Ingram Marshall: Today’s Music Tomorrow
FRANK J. OTERI: We’ve sort of been talking about jazz indirectly in all of this. In your early experience as a composer did you interface with jazz musicians, did you play jazz?
INGRAM MARSHALL: Not really very much. I never played jazz except when I was in, you know, junior high school. I guess I played in a so-called jazz band; I played trumpet, but it wasn’t real. You know how those things are. I loved jazz when I was in college, I used to go with friends. I went to college near Chicago and we used to go down to Sutherland Lounge and the Blue…What was it called? Something Blue. Then in New York in the ’60s when I was in graduate school we use to go down to The Five Spot, places like that to hear Mingus or Monk, people like that. So I certainly was exposed to it but I definitely was not participating in it and I was the audience. It didn’t affect my music very much; not anymore than rock did.
FRANK J. OTERI: Well, to get to rock, an interesting thought, because the whole notion of a recording as text, that’s not really improvised music that’s worked out; you may be doing it live in concert in a bunch of different versions but the version that becomes a part of history is the recording and I’m thinking of rock groups in the ’60s that were really trying to make albums that were texts. You grew up at a time when rock suddenly became serious.
INGRAM MARSHALL: Yeah. And there were some good albums that you’d want to listen to as albums. The White Album or what was that Stones album where they were like…I can’t remember the name.
FRANK J. OTERI: …Nashville Skyline…
INGRAM MARSHALL: You know, it was like going to a movie.
FRANK J. OTERI: Is that different for you than so-called composed classical music? Is there still a wall?
INGRAM MARSHALL: I think it is different. I think the intentions of the creation are different. It’s not a question of high art/low art, like we were talking about earlier, you know, one is elevated and more important to our culture and the other one is more of a vernacular. It’s not about that so much. It’s more about the traditions and where they come from and, you know, the seriousness, I guess, of what it is you’re trying to say. This can lead into dangerous waters.
FRANK J. OTERI: Well, it’s eventually going to lead to Dark Waters…
INGRAM MARSHALL: [laughs] … But some composers are very comfortable being kind of in between. I mean, I think of Philip Glass as being very much that way. I mean, I admire him a lot. The other night, in fact, I ran into you at White Raven, and I had a really good feeling after that was over. To me, it was like coming out of a really good musical. And that everyone was happy and satisfied. It was just well done and it was a wonderful dramatic…
FRANK J. OTERI: It was beautiful.
FRANK J. OTERI: Well, Tosca was entertainment at the turn-of-the-century, a hundred years ago. I mean, it’s wonderful, but it’s a soap opera.
INGRAM MARSHALL: I think it’s true. We sometimes elevate opera beyond its original…
FRANK J. OTERI: Verdi was practically the Richard Rodgers of his day. He was writing shows and they were getting produced and I guess we don’t really have that anymore. Broadway has become so corporation driven…there isn’t as much a sense of a creator, a creative voice from show to show anymore. Someone like Sondheim is a tolerated renegade elder statesman at this point…
INGRAM MARSHALL: Well, believe it or not, I think some of Glass‘ stuff is the equivalent because the audience for that is not looking for a serious, heavy, kind of profound musical experience. They’re going there to enjoy themselves. They may think that they are going to an avant-garde thing, but you know it’s pretty accessible stuff. But it’s well done; it’s fun when he really hits it like he did with White Raven. It works on a lot of different levels.
FRANK J. OTERI: But in terms of all the subcategories of music, certainly in rock music at this point with alternative rock and a lot of the electronica and the dance music, a lot of that stuff is really heady and not necessarily enjoyable. Some of it gets really out there and at the same time a lot of the concert music that’s being composed whether it’s the latest commissioned work for one of the big American orchestras is very accessible at this point and I don’t really know if those walls are there anymore. I don’t know. I mean, for me as a listener growing up, coming up as the next generation, the walls don’t make sense to me, not even in terms of what the purpose is or whether one is good or one is bad. I just really don’t understand them.
INGRAM MARSHALL: Well, that’s funny, I never really thought of them as walls. I thought of them more as boundaries. Walls are a much more serious matter. You’re not supposed to be able to get through, while boundaries at least you can crossover and I think the whole crossover thing is basically what the history of music in the second part of this century is about. It’s about crossing over these boundaries. I’m not just thinking about quote-unquote “crossover” music which could be the Three Tenors or something like that. I’m talking about real genre mix-ups.
FRANK J. OTERI: Well, certainly, you know, in talking about your music, you were talking about tradition and your music does come out of European tradition. The fact that you reference Sibelius and there are, to me there are elements to your work that recall Bruckner and Mahler and other late Romantics, but it’s also coming out of Indonesian traditions and it’s coming out of, if we dare call it, the tradition of electronic music as it evolved in the 1950s with the establishment of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center and then all of the stuff that was going on in California at Mills. But someone coming to hear your music and maybe hearing Cortez as the first thing and connecting that to Haydn? I think Cortez might have more in common with Radiohead, you know?
INGRAM MARSHALL: I would agree with you, it has more in common with Radiohead than with Haydn, O.K.? But Bruckner, I would say is closer. You know, everyone loves to say how they love Haydn. You know, “Haydn’s a great composer, he’s much better than Mozart.” I never liked Haydn. There must be something wrong with me. You know, except for a few things here and there, I’m not a big fan of Haydn, so sure. No one would ever think of Haydn when it came to Cortez.
FRANK J. OTERI: To get into the notion…
INGRAM MARSHALL: All I can think about Haydn is how lousy a marriage he had, you know. I mean he’s a very interesting person, but his music never really spoke to me.
FRANK J. OTERI: Well, some of the Sturm und Drang, minor key stuff…
INGRAM MARSHALL: Let’s not get into it.
FRANK J. OTERI: O.K. We won’t go there.
INGRAM MARSHALL: We’ll talk about Bruckner, O.K.