Composer / Pianist  Sir  RIchard  Rodney  Bennett

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


First, a few sentences from one of the many biographies of my guest... 
As one of Britain’s most respected and versatile musicians, Bennett produced over two hundred works for the concert hall, and fifty scores for film and television, as well as having been a writer and performer of jazz songs for fifty years.  Studies with Boulez in the 1950s immersed him in the techniques of the European avant-garde, though he subsequently developed his own distinctive dramato-abstract style.  In recent years, he adopted an increasingly tonal idiom.  He was knighted for Services to Music in 1998.

A more detailed biography can be found at the bottom of this webpage.

On one of my very rare trips to New York City in March of 1988, I arranged to meet with Bennett.  He invited me to come to his apartment, and we spent an hour just chatting about things of mutual interest.

Here is that conversation . . . . . . .

Bruce Duffie:     You are a composer of so-called serious music, and lighter music, and film music.  How do you keep all of these straight without becoming schizophrenic, or triophrenic?

Richard Rodney Bennett:   I’ve always earned my living as a composer.  I never was anything else and I knew very early on
I mean in my teensthat I would never be able to earn my living writing string quartets, let’s say. 

BD:    Would you have preferred to?

RRB:    No.  Absolutely not.  I grew up at a time when it was possible to get into film music because there were so few of us then.  I’m talking about the fifties, and nearly all my generation have worked in television and films, and so on.  Companies were prepared to take risks then in the way that they’re not now.  I did my first documentary when I was nineteen.  It was relatively easy for me because I am a facile composer, which on the whole is a bad thing, but from a practical point of view I was able to write in all kinds of styles, and I like the cinema.  It supported me until now.  Now I’m very very careful about what I take on, because I’m well aware that doing too much commercial music can simply drain away a lot of — I can’t say ideas, because the ideas are very different — but a lot of energy which could go into other music.  But I would never have wanted to spend all my time writing “my own music.”  It’s too demanding.  It’s too exhausting.  The film music releases a lot of energy.  I enjoy it, and it earns wonderfully.  I need never have to worry if I want to take a year off to do a symphony.  [Slightly sheepishly]  I’m sorry; that was a long answer, but you did ask.

BD:    [Reassuringly]  No problem.  I like long answers.  You say it’s not your own music.  Is the film music not your own music?

RRB:    Of course, but I’ve always thought of it as musical journalism.  It’s like a novelist who does journalism, and there are plenty of those.  But the impulse behind it is so different, and the creative demands are so different.  Yes, of course, it’s my own music.  I don’t pinch anybody else’s tunes, but what it demands from me is minimal, compared to what a symphony demands.  In film music I have to write as fast as possible; it’s as simple as that.  I can’t turn around and think,
“Oh my God, this is no good!  This is not up to my standard.  I have to write very fast, and pray a lot.

BD:    Does it usually comes out right?

RRB:    I’ve had two movie scores thrown out in my time, but the day after the first one was thrown out, I had a call from André Previn, who was living in London then, who said, “Welcome to the club,” because everybody’s had film scores thrown out.

BD:    Did you salvage any of those ideas?

RRB:    No!  Heavens, no.  No, I’d rather do the next job.

BD:    You must have commissions heaped on you from all sides.  How do you decide which ones you’ll accept, which ones you’ll delay, and which ones you’ll decline completely?

RRB:    Pure instinct.  Sometimes a commission comes along which is just along the lines one is interested in going.  For example, I’m very interested now in writing music for small groups of strings — not string quartets, I mean larger, like octet, that kind of thing.  If a commission came along, as it has recently for something along those lines, I’d jump at it because it’s something that I’m interested in developing.  But then there’s another side to it.  Occasionally a commission comes along, and you think, oh, my God!  I really can’t do that.  But then you think, well, perhaps that will take me in a direction that I haven’t gone before.  I did a piece for the Ubiquitous Symphonic Wind Band, which is a very American phenomenon, which has traveled overseas now a lot.  I really didn’t want to do it and I had no interest in the ensemble at the time, and I thought I should.  My publishers put a lot of pressure on me, and it took me in directions which I hadn’t gone before
apart from the fact that I became fascinated with the ensemble.  So sometimes things which you really kick against can come out very interestingly.  If I wrote another something which would be very “easy” for me to do, for piano, let’s say, I’d be probably likely to write something like I’d written before, but something that I knew I could do.  But if I’d gotten a commission...  I just did a marimba concerto.  Naturally, I hadn’t done a marimba concerto before.  It took me somewhere and it was very hard to do.  I screamed and carried on, but it took me somewhere I hadn’t gone before, so it was interesting.

BD:    When you are writing the ideas on the paper, are you in control of the pencil, or is the pencil in control of you?

bennettRRB:    [Laughs]  Boy, that’s a deep question.  There is a point in composing a work
and I always look forward to this point — where it is sort of out of my control in the same way.  To put it very simply, it is as when you read a book and it takes you over completely and you cannot stop reading it.  You don’t want to go out, and you don’t want to see anybody because you are so enmeshed in it.  This does sometimes happen with composition, and it’s practically the best thing I know.  Other times it’s like reading a book where you grind along from page to page, and you think I cannot get into this.  But there is a magic moment — one could also compare it, I suppose, with a love affair which carries you away — when the material is so gripping, when what’s happening is so exciting and so close to you, that there’s nothing better.   But I’m a very technical composer.  I don’t work in floods of inspiration and huge highs and lows.  Of course whatever comes along is filtered through a pretty tight mesh of technical control, because I don’t know how else to write music.  Even when I’m writing film music I’m very aware of what I’m doing technically, and I enjoy it technically.  I don’t know how music can get onto the page in a comprehensible manner unless it’s very tightly filtered, technically.

BD:    Where is the balance, then, between the inspiration and this technical ability?

RRB:    That’s what being a composer is.  I meet amateur composers all the time who have music flooding through their heads, apparently, but they have no technical ability at all.  They don’t actually have the faintest idea how to put it down on the page.  These days you can actually get away with that, because you sort of mess around and track it, and all those things.  But to my mind, that balance between the excitement of what is called inspiration or just simply a good idea, and the technical routine that goes into writing music down at all, is what makes a composer.  You can’t have one without the other and be a complete composer.  I can’t imagine how you could.

BD:    You’re a complete composer?

RRB:    I’m a complete composer.  I’ve never done anything else.   Apparently, I’m a complete composer.  [Both laugh]  People say, “When did you decide you were going to be a composer?”  I never decided I was going to be a composer, any more than I’d decided I’d have green eyes and be six foot one and a half tall.  That isn’t me!

BD:    It is all just the way you are?

RRB:    Yes.  I came from a very musical family.  My mother had been a composer.  Before she was married she was a pupil of Holst, and in our house, and particularly since it was during the war in quite a remote part of England, if you didn’t do it yourself nobody else would do it.  We didn’t, naturally, have television, and music-making was a natural thing.  Not in a sort of rather folksy Morris Dancing, but we played piano duets.  One of my sisters was studying singing and I used to play for her, and I used to write things for instruments that friends could play.  That’s what I did from when I was five or six.

BD:    When you’re commissioned by a certain group or for a certain instrumentation, do you still tailor it for the performers involved?

RRB:    If I can’t write something that’s of use, then I’m not interested in being a composer.  When I was twenty years old, and I was a pupil of Boulez — I was his first pupil — I was deeply involved in the then-European avant-garde, and I really wasn’t interested in an audience because I had many too many technical problems to solve.  A pianist shouldn’t be interested in an audience when he’s at home practicing technique, but there comes a point when you have to try and go beyond those technical obsessions and reach somebody.  I am much more inclined to take on a marimba concerto for a marimba player, who desperately needs repertoire, who is brilliant, than to write a piece for some demented ensemble that you can get together once in a blue moon, which will have one performance in a contemporary music circle where there wouldn’t be that many people in the audience.  I am much more liable to want to write a piece that is needed.  That stimulates me more, much more, although I detest the idea of Gebrauchsmusik, music that is just performed for consumption, just for performance at home.  That is not attractive to me.  I want to write music that people will need, and which, preferably, will sound beautiful and be interesting.

BD:    Do you want it to be liked?

RRB:    Yes.  If I don’t like it, then I’m not interested.  I have a lot of people rush up to me and say, “Oh, your music for that film was so beautiful!” and I want to say, “Yes, but it was journalism.  I know you like it, but it’s just good journalism.”  But it’s hard for people to understand that because film music necessarily rushes at you with open arms and tells you all its secrets.  If I were to write a concert work — I’m always a bit nervous of using the word “serious,” so I say concert music
I want it to reveal its secrets gradually.  This, to me, is what important, good music is about.  There’s all kinds of music that flies at you with open arms, and all smiles, and cuddles you and tells you all its secrets.  Then you don’t actually want to know any more about it.

BD:    Does your music reveal all of its secrets eventually?

RRB:    I don’t know.  The music which I go on and on and on going back to
would be the late works of Debussy, certain early works of Stravinsky, and the music of a lot of composers when they were in a period of turmoil, like Bartók’s music before he sort of crystallized his style.  Schoenberg, ditto; Webern, ditto.  That music you’ll never actually know how it was written.  You learn more about it every time you hear it, but you’ll never find out everything about it.  When I was a student of Boulez, I think the music that interested me more than anything in the world was the late music of Webern, which had been purified to a point where the bones were all visible.  You can take it apart, like you can take a skeleton apart.  You can take it into its component pieces and you can understand how it works.  It’s simply fascinating, except I don’t actually want to listen to it anymore.  This was when I was twenty-one.  Now it’s like finding out all the secrets about a person.  If you think of a late work of Debussylike Jeux or something like thatas a living being, you can’t actually take it apart without doing it irreparable damage.  You’ll never find everything that person is about.

BD:    Is this what makes a piece of music great, is that it can’t be completely understood?

RRB:    It is for me.  You can analyze it, if you like.  You can x-ray it, but you’ll never find out everything.  So every time you come back to it, you’ll learn more.  There’s a lovely familiarity if you hear something which you love, but to me it’s music that goes on and on and on being interesting — not only beautiful, but interesting.

BD:    Is the music of Richard Rodney Bennett great?

RRB:    [Laughs]  That’s a terrible question, which I’m not about to answer.  I think some of it is beautiful and a lot of it is useful, and that’s the most I’ll say.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    What do you expect of the audience that comes to hear one of your concert works for the first time?

RRB:    An open mind.  Composers of my generation grew up having our works played in little concert societies, little contemporary music circles in front of fifteen girlfriends and boyfriends and mothers and the kind of people that would come and hear one’s music.  That was all we could get at that time.  I’m talking about in the 1950s.  But very early on I realized I didn’t want to write for either my peers or my friends, or an informed audience.  I really don’t want to sound patronizing, but why the hell should an audience that comes in from the cold to go to a symphony concert of something, be informed?  Good for them if they are, if they’ve had the chance.

BD:    Then for whom do you write?

bennettRRB:    I write for a willing and a musical and interested audience, certainly not for a smart up-to-the-minute audience, or one that is technically equipped, because that’s a limitation.  I don’t know even if an ideal audience would be an audience that was enormously bright and on the ball and analytical in the way they listen.  I try not to listen to music analytically, certainly the first time I listen to it.  It’s only later I start thinking about how it was made.

BD:    Does it please you, though, if this upbeat audience does approve and appreciate your music?

RRB:    What?  A contemporary music audience?

BD:    Mm-hm.

RRB:    I don’t really care.  I’m fifty-one.  I’ve been on the musical scene for a long, long time.  I used to care passionately.  I wanted to please my peers.  I wanted to please my superiors.  I wanted to please Pierre Boulez, or whoever it was.  But now I’m much more interested in those sort of scary, Friday afternoon audiences and their subscription series.  I’d like to get them with the best I can do, because that is much harder.  Occasionally I’ve had works done in L.A. and Chicago and St. Louis and so on, and one does come upon these very tough audiences.  If I can get them, that is infinitely more rewarding to me than a converted audience.  I want to convert; I don’t want to preach to the converted.  It’s as simple as that.

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

RRB:    Yes.  When I teach, I tell my students, “You’re communicating something in code, and unless you tell the players enough, they won’t be able to translate it.”  That’s to say, if your notation is bad, if you don’t put in things that you need to tell the players, you’ll never get a proper performance.  I do try and tell the players everything they need to know, without tying them up in knots.  I think this is a very important part of a composer’s equipment
one of the most importantto be able to put on the page something which can be performed as the composer imagined.  What you do is shorthand which the performer can read back, and if you’re not technically able to do it, then you’ll never hear what you wrote.  Young composers tend to think this isn’t important, and that if you don’t put in dynamics it doesn’t really matter.  When I say, “I can’t actually hear this.  Do you mean it’s loud or soft?” they say, “Well, gee, I think it’s loud.”  So I say, “Why not put an f?  That stands for loud."  Otherwise, it’s like a book that isn’t punctuated.  It’s hard to read.

BD:    Do you leave anything for the interpretive powers of the performance?

RRB:    Yes.  I don’t really know what interpretation means, but I know that sometimes I get a performance which is just so exactly what I wanted to hear
and perhaps better than I thought it was going to bethat you know it’s being interpreted by a master.  I had several pieces sung by Peter Pears when I was very young.  I won a prize that he organized for a piece for tenor.  Now Peter Pears would never rehearse.  He wasn’t interested in rehearsing with you.  He took the music away, and then you turned up for the concert.  There he was on stage, and he sang it like you’d been rehearsing with him for six months.  I don’t mean he just stuck to the notes and the dynamics, and so on.  He sang it so ideally.

BD:    He really got into it?

RRB:    He got into it, and he transcended just the notes on the page.

BD:    Did he find things that you didn’t know you’d hidden in the score?

RRB:    I couldn’t put my finger on specific things, but simply that it sounded greater than one thought it would.   But there are performers who “interpret.”  They put huge ritenutos in when one doesn’t want ritenutos, and they slow down and they speed up and they do all kinds of funny things to it.  Then, as a rule, it’s a nightmare to listen to, because one didn’t want that.

BD:    Do you then go and scream at them?

RRB:    No.  It’s too late.  When I was in Paris, I had a room in the apartment of a lady called Geneviève Touraine, who was the sister of Gérard Souzay, the singer.  She was an excellent interpreter of French music, and I played for her a couple of times.  I remember doing the Chansons de Bilitis of Debussy, and she said, “Why are you doing so much to it?  Debussy wrote down what he wanted you to do.”  Indeed, Debussy, if anything, over-edited.  He put in too many pedal marks, and phrasing and articulation marks, which aren’t always realizable.  But if you play what Debussy wrote without swooning all over the place and making everything into a sort of pale blue haze, it sound simply marvelous!  Here is another example of that idea.  I have a friend in Hollywood, Johnny Mandel, who’s one of the best, best film composers.  He heard me doing a song of his, because I work also as a jazz pianist.  I said, “Listen, I changed some of your chords.  Do you mind?”  He said, “Try playing the original.”  He said it very kindly because we’re friends.  So I tried playing the original, and it was much better.  That’s a different kind of interpretation, but sometimes what the composer wrote is best.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Since you also work as a jazz pianist, is it reasonable that there is this tremendous gulf between the jazz audience and the concert audience?

RRB:    In 1988, I think less.  I would have said there is a huge gulf when I started in the fifties, but I think things have changed a lot.

BD:    For the better?

bennettRRB:    Oh, yes.  I still have many friends in the classical world, in England particularly, who regard jazz as a kind of aberration, and they can’t really be bothered to listen to it.  Gershwin is sort of borderline acceptable, but a jazz interpretation of a Gershwin song would be not very interesting to them.  It’s so sad, because they’re missing so much.  But I think jazz musicians and jazz audiences would be much more inclined to listen to contemporary music, and get an enormous kick from a lot of contemporary music through the whole of this century and earlier centuries as well.  Classical audiences or musicians have more prejudices to overcome, but it’s not an unhealthy situation at present.

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

RRB:    [Long pause]  This is the big silence.  I think I’ve answered it already as best I can.  I want to bring some people something beautiful, which will stimulate their imaginations.  I want to give players something which is a joy to play.  You might just as well say, “What’s the purpose of musicians in society?”  They have to play their instruments, and I’d rather give them something which is wonderful for them to play.  But it’s like if you said to me, “Why are you a composer?”   That’s the one thing I can’t put my finger on.  I don’t know why I write music.

BD:    You say, “What’s the purpose of musicians?”  Are they not secondary after the music itself?

RRB:    Yes, but why do people learn to play violins?  They just have that gift, and I think you just have to accept it.  Why am I a composer?  I can’t tell you, but you have to accept it, and I hope my music might have brought something to you or somebody else.  The magic for music for me is you can’t actually put your finger on what it is or what it means.  People say, “What do you mean when you write your music?”  I don’t know.  I can’t say anything as four-square as, “It means hope or joy.” Or,
“It’s meant to suggest thunder.  That’s so dumb.  I’d rather listen to thunder, honestly, than tympani.  Music can do something so infinitely more subtle and interesting than something you can simply put into words.  I often take off from words when I’m writing a piece.  I can just take a sentence or a little poem, and it’s like striking a tuning fork  It conjures up something and you can take off from that.

BD:    You have written vocal music, too?

RRB:    I’ve written a lot of vocal music.

BD:    Tell me of the joys and sorrows of writing for the human voice.

RRB:    I guess I’d rather write for the human voice than anything, but unfortunately, people are much less liable to commission music for voices.

BD:    Why?

RRB:    I know that some contemporary composers write punishingly for the human voice.

BD:    Hasn’t the word gotten around that you don’t?

RRB:    Yes, the word’s gotten around, and I’ve written a lot of vocal music.  But most of the commissions I get are actually for instrumental voices.  I love the human voice.  My father was a writer and a poet.  I was reading poetry quite naturally from the time I was a little boy, and I’m always stockpiling texts that I want to set, or texts that suggest music.

BD:    What about opera?

RRB:    I’ve written three full-length operas and a one-act opera.  The reason I stopped being in opera, really, was because I did so hate working in the opera house.

BD:    What about it turned you away?

RRB:    It has to do with a million other things, largely not musical.  A lot of the singers were simply not musical, either.  I’m not putting them down for not being academically musical, but they actually didn’t have a musical feeling, even though they had lovely voices.  But I learnt a lot about writing for the human voice working in the opera house.

bennettBD:    Tell me about The Mines of Sulphur.

RRB:    I guess that was the best of the three.  I enjoyed it very much at the time, but I always wanted to get out of the opera house.  I don’t like the opera house as a climate to live in.

BD:    So if someone were putting on one of your operas, you would just simply tell them to go ahead and do it?

RRB:    Oh, no.  I would probably go.

BD:    For the performance or for the rehearsals?

RRB:    [Laughs]  For the performance.  It’s too long ago.  The Mines of Sulphur was written around ’64 or ’65, and it’s too long ago.  I don’t want to get involved in productions anymore.  I can’t.  There are some composers who hang onto their works as though they were their children.  I’ve got too many of those children.  I cannot be responsible.

BD:    Are you pleased, though, when performances of early works are still given?

RRB:    It’s strange, that.  I tend to want to say, “But why don’t you do a more recent work?  It’s more what I’m about now.”  But there are a few pieces which, sure have a life of their own and I’m very pleased for them, but I’m not about to be there to cosset them along.

BD:    [Laughs]  I assume when you’re doing film music you don’t get involved with anything, you just hand in the music and let them worry about it after that?

RRB:    I’m there in the recording and on the mixing, but I’m not involved in making the film, at least ninety-nine percent of the time I’m not.  That’s one of the awful things about film music, unfortunately.  Once it’s recorded it’s completely out of your hands, and they can do the most horrendous things to it.  They can take the score apart and play it any place in the film, and they can play it on all the wrong dynamic levels, and so on.  They can put other composer’s music in or they can throw the whole thing out.  But you’re getting paid for it, and it’s journalism.

BD:    [Trying to be optimistic]  Has there ever been a film score that you’ve turned in and they’ve used it just the way you wanted to, and you thought it was great?

RRB:    Oh yes, absolutely!  [Returning to the down-side idea]  I’ll give you an example.  There was a film I did ten or fifteen years ago which was a ghost story.  At the end of the film you finally saw these crazed children who you’d been hearing off-screen all the time, haunting away.  When the door opened and you finally saw them, I wrote a shatteringly creepy piece of music.  It was straight Ligeti, as it happens, but that was quite a novel in the cinema at the time.  It really worked like a dream, except the producer liked it so much he put it all the way through the film.

BD:    Oh dear...

RRB:    I mean, all the way through.  Whenever anything happened, there he went with my hit tune, so when the climax of the film came, it was just the same old tune.  That’s the sort of mind-boggling thing that they can do, and you just have to accept it.

BD:    I would have thought he would have saved that for the best moment.

RRB:    Right, you’d have thought so, but it was too... I don’t know.  So you just fold your tent and creep away and go home.

BD:    Do you still accept commissions for film scores?

RRB:    Certainly, I do, but the work nowadays tends to be more in television, which is, funnily enough, more creative than the cinema.  The cinema is so commercial now, and film music is so commercial, and what they really want is spin-offs.  They want hits, hit tunes, and that’s not what I do.  I don’t think I’d be very good at it.  They want scores that will bring the film company an awful lot of money, and I’m much more interested in writing good film music which will add an extra dimension to the film.  This is still possible to do in television, but less and less in the cinema.

BD:    This is what I’m trying to get at
what about it would make it good, rather than simply commercial?

RRB:    Good music really adds something creative to the film, something which wasn’t there before, an element which wasn’t in the film before.  You can be working with very distinguished directors and actors and designers and so on.  I take film music very seriously, and every time I do a film, I insulate myself by saying, “This is good, and I’m going to do a good job.”  If I went through the film music I do, the commercial work I do, thinking this is just awful and it’s to pay the bills, I would be ashamed of myself.  I never have done that.  I try and add something really good to each film I do, really the best I can do for that film, but it ain’t writing novels.  [Both laugh]  It’s not a symphony; it’s applied music.

BD:    Would it please you if a suite of the music was extracted from the film and issued on a record?

RRB:    I don’t mind when a record comes out, but I’ve actually never had, as far as I remember, a suite from a film.  There’ve been themes from films, and bits and pieces, but I’m really very little interested in film music out of context.  I’ve only done a few film scores of which parts might be nice to listen to out of the context.  I’ve got seven or eight movie albums of my scores, but I wouldn’t listen to them... maybe the odd track, because apart from everything else, in film music you can do things which really are not worthwhile listening to as music in themselves, but are extremely interesting as film music.

BD:    So, it needs that visual dimension?

RRB:    I think so.  A lot of the things I’ve done in films would be extraordinarily simple.  I’d be ashamed to have them played in the concert hall.  Not that they’re bad music, but they’re right for the film, like an ostinato which goes on for five minutes with a huge crescendo, which is just too naïve to play in the context of concert music but is excellent film music.

BD:    Could any of your concert music be adapted for film?

RRB:    The problem about film music is that very often you’re only hearing the tip of the iceberg.  When a music track is played along against sound effects with artificial dynamic levels, you don’t hear very much.  You’d only hear a top line in a sort of texture.  In concert music, one tries to make the whole texture vital.  It’s not just jam spread on a piece of bread; it’s all interesting.  So if you put a symphonic work of mine behind a film sound track with dialogue and sound effects, it would be ridiculous.  You’d only hear plinks and plunks and bits and pieces coming and going because it wasn’t intended to be played behind something else.

BD:    So it really would be a mismatch either way?

RRB:    It would be a mismatch.  It wouldn’t probably help the film.  No, it’s a terrible idea playing contemporary symphonic music in a film.  It’s happened once or twice in movies like 2001.  That was very effective, but it wasn’t effective for the reason that it’s good music.  It was effective because it conveyed an atmosphere which was interesting.  Concert music should do a great deal more than just create an atmosphere.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    I’ve asked you about being pleased with the performances.  Are you basically pleased with the recordings that you’ve heard of your music?

bennettRRB:    Yeah.  It’s funny...  One ought to be thrilled when a record comes out.  It’s only some while after the first performance of the music, and in a way it’s like finding one’s books on a library shelf.  You think,
Oh, that’s nice, but it has nothing to do with what went into the writing of the music.  But sure, if people record my music I’m delighted.  This may sound hideously blasé, and it’s not meant to be, but the record itself doesn’t mean that much.  It’s just a record.  In the wider sense, it’s just a record of something you did.

BD:    You don’t feel that it’s a transport mechanism to get your music heard more widely?

RRB:    Well, of course that’s nice, but whenever a piece of mine comes out in print and I get that parcel from London, I rush and open it and somehow I think it’s going to be magically different because it’s been engraved and it’s got a nice cover and all that.  So you look at it, and it’s just the same old music, and nothing’s happened, really.  There’s some music of mine I can listen to as though it was by somebody else.  It sounds a very odd thing to say, but I can really divorce myself from it.  Of course I know I wrote it, but I can just listen to it because it’s music I like.  It might just as well be a piece of Debussy or a piece of Lutosławksi or some other composer I might listen to, and I think,
Well, that’s a nice piece; I enjoy listening to that.  I like that, when I can divorce myself and just enjoy it as music.  But in general I don’t listen much to my own music.

BD:    Can I ask whose music you listen to, if any?

RRB:    I listen to jazz, mostly.  If I’ve been writing music all day, I really don’t want to sit down for a whole evening with a lot of contemporary music.  I look at scores probably more than I actually listen to music.  I don’t go to concerts very much.  I find them extraordinarily demanding and exhausting.  I like looking at composers’ scores and seeing what they wrote on the page.  Being a musician, one is able to approximately hear it.  For example, one of the composers I enjoy very much, and have for some years now, is the French composer Dutilleux, who’s a very interesting composer who developed late in his life.  I’m very interested in Carter.  [See my Interview with Elliott Carter.]  I’m maybe more interested in looking at a Carter score than listening to Carter.  I’m always interested in Henze, although he’s written some terrible pieces, but also some masterpieces, I think.  But at present, there’s nobody in my life, no musical figure, who is absolutely more important than anybody else, and I think that’s probably part of growing up.

BD:    Are some of your pieces masterpieces?

RRB:    No.  You do ask these alarming questions!  [Both laugh]  I wouldn’t say so, no.  I don’t think I’m a masterpiece composer.

BD:    Would it appall you if someone came and said. “This is a masterpiece”?

RRB:    It would depend on what I thought of them, wouldn’t it?

BD:    Perhaps someone you respected.

RRB:    I would think I would be rather embarrassed.  I’m too close to it, in a way.  I don’t know what I’d say.  It hasn’t happened yet.  I’ll let you know.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    You mentioned earlier about doing some teaching.  Is this teaching of composition or theory?

RRB:    I used to teach quite a lot.  I also used to sit on a lot of committees on the Arts Council in England, and I also used to judge an awful lot of composition prizes.  I think a lot of it I did out of guilt.  In 1979 I left London to come and live here, and I was able to cut a lot of those things that were just tying me down.  I was extremely busy in London.  I was performing a great deal, both jazz and classical, and it’s very hard, actually, to break all those things.  I worked for a number of years with an excellent soprano called Jane Manning, and we did many concerts of contemporary music.  I wouldn’t have found it possible to say, “Good morning, Jane.  I’m sorry, we’re not going to work together anymore.  I need more time to write music.”  I can’t.  So I broke a lot of ties and I don’t teach anymore.  I do the occasional lecture.  I’m not on any committees; I’m not on any prize juries, and it’s perfectly wonderful because I’m doing what I feel I was meant to do.

BD:    Looking back very briefly, when you were on a prize committee, what would you look for in the new scores?

bennettRRB:    Good writing.  You don’t know what it’s like.  You sit down to spend an afternoon looking at the works of maybe sixty young composers.  You open these scores, and it looks as though they were written with their thumbnails dipped in mud.  So you close it again.  I’m very sorry, but you do.  I’ve always impressed on my students that it’s a very, very highly competitive business.  It’s a very professional business, and unless you can read and write something which is correctly punctuated and makes sense, why do you expect professionals to read it?  I find musical handwriting very interesting.  There’s also a kind of handwriting which is altogether too attractive, which is altogether too picturesque, and you think there’s something wrong.  But there is something, which is a composer’s handwriting, which is just correct and solid and readable and communicative.  It’s very strange.  I’ve never thought of it quite like that before, but you look at the writing first of all.

BD:    That’s what hits you in the face?

RRB:    Of course it does.  You open page one.  Then you look at something even if it’s derivative, because I’ve always believed that a young composer should go through all kinds of influences, preferably good influences.  I don’t want to see somebody ripping off Mr. X, who’s a rotten composer in the first place.  But you know I was intensely influenced by Boulez.  I was intensely influenced by a lady named Elizabeth Lutyens, who was a very distinguished composer, and Henze and various other people.  Then finally, I found my own voice.  So when I see somebody’s work, a young composer, which seems altogether too self-contained, as though no windows are open, then I don’t think this is right.  I don’t mind seeing the influences of people’s music in young composers’ music, but one looks, of course, for a distinctive voice, something fresh.

BD:    Did you ever find anything in these piles of scores that you thought was really going to be first rate?

RRB:    Oh yes, most certainly, and they generally turned into something.  When I was growing up, I mentioned that my mother was a composer, but my parents never over-encouraged me.  When I was a little boy, they used to give me manuscript paper books, but they never said, “Richard, what are you going to write next?” or, “How’s it going?”  I’m very grateful for that, because there’s a terrible danger with talented young composers that it may just stop; that either you may not be able to go on writing just because you dry up, or that you can’t face the pressures of being a professional.  I’ve taught people like that, who were immensely talented but who, when it came to it and they had to fulfill commissions and so on, couldn’t face the demands.  The hardest thing I find in teaching is actually to say to somebody, “You’re not a composer.”

BD:    Do you tell that person it would be better for him to be an accountant?

RRB:    No, not exactly that, but very often you look at young composers’ works or student works, and you think this is quite nice, but actually it’s not a composer.  I can’t tell you why, but that happens.  Then I try and guide them into an area which is perhaps less demanding than writing symphonic music, or more useful than writing symphonic music.  I’ve quite often seen people’s work, and they had a small, nice, colorful talent, but they certainly couldn’t write over a large span, and I knew that they weren’t going to develop that way.  So I said, “Well, how about trying to write some teaching music for your instrument?”  This was not in any effort to be patronizing to them, but to try to guide them into an area where they would blossom, rather than throwing them into the sea.  This is better than just saying, “All right, swim, and if you sink, you sink.”  I’d rather help someone toward something more small-scale, but actually more practical, which I think they could do.

BD:    Are there, perhaps, too many composers coming along today?

RRB:    Many too many.  It’s quite terrifying.  As I mentioned earlier, I grew up in a very talented generation.  Some names which will probably be known over here include Peter Maxwell Davies, certainly, Alexander Goehr, Harrison Birtwistle, Thea Musgrave, Malcolm Williamson, Nicholas Maw, who is an excellent composer and friend, and myself, but that was about it.  [See my Interview with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, my Interview with Thea Musgrave, and my Interview with Malcolm Williamson.]  We all struggled along and we had our performances in front of fifteen loved ones, and we all kept going and we’re all going strong still.  I know the musical world in England better than America, but I could now name probably seven hundred composers of ability, and there are at least a hundred quite interesting composers in their early thirties, perhaps with a publisher, perhaps with a couple of commissions every year, perhaps also with a young family, who are never going to be able to support themselves as composers.  They’re composers that the commissions will trickle in, and they will do them very well.  This is no criticism of them, but I’m so sorry for people going into the profession, or who’ve gone beyond going into the profession and who’ve established themselves in the profession these days, because it is so tough.

BD:    Being a professor is not going to compensate for the lack professional outlets?

RRB:    I don’t think music in universities is a mirror of the real musical world at all.  It’s a great interest, and there’s an awful lot of thrilling things going on, but that’s not where the challenges are.  I don’t want to write for me-me-me.  I don’t want to write for university audiences, I want to write for concert audiences in the world.  You can get a very false impression of what the musical world is about simply working in a university.  I’m not exactly putting it down, but that’s not exactly where the challenges are.

BD:    Yet that’s where most of the composers tend to get stuck.

RRB:    Yes, I know. 
Stuck is the right word, and the positions in England are many fewer than here.

BD:    What are the big similarities and differences between the musical publics of England and America?

RRB:    I don’t think I can really tell you that.  I find the professional musical world here, among composers, terrifyingly cliquey, which is why I’m not involved in the musical world in New York, really, at all.  I have a couple of composer friends here because I like them as people, and we have a good time together not because they’re composers.  I like composers but I certainly don’t want to spend all my leisure time with other composers.  I feel that what I do musically and what the composers whom I admire do musically, is not categorizeable.  It is at its crudest with the uptown/downtown thing in New York.  The Princeton, post-serial, academic movement is the uptown school, and the freakout school and the kitchen and all that is the downtown school.  I don’t think music should be as neatly labeled as that, and I certainly don’t want to be a part of any old school.  I never was before, and I’m not about to start.  [Both laugh]  Professional music in America among composers depends very much on money, of course, and society and a lot of things which I feel are not for me.  I don’t want to get performances through knowing the right people.  I never have in all my life, and I’m not about to start.

BD:    Are you optimistic about the whole future of music?

RRB:    In a funny way I am.  I really don’t know where contemporary music is going at present, and there are certain areas of contemporary music which I think are disastrous, but they probably always have been, so this is nothing new.  Things seem to be wide open these days in a way that I enjoy.  If one wants to write romantic music
I don’t mean new the new romanticism, but music that is just wide open and lyrical and so on, which is what I think I doyou’re not looked down on, which you certainly would have been in the sixties.  There’ll always be many trends, what friends of mine call “the flavor of the month,” but they’re not quite as ironclad as perhaps they once were.  There are all kinds of possibilities for different kinds of music to write, and different kinds of music which will be played, than there have been in the recent past.

BD:    Has your music been influenced by your time here in America?  Is there any American strain creeping into your music?

RRB:    I’d rather like to say yes, because I love living here and I’ve been very happy, but I don’t think so.  I’ve found recently that my music has been becoming very free, and perhaps there are elements of jazz rhythmic structures creeping in.  Some of them are sort of dislocations of jazz rhythms, but certainly not jazz clichés.  I don’t feel that American music has actually influenced my music, except perhaps in a very broad sense.  There’s nothing very much in my music you could put your finger on as being influenced by other people, but this is part of growing up.  Certainly, twenty years ago you could have found a mass of things, but now I’ve tried not to let my influences show.  I’ve been very influenced by Stravinsky, but not in such a way that you could notice.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Is composing fun?

RRB:    It can be absolutely riveting.  I can’t say it’s a barrel of laughs, and every time I’m getting into a new piece, which I’m doing now, I think,
“Oh God, it’s happening again; I’d forgotten it was like this because it’s horrible.  But it’s better than fun.  It can be the most consuming and all-embracing thing I know, and you long for it to take over.  But fun?  I wouldn’t say fun, but there’s nothing else I’d rather I do.  There’s nothing else I could do.

BD:    I’m glad you do what you’re good at.

RRB:    Yes.

BD:    When you’re working on a piece, do you work on one at a time, or do you have more than one going at the same time?

bennettRRB:    I try to work exclusively on one piece.  If a film comes along, sometimes I’ve had to put aside a concert piece.  I’d prefer that the two things didn’t coincide, not that they’d get enmeshed in one another at all, but I don’t think my mind would be fully on either one.

BD:    When you’re working on a film score, do you occasionally get an idea that you’d say, “That’d be good in a string quartet?”

RRB:    Sure.  Well, no.  It would be more something I’ve done with a texture and heard it in the studio.  Film music is wonderful in this way!  When I was at the Academy in London
which in many ways is a total dead lossI was also having my film music in my early, early films played by the best professional musicians around.  I learnt so much about orchestration doing those early films.  It’s been invaluable to me in that way, but my classical music, my concert music, is very unlike most of my film music.  However, I’ve been able to try textures and things with instruments and so on, so it’s been invaluable.

BD:    When you’re writing a film score, you have a deadline, and you know you’ve got to have it done.

RRB:    Uh-huh.

BD:    When you’re writing a concert piece, is it much more open-ended?

RRB:    Well, there’s a deadline.

BD:    Yes, but it’s farther away.

RRB:    It’s much farther away, so there’s a temptation to put it aside and think,
“Oh well, this isn’t working, so I’ll do something else.  So you try something else, and that deadline has a way of creeping up.

BD:    But when you’re working on a concert piece and you have the luxury of finishing it, how do you know when to put the pencil down and say, “This is ready to be launched?”

RRB:    I can’t really answer that, but I’ve always felt that from bar one of a piece, or from bar ten, you should somehow have set up the scale on which the piece is going to proceed.  In painting terms, it’s like defining the size of your canvas and making a gesture with a pencil which is suitable for that size.  I’m so conditioned to writing films that I think very much in lengths of time.  If I’m writing, say, a three-movement piece, I might think the first movement is going to last about six minutes, and the middle movement is going to be very slow, so that’s more liable to last about eight minutes, and the last movement maybe five.  I won’t keep to that, but I can see a series of blocks which each movement represents.  So that it’s not quite like swimming out into open sea not knowing where you’re going.

BD:    You know about what it’s going to look like.

RRB:    Mm-hm.

BD:    But then you go back and you can tinker with it and revise it?.

RRB:    Mm-hm.

BD:    There must come a time when you say, “I’ve got to stop tinkering with it.”

RRB:    I’m not a tinkerer.  A lot of composers are.  My teacher, Pierre Boulez, never stops tinkering.  I destroy a lot when I’m writing.  My wastebasket is full for weeks before the piece actually starts, and I work in great detail as I go along.  At the end of a day’s work, I will go back and sort out all kinds of details on what I’ve done, so by the time I move on, the previous bit is pretty much as it’s going to be.  I don’t go back and endlessly fiddle around; just the smallest details of notation, perhaps.  Although I said I don’t want to spend my leisure time with composers, it’s one of the reasons I actually like being with them.  It
’s very nice to compare notes...  [Both laugh]  Sorry, I hate puns.  My closest composer friend is Thea Musgrave, whom I know you’ve talked to, and another excellent composer in New York City Irwin Bazelon, who is from Chicago.  [See my Interview with Irwin Bazelon.]  I like talking to them about how they put a piece together, what happens and so on.  I’ve also had an equal stimulus, many times, from talking to writers who I know, or painters.  The processes are not that dissimilar.  For example, I enjoy talking to Bud Bazelon or Thea, saying, “Is it always as bad as this when you start a piece?”  We maybe just have a quite trivial conversation, but it makes you feel you’re not absolutely the only person who’s doing it.

BD:    So you know that you’re not alone?

RRB:    You’re not alone.  One of the reasons I perform, particularly in jazz, is to get myself out of the house.  I wouldn’t have to do film music now, I suppose, because I’m partly supported by the films I’ve done, but I can’t conceive of just writing my concert music.  It’s too difficult.  I think I’d be like a mouse in a trap, or a rat on one those terrible little wheels that goes round and round, and I want to get out.

BD:    You also played some of your concert music, the piano works.

RRB:    Mm-hm.

BD:    Are you the ideal interpreter of your music?

bennettRRB:    No, because I’m not a first-rate pianist.  I’m a very good accompanist.  I play in a musical manner and I’m very good at particular singers, but I never acquired a proper technique as a pianist.  A lot of the performing I did goes back to the late fifties, when I was a student, when, if one did not play the music of Webern, Boulez, even Schoenberg, it wouldn’t really be played much at all.  In the fifties and early sixties I did a great deal of performing of contemporary music in London, particularly for two pianos.  This was purely out of sort of missionary instinct.  I was the first British pianist to play Boulez’s First Piano Sonata, which is a monstrously difficult piece.  Cornelius Cardew was a contemporary of mine at the Royal Academy.  He and I were the first English pianists to play Structures of Boulez.  If we hadn’t done it, somebody would have done it eventually, but certainly not then.  I did many, many, many first performances of British works, and I guess I did it because I was musically equipped to do it.  I wasn’t necessarily technically equipped to cope with all the difficulties.  But since then, like with composers, so many good people have come along.  In my student days there were perhaps two pianists who were known for doing contemporary music; ditto, a couple of singers and a couple of instrumentalists — perhaps not very good instrumentalists, but they had the ability to cope with the musical difficulties.  Now it’s extraordinary!  There are so many wonderful interpreters of contemporary music.  I suppose I did it then sort of faute de mieux because there was nobody else to do it, or just a handful of us.

BD:    Did you feel you were paying your dues?

RRB:    No.  I did it because I was burning for people to hear that music.  But as I said, my technique is very fallible, and I’m not really interested in practicing the piano at all... and there were lots of people who play the piano better than I do.  In jazz, nobody does exactly what anybody else does, but I felt when I was performing contemporary music, I would just learn to play it as well as I could and then reproduce it to the best of my ability whenever I played the piece.  I didn’t feel there was any question of interpretation at all, whereas with jazz, it all has to do with interpretation, and the performance can vary wildly from night to night.  Some nights I can be very good, and some nights I can be just routine.  It’s true.  Some nights, I won’t say I’m rather awful, but I can certainly be routine.  I couldn’t do without performing jazz, but I can certainly do without performing classical music forever.  I wouldn’t have said this ten years ago, but it is certainly true now.

BD:    But you couldn’t do without writing classically?

RRB:    Not conceivably!  I’m always saying I’m going to take six months off, or have a wonderful holiday or something, and I never do.  I travel a lot for my work and I enjoy it, and the idea of going and lying on a beach is practically like going and lying in prison.  I would be trapped, not being able to compose and not being able to get to a piano and scores and so on.  I can’t; it’s terrifying to me.  If that sounds like an hysterical reaction, it’s sad, but I really like writing music more than anything else.  I also love the thing about being self-employed.  Nearly all my friends have office jobs, or they’re compelled to work very regular hours.  If I want to take a week off and not do anything, I can.  I can just relax and wait for the ideas to hit
which is quite often the case with starting a piece of music.  You just wait for the idea to come along.  But I enjoy it.

BD:    I’m glad the ideas do come along.

RRB:    Well, I always cross my fingers.

BD:    Thank you for being a composer.

RRB:    Oh, thank you very much for talking to me as a composer.  I enjoyed it.  The questions have been excellent.  I think I said a lot of things I didn’t mean to say, but I suppose that’s what a good interview is about.


Sir Richard Rodney Bennett obituary

Composer and pianist whose work included film scores, opera and jazz cabaret

Adam Sweeting   
The Guardian, Wednesday 26 December 2012 13.24 EST

The composer Richard Rodney Bennett, who has died in New York aged 76, pursued multiple musical lives with extraordinary success. He was one of the more distinguished soundtrack composers of his era, having contributed to some 50 films and winning Oscar nominations for his work on Far from the Madding Crowd (1967), Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

But it scarcely seemed credible that this knack for writing for a mainstream audience in a melodic, romantic style co-existed with his mastery of serialism and 12-tone techniques. From 1957 to 1959, Bennett was a scholarship student with Pierre Boulez in Paris and soaked up the latter's total serialism techniques as well as his infatuation with the German avant garde. He also attended the summer schools at Darmstadt, the mecca for diehard atonalists.

His tremendous facility as a pianist would prompt the likes of Boulez and Stockhausen to invite him to play their most demanding compositions, and, with his friend and fellow Royal Academy of Music student Cornelius Cardew, he gave the British premiere of Boulez's Structures 1a for two pianos.

However, Bennett was able to take what he had learned from these stern taskmasters and blend it with his own more lyrical musical leanings. Indeed, his only surviving piece from the strictly Boulez period is Cycle II for Paul Jacobs (1958).

Subsequently, he brought a tonal language to serialist techniques, a process evident for instance in his Five Studies for Piano (1962-64), where he can be heard developing an idiosyncratic musical vocabulary that he would continue to explore over the next couple of decades. Other key works along the way were his opera The Mines of Sulphur, commissioned by Sadler's Wells in 1965, his Commedia pieces, and his Piano Concerto (1968) for Stephen Kovacevich and Guitar Concerto (1970) for Julian Bream.

In parallel with all this, Bennett sustained and developed a prolific career as a jazz pianist and, latterly, singer, an interest dating back to his student years, when he earned much-needed cash playing jazz. His stints in the foyer of New York's Algonquin hotel became part of the city's folklore, and in the 1990s he began touring the world as a solo cabaret act, singing and playing jazz pieces and torch songs. He worked regularly with a number outstanding jazz singers, including Cleo Laine, Annie Ross and Chris Connor.

In 1976 he began a highly successful partnership with Mississippi-born singer Marion Montgomery, and their cabaret shows Just Friends and Fascinatin' Rhythm were seen at festivals and theatres round the world. The pair also collaborated on several albums.

During the 1990s, Bennett formed a partnership with the American vocalist Mary Cleere Haran, and they enjoyed a sell-out season at the Algonquin with their show Pennies from Heaven. In 2005, he began performing with British jazz singer Claire Martin, and the duo became a byword for classic interpretations of popular songs. Bennett's Jazz Calendar (1963-64) was choreographed by Frederick Ashton for the Royal Ballet.

Bennett was born in Broadstairs, Kent, the youngest of three children. His mother, Joan, was a pianist and composer who had studied with Gustav Holst, and sang in the first professional performance of the composer's best-known work, The Planets. His father, Rodney, was an author of children's books.

At the outbreak of the second world war the Bennetts moved to Budleigh Salterton in Devon. Richard always had an eclectic ear, and soaked up popular music from the radio while relishing the grand orchestral scores he would hear at the cinema. He would later reflect that the real golden age of film scoring had been the 1930s, when leading European composers such as Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Poulenc, Hindemith and Britten became involved with cinema.

He attended Leighton Park Quaker school, near Reading, Berkshire, and was showing precocious compositional skills in his teens. He had written three string quartets by the age of 18, and his first published piece was his Sonata for Piano (1954).

He had approached composer Elisabeth Lutyens for lessons, and with her guidance in 1953 he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM), where he studied under Lennox Berkeley and Howard Ferguson. However, he did not feel he was gaining the stimulus he needed. He claimed: "I learned much more in Westminster music library."

He struck up a close rapport with Cardew at the RAM, and remembered how they would listen to radio broadcasts from Stuttgart, carrying the news from the cutting edge of the avant garde. "You could hardly hear it for the static," he said, "but it was, nevertheless, thrilling."

Yet, even while he was studying with Boulez and embracing the European serialist movement, he was already beginning to flourish as a film composer. His early successes in the genre included Interpol (1957), The Safecracker, Stanley Donen's Indiscreet (both 1958) and The Devil's Disciple (1959). He would find himself in increasing demand from several of the era's leading directors.

Bennett worked on Billy Liar and Far from the Madding Crowd with John Schlesinger, on several films with Joseph Losey, and was recommended by Stephen Sondheim to Sidney Lumet, for whom he scored Murder on the Orient Express and Equus. In 1994 he enjoyed one of his highest-profile successes with his work on Four Weddings and a Funeral. He also worked in television, on programmes including the mini-series Gormenghast, Tender is the Night and The Charmer, and the TV movies The Tale of Sweeney Todd and Sherlock Holmes in New York.

In 1979, Bennett, feeling frustrated and hemmed in by his life in Britain, moved to New York, having enlisted Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein to support his application for a US green card. New York remained his adopted home, though in the 1990s he returned to the RAM, where he held the international chair of composition for six years.

His colossal composing output contained three symphonies, numerous concertante pieces, a jazz-classical fusion concerto for saxophonist Stan Getz – who died before he could perform it – and a swarm of chamber and solo and duo instrumental pieces.

Bennett was appointed CBE in 1977 and knighted in 1998. In 1995, Gay Times nominated him as one of the most influential gay people in music. He is survived by his sister Meg, the poet MR Peacocke, with whom he collaborated on a number of vocal works.

Daryl Runswick writes: Richard Rodney Bennett could hardly have designed his career better to alienate critics in every one of the fields he was so talented in. Classical critics disdained him as a jumped-up film composer, jazzers – players and critics alike – wrote him off as a cabaret artist, and film producers only turned to him when they wanted something self-consciously "highbrow". His jazz was indeed very old-fashioned: he fell in love with the hybrid Basie/Mel Tormé style of the 1950s when he was young, and took no account of later developments. But in everything he did he was a consummate craftsman and within the styles he espoused his works have enormous content and emotional punch.

He was a cultured gay man and every aspect of his creativity was defined by elegance. He would not go for strong avant-garde statements in any genre – it was contrary to his very core. He wanted, and achieved, a refined style in both his music and his life: that is why he went to New York, and was so happy there.

Richard was extremely important to me as a mentor and an influence. As the former he encouraged me to compose concert music when everyone else was striving to keep me writing pop songs and for TV. An orchestral piece I submitted in 1973 to a competition did not win, but, as one of the ajudicators, he told me afterwards that he admired it and told me how to promote it.

Later that year when I was in despair because I could not decipher a book by Boulez, I phoned him, almost in tears. He reasoned me out of it and set me on the path to renewed self-belief. He had co-translated the book and knew its mixture of insights and utter impenetrability. In my arrangements for The King's Singers, Richard's work for them was a major influence. Over the years I mentally "ran every arrangement past him" before sending it off.

• Richard Rodney Bennett, composer, pianist and singer, born 29 March 1936; died 24 December 2012

© 1988 Bruce Duffie

This interview was recorded at his apartment in New York City on March 25, 1988.  Segments were used (with recordings) on WNIB in 1991 and 1996; on WNUR in 2005 and 2010; and on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio in 2006 and 2012.  The transcription was made posted on this website early in 2014.

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.