Michael Tilson Thomas: Making Anything Sound Good



Michael Tilson Thomas
Interview Excerpt #10


FRANK J. OTERI: So to tie all these loose ends sort of together, that dreaded word crossover. You certainly made what I think is one of the greatest musical theater recordings when you did Gershwin‘s pair of musicals Of Thee I Sing and Let ‘em Eat Cake.

MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: Thank you.

FRANK J. OTERI: Is there room in the world of the orchestra to open the door to other styles and how far do you go before it no longer is that style and no longer is the orchestra?

MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: I don’t know that that’s really an important issue. I mean, obviously, the question of putting orchestra and classical music together with pop music in some ways has been done forever. Mostly done badly. Because it’s just been kind of two different styles dumped on top of one another and not really a very discrete or interesting sense of selecting just those sounds which would be appropriate or necessary. But there are some composers who have explored that territory. John Adams of course… Steve Mackey has recently been VERY effective at selecting most unusually chosen sounds from the classical and pop sides of things and deftly putting them juxtaposed one to another. And I think work like that suggests that there’s a lot more still there.

FRANK J. OTERI: And certainly it becomes just like the orchestra gets to be Hungarian for a week. You would take on, you know it’s, it’s once again, a set of vernaculars that you then impose upon a repertory.

MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: But the staying power of it for me comes back to the central question. After that music is finished playing, is there something about it that has stuck with you enough that will still be with you a week a later. A year later? A decade later? That is the true measure of the importance and excellence of the music we love.

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