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Talking Music: Conversations With John Cage, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and Five Generations of American Experimental Composers Hardcover – June, 1995

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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Duckworth, a music professor at Bucknell, is a composer himself, which helps when talking to avant-garde composers about their works. His book consists of lengthy, original interviews with 17 of them, beginning with the granddaddy of them all, John Cage, who died three years ago at 80, and concluding with John Zorn, who is barely into his 40s. The profiles are sympathetic, informed and lucid, teasing a remarkable quantity of information, even emotion, out of people whose music, to a majority of listeners, must seem remote or perverse. Most of the composers?experimentalists, minimalists, performance artists?describe years of experimentation, often in conditions of adversity and poverty, before having achieved their signature forms and styles. They have a great deal in common: few of them are remotely interested in the Western classical music tradition (John Cage acknowledges here, "I don't have an ear for music and I never have; I can't remember a melody"); many are more interested in rhythm and timbre than in harmony, melody or counterpoint; and Indian, Asian and African musical styles are common sources of inspiration. Some?Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass?now have a measure of fame and success, while others, such as Conlon Nancarrow and Pauline Oliveros, remain essentially fringe figures, though with devoted followings. Duckworth's enthusiasm and understanding help to make them all more comprehensible. Illustrated.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"These composers open up to Duckworth. . . . Even the mysteries of the creative process are not beyond discussion.... There are plenty of gems [in this book]". -- Opera News --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 489 pages
  • Publisher: Schirmer Books (June 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0028708237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0028708232
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,045,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By scarecrow VINE VOICE on May 8, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Willian Duckworth is marvelous at asking questions,he is so natural at it that he makes you feel you have known his guests all your life. He allows everyone to feel at home, at ease,like catching more flies with sugar quip. Like asking John Cage for instance, "I don't have a very good understanding of what your early musical training was like,". or to La Monte Young, asking if he is the "father of minimalism", I guess it doesn't matter now, since most of what is discussed has played itself out. Here Duckworth interviews creators of primary creative genres of Americana leaning toward the achievements of all the various,nefarious "isms", experimentalism, minimalism, well just intonation doesn't fit, and the ubiquitously opaque post-modernity. And progressing from who are considered the Mammas and Pappas to the younger generation.The genre of Interviews seem to be occurring with greater frequency,speaking of one of the features of post-modernity. It is the most immediate way of knowing someone's art, aesthetic, how they feel about the world,about politics, or how they don't feel. Obsessions are explored in these interviews,as with John Zorn's early buying jags of recordings,jazz etc.,and formative years as with La Monte Young and his obsessions with sound, listening to telephone generators,or machines, the inherent drone in these industrial objects,Also professional associations, and disassociations with the New York scene,Fluxus which includes,just about everyone here interviewed is probed, with nice discussions of the early years of performance art in New York City.Read more ›
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Philippe Vandenbroeck VINE VOICE on November 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a very entertaining collection of interviews. Duckworth takes his time to explore the issues sufficiently deeply with his interlocutors. Hence, there is substance to the book: it certainly is more than a loose collection of freewheeling conversations. And I am grateful for the fact that Bill Duckworth expanded his survey beyond the obvious collection of Minimalists and Cage. I knew nothing about Pauline Oliveros, Glen Branca or La Monte Young and came away refreshed from reading all their stories. I was generally satisfied by the way Duckworth steers the interviews. The tone is relaxed, sometimes earnest, sometimes tongue-in-cheeck. He is at his very best in the long, sometimes rambling conversations with La Monte Young and John Zorn. But in other cases - such as with the more rigorous and perhaps intellectually more intimidating personality of Steve Reich - Duckworth rigidly sticks to his agenda and fails to capture a number of potentially interesting tangents. The interview with John Cage is outright funny in the way Duckworth fails to catch on with what Cage really tries to get across. He keeps asking the wrong questions whilst Cage, with dwindling patience, is making broad excursions in conceptual hyperspace. But if Duckworth fails to capture a number of interesting opportunities to dig deeper in some of the interviews, this remains a very valuable collection, at least for those new to the whole field of American experimental music.
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By musicgalaxyman on February 18, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
William Duckworth is probably the best author on music theory in the world's history.

This book is a series of interviews with people whose music I have no interest in, but the stories are so fun, it's in my car all the time and i read it at lunch and the cover is falling off.

an author and musician
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By Patrick Gubler on January 3, 2015
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wonderful book--I read it years ago and bought this copy as a gift for a friend
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mary Beth Flory on October 17, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I ordered this book for my daughter for her doctoral music class. I really don't know anything about the book.
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