Frederic Rzewski Visits America

Publishing and Recording

FRANK J. OTERI: How about publishing and recording? You took a very interesting stance that we did a news story about on NewMusicBox, the notion of “copyleft” as opposed to copyright

FREDERIC RZEWSKI: Yes.

FRANK J. OTERI: Now we’re in an era where all the record companies are all up in arms about the proliferation of file swapping. Everything’s going to be free and there will no longer be an economy to fuel the making of recordings. And, theoretically, scores can similarly be swapped, so what is a publisher to do? The models that have been the infrastructure for music are now at a crossroads.

FREDERIC RZEWSKI: I have very little to do with music publishers and this is something that’s always puzzled me because I have spent most of my professional life doing new music, not merely my own, but other composers, yet I’ve had little or no contact with the world of publishing. I’ve felt that one of us must be wrong and I’ve decided it’s them. I can think of very few cases where music publishers are actually helping the cause of new music. In most cases they are obstacles to the dissemination of new music. And quite sincerely I can’t understand why anyone would want to be a music publisher in the first place! It must be very difficult to make money with new music. Why would anyone want to do it? I think it would be better if they just disappeared. Besides, today you don’t need music publishers, you can be your own publisher.

FRANK J. OTERI: I know so many people in that world who really are true believers in and crusaders for new music.

FREDERIC RZEWSKI: Yes, I know, it has a symbolic value, which still carries a lot of weight. It’s somehow a form of prestige if your music is published by a well-known publisher. But as far as I can see, most of these people don’t do anything for the music. On the contrary, they just take the money and run!

FRANK J. OTERI: I think there are some important exceptions to this, not just publishers but record companies as well. Take Nonesuch, for example, putting out this seven CD set of your music. That’s a tremendous endorsement of you and your work. It’s atypical in our time or in any time. It’s a huge statement for them to be making. And I know it’s going to be lower priced than a seven CD set would normally be in order to reach more people. A lot of work on their part went into this. And that’s true for the other smaller labels that have put out your music over the years like New Albion and O.O. Discs and CRI. And record companies are businesses so this is an investment they’ve made. But one wonders with what is going on in the record business right now, where this will be ten years from now…

FREDERIC RZEWSKI: I don’t know. I have never understood the music industry. I don’t know how it works. I know very little about it. I’ve had very little contact with it. I’ve done a number of things for various record companies. But as far as Nonesuch is concerned, this is the first time I’ve had a contact at a record company that has actually asked my opinion about certain things like: am I happy about the cover, and so forth. I’m very flattered by that. But I don’t know how it works. I don’t know what they hope to achieve. I’m just glad they’re doing it. I don’t know anything about the music business.

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