Interviewed by Michael Gendreau 2/16/92
Copied to Plonsey's site by Plonsey (for archiving), address updated, 3/4/02

Daniel Plonsey is a composer and saxophonist, living in Berkeley, CA. He plays with The Manufacturing of Humidifiers, Mantra & Everything in the World, and is "composer in residence" of Disaster Opera Theatre. Some of his music is available on the yes.no.lp label (5670 Ludwig Avenue, El Cerrito, CA 94530 or via internet: dan@plonsey.com).

Michael Gendreau is a drummer, composer, builder, adaptor and discoverer of instruments, who creates live and taped music and films with Crawling With Tarts, Speed the Parting Guest, and various other ad hoc improvisational ensembles and rock/country/jazz/sleaze bands. His work can be heard on various tapes and records in the ASP catalogue.

This interview was transcribed and edited by Dan Plonsey. Editing was limited to deleting sections; none of the original dialogue has been altered. Blank lines indicate excised dialogue, or times at which the tape was paused.

Okay; so this is the interview with Dan Plonsey. I'm Michael Gendreau.

Oh. And I'm Dan Plonsey. (much clonking) Excuse this noise.

Later we will play some music for you.
Okay. So. Dan. Will you give us an explanation of “Delayed Counterpoint.”

Delayed Counterpoint began as a fictional concept [Cathedral bells chime in background, the three-quarter hour]. Then I started to accept that it was real: once you've written something down, it becomes real somehow. And, um… God, it's weird to be talking and knowing that this is all getting taped and that someone's going to have to transcribe it.

Yeah, I hope he's got one of…

I feel myself sort of directing everything towards the tape recorder. Well, it's like when you're playing music—I mean, the difference between when you're improvising and the tape recorder's running, and when it isn't; because when the tape recorder's running, it always… I always feel like I'm…

It's funny, yeah…

…directing stuff towards the future, and not towards the present.

Oh, I see.

Like, I'm going to have to listen to this later, and I don't want to listen to it and get really upset [each laughs one tiny "ha"]

Well, you could always edit it first.

Anyway: Delayed Counterpoint is is is simply the concept of…um… In traditional counterpoint you have two things or more happening simultaneously. And with Delayed Counterpoint, you simply remove the condition of simultaneity, in that you accept that if two events occur, you could still be thinking about the first event while the second one is happening, and, in fact, um… I was writing music in which lots and lots and lots of stuff was happening simultaneously, like twelve instruments playing, each one playing different melodies at the same time—'cause I'd been listening to a lot of Charles Ives—and I still like writing that kind of music, but it occurred to me that you could have a kind of music in which each of those things happens in sequence, and that you insist that they be taken in a senseas if they were happening simultaneously. So I wrote up something about what Delayed Counterpoint is, which I now…forget. But basically, one of the features of it is sequence; things happening in sequence, that is, as we move along in time… Like imagine a graph where time is the X axis, and Y is sort of a spacial axis representing just different things happening, that stacking things up—having ten instruments playing simultaneously—in other words, a straight line going up the Y axis is in a sense equivalent to having those things happen in sequence along the X axis. Um… But it's more than that! That's just…

That's just the first step.

That's just the first step.

You're talking here in your paper about… It works all the way up to polyphonic polyphony. Right?

Oh right! I forgot about that! Yeah! Let's see…

(laughs) So you're talking about two dimensions, at first; that's where it starts off. You just have your time and your vertical axis which is something like pitch or something, but then the dimensions expand from there.

Right. You could have a bunch of polyphonies happening…um…in sequence.


It ends up…it ends up that there are two dimensions given, and you can sort of… and just the fact that one is equivalent to two, means that you can infinitely expand the number of dimensions.


Um…And you can infinitely contract them. That's kind of what it means. It's like: anything simple…becomes complex. And everything complex becomes simple. And the way that that happens is… I think the way it happens is it turns out that…the first dimension isn't really 1 dimension, it's like 1.1 dimensions; there's always a little perturbation that happens, that…that makes you… you're listening to a melody and something happens; suddenly there's an intrusion from the past; there's no way to really go in sequence from A to B to C to D without, by the time you get to E, suddenly A is back there in your head, and therefore… Like a computer reads along a string of numbers and it… and just goes from one thing to the next. But the human mind is always bringing in these other dimensions; they're just these little faint after-images which mean that there's no way that you can really just have a si— a simple sequence of events; you always start to introduce another dimension; other dimensions are always getting added on.

Right. Two…

Um… Another…way of saying it is just that whenever you want to talk about something, you always start to move into the next domain up, of…of talking about talking about something.

Um-hum. Yeah. Two dimensions is just an idealization.


And it never exists.

Right. I mean, nothing that simple really can possibly exist.

But the problem is that you get into higher dimensions that are harder to talk about, and so they aren't talked about very much.

Right. For good reason. [laughter] Yeah… Is this really… This may get too abstract too fast.

Shall we go (laughs) Do you want to pause this for a second?


Or is that dishonest?

[long, loud intake of breath] I guess I think I was getting at first was that… You're listening to a melody. Typically, in musical analysis you isolate elements; you talk about pitch, for instance; that's most common. And you could talk about the sequence of pitches. My idea was that the basic structure of music is not one-dimensional. That is, by the time you get to the middle of the melody, the first part is lingering and interacting with the current part.

And so there're all these departures from plane to plane, and we're continually jumping between these planes; and then jumping between planes; the different planes—the plane of melody, the plane of timbre—um, co-exist, and suggest a polyphony. Just in a single melody, there are the different voices—I mean, polyphony is just multiple voices—so there is the voice of melody, the voice of rhythm, the voice of timbre, the voice of space if the instrument is moving relative to you. [The clock begins to chime.] So you've already got polyphony.

Right. And then the next step up is like environmental planes of polyphonic things that happen, like distractions which happen because of the room you're in.

Right. Things totally extraneous to the music; to the musicians; things beyond anyone's control which are always there, which could be the bells chiming just now, or it could be…something personal, which is just in the listener's head.

Right. So you've got subjective and objective polyphonies.

Right. So I think [chime one] my point when I was writing this was [chime two] just that I was really [chime three] sick of reading analyses of music in which people attempt to forget about the polyphony that is even the simplest melody; that to look at anything in this one-dimensional way is doomed to raise serious problems for the one doing the analysis. Serious practical and personal problems that will require extensive therapy [laughter] to…to cure. It engenders of ideas of "what is appropriate," what is "inappropriate," and just gives a very false idea of the way the world is; and if you don't know the way the world is, or have some kind of clue about it, then, that's kind of uh…too bad.


I guess that's really what it comes down to.

It's kind of a neurosis.

Yeah…Anyway…I wasn't intending to imply any…virtuosity in here. Like, I agree with the term "Advanced Counterpoint," but when we're talking about how complicated everything is, it didn't really occur to me that anyone could ever be consciously a real expert at this, and be able to understand this. In fact, really what this is about isn't about developing new analytic tools, but just taking the old ones and throwing them out the window…and I guess, in their place, I ended up substituting fiction : the best way to deal with writing about music for me has become just writing stories.

Huh. Uh-huh.

And [clears throat] that's why the paper ends with a story. And that's why as the paper goes on it becomes, in a sense, less coherent, I mean, it becomes riddled with things that would appear to have nothing to do with music. Like there's this whole chapter on opossums [laughs].

Uh-huh. I couldn't find that one.

Yeah? I don't know where that went—it's near the end somewhere. It's just a kind of a list of opossum sightings. And it's [laughter] kind of funny, because I've stopped seeing opossums—although I have seen a few dead opossums—but recently I had a dream about an opossum…but I've stopped seeing them…in person…so… [sighs]…

And you should also tell them what I.M.A. stands for.

I.M.A. is the "Improvisational Music Association," and it's a Bay Area group of people who consider themselves to be improvisors.

We'll say what that means later.

Yeah, we'll say what that means and what that doesn't mean later. Primarily, I believe, it was founded as a kind of self-serving kind of thing by a few people. But, they were sort of idealistic people, so they didn't stand in the way of it becoming something that potentially could be an Artistic Entity. And right now it's struggling to become an artistic entity, it's still somewhere in between something to promote the music by a certain group of people, who are pretty much… It's not a really exclusive group in the abstract, but in practice I suppose it is, like all musical groups. If you want information about it; if you want to receive the newsletter [called FREEWAY]—which has lots of articles about improvisational events happening in the Bay Area—only some of them are biased—[laughter] you should write to me.


So. What this is like is those internal musings that end up going through my head when [laughter] I'm feeling kind of cranky. [laughter] So… Composition: I started out as a composer. I started writing music… I wrote a whole bunch of blueprints for pieces which were sort of like pieces that Xenakis might have written.

This is before you improvised?

Before I did much improvisation. I mean, I played jazz in high school. Played a solo on "Chameleon," the sort of Maynard Ferguson arrangement of Herbie Hancock. And the most interesting thing that happened during that is that I found out that I could play really high notes on the baritone saxophone. [laughter] And because it was a Maynard Ferguson version, I think that might have had something to do with it; it was just like I thought the whole point of improvisation was to play the highest note you possibly could play [laughter], and that's what it was about.

Yeah, yeah! Doc Severenson probably fostered that too.

Yeah, well, you know, even John Gilmore, who might be my favorite tenor saxophonist living, has this one kind of solo… I mean, one of the things I like about him is that he has these different styles of solos, and he'll just give you one of a finite number of solos; it's not like this infinite range, it's a discrete group of solos; you don't go from one into another or anything, it's like, oh, it's going to be the solo where he starts with these really high notes and plays a lot of false fingerings that don't really change the pitch a whole lot, and then the band drops out, and then he plays some even higher notes, and then it finally ends when, after a long time, he glisses up to a note that's just a little bit higher than any one that you've heard before, and then he stops, and people always go crazy. [laughter] It's great! They're the best solos!


So I think I was really onto something way back when I was first playing; I sort of intuited a form that I can find nothing wrong with. The only thing that you could find wrong with it is totally on an intellectual plane of, well, it's a cheap device that always works, so you shouldn't do it. But that's like saying that since since sex is good, you shouldn't do that either. It's really the one thing that I've found that I'm totally willing to do…and only feel guilty about a little bit… But it's the thing I feel least guilty about. And everyone should do it some, and you'll see what I mean.

I think there's probably some—we're digressing seriously here—but I think there's some other reasons for it too. For saxophones, when you're getting into those really high ranges, you can all of a sudden gliss a lot easier, can't you? I mean, there's a lot things you can all of a sudden do that you can't do when you're playing in the normal range of the saxophone.

Yeah, it really opens up… It's like a whole new instrument up there. It's so great to play up there because… 'cause you feel like you're above a line. It's sort of like a fish—the high F or F-sharp is sort of like the water line, where the water meets the air—and suppose you're a fish and you normally just swim along below that line, so when you get above it, there are no real rules for fishes are supposed to do once they get up into the air. [laughter]

Right: you're in the realm of Il-logic.

Do you become a bird, or what? It's sort of like the first animals which crawled out of the water. They kind of got to decide what they were going to do, and what they were going to be. And some of them… well, they all did different things.

They all moved to different continents for one thing. But we should get back to composition, maybe.

Right. So composition is…um… is… what? Some people have said that there's no real difference between composition and improvisation, because when you're composing each thought comes from nowhere, just like it does with improvisation, and then you just write it down, you just think, "Oh! That was a good thought! I'll do that!" And then you have another thought, and then you say,"Well, I don't like that thought; I'm not going to do that." But it's really just a collection of thoughts that when you're composing you get to shuffle around and put some of them in one pile and some of them in another pile; but when you're improvising you don't get to do that; you just have to use everything as it comes.

Right; you don't get the chance to go back and put the structure on it.

Right. Which is where Delayed Counterpoint comes in. Because, when you're improvising, you could say, well, due to the principles of Delayed Counterpoint, the listener is in fact going to organizing this sound with an earlier sound, and they're going to forget about that sound; that's clearly a mistake; they're going to forget about that, or no; they're going to focus on that, or whatever. But in fact, to the listener, there's often no difference between composition and improvisation, because they do their editing anyway.

And you're not talking about just now; that's the way it's probably always been.

Yeah, I mean, what does it really mean to… work on music as a composer? I don't know… You saw "Naked Lunch," right?

No, I haven't seen it; I've read the book.

Well, this is extraneous to the book. At the beginning, there's a conversation between someone who's supposed to be Ginsberg, I think, and someone who's supposed to be Kerouac, or maybe it's Kerouac and someone else… But one of them is going on about how you should never edit anything; you have to be true to the original idea.

Yeah, that's familiar.

And they say, "First thought, best thought." Who said that?

Yeah, I know what you're talking about; I've heard someone say that, I think it might be Ginsberg.

Well, anyway, one of them is going on about how they want to edit, and they won't write without editing, and they have hundreds of versions… So this is an argument that exists in literature. It exists in painting, too. There's this concept of building up a painting by painting first general ideas, and then painting in more and more specifics on top of that. And then there's another style, like in watercolors, in which you can't really ever paint over something, or in sculpting: once you've chipped something away, you can't put it back… Anyway, so I subscribe to that as true; that it is a truth about composition and improvisation, but more than that, it occurred to me that there is a distinction of different types of thinking, which contradicts what I said a little bit, which is that there is improvisational thought, and compositional thought. And they're not isolatable; you can't say, "here's a composition and here's an improvisation," because when you're improvising, there are moments when you think, "Oh, now I'm going to play something that relates to what I just played," or, "Now I'm going to attempt to remember that melody that I played and play it again," or, "Oh, now I'm going to relate to the drums and forget about the bass," and those are all compositional thoughts. And then there are other times—you're just playing and you don't even know what you're doing, and that would be a purely improvisational state.
Well, what about sub-conscious compositional thoughts. Those must happen.

Right—like you don't even know what you're…


Yeah. So it goes downwards . It's a sequence of improvisation and composition. Like you might not be thinking of anything, but sub-consciously, something in you is dealing with some material in a really compositional way.

[music is played for a while here]

Oh yeah: these are some questions that may or may not be important to you, but I'm just going to say them.


How do you feel about the idea that everyone is an artist, or that everyone is an improvisor.

I think that's entirely valid.

Okay: so what is it that you like about particular improvisors?

m, I think it's that people are artists, except that when you actually get up there on stage, or stand in front of a microphone, weird things happen to people, and the work is a lot of learning to deal with that: dealing with the issue of performance. Because performance separates… is a separation from everyday life: there's the performer on stage, and then there are all the other people out in the audience, and suddenly there's a separation that's being made. And I think it's a valuable separation to make, but it's just a real difficult thing to learn to deal with. Most simply, you just get nervous, and you can't be yourself. That's the most common thing that people say, when someone's not playing well, or doing well: "Just be yourself!" And of course the response is, "I can't!" And that's really the whole issue of life: learning to be ourselves as much as possible. And trying to deal with that in the context of performance is especially difficult; it's a really valuable thing to do just for that, 'cause if you can be yourself when you're performing, then you can probably be yourself other times when it's maybe even more important. [packing up noises]

Okay, how about this: since we don't have infinite amount of time to do every musical opportunity that we have to do, or to play with everybody, there must be reasons why you end up in the groupings that you end up in.

Well, certainly, a lot of it is chance. But you do…Well I should mention at this point, because I was just thinking about the Composers' Cafeteria, and I was going to talk about that, but I only want to say one thing; there's one really valuable thing we learned—which doesn't really answer your second question, but is directed towards the first, which is: Originally, we were going to be an anarchic organization; anyone could be in it; and our motto was, "Every piece deserves to be heard once!" And after a few years of that, we changed the motto—and this, I think, is the biggest insight I've had in music—the new motto is, "Every piece deserves to be heard once, But not necessarily by us! "


So that is what it comes down to. But as for who you end up playing with…It's just impossible. I mean, it really is frustrating, I mean, I'd like to be playing with a lot of people that I can't play with, simply because they're too busy. Or because I'm too busy to play with everyone, or because they don't really fit the project I have in mind, or I don't fit the project they have in mind, so a lot of it's just like getting these gears to mesh together that weren't really designed to mesh together.


Um. I dunno! So I feel lucky to have played with a lot of people I've played with, and unlucky to have missed out playing with a lot of people I've missed out playing with. Like, why didn't I know when I was growing up in Cleveland that Pere Ubu was forming? I mean, I didn't know anything about them until I left.

(laughs) Right!

That's all I could think…I saw David Thomas, and Ralph Carney was playing with him, and it was the greatest show ever! It was during the "Wooden Birds" period, and it was so great, but

[tape runs out before Dan can say how envious he was of Ralph Carney]

Okay…great. Let's get back to the paratactical stuff. Paratactic…

You may have to explain this.

This is just an idea that…you'll be very familiar with this.


Um. Syntact…syntactical…Syntax is a logical way of assembling sentences so that by the way two words sit next to each other…you can develop a logical meaning out of it. Parataxis is the same thing, but in an illogical way, so if two words are sitting next to each other, and there's no logical connection between those two words, there may be some illogical connections. Something that's not literal, that you can jump to, maybe only sub-consciously. The reason I think of this in terms of music is that you often have events that go together and sound really good to you for some reason—like if you like the music of Pierre Schaefer, or something like that—but you can't understand…there's no logical reason why his music should make sense.


He's not following any hierarchical system, or anything like that; it's just a matter of combining things, and having them, come out. And also, I just saw Chris Marker speaking, and he said the same thing; he uses that method. He just called it…he called it serendipity (laughter). And so what I wanted to ask was…well…here; I'll just read you what I wrote down: "What do you do when you are forced with a question or problem which can't be answered by using logic?" And you can answer that in either a musical context or not. (pause) In fact, maybe you should answer it in a musical context.

Well, musically this issue of what goes together with what is interesting. It used to be that I would look to my idea of politics for the answers a lot. Like say you're faced with the problem of a guitarist playing really loud and then you've got a violinist sitting next to them playing really soft. So that's this problem. So you tell the guitarist to play soft, but they don't, because they're a guitarist, and there's really nothing you can do about it [laughter]. So you've tried logic; you've tried to explain that you want both instruments to be heard. Alright: so now what do you do? And… I guess the answer is, well, you live with it. But do you want to live with it or do you not want to live with it? And finally the answer…I'm now more willing to accept the fact that in music there are things that are unfair [laughter] and that is just the way it is and it reflects the real world a lot better…I used to want polyphony to be all the voices equal: each one being heard equally well, and in fact it seems that in modern recordings, people are really trying for that…And that's interesting, but it's also…It's artificial, but it's idealistic. I like it for its idealism, but I dislike it for its un-realistic-ness. But, on the other hand, the other function of having one thing a lot louder than another is that the softer thing will start to give the illusion of space, of depth, of a dimension you weren't really aware of before—

Yeah, of position in a room.

Yeah…so, it can be really effective, so my answer to that particular question (which I posed myself) [laughter] is well, it can be useful to have some person playing really loud and another person that you only hear faintly, or in gaps. But anyway, this question of what goes with what…I've been amazed…I mean, my feeling is that all through music history things are just ridiculous and don't make any sense; and when I heard Morton Feldman speak, I think he was kind of saying the same thing; he was saying something like, "music is a lot crazier than you think." [laughter] Which, when you take that logically, what that means is no matter how crazy you think music is, it's a lot crazier than that, and I think that music is really crazy, I mean, I think it's really…like just basic things, like listening to jazz, and thinking, "Well, why is it that drums, bass, piano, and saxophone sound good together; I mean what do these drums have to do with the saxophone? If you took the drums out and you substituted…a bassoon—

The exact instrument I was going to say. (laughter)

Aside from the fact that you wouldn't be able to hear the bassoon…it could be interesting, but why is it that people don't do that, everyone's really happy with that combination of instruments…and drums I find are just the most ridiculous things, because here they are; it's just this banging , like, why should that be acceptable to us? And there's a lot of music that they're not allowed to play in.

I think that all music…that musicians should be encouraged to understand that there's no real syntax of music, and that people that claim there is are just repressive people, and they shouldn't be listened to, and they shouldn't be given tenure at any university. I mean, everyone has their theories, and that's great, I mean, you have to have some sort of theories in order to write music; you come up with some theory, but of course those theories are totally ridiculous, and they're great! And the fact that they're ridiculous is great, and the fact that people believe is great, but there's a difference between using them and believing them, and thinking that they actually reflect some sort of reality, that there's really some reason why…I mean, listen to Schubert, and listen to one phrase and then the next phrase: what does the second phrase have to do with the first phrase? [M: Right.] Nothing.

You mean there's no causality in music.

Yeah, there's no causality; it's right out the window; I mean if you listen to something that's totally random, after a while you'll start to hear your own causality. That's my feeling: there's no causality, except that which listeners over the years have imposed; and if you copy someone else's music pretty closely, then your music sounds like it has causality in it, and if you do something that doesn't sound like anything else, then…then it may or may not have causality depending on how [M: Not at first, anyway.] good people's ears are.

Yeah, right. Um…Okay, this is a related…this is from the same section. Um…This has to do with the way that you make music and…I'll just read this off the page again. "All hierarchical and causal systems aside (say you're improvising with one or more others, and you're all playing non-pitched a-rhythmic sounds, probably on non-traditional instruments), what are some of the ways you might go about choosing what your next sound is going to be?

Huh. [long pause] Um. [longer pause] I guess I could answer that both ideally and really. I'll answer it really first: I tend to play in cycles a lot. And I tend not to be happy that I play in cycles a lot. So, in reality, like, we were playing today, and I noticed that…somehow…playing a cycle of notes, and repeating that cycle of notes with variations is something that appeals to me on a sort of level as I play, but then when I think about it, it doesn't appeal to me so much. So: I tend to get into these little loops, and I play lots of little loops of sounds—which is a compositional thought. If we're talking about choosing, then we're thinking compositionally. If we're really improvising in the way that we were talking about it earlier, then I wouldn't even be thinking; the next note would just be out before I was aware of it, and it would just all be there. Um—

Is it…What part of that is a reaction to what's going on around you?

I don't know. I came up with an image…I mean, a lot of this I see better than I can talk about or hear. And the image that I have, I came up with in the context of a weirdly directed improvisational piece that I was playing in by a guy named Steve Mays. What he was trying to get us to do was see images of interactions that we had had with animals, and so I would close my eyes, and see this picture as well as I could in my head, and one picture I had was of these bees that I was watching as I was walking down a little dusty path through some tall grass. And that's sort of how I see it now. That's the image that comes to mind when I think of what it's like to improvise with people. It's like, ideally you're kind of seeing your way through…it's like walking through a forest, or walking down a path, and you're sort of sidestepping: you don't want to bang headfirst into a tree, so you're sort of…you're not moving in a straight line, you're moving around obstacles, and you're just constantly making these little decisions; it's nothing major; it's just getting one step at a time through…through a series of…um…through a forest of sounds; except it's sounds. So I see my role, or my goal in improvisation is to put my sounds…to thread my way somehow through a musical forest…and that what it would look like from above, that is if you were listening to the result of all these people doing it, is you'd see a sort of woven texture of several threads woven together, so that in going between these trees I'm trying to be close to them, sort of like people going down the slalom course, you know, but they're always banging into the poles—I think that's sort of ugly—I don't think they should be allowed to do that. [laughter]

It's because they're trying to go so damned fast.

I mean, isn't the idea of slalom probably based upon the idea of people skiing down hills with trees? Skiing around obstacles? But now they've made it into this sport in which people have taken advantage of the fact that they're these little flexible poles, that they can lean right into; but if you were going through a forest, you couldn't do that.

Right. There doesn't seem to be a penalty for hitting those things.

No, I mean that's the way they do it! I mean, as long as you don't get stuck on one, you're fine. That's just the way I see it. The obstacles of course being the notes the other players are playing, so you're kind of trying to move through them without smashing into them. Which is…I think kind of interesting, because it's a kind of negative way of seeing…like instead of playing with someone, I'm thinking of playing right around them, coming really close.

So sometimes when I'm playing rhythmically, it's just all I can do to worry about that, and I kind of trust to the sub-conscious to generate good pitched material. [laughs] I can't even deal with it.

Or noises.

Or noises. If it's just noises, that's the most fun for me, because I can feel free-est and feel the least vulnerable to playing something wrong. If it's just noises, there's nothing you can do that's that wrong that you can't recover from.

Yeah, so that's an extension of the original question: if it is all noises being played, and you're going to play some noises, and have your repertoire of sounds that you make, but there's also the possibility of inventing a new one on the spot.That happens a lot to me.

Yeah, me too. I really want to look for those new sounds. One thing to struggle with, the biggest struggle in making noises is to find something that really stretches things and pushes things a bit, because I don't think it's that hard for people who have improvised a little—or even people who haven't —I mean, it's just remarkably easy to make a noise improvisation that pretty much works, and if you listen to it you'd say, "well, that sounds pretty nice."

"Everything somehow went together." But the thing is, you can't say why.

Yeah. What's hard is, once you've done that a bunch of times, then I feel like there's this desire to push things, like to introduce an element that's really foreign and work with it—and that's exciting. So there's first of all finding such an element, and then getting over the fear of introducing it. I remember this Morton Feldman quote, where he had this dream that he was taken to task by the whole Princeton music department, and he had to admit, "Gentlemen! Without knowing, I have introduced an element of the cosmopolitan into my music!" [laughter] I've always thought that that was really great. In a lot of great music, you can't believe how ridiculous some element which someone suddenly brings in is. Like some really childish, or really great thing; really obvious and simple-minded, but so simple-minded that you could never possibly think of it unless you were really lucky.

For music to be able to take you somewhere and do something, it's got to be a process; that is, a dialogue between people and the Muse… That's it. That sums it up.



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