Richard Einhorn: Yesterday Is Not Today

Technology's Impact on Music

FRANK J. OTERI: We’re in this room with all this high tech equipment which you said was part and parcel of being a twenty-first-century composer and this conversation we’re having will be disseminated electronically on the Internet. When you were a record producer you disseminated information about music through recordings. A big part of the process of finding an audience nowadays and bringing your music to new audiences is disseminating prerecorded information through recordings, through the Internet, through whichever way you can electronically. Will that eventually usurp the concert hall? I’ve never heard any of your music live. It’s all been on recordings. That’s probably true for most listeners and for most new music. How does that make you feel as a composer?

RICHARD EINHORN: Well, there are two issues. Having your music performed live is really a wonderful thrill. Psychoanalytically, it’s a wonderfully narcissistic experience. I mean, it’s just great. It’s extremely exciting too because you get to hear your music in many, many different ways and I prefer that to a frozen performance on a CD. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with CDs at all. I mean, I grew up with records. CDs are better. I know there’s an argument but they do sound better…

FRANK J. OTERI: I don’t necessarily agree with that…

RICHARD EINHORN: Yeah, let’s talk about that another time [laughs]. CDs are how 99 percent of all music is listened to. The other issue, which is the more interesting, is the whole issue of the gizmos and the gadgets and how to use them. My personal predilection at the moment is towards live performance and live shaping of the sound, and I’ve generally found that these instruments are wonderful compositional tools. They have their uses in some ways, but I’ve not yet really found a way to incorporate them into live performance except in the most minor ways, in a way that I find effective for what I want to do. That’s not to say that I’m not interested, it’s just that I don’t find what I’m looking for. What I love about hearing a violinist like Mary Rowell, for example, do Maxwell’s Demon, is that there’s an excitement and a struggle with the music and with the instrument that you just can’t get with these instruments ‘cuz everything’s too easy. You can do anything. If you’ve got a problem with it, just sequence it and your done. You can’t do it with an electric violin. And so I tend to use these for development, this is my piano.

FRANK J. OTERI: But an electric violin is already not the same as…

RICHARD EINHORN: You mean, not a real violin?

FRANK J. OTERI: Well, it’s something else…

RICHARD EINHORN: But it’s an extremely expressive instrument because you’ve got the direct touch thing. You don’t have that with even with a really good synthesizer, you don’t have the same minute level of control and the sounds on the piano, I mean they’re great again for writing music for piano but the idea of substituting that or using these instead, I would never do anything live that would be not performed on a one-to-one basis. I’m just not interested, which is not to say somebody else doesn’t do a really good job doing that.

FRANK J. OTERI: And the Internet? Any thoughts?

RICHARD EINHORN: The Internet. The idea of disseminating music, I think that’s great. I mean, I really think that it will take off when broadband DSL is a memory. In other words, when we have really high speed Internet and you don’t have to worry about waiting even five seconds or ten seconds. In terms of collaborations, because I know there’s this thing called Rocket Network which lets people collaborate on musical projects over the Internet, I’m sure it will lead to some cool stuff, but it’s not my shtick. There’re other things that I’d want to do; I’m just not that interested. I’m just trying to think if there’s any…Yeah, I think that that’s about right. I assume that you’re not talking about things like Web sites, which are so obvious.

FRANK J. OTERI: No, but certainly your Web site is a great portal to discover your music through.

RICHARD EINHORN: Yeah. Andy Cohen, my assistant, designed that. He did a great job. So, if somebody needs a Web site design…

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