I’ve Got a Question

I love to read interviews. Audio or video recordings of interviews are better yet; seeing and hearing the subject’s responses helps me understand shadings that may have been lost in a trancription. What I enjoy most about interviews, though, is also the best reason to be skeptical of them: the disconnect between what the interviewee says and what he or she actually thinks—in other words, the interviewee’s strategy, the maneuvering and information-packaging that often accompanies the presentation of what may be, on the face of it, a completely factual response.

I heard a number of short interviews with the Minnesota Orchestra’s featured young composers at the Future Classics concert some weeks ago, one before each piece; although the questions and answers weren’t especially penetrating, all of the composers acquitted themselves well and nobody sounded like a moron, which I guess is the number one goal of such a pre-performance chat. I also listened to an interview or two given in conjunction with the recent Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary Music wherein composers were asked to reflect at length on recent works. All of the above composers were cooperative, informative, and eager to discuss their work, but in each case a soupçon (at least) of ideological framing was clearly detectable. It’s these subtleties of presentation that fascinate me most about interviews.

So last week, when for the first time I had the chance to interview a musician myself, I was particularly curious to assess this band of data. As University of Minnesota theorist (and seasoned interviewer) Sumanth Gopinath and I sat down to ask renowned violinist Irvine Arditti a few questions about his storied career and the directions he might pursue in the future, I was lacing my conversational boots in anticipation of the downright Agrippan discursive footwork I’ve come to expect from interviews regarding contemporary music, but there was none to be found in Arditti’s responses: He’s a working musician, he’s seen it all, and he’s absolutely clear on what his goals are when he collaborates with composers and what running a globe-trotting new music string quartet is like in 2009. His comments were refreshingly straightforward; he had no agenda to surreptitiously advance other than the continued success of his group (and there’s no surreptitiousness to be found there).

A video of the interview will be available in the not-terribly-distant future—I’ll keep you posted. It’s not to be missed.

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