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So you went to music school in Baltimore? Brian; Yes, the Peabody. Fritz; Oh yes. The Peabody. I’ve heard of it. What was that like? Brian; It was rather…conservative. Fritz; A conservative music conservatory. Just imagine. That seems kind of odd, doesn’t it? You usually hear music classified as a liberal art. How was the school conservative? You mean that they were strictly Beethoven and Mozart? Brian; Yeah, along those lines. For example, they had a professor there, whose name escapes me, right now, who was famous for saying that jazz wouldn’t last. Fritz; Excuse me? When was this? Brian; Well I can tell you it was after the British Invasion. Fritz; (laughing) You’re talking about music, right? The Beatles and such? Brian; Of course! The school’s old, but it’s not that old! Fritz: But jazz would have been around for thirty or forty years already! Brian; You know that, and I know that. Most the people in Baltimore knew this, seeing that jazz was not at all hard to find in the city. Fritz; So how does a professor of music come to say such a thing? Brian; I don’t know. Like that song says; ’I don’t get around much anymore?’ Peabody has jazz, now, though. I saw it in the alumni magazine. Fritz; They finally came around, did they? I wonder what happened to that professor? Brian; Perhaps they let him stay on…as a security guard, or something. Fritz; Maybe as a games keeper. Brian; Well they could have always used one of those, believe me. Fritz; So Peabody’s only, what, forty years behind the times now?
Brian; No. Jazz is making one of it’s many comebacks as we speak. Fritz; Quite right. Brian; Peabody was a mix, really. Some of the professors there were into Schoenberg, Shtockhausen and all those composers that were popular around that time. Fritz; Serial music. Brian; Right. Although, to my recollection, I preferred ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ with my cereal. Fritz; I remember those days. We went to school around the same time, then. Brian; Aaron Copeland and Lucas Foss came to the Peabody to conduct concerts. Fritz; Really? Tell us a little about that. Brian; The Lucas Foss concert was a lot of fun. He’s this really tall man, kind of like Herman Munster and we played this composition where each section had a particular thing to play whenever he pointed at them. Copeland is, of course, lots of fun too, but this was after the school merged with John Hopkins so we actually gave the concert there, and the orchestra was all crammed into the basement and trying to watch him give his speech on a little television before the concert, so we didn’t really see all that much of him, I’m afraid. Someone else did the rehearsals, as I recall. Fritz; Lucas Foss. That’s amazing. So where did you fit into all of this? Brian; I didn’t fit in too well, actually. Fritz; Weren’t into serial music? Brian; Too much math. Frankly speaking, I found much of it aesthetically challenging. Not to mention the thinking that music had evolved to this point. There seemed to be a definite attitude that they had arrived at an ultimate music. Me, I said there was not an ultimate musical form, that it really didn’t matter a whole lot. This was a long time before the reaction to all of this. Fritz; Ah yes, the minimalist school and its manifesto. They said basically the same thing. And then everyone was minimalists. Brian; Yeah, it was kind of like that song ’Blue Jay Way.’ (sings) ’Please don’t
bee-long.’ Fritz; Yeah. It’s like there’s no ultimate musical form, but if anyone asks, it’s minimalism. And what is minimalism, anyway? Brian; A really weak label. I mean Beethoven was a minimalist. (sings again) duh duh duh dahh. Fritz; It seemed to have something to do with being a communist, too. Brian; Well, that’s one thing I never said; that you had to be a communist. I mean where’s that coming from? Kind of the flip side of Plato. That was an area I definitely disagreed with the minimalist manifesto; that music must have a political end. That’s just me. Seems a bit un-liberal arts like to have a manifesto in the first place. I don’t think Beethoven was a communist. Fritz; But you often describe yourself as coming from a minimalist background. Brian; Yes, coming from, definitely. Fritz; So tell us about your experiences with minimalists. I understand that you spent some time in a very bizarre minimalist group. Brian; You speak of D.O.M.E.S. Fritz; Domes? Brian: It’s an acronym. I forget for what, exactly. It was a long cerebral thing. A most un-minimalist description of what was supposed to be basically a minimalist orchestra of around twelve. All composers. Fritz; Good lord! Brian; Yes, it was more neurotic than you could ever imagine. If any group could have used a manifesto…but no. Fritz; How did this get started? Brian; We were all students at Cal State Fullerton. I was doing a bit of graduate work there. I had kind of gone underground since Peabody where my views on serial music had made me so un-popular and, lo and behold, there were students at Cal state Fullerton doing really similar things as to what I was doing. Tonality was back in style. I had participated in some of the composition forums that they held and another thing that impressed me was that the composition professor there was not dictatorial about what style the students wrote in. There was a wide range of
styles represented and he always tried to be constructive with his criticism, I thought. Anyway this professor had a minimalist group that was pretty popular and, before long, I had fallen in with another group, of students, that was loosely modeled after this professor’s group. This was, of course, D.O.M.E.S. Fritz; Instrumentation? Brian; Two electric keyboards, xylophone or marimba, full drum kit, electric bass, upright bass, electric violin and assorted vocalists. Fritz; You were electric violin, I take it? Brian; Yeah, I actually replaced electric ’cello, who was a girl in my string quartet. I had a hard time, at first, because I didn’t get it, right away. Our parts were these, usually short lines or phrases that had notes on how many times to repeat each one. It was usually anywhere from ten to twenty and I usually lost count. The leader, who was usually unreservedly dictatorial was diplomatic and made out like I was improvising and feigned indulgence for my creative whims. As time went on, I realized that, yes, they really wanted every phrase repeated the exact number of times indicated verbatim with no deviation and, yes, he would have liked to have shot me in the head rather than suffer any deviance from what was written. And this was my baptism into the new minimalism. Fritz; But did you like the group? Brian; Like it? I loved it! It was a great group. Granted I didn’t love everything about it. Some of the musical offerings I didn’t care for, actually, but there was enough variety, that there was plenty to like. Sometimes the egos were rather annoying, but there were often great fights that went on and, very often at the very worst times, like at the dress rehearsals, on location, so that the club manager or whatever would be giving the rest of us looks like, ’is this concert really going to happen?’ But the show would always go on, and then, you’d often see the audience fighting on the way out, some of them hating it and some of then loving it. The greatest thing about D.O.M.E.S., though was that practically each member had their own take on what minimalism was, and what the group was, for that matter, so there was really this big diversity going on under one cover, so to speak. Most of it had some pop leanings, so it was really fascinating to see how this mixed in with the different composers. Fritz; If you wanted to get really technical, couldn’t you call most pop music and, especially like, rap music, minimalism? Brian; I think so. That’s why I call minimalism a really weak label. It applies to so many musical genres. I mean there’s Beethoven’s fifth again. Five movements of
a pretty large symphony generated out of just four notes. You can’t get much more minimalist than that. Fritz; Well, you can. Brian; Well…yeah.
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