They actually put microphones in the stairwells to get
some extra resonance.
BD: Would you
be appalled if they would tweak it a little electronically now, even after
the fact, to add a little more reverberation or resonance?
AS: I would
have to hear the end result. I have heard some good results along
that line, and I’ve heard some terrible results. I’d like another
recording done in a building that’s acoustically more sympathetic.
It was written for Millar’s organ here at Northwestern, and nobody’s ever
bothered to record it there.
BD: Are there
some good tapes of performances that maybe could be licensed?
AS: Yes, I think
so. Certainly Ken Sotak’s performance is excellent, and Jim Leland,
for whom I wrote the piece... I don’t know if there are any tapes of Jim
playing the piece.
BD: [With a
slight nudge] You should get out there and work harder at promotion.
BD: Is it really
the job of the composer to promote the composer’s music?
AS: If you’re
a real composer, I don’t know that you have time. A lot
of composers, in my experience, are actually quite shy people, and I just
don’t see myself, or a lot of my colleagues in the field, pushing themselves.
But I have seen composers do this sort of thing in a quite flagrant fashion.
BD: For someone
such as yourself who wants to concentrate only on the music, wouldn’t it
be good if you had the agent doing the legwork you would do if you had another
two or three lives?
AS: I don’t
know because I don’t know what the agent does, except that some composers
are getting lots of performances and I don’t know how they’re doing it because
I don’t think the music is that good.
What is it that makes a piece of music good, or perhaps even great?
AS: It has a
certain staying power. It’s something that doesn’t yield all of its
secrets on first hearing. It’s something you keep coming back to because
there are riddles to be solved.
BD: So then
you’re really demanding quite a bit of action on the part of the audience.
AS: Oh yes.
Whether Elliott Carter
thinks about the audience or not, that’s the sort of music he writes, and
that’s certainly music you keep coming back to and finding more things in.
It is the same thing, in a completely different style, with Harrison Birtwistle.
BD Do we find
that in the music of Alan Stout?
AS: I would
hope so, but I don’t know.
BD: That’s not
something that you can purposely write into the score?
It’s like saying, “I’m a naïve person.” If you say something like
that, then you’re not really naïve. I don’t go out of my way to
be complex the way Brian Ferneyhough does, but I like to think that there’s
more than one level.
BD: So you’re
always trying to find the deepest level possible?
AS: Or levels,
BD: Should there
be, perhaps, an introductory level for a general audience, too?
AS: Yes, but
the introductory level is something which would speak to somebody who doesn’t
have any musical background. A non-specialist hearing a piece of Varèse
can capture the strength of the music, and can feel that, and may not know
what Varèse is doing, but the strength is there and the reaction
to the music is there.
BD: Let me ask
the very easy question, then. What’s the purpose of music?
AS: Maybe it
doesn’t have a purpose. It’s something that’s in human beings because
every culture has music.
BD: Is it in
some humans, or in all humans?
AS: It’s in
all humans. I don’t think there’s a culture in the world that doesn’t
BD: Is it in
every individual, too?
AS: People who
say they’re unmusical or unresponsive to music are kidding themselves, because
people are in some way responsive to music. They may not be able to
hear the difference between a major third and a minor third, but you can
tell when a line goes up or down.
BD: Is it, then,
the responsibility of each individual to try and find that musicality, or
is it the responsibility of the composer to nudge that music out of him?
AS: One thing
that’s gone by the wayside is that schools aren’t teaching anything about
music anymore. That’s a terrible thing. No matter how inadequate
we may have thought the teaching was, at least people were exposed to music.
I’m not speaking about concert music, but any type of music.
BD: I would
think that there was an overabundance of exposure to commercial music and
to rock music these days.
AS: There probably
BD: But that
doesn’t carry over into concert music?
BD: Should it?
AS: The interesting
music should, yes. I haven’t seen, nor have any desire to see, the
film Shine, which is a very sad
bit of exploitation of a very unfortunate person, from what I can tell.
I never heard him play, but that’s not what the music is about. The Three Tenors is not what music is
about, even though one of them is a good singer. [Laughs]
BD: Then what
is music about?
AS: Well, both
John Cage and Lou Harrison came up
with similar definitions a number of years ago — music
is something that quiets the mind and makes it susceptible to divine influence.
Cage found it in Zen, and Lou Harrison in early Irish mystic.
that they would both come to the same kind of conclusion from very different
The basic western Mass is a sung
event, and the singing is because people could hear better when something
was sung than when something was spoken. If you have ever attended
an Eastern Orthodox service, that’s entirely sung.
BD: So that
is music for one purpose?
AS: Yes, that’s
for one purpose. There’s music for entertainment, which can be on
a very high level, or it can be trivial music. There’s a book by Carl
Dahlhaus called Trivial Music for the
19th Century, which deals with all sorts of parlor pieces and Biedermeier
pieces, and things of that nature.
AS: Yes, but
on the other hand you have the Mozart Serenades,
which are glorious pieces of music, as are the Divertimentos.
* * *
BD: Where is
music going today?
AS: I don’t
know. About thirty years ago, Leonard Meyer wrote a book called Music, The Arts, and Ideas, and he foresaw
what happened today — that all types of music are
co-existing. So we can have Barber and Babbitt at the same time.
BD: Are they
co-existing comfortably, or is there always stress?
AS: Well, no,
they’re existing fairly comfortably.
BD: Coming back
to the idea of commercial music and concert music, it seems that there’s
always a great conflict.
AS: I don’t
think of Barber as commercial. I think he’s a good craftsman, and
a good composer. Meyer felt that we were tended toward a period of
stasis in which all of these types of musics could exist simultaneously.
He saw it as a period similar to a period in Chinese history when all sorts
of things co-existed simultaneously. The same thing, in a sense, is
true in Japan, when you have indigenous music from various periods existing,
each in its own niche, together with western music.
BD: Are they
going to stay separate, or are they going to influence each other and then
maybe become more homogenous?
AS: The indigenous
music seemed to be pretty separate — except one of
the Japanese composers, the late Tōru Takemitsu, did
combine instruments that didn’t play together normally in Japanese music.
He used shakuhachi and biwa together, and that would be like having a clavichord
and a tuba, or something like that — things you don’t
normally expect to find together. [Both laugh]
BD: Did it work?
AS: Oh yes,
with western orchestra. He’s also written for those two instruments
by themselves. They work very well together.
BD: So then
the common thread is the music?
BD: Can music
be a common thread that would unite five billion people?
AS: I think
it can. It has, at times, but there are a lot of those five billion
that I have no idea how much musical experience they’ve had of any kind.
I wonder what a lot of the people in the former Soviet Republics of Asia
BD: They obviously
have some kind of sympathy for it, but not a lot of experience with it.
AS: Yes, yes.
There’s a fascinating culture in Mongolia, but how much experience do Mongolians
have of non-Mongolian music?
BD: Should they
have experience in non-Mongolian music?
AS: They must
have some, but I don’t know how much.
BD: Does it
behoove us to give them this experience, or does it more behoove us to learn
AS: It works
both ways. We have learned from them. There are certain methods
of singing that people in Mongolia have that have fascinated quite a number
of people in the west recently, when Mongolia became more open to western
visitors and such.
BD: What advice
do you have for someone who wants to write concert music at the end of this
millennium, and the beginning of the next millennium?
AS: Do it, and
don’t expect immediate results. A lot of composers, I’ve discovered,
are not interested in writing for conventional ensembles anymore.
The orchestra doesn’t interest them anymore because the orchestra has taken
no interest in younger composers, except for a very few.
BD: So, if you
say the heck with me, then I say the heck with you?
AS: That’s essentially
what it is. One of the most successful composers in Europe right now
is Louis Andriessen. He creates extraordinarily unlikely ensembles
for his compositions and gets them played.
BD: Does he
create the music and try to find the ensemble, or does he write for the
ensemble he has?
AS: He has a
whole bunch of ensembles at his disposal, and he can combine them in all sorts
of different ways. He thinks nothing of writing for eight flutes and
four violas and contrabass clarinet and electric guitars and synthesizer
and six sopranos, and so forth. There are people there in the Netherlands
that can do things like that. There are ensembles that can be combined.
that they’re getting a group together to perform that piece, and I want
you to write a piece for that same ensemble. Will you do it for me?
AS: It would
be very hard, because I don’t think the way Louis Andriessen does.
BD: Are we back
to the common thread of music?
AS: Yes, but
what’s going to happen when those ensembles fall apart — which
they eventually will, I think. As it stands now, if you have eight
flutes you’ve got some from one ensemble and some from another ensemble.
I’m just using an exaggeration. I don’t know if he calls for any flutes
BD: I understand,
but are we going back to the idea of almost being like a Chinese menu, a
little bit from this a little bit from that and combining what you need?
BD: When you sit down to write a piece, if
it’s not been commissioned for a specific group, how do you decide what kind
of ensemble it’s going to be? Does that come first, or do the musical
ideas come first?
AS: They come
simultaneously. I wrote one piece called Pulsar, which was for three brass groups,
and that was from the beginning the idea of the ensemble — eight
horns, six trumpets, cornet, five trombones and a tuba, and three sets of
BD: Sounds like
an unwieldy group.
AS: It is, but
I had two precedents for that piece. One was one of my teachers, Wallingford
Riegger, wrote a piece in 1949 called Music
for Brass Choir, which was for eight horns, ten trumpets, ten trombones,
two tubas, and percussion. So I was within the limit of Riegger’s
group. Then a few years later, Henry Brant wrote a piece that used
Riegger’s ensemble, plus six saxophones and two euphoniums, more percussion
and a coloratura soprano.
BD: Of course,
Brant was concerned with the spatial ideas, too.
AS: That’s a
fascinating piece, and I wish we could do it around here. It would take
a special hall to do it in.
BD: Should we
get the civic leaders to build a hall for contemporary music? Or is
it possible even to build a hall for contemporary music?
I think what Boulez did in Paris is about as close as you’ll come. It’s
interesting, because Stockhausen was talking about such a building the first
time I ever heard him speak, which was in 1959. He was conceiving a
new type of hall, and that new type of hall has been built, but it was built
by Boulez, or under the directorship of Boulez rather than Stockhausen.
BD: Does that
AS: I hardly
BD: Does it
AS: Yes, because
you can do all sorts of things. You can control the amount of reverberation.
You can shape the walls any way you want.
BD: How much
control do you as a composer want to have?
AS: When I write
the piece, I like to be able to give it to the performers and hope that
the notation is clear enough that they don’t have to come back and ask questions
all the time.
BD: Do you expect
them to put their own personal input into it?
BD: How much?
that I’ve mentioned. I’ve never really had to say very much to the
conductors I’ve mentioned about what they were doing;
they simply did it. The Lydian Quartet that played my Sixth and Tenth Quartets, learned the pieces, and
then when they came here they played them for me. In the second movement
of the Tenth Quartet they said,
“We think this movement would sound better muted,” and I agreed with them.
It was their idea and it was their input, and I agreed with them completely.
BD: Did you
then change the score?
Sure. It worked out much better.
Are you optimistic about the future of music?
AS: Not overly.
I’m not as pessimistic as some people are, though, because I keep seeing
young composers come through that are really good. I am pessimistic
because this country’s one of the worst in terms of the exposure people get
to what younger composers are doing. I’m now approaching ‘old
composer’ status. [Laughs] I’ll
be sixty-five this year.
BD: Are you
pleased at being sixty-five?
AS: It doesn’t
bother me one way or the other.
BD: Are you
pleased with what you’ve accomplished so far?
I’d like to have done more. I have a whole pile of stuff that I want
to work on. Probably now the summer will be time to do some good, sustained
BD: If you were
free from any other responsibilities and just were able to compose, would
that be enough time?
It would be enough time, but it would be a very lonely time because composition
is a lonely thing, and I do like to have contact with people on occasion.
BD: Is composing
It’s also work. I think the title of one of Elliott Carter’s
pieces sums it up very well. It’s a four-minute piece, but it’s called
One Hundred Times One Hundred and Fifty
Notes. You have to put all those notes down on paper.
BD: It is true
that each little note gets its moment?
AS: Well, there’s
some you can’t hear because the textures get so dense, but there’s something
BD: But when
you’re writing a piece, are you conscious of each little note, each little
dot and squiggle?
AS: Yes, absolutely,
if they go under whatever controls I’m imposing in that particular piece.
I find there are some places that are very healthy music atmospheres.
I think the Netherlands is extremely healthy, not that there’s that much
great music, but at least they’re about twenty years ahead of us in terms
Devil’s Advocate] If there’s not that much great
music, then perhaps the healthy atmosphere doesn’t engender more great music.
AS: Well, it’s
starting to, because the Netherlands wasn’t known for major composers.
It’s getting them, and both Finland and Denmark right now have produced
some remarkable composers — Magnus Lindberg in Finland, and somebody that
I went to school with in Denmark, Per Nørgård, and
some of Per’s students, Hans Abrahamsen, Poul Ruders, Bent Sørensen
and Karl Rasmussen are all quite remarkable. It’s a very, very intense
musical scene there.
BD: Is Alan
Stout a remarkable composer?
AS: I don’t
know. I don’t think about things like that. [Both laugh]
BD: You don’t
need to concern yourself with that?
BD: You just
do it, and let someone else decide?
AS: Sure, sure.
BD: Thank you
for all that has come so far, and all that will come in the future.
AS: I hope they
BD: Thank you
for all of the wonderful years at Northwestern. The students there have
benefited immensely from your guidance, I’m sure.
AS: I hope so.
I hope I’ve stimulated them in some way.
--- --- --- --- ---
© 1997 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded at the home of Alan Stout in Evanston,
Illinois, on June 12, 1997. Portions were broadcast (along with recordings)
on WNIB later that year. This transcription was made in 2014 and posted
on this website at that time.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed
on this website, click here. To
read my thoughts on editing these interviews for print, as well
as a few other interesting observations, click here.
* * * *
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
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
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.