Interviewee of the Year

You can hear here an eleven-minute interview that Steve Paulson did with me for “The Best of Our Knowledge” about Cage’s 4’33”.  I couldn’t listen to all of it, my own voice on the radio makes me squirm. I’m in love with my own words – when I see them in print, not when I’m speaking them. I wish I spoke more slowly and evenly and with more gravitas, though my style does seem to be entertaining in the classroom. It didn’t really occur to me that I had written books about two composers both born in the same year, 1912, until the joint centennial rolled around. Now I’m much in demand for interviews and conferences, always on the same two subjects, about which I have decreasingly little to say. Meanwhile, I’m hip-deep in all the Ives music that relates to the Concord Sonata, and would love to talk about that instead. When Cage died I wrote three Village Voice articles about him in quick succession. For the next few months I was deluged by organizations trying to get me to come to their Cage concerts, since I was obviously a Cage fanatic; my editor, on the other hand, was saying, “That’s enough about Cage for awhile, maybe you should find something else to write about,” and I fully agreed. How quickly we get pigeonholed!, and people assume that what we’ve already done is all we want to continue doing. Luckily, I’ve also been asked to give keynote addresses at Partch and Earle Brown conferences in the coming months, both at Northeastern University, so that will give my brain a chance to exercise on a couple of new tracks. However, since I do love getting free airfare to travel to exotic places, it occurred to me to quickly churn out books on Babbitt, Bernstein, and Lou Harrison, to take advantage of the next round of centennials coming up.



  1. says

    Thanks for posting. Made me realize I’d never heard your speaking voice over all these years, all the while unconsciously supplying some ghostly construct when reading your posts. No need to squirm – plenty of gravitas because it comes through just how well you know what you’re talking about. Came across Coomaraswamy back in the 60’s and had forgotten about him, but your short summary of his work made me realize just how much of his thought I’d incorporated into my own. Hope you’ll consider posting your address on Partch.

    KG replies: Thanks, Lyle. Let me wait and see how it turns out.

  2. Ian says

    I know exactly how you feel Kyle, I can’t bear the sound of my own voice and especially watching myself in a video interview.
    However I found a solution, I went to speech therapy. Speech therapists are really skilled, she got me to slow down, speak more softly, voice consonants properly, get correct vowel sounds and many other things. Not only has my speaking improved but I have become much more confident. Also a mistake is seen in context which can be worked on.

    KG replies: If I had it to do over again, I’d go to a speech therapist and get rid of my southern accent. When I was young I was too proud and refused to be ashamed of where I was from, but it’s just held me back in academia. Not worth it.

  3. Herb Levy says

    Go ahead & write about Babbitt, Bernstein & Harrison, but I’d be more excited if you could find a publisher for the Feldman biography you couldn’t get any interest in years ago. Now that he’s better known, maybe there’s a chance.

    And someone should really do a bio of Pauline Oliveros, too.

    KG replies: Oh, it wasn’t for lack of interest, but for difficulty of access to information. The publishers don’t know what they ought to publish until I tell ’em.

  4. says

    You sound fine to me; you sound lively and engaged. Slow gravitas is not always desirable: it too often turns pompous.

    I’m sorry you regret your Southern flavoring. An actor I know gets a lot of voiceover work because of his Southern accent. He wanted to do character voices and impressions, but everyone just wants that drawl.

    KG repleis: I shoulda been an actor instead of a would-be-pompous northeastern academic.