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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


Earthly Kabala

Interview with Matthew H. Fields (a.k.a. The Doctor), Part 1

November 22, 1997


Kalvos: let's dive right into Schubert now, I mean...Matthew Fields!
Damian: ah..
Kalvos: ..our guest today, who came in from Ann Arbor to record an interview with us a few weeks ago, and we'd hoped to broadcast it a bit earlier, because some of the things he does mention have already taken place. But, that's all right.
Damian: Sure is!
Kalvos: As a matter of fact, the concert I believe took place yesterday, that he talks about. Let's move right along to being on the road..not quite on the road, at the Domicile de Kalvos, -
Damian: After a weighty meal, as I recall.
Kalvos: It was..something like that.
Begin prerecorded DAT
Dr. Matt: Oh, yeah, but you've probably read it already.
Damian: Wha? uh.
Kalvos: What are we reading?
Dr. Matt: This is-
Kalvos: WEB OF MUSIC.
Dr. Matt: This is-
Kalvos: Counterpoint of Bach and the Internet.
Dr. Matt: This is an advert for stuff that's coming up three weeks from now in-not in your state!
Kalvos: But wait, but wait, it won't be three weeks from now, because this will be happening the very week that we're broadcasting this interview. Look,-
Dr. Matt: So that's even better.
Kalvos: Even Better? than the night of Friday the twentyfirst of November at 8 pm at Kerrytown Concert Hall--Kerrytown?--Ann Arbor!
Damian: Uh, these are all Virtual People, they don't really exist outside of the Internet.
Kalvos: But look, it's Rick St Clair, he's been here. Jeff Harrington, we interviewed him!
Damian: Yes but-
Kalvos: And who's this guy? Matt -- Hugh -- Fileds.
Damian: That's at the Fields department store.
Kalvos: Oh, the Fields department store. Oh, wait!
Damian: A wealthy nabob...
Kalvos: According to his Hello My Name Is badge, that's Matthew Fields right here!
Damian: Right here.
Kalvos: Our guest today. For the first time, we're recording on the road, in the domicile of the Kalvos.
Damian: It's quite a remarkable achievement to be recording here in the domicile of the Kalvos, because...technology is being born right here, even as we sit and chat [I think he was trying to steer conversation to Katherine's inductive-coupling listening device but it never got there].
Kalvos: Even as we do. Matthew H. Fields, Doctor Matt!
Dr. Matt: O-kay...
Kalvos: Welcome!
Dr. Matt: (pause) Well, thank you, it's a pleasure to be here, in Vermont, ummm...
Damian: Now you see, he said "in Vermont", not Here but in Vermont the state, he's looking forward to that good old Ben and Jerry's Factory Tour tomorrow before he departs.
Kalvos: Yeah, that's true, you're going to go on the Ben and Jerry's tour, huh?
Dr. Matt: Uhhhhh, that's what they tell me, they being you guys.
Kalvos: Excellent.
Damian: The tour guides themselves, yes.
Dr. Matt: AH, I see!
Damian: He's come all the way from Newark, we're told...
Kalvos: YES! hahahah..
Damian: ..the farthest traveler by far. Why, we don't know, but he's here to...
Kalvos: Newark, from Silver Spring, previously from Ann Arbor. Now, ... this guy... is one of the most entertaining Usenet personalities.
Dr. Matt: Ah.
Kalvos: That is in fact where we first, where we first came across each other. I began reading his posts, and Doctor Matt is one to whom you make no musicological errors. -because he will find them, and he will root them out, and he will tongue-waggle you in public.
Dr. Matt: Hm.
Damian: Ah.
Dr. Matt: Hm.
Kalvos: Heheheheh. So, Doctor Matt, tell us about yourself.
Damian: Yes, let's get to your own music so we can waggle some of our own.
Dr. Matt: Oh, good! Yeah, um, before I launch into some of My music, I can simply tell folks about a little event that's related to..
Damian: Get on with it, get on with it!
Dr. Matt: related to this show. The 21st of November, 1997, which is the year this show is first being heard-
Damian: That's Celsius, now.
Dr. Matt: yup, Actually, it's, I believe it's Eastern Standard Time. At 8 pm, also Eastern Standard Time, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is, of course, NOT where this show is first being heard, we're having..
Kalvos: (haha) This is a very complicated...
Dr. Matt: Yes, this is very complicated, we're having-
Kalvos: Yes, this is very- Really.
Dr. Matt: We have to get all this information in, when, where, why, and how,
Kalvos: With what,
Dr. Matt: Yes, we're having a little concert, that's the What.
Kalvos: Very good.
Damian: Concert!
Dr. Matt: It's a concert not of the Internet, but rather of mostly piano playing of a fellow by the name of Andrew Anderson, a very fine pianist from Ann Arbor, Andrew Anderson. He's going to be playing music mostly by composers who I found around the Internet, people with names like David W. Solomons, of Sale, Chesire, Richard St Clair of, where's that?
Kalvos: Cambridge, Massechussetts.
Dr. Matt: Well,
Damian: Sommerville.
Dr. Matt: maybe...
Damian: Sommerville.
Dr. Matt: maybe Cambridge, Massechussetts, Jeff Harrington, of Brooklyn, New Yawk, oh, here's a name that's familiar, Matthew H. Fields, I have heard of that name, you're right,
Kalvos: Yes, see that!
Dr. Matt: Anne Deane, of Santa Barbara, California, and tacked on to the end of this we have a gratuitous name, Johann Sebastian Bach, of Leipzig, uh, he seems to have the most web pages all over the Internet of anybody. I don't know why this is, since the guy seems to have been quite dead for quite some time. Um, anyhow, the, um...
Kalvos: What's the point of this?
Damian: Yeah!
Dr. Matt: The gist, the gist of it is that we're goofing around with this crap called "counterpoint". And Counterpoint is the idea that you have, umm, lots of stuff going on simultaneously, and, and, it's...
Kalvos: Sounds like a conversation, huh?
Dr. Matt: Yes, it's like a conversation in which everyone is talking at once, and yet, somehow, you can actually make sense of it all. And, when you think of it philosophically, its as if you have a timeline going in one dimension and some other aspect going in another dimension, and it comes out like some sort of a network or grid. And I thought this was a perfect metaphor for the Internet, (ha) being this incredible gridlock, ..
Kalvos: Now, that's the single most bogus analogy I've ever heard on the Kalvos and Damien's New Music Bazaar!
Dr. Matt: Thank you! I must say, you need a good bogus analogy in order to sell the concert!
Kalvos: (chuckles)
Dr. Matt: ...so this is why we call the concert Web of Music.
Kalvos: Ah!
Dr. Matt: Now, seeing as we're actually recording this the night after Halloween, we can throw in a few spider-web analogies as well...
Kalvos: Oh, please do!
Dr. Matt: ..but I'll leave that to the entymologists and the arachnologists and the folks who actually know something about that. This is one of my occasionally, um, charming, um, qualities, you will find that occasionally I'll say that things are for somebody else to tell about, somebody who actually has a clue.
Damian: Quickly tell people where they can find information about this.
Dr. Matt: Oh!YouWantItQuick!
Damian: Yes...
Dr. Matt: Okay, this is in Ann Arbor, Michigan, you can call for additional information at area 313, 769-2999, TheShowIsAt Kerrytown Concert Hall, 415 North Fourth Avenue Ann Arbor, its um, they want, we want some moneyyyy, we want $8 as you come in, $5 students and seniors, you can get assigned seats in the first five rows for $12, and-
Kalvos: [something---DAT failure]
Dr. Matt: Surf to it, with your technosurfboard,...
Kalvos: We'll put a link to it so all they have to do is go to Malted/Media and they'll find it.
Dr. Matt: Exactly. Or you can go to httpdiddlengangngnagngnngangblah.. okay. And, uh, it should be a lot of fun.
Kalvos: Okay.
Dr. Matt: Moving on to music...
Kalvos: Moving on to YOU!
Dr. Matt: Oh, we're not moving on to music?
Kalvos: No, we're moving on to you, because you are, as I tried to introduce, this very unusual personality-
Dr. Matt: Yeah, very argumentatatative-
Kalvos: YEAH! -On the web like you fight over every little point, its like, like, like-
Damian: What's the point.
[I suspected they were going to lead to this, in an effort to get me to talk about Albert Silverman, but I declined, and played along as if I were the nerd they made me out as.]
Kalvos: yuh-yuh-Yeah, is it a G flat or an F SHARP, so, like why do you go for the, the, uh...
Dr. Matt: Sometimes it's fun.
Kalvos: Uh huh...
Dr. Matt: Sometimes it's fun expecially to look around for people who've been doing exactly the same to too many other people, for far too long.
Kalvos: Oh.
Damian: So you have chosen targets?
Dr. Matt: Usually. Every so often it's fun to see what people think about learning a little more about music, and what often happens is I learn a whole lot more about all sorts of other stuff, I don't know, I just find the Internet a fun way of having a conversation. The neat thing about it, or possibly the death of it is that you can't put across any expression with it unless you, uh, are very careful with your word choice, because usually it's just typed letters on the screen.
Damian: What about those sideways smiley faces that crop up every so often? :-)
Kalvos: I don't think you've ever used one, have you?
Dr. Matt: I have used smiley faces, but..not very often, and in the areas that I frequent, they're not used nearly as often as they ought to be.
Kalvos: (Chortles)
Dr. Matt: That's part of why the medium is so unexpressive, because people are under-using good old colon-right-parentheses, when ninety percent of everything that everybody is posting--including me--is just out and out crap--
Kalvos & Damian: (laugh out loud)
Dr. Matt: or just done for the hell of it.
Damian: I think that analogy can dovetail directly into your music now.
Kalvos: Yes indeed, yes indeed, let's hear a piece of music, and then when we come back, we'll talk about how you came to be a composer and what all this self-taught business is about. What are we going to hear first?
Dr. Matt: Ah, I think we're going to start with a piece that's actually kind of about New England, as long as I'm in New England, it's a piece called Mount Washington Memories, and what it is, it's about my first trip to New England. I grew up in the Midwest, where the land is just as flat as can be for as far as you can see, and...
Kalvos: You can tell from your accent.
Dr. Matt: Yaas! Axactlay! (nasally) it's a veray flaat aaccaant. (normal) yes, exactly. So, on my first visit out here I saw mountains, I was just stunned by the sight of mountains. So I wrote this piece Mount Washington Memories, it's, um, for symphonic band, the full score runs 33 minutes, and I only have a nine-minute excerpt available, that..
Kalvos: Forgot to turn the machine on in time?
Dr. Matt: Well, the players decided, Oh, we're going to take a major cut.
Kalvos: (chortles)
Dr. Matt: So...
Kalvos: So 24 minutes was excised, that has to be a lot more than usually happens with, uh..
Dr. Matt: No, usually, with a 33 minute piece, 33 minutes get cut, this is the usual experience that composers have,with...
Kalvos: Before it happens again, let's hear it!
Dr. Matt: Okay,
Kalvos: Mount Washington Memories, by our guest, Matthew H. Fields...Doctor Matt.
[Dialogue ends, Band 2, 11 minutes. Music. Dialogue resumes Band 2, 19:21.]
Damian: My, wasn't that a bunch of nice snippets rolled together!
Kalvos: You never know, when they excise that stuff, what's going to happen! Sometimes it's total silence!
Damian: Mmmm.
Kalvos: Mount Washington Memories, music by Matt Fields. SO. Tell us about this self-taught stuff.
Dr. Matt: Self...taught?
Kalvos: You were talking earlier about, ah, over dinner, about having done some self-taught, uh, business. Is that how you got into composition, early on in your life?
Dr. Matt: Well, yeah, actually, that's true. I started out, um, oh, about four years old, playing with music and thinking, oh, I want to be a musician. And so I eventually got myself some piano lessons and got myself some cello lessons even, through the public schools, and, uhhh, had a very interesting experience that sort of, sort of changed my life. I was starting to dabble in composition as a youngster; when I was around, ohhhhhh, ten years old, I went in to a cello lesson and- I'm going to name a name, here...
Kalvos: ooooooooooooh...
Dr. Matt: I think, I think this person is going to be pleased to be named here in this context, because, this person was the cello teacher's son who was about fourteen years old at the time, um, I came into my cello lesson and here was the cello teacher's son, a person by the name of William VerMeulen, who was just playing the, uh, just playing the hell out of a Prokoffief piano sonata, um, right in the room where I was about to have my cello lesson, and I took a look at him and I said- to myself- but not out loud because I didn't want my cello teacher to hear...
Kalvos: (chortles)
Dr. Matt: You know, this is talking to yourself, it's a very useful skill for a composer...(soto voce) Composers should be able to imagine sounds...
Kalvos: It's happening right now! Say...
Dr. Matt: Yes!
Damian: No-one else is hearing you...
Dr. Matt: Yes! Very good!
Damian: Go on...
Dr. Matt: Okay, so I said to myself, well, now, that's what a performer is really about. So if I want to Be In Music, I'm going to have to find some way to be involved, some other way. So I found this composing idea, this idea that I should stick to composing as a way of being in music vicariously, kind of, because I don't have to actually make the notes- but I get a chance to participate in a, in a way that I find meaningful. Um, Bill VerMeulen went on to be one of the great living horn players, and I don't remember which orchestra he plays with right now, um, but Bill, if you're out there, I remember you.
Kalvos: So you decided one day that you were going to do this thing, this was going to be a real important role for you. And you were, how old?
Dr. Matt: By that point I was, uh, ten years old.
Kalvos: Uh huh!
Dr. Matt: And so I was self-taught. And I wrote, as we were saying, at that time I wrote quite a lot of CRAP! Exactly, as we were saying as we were trying to make a smooth transition into this topic.
Kalvos: Ah, yes!
Dr. Matt: So, yes, I wrote quite a lot of crap, but quite a lot of enthusiasm while writing all of this crap, and got...
Kalvos: Did you, Did you KEEP it? Do you still have it?
Dr. Matt: (falsetto)I have...(normal) I don't know. I may have a little bit of it in...
Damian: We'd really like to hear it.
Dr. Matt: Oh, yeah, I'm sure...
Kalvos: We must have, we must have some juvenalia from you.
Dr. Matt: Ohhh, yes, I'm sure you would like that. I suspect that, that what became of most of my earlier finished scores is that they became extra music paper for sketches for later pieces. This is an interesting practice of mine, is that you'll find pieces of paper with just all kinds of stuff all over them. So, I will leave that to your imagination!
Kalvos: Eyeah, yeah, a musicologist's dream. (chuckles)
Dr. Matt: Yeah, or a, or a, or some other kind of -ologist's dream. I will leave that (chuckle) to your imagination. Um... But yeah, I managed to get admitted into music school.
Kalvos: Uh, where was this?
Dr. Matt: Oh, (growls ominously) MUUUUSIC SCHOOLLLL! ooooooooooooo....
Kalvos: How did you get into music school, and what music school?
Dr. Matt: Um, yeah, yup, hmm, how did I?
Kalvos: How did you talk them into that?
Dr. Matt: Yeah, very interesting, how did? Well, I got admitted into Oberlin College, which is something I would recommend,
Kalvos: Yeah,
Dr. Matt: it's in Oberlin, Ohio, which is about thirty miles-
Kalvos: and that was, that was when it was still liberal, that's how you got in there, right?
Dr. Matt: Well, that was when it mumblemummumum, mumum? Well, yeah, maybe, I don't know. How did I get admitted into music school? Well, the part about Oberlin college was that I got admitted into what they called their (spooky voice) Douuuuuble-Degree Program, which is a bit, I was...
Damian: Their durable degree program?
Dr. Matt: Yes, dirbil, durable degree program.
Kalvos: Yes! ha...
Dr. Matt: You throw it against the wall, it bounces, you can fry your food in it, yes, durable degree program. Um, so I was admitted into both the school of arts and sciences and the music conservatory at the same time, and, uh, wound up, wound up taking a degree out of each, the music degree being, uh, as a composition major, and the arts and sciences degree as a mathematics major. And actually, most of what I studied for the mathematics degree was this, uh, newfangled stuff that was just starting to be accepted as an academic study, an academic field called computer science.
Kalvos: Ahah! So, this was, about, about what time? About what year?
Dr. Matt: So that takes us up to, yeah-
Kalvos: Sixty, sixty-five, say?
Dr. Matt: Well..
Kalvos: How'm I, how'm I guessing here? Just guessing...
Dr. Matt: (nasal) Naaaaa, I'm younger than that. I got my double degrees in eighty-five,...
Kalvos: Oooh!
Dr. Matt: (muppet voice) So I'm only a baby!
Kalvos: Oooh! He's a KID!
Dr. Matt: Yeah! whee!
Kalvos: Yeah, I wondered, that explains it!
Damian: It does, it explains a lot.
Dr. Matt: What? Uh?
Damian: (paternal) Grow up!
Dr. Matt: (he-man voice) Oh, okay! yes, okay. (normal) So, from there, I thought, oh, let's take this computer stuff and this music stuff, and try to combine it, so I looked around the country, where can you combine... Well, so what came to mind was the great computer music studios of the country, and what everybody was telling me was, well, there's a good one in Brooklyn, and there's a good one at Stanford. And, you know, there's actually others that were doing much more innovative stuff at the time. Stanford, in my opinion, when I got there, was running on reputation and would do its next innovation just shortly after I left. Which...
Damian: Who was there, at the time?
Dr. Matt: Who was there at the time? Hmm. Well, John Chowning was, well, hanging out, and he eventually was, he seemed to be moving into more of an administrative role. I don't know if he was actually making any music, I was under the impression that he hadn't actually made new music for about ten years. Ummm, William Schottstaedt was there and is still there, and is, from what I hear, sort of rolling in the direction of taking over duties from Chowning, he was making a very new-agey kind of music, um, Chris Chafe was there, he was doing, um, on-the-run live signal processing, he had developed a cello input device, a cello with no body which he was using as an input to a physical model of a cello, which, to me, seemed sort of like the hard way around, but...
Kalvos: (laughs out loud) That's excellent! Yes!
Dr. Matt: Yes, he was using it because, uh, because, of course, it's extensible. Once you've got this physical model of the cello, you can say, well, what if this cello's reverberative properties were different in just THIS little way. And of course now you don't have to find yourself a luthier and have a new cello built. You can just alter the parameters of the program.
Kalvos: A cello built like a Franklin stove, for example!
Dr. Matt: Yes! What if your cello's built out of a Franklin stove? Umm. I dunno if.
Kalvos: Or a Texas Oil Drum Cello.
Damian: Oooooh, ooooh!
Dr. Matt: Yes, or..
Damian: Or an UnCello.
Kalvos: Or an UnCello, yes!
Dr. Matt: Yes...or seven cellos. Seven UnCellos. Ummm.
Damian: That UnCello actually refers to an instrument that our Kalvos built, once upon a time, for a piece.
Dr. Matt: Aha, yup. I was thinking maybe it was, maybe it was a topping for pizza.
Kalvos: It could be that, too.
[End CD 1]
[Cd 2 band 1]
Kalvos: ... Yes, anchello, but he doesn't eat them...
Dr. Matt: Ah!
Kalvos: ...just like he doesn't eat olives.
Dr. Matt: Oh, no olives, no anchellos,...
Kalvos: I think he won't eat olives because it contains most of the same letters as "viola", rearranged.
Damian: Ugh! Yeah! I didn't think about that, but subconciously I must have known.
Kalvos: Must have, yes.
Dr. Matt: Oh! It's...
Kalvos: So you...
Dr. Matt: It's voila!
Kalvos: Voila, yes. So you were...
Dr. Matt: I never played the voila.
Kalvos: No, no. So you were, so you had a little, you had, uh, you were bored at Stanford.
Dr. Matt: Uh, yeah, that's correct. Actually, what I found at Stanford was that I, I wasn't progressing as a composer. I was progressing as a user of their pre-canned technology, and I was finding myself less and less interested in busting open the hood of their technology and tweaking it to make my own technology, and slowly slowly slowly build up my own little unique world of sounds and my own set of electronic instruments, and so on and so forth until finally, uh, many years down the road, I might make a piece! that's totally unique and all this stuff, I, I found myself also more and more attracted to working with live performers, and, uh, kinda, kinda disappointed in my own music. And, in fact, I didn't bring any of my music from before the time that I left Stanford. I usually don't...
Damian: That IS disappointing.
Dr. Matt: Yeah.
Damian: To us.
Dr. Matt: Yes, I'm sure.
Damian: But now you're ready to play a new piece.
Dr. Matt: Uh.
Kalvos: Yes, you're going to play a new piece for us, and when we come back from this piece,...
Damian: We'll try to be a little more specific...
Kalvos: ...we want to hear about how hard you had to work...at Stanford..... It has to do with bovines. Let's hear another piece, what'll it be?
Dr. Matt: This piece is called Kabala,...
Kalvos: (sinister Disney character voice) Ah, Kabala!
F...and the, the title refers to the, um, old Jewish idea of getting new insights out of the old testament, and the music works by taking (sarcastic voice) old-fashioned stuff like invertable counterpoint, and canon by inversion, (normal) and trying to make something new, and maybe a little (sinister voice) creepy (normal) out of it. So I think that's enough to say about it.
Kalvos: Kabala. Music by Matthew H. Fields-Doctor Matt.
[MUSIC]
Damian: There you are.
Kalvos: He's all right, he's caught his breath. Kabala, music by Matt Fields. Uh, before we left for, to hear that dramatic piece...
Damian: Did you say Germanic?
Kalvos: Germanic? Dramatic, uh, might as well contra-
Damian: Germanic?
Kalvos: Germanic piece..hahaha, we might as well contrast it with the story of your treks over the hills, uh, at Stanford.
Dr. Matt: Ah, yes, this is backtracking back to Stanford, or should we say, back-TREKing OVER Stanford. Yes, when I first arrived at Stanford, the computer music lab was about five miles off clampus, off...
Kalvos: Hmm, clampus!
Dr. Matt: Yes...
Damian: right.
Dr. Matt: Clampus..
Kalvos: huhh.
Damian: right.
Dr. Matt: This is one of these...
Kalvos: Beverly Hillbillies!
Dr. Matt: Urr, yes, yes, with the campus clan, there comes the Clampus can...
Kalvos: Yes!
Dr. Matt: The compass...
Kalvos: He's in trouble, he's in trouble! Take two, take two! (tongue click)
Dr. Matt: But we don't do a Take Two here, right?
Kalvos: Right! You're on!
Dr. Matt: Well, who wants a clampus, huh? So I used to have to, uh, to get from the campus to the computer music studio, I used to have to walk through a region of an area called Los Altos Hills, um, I used to have the fun of ascending to the Stanford Radio-Telescope, which is atop a fairly sizeable hill from which you can see much of the Bay Area, San Francisco Bay Area, very wonderfully, um, I, um, I think I could make out the Transamerica Pyramid from there, uh...
Kalvos: Which is in Chicago, which is what's so astounding about it!
Dr. Matt: Yes, of course!
Kalvos: Oh, no, I'm sorry!
Dr. Matt: (throughout this, K and G make sundry sotto voce snickers) And, uh, quite a bit of Berkley... and, um, and then I would descend the other side of it, through a bunch of, um, fields that are owned by the university, by Stanford university, and are often used by the, um, by Stanford University, I guess they often rent the use of it to local farmers, and local farmers, I guess, graze their cattle and sometimes horses on this land, and so, I would walk, late at night, with, uh, when I was lucky, with some moonlight, never bothered keeping track of when there would be moonlight or not, um, out to the computer music studio, five miles away, and my schedule was such that I often liked to leave late Friday evening, go there, work at the computers for as long as I could, usually that took me to about Sunday morning, and then I would walk back, take a dinner at my co-op, and collapse, and if I was lucky, I would wake up in time to teach my Monday morning classes. And if I wasn't, well, tough on me, and the students got to run away free. Um, but what was interesting was that these farmers were grazing their horses there, and, um, or mostly their cattle. And so, I had the fun of encountering them, sometimes by day, and sometimes by night, totally unexpectedly.
Kalvos: This is almost X-Files material, you know, you can almost hear the sound of the, of the cattle gently lowing, as the, uh, spinning disk comes up from overhead, haha!
Dr. Matt: Yes, but...
Damian: So I observe you were walking through crop circles, too, no doubt...
Dr. Matt: I didn't have that pleasure. No, I must say, none of those experiences made it into any of my music except for one little experience where, there's one place along the way where I had to pass over this little babbling brook. And all the way there, after passing the brook, I would contemplate, well, how do you synthesize the sound of a babbling brook? And eventually what I came up with was something that I later learned was well known to other people in the field, it was something that Xenakis had been playing with, which simply taking an enormous number of little teeny events and adding them together, he was calling it granular synthesis...
Kalvos: Right, exactly...
Dr. Matt: ...and so, what I figured was, Oh, the sound of the babbling brook is basically the combination of a bunch of semi-random individual little Plinks, uh, made by each droplet, uh, uh, of the brook And so I immediately wrote a program that generated several thousands of notes per second, and very quickly synthesized the sound of a flushing toilet,...
Kalvos: Heh!
Dr. Matt: ...and I realized that I'd overdone it. (guffaws all around) And so the first thing I did was I reduced the reverberation, and I, uh, reduced the number of notes to about 250 per second. And then I did have a pretty good babbling brook, and I did use that in a piece of music, and maybe I'll use that in another piece of music, but we're not going to hear that piece of music this evening.
Kalvos: So how did you get back to uh, acoustic, uh, just about what seems only acoustic composition? What attracted you away from the ability to have such dramatic control over what you were doing as a composer to giving up so much of that control to the, uh, the vagaries of performance?
Dr. Matt: Well, part of it was...that when you have all that control, you have all that responsibility. And so...
Kalvos & Damian: (uproarous laughter)
Dr. Matt: ..and so, yes, they, they go hand in hand. I, I had, I found it really kind of tiring to sit there and try to make every note expressive, when I knew that if I had handed the part to, say, a cellist, who had some, who was actually able to play the cello, unlike me, that they would make something expressive, good enough, uh, for what I wanted. It didn't have to be exactly how I envisioned it, it could still be pretty good, so long as it used notes that were at least as good as the notes that I had thought of.
Kalvos: (chortles)
Dr. Matt: And so I set...
Kalvos: And let that be a lesson to YOU!
Damian: I...
Kalvos: Let the performers use notes at least as good as the ones you would have come up with and that should be just fine enough!
Damian: I stand corrected!
Kalvos: None of this perfectionist stuff.
Dr. Matt: Well, of course, I love it when they play the notes that I've written, because often I've obsessed over them to try to get them to be "perfect". But often I've had the experience of players bringing me performances with wrong notes that sound really groovey.
Kalvos: (laughing under his breath)
Dr. Matt: And I, of course, I've had more experiences, as of course many of us composers have, of players bringing us wrong notes that sound really lousy...
Kalvos: (Huh!)
Dr. Matt: ...and we just learn to deal with it once it's out of our hands, because, this is the joy of working with performers, it's no longer our responsibility! And so, we get a certain amount of...
Damian: of blame.
Dr. Matt: ...of blame...
Kalvos: (belly-laugh)
Dr. Matt: ...but we know in our hearts that the responsibility for playing the notes right lies with the performers, and so we can, uh, shrug it off, if we want, if we are so inclined. And the neat thing is, then, that you have these different performances, and if you're lucky, people listen to these different performances and say, (snivelling voice) Oh, one of these performances must have a wrong note. (normal) Or something like that. But this, this of course only happens with, with, uh, pieces that do get that much attention. And...
Kalvos: Does it, does that, do you have that experience frequently?
Dr. Matt: Do I have that experience...? I... well, I often have the experience of my electronic performances, of, of somebody listening to an electronic mock-up like the one we just heard, and pointing at my score and saying, Hey, your software kicked out wrong notation here, you might want to check it out. This is of course the old blind spot problem, that you sit there proofreading this stuff, and proofreading it and proofreading it, and it's not until you get it into the hands of performers and they proofread it a second time, and play it for you exactly as it IS written, that you learn that your software has left out a sharp, or added a natural, or, uh, or kicked out an ink blot, or something like that.
Damian: The joy of discovery!
Dr. Matt: Yeah!
Kalvos: Exactly!
Dr. Matt: It's always wonderful, it's kind of like, um, improvising, only, only not as fun.
Kalvos: (laughs out loud) Let's hear one of these, uh, not-fun improvisations. What have we got next?
Dr. Matt: Oh! This one we've got here is a piece I wrote...it's in a very different vein from the last two pieces that we heard, this is for, uh, soprano voice, ...
Kalvos: Ooooh.
Dr. Matt: Yeah. Uh, with words by my ex-wife, (spooky voice) ooooohhhh, 'ex-wife', great..great term, umm...
Kalvos: Hm-hm-hmmmm!
Dr. Matt: (normal) and, um, soprano voice and tenor recorder, we're getting a little bit atavistic here,
Kalvos: Well, actually I was thinking it must be something you did on the cheap.
Dr. Matt: Ughhhhh!
Kalvos: Tenor recorder and soprano voice, what?!
Dr. Matt: and, uh, harpsichord,...
Kalvos: (sad voice) ohhh, man.
Dr. Matt: So there we're getting a little more expensive...
Kalvos: oh, mannnn.
Dr. Matt: ...and guitar, ....
Damian: Ughhh!
Dr. Matt: Oooh!
Kalvos: ohhhh. This is beginning to sound like Public Radio!
Dr. Matt: Uhyeah, uh-oh!
Kalvos: (chortles)
Dr. Matt: ...and string quartet.
Kalvos & Damian: -(whining) oooh, oh, man, uhhhh, (etc.)
Dr. Matt: Uuuuuuooo!
Damian: Well, nighty-night!
Kalvos: Here we go again. What's the name of this tune?
Dr. Matt: Yeah. This piece is called :Crossroads", and it's in three movements...
Kalvos & Damian: (whining) Ughhhh. Ohhhhh. [etc.]
Damian: Will we hear all of them, or are you just excerpting?
Dr. Matt: Well, I um, I guess, I'm going to let you guys start the tape and I guess I'll find out! Right?
Kalvos: You'll find out!
Dr. Matt: ...and what do we do, will we be coming back from this? Or will...
Kalvos: We sure will. We're coming back!
Dr. Matt: Oh, boy.
Kalvos: So let's hear it.
Damian: Crosswords.
Kalvos: (laughing) Crosswords.
Damian: Oh. Right.
Dr. Matt: Crossroads.
Kalvos: Crossrords, I can't say it now, it's confused...Crossroads, music by Matthew Fields-who are the performers?
Dr. Matt: We have Nancy Leinonen Howells of, um, of Sommerville, Massechussetts, here, is the si-is the soprano, uh, Roxanne Layton, also of Mannheim Steamroller is the, is the recordist, um, we have Tom Noren on the guitar, uh, Brian Moll on the harpsichord, umm, Annie Cheng and Max Chen on violins, Jennifer Grucza on the viola, and Edward Wu on the cello.
Kalvos: Here it is: Crossroads, music by Matt Fields.
[Dialogue ends. First movement of Crossroads. Interview continues 15 minutes into second show.]