Steven Mackey: Outsider on the Inside
Princeton, New Jersey
June 13, 2005 at 11:00 a.m.
About two months ago, I listened to Steve Mackey‘s new CD Banana/Dump Truck. From the what-kind-of-music-is-this riffs of Fusion Tune, a duet for his electric guitar with cellist Fred Sherry, to the opening game show shenanigans of the title track—ostensibly a concerto for Sherry—I was completely hooked. I had to figure out a way to get to Mackey as soon as possible.
I’ve known Steve for years and chatted with him numerous times in various contexts, though never in a formal sit-down interviewy sort of way. (Although you can be guaranteed our chat here is hardly formal.) I’d long been a fan of Physical Property both from the original Kronos Quartet recording of it as well as the more recent one with the Brentanos. And I also was very inspired by the Chamber Music America conference he chaired in 2002. The fact that a composer, let alone one wielding an electric guitar, was chairing the conference of an organization representing music which still all-too-many folks imagine as spanning from Bach to Brahms was already enough to excite me before any of the sessions actually began. Since that landmark conference, contemporary music has moved from the periphery to the foreground every subsequent year.
I also long knew that Steve was one of the ringleaders of the velvet revolution over at Princeton University which is now one of the most exciting hotbeds of music in the country. So, on the morning of June 13th, Randy Nordschow and I headed over to Princeton to spend a few hours in Mackey’s home talking about everything from music to dogs—he’s a total pet junkie. I left almost wishing I stuck around academia to get a Ph.D. in composition.
—Frank J. Oteri