Interview with Ken Vandermark, Andrew Morgan and David Ryan


DR: Which composers from the classical genre would you admire, Ken?

KV: Well, I’m a big fan of Cage and the way his ideas can be used. I like Elliot Carter and Helmut Lachenmann a fair bit, Lutoslawski, Feldman also. So, very complex writing on the one hand, like Carter or Ligeti, and then a much more transparent approach like Feldman. Generally I like things that deal with the way things can sound…exploring the idea of sound. Xenakis, of course…

DR: …in terms of blocks of sound, or sonorities?

KV: Yes, with the jazz tradition, the way I deal with those things is in terms of sound as well. I’m not a harmonic thinker; so it doesn’t seem to that strange to go from Ellington to Sun Ra, and on to Xenakis.

AM: [to audience] As we are rambling on, please feel free to contribute!

DR: Yes, any questions from the audience??

Audience member: You mentioned the conversation in Portugal with a Paul; was that Paul Bley or Paul Lytton?

KV: it was Paul Lytton; Paul Bley would never talk [laughter]

Audience Member: I think he put to you ‘what are you going to contribute?’ or ‘How differently will you do things…’ Am I right in thinking that?

KV: In the context I think it was a bit more complex than that; not so much well we did this, what are you going to do? It was more the willingness to abandon something you really care about and loved in order to find something that’s your own. Were you willing to take that risk? I think it was more in that vein…which is not just an intellectual exercise, it’s an emotional one too.

Audience Member: It just reminds me of a Sun Ra film I saw a while back, and in it he said, like, history is his story. Then he turned to somebody else and said ‘what’s your story?’, that is, ditch what has gone before, you personally take it somewhere it hasn’t been before, and do something different…

KV: Yes that was definitely a big deal with Mr […?]

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