VALE: As an artist, do you feel you've gone against the grain?
GERSHON KINGSLEY: Once you get me going on that topic --
yes, I'm definitely a maverick. Look: there is no easy way of doing
something in the arts. People ask me, "Who did you study
with?" and I reply, "Mozart and Beethoven." If you
study their scores, you find that nobody can teach you how to compose
-- the "masters" always break their own rules. So I'm always
suspicious of fancy super-teaching systems like "Learn to Play
Piano in One Day," because you develop your own system.
Through your own experience you develop how you work, how you write,
how you live, how you get up in the morning: do you first go to the
toilet, or make breakfast?
I was always interested in sound. In 1947 I went to a psychic who told
me that one day I'd produce some "crazy music that everybody
would dance to." I didn't take her seriously, but later on
somebody else told me the same thing. I became involved in electronic
music, and in 1972 wrote a pop tune which doesn't fit into any
particular category, yet it's been the biggest instrumental hit of the
past twenty years.
GK: Yes. This classically-oriented electronic pop tune has since
sold millions of records, including 500 cover versions all over the
world. People still come up to me and say, "You wrote
ANDREA JUNO: So much of what is produced today sounds so
derivative--it's so easy to pick out the references or the primary
sources of inspiration.
GK: I strongly believe in the power of the individual -- creative
personalities will always emerge. One of my favorite composers is JOHN
ADAMS who composed the operas Nixon In China and The Death
of Klinghoffer." He takes newspaper ideas and makes opera s
out of them. I regard myself as a metaphysical or spiritual person; I
would love to write a work which would have the same effect on people
as the Bach D-minor mass by using only electronic sounds.
V: How has your life changed over the past two decades?
GK: When you create, you try to be as honest and true to yourself
as possible -- which is, of course, very difficult because you're
always influenced by your surroundings. In the sixties, I was part of
the avant-garde with John Cage and others. We would give concerts
where we would rub stones together and recite poems over the
"music." Or I'd give the audience ping-pong balls to throw
against the microphones and then we would modulate the sounds and
throw them back at the audience. That was only thirty years back, but
now it seems like ages ago. It's crazy; for years I've felt
very happy living in my cocoon. But now my inner reality seems to be
merging with the outside world. Symbolically, everybody seems to be
moving away from fat; greed, materialism, things to hang onto
-- what George Carlin calls "stuff." And as St. Francis once
said: "The moment you own stuff, you're no longer free, because
you have to protect it." But the artist usually is less concerned
with stuff, because he gives up his creations to other people.
At the same time, everybody is searching for meaning. There are so
many different spiritual philosophies (e.g. Buddhism, Krishnamurti)
one can learn from. I think ethnic and cultural differences are
important, but at the same time it's wonderful that all people can
share the philosophies of life. It's almost like a kaleidoscope: if
one color is missing, then we don't have the full spectrum to enjoy.
Whether it's Judaism or Taoism or Buddhism in religion --
V: You believe in religion?
GK: I believe in spirituality. I would like to come back in another
hundred years; I lived before my time.
V: What are your thoughts on originality?
GK: Originality is not such a big thing to me -- sometimes I
encounter a homeless person on the street who is very original. A more
difficult question is: how can you find the essence of your own inner
being. Sometimes you don't even know what that is, or you may have
once known but then destroyed it.
I was in psychoanalysis for years to become more "conscious"
about myself and to deal with my fears; it used to be very fashionable
in the '50s. I would discover, "Ah yes! Now I know why I
do what I am doing." Then I would confront a situation and
realize I was still making the same mistakes I made in the past. I
would realize that it didn't work. I think there is something
wrong with our common brainpower; I think our brains are very decadent.
There is a story about Richard Strauss, who like me loved to talk and
speculate about life. When they were at parties, his wife used to say,
"Do us a favor Richard -- go back home and compose."
Vale: But isn't it important for artists to be verbally
GK: One of my most important software programs is called Articulation;
it allows you to accent the music you write. This is the basic
ingredient that makes music music: instead of bup-bup-bup-bup
you can make it bap-bup-bap-bup. You need this articulation --
the same seems to apply to all human behavior. I keep a journal and am
writing fiction about a character I call "G"; for example,
"The only thing 'G' wanted to do was write a hit tune, because
everybody wants to write a hit tune." Then I describe how he
achieves this aim -- then undergoes all this tribulation
V: How were you affected by the holocaust?
GK: I am an indirect holocaust survivor. When I left Germany in
1938, I was fifteen years old; this was just before Kristallnacht.
I belonged to a Zionist youth group and we were very motivated to come
to pre-Israel to till the land and live in a kibbutz. My mother was
Catholic (she later converted to Judaism), my father was Jewish. That
was already going against the grain.
In Palestine, I worked hard in the fields as a farmer but would come
home and study music, plus read everything I could get my hands on.
Then in 1941, I had to join the British army.
V: So you had some musical training as a youth?
GK: Oh yes, but I trained myself. My father was a pianist, but not
professionally. He was very talented and could play by ear anything he
heard; he had perfect pitch (which I don't have, by the way). I
inherited my ability for improvisation from my father, and this is one
of the most important parts of my musical personality. It is also the
basis of composition in general: if you cannot improvise, how can you
V: You went through some formal academic training. What did you
GK: Keyboards, composition, orchestration and conducting. I managed
to do all of these things quite well, and this is maybe one of the bad
things about myself: if I would have concentrated on one aspect of
musical studies, I probably would've been a better composer (or
conductor, or whatever). Instead, I turned into a jack of all trades.
My saving grace is that eclecticism became part of my palette; my
music draws from many styles.
V: How do you compose?
GK: I think, therefore I compose! A psychoanalyst once told
me, " We're all swimming in water, but everybody has to stand on
his own terra firma." I really never attempted to imitate
anybody; I tried to find my own earth.
The older we get, the more we think of our failures and our
successes, and about death and life. We ask the impossible question:
"What is after life?" All we know is we have to work toward
what C.G. Jung calls the reconciliation of our opposites. Man is made
of two halves, and when we reconcile the light and the dark sides, we
balance our personalities. Only when we become conscious of our evil
side -- when we realize that this is party of our own personality --
can we control it.
On television, there is so much unconscious expression of hate. All
the anger -- whether it is in the family, the state or among nations
or ethnic groups -- is being expressed. And it takes tremendous
strength on the part of every individual to keep from falling into
that deep emotional morass. Hate is a very powerful emotion, just like
its opposite: Love. Hate often has more energy than Love. And never
before has Hate been more expressed in music than today -- just listen
to heavy metal music. Sometimes I feel very pessimistic...but I
believe in the power of the individual, and I really think that beauty
and love can only be felt and expressed if you know the darker side of
In the '60s, a lot of people thought that everything that came from
the East was better -- that as long you knew your chakras, you
were set. But why not try understanding Hegel or Aristotle along with haiku?
In the past thirty years, I have been studying the works of C.G. Jung
-- although, as Jung himself used to say, "Thank god I'm not a
Jungian!" When I first started reading him, I wasn't as mature as
I am now. The problem with wisdom is: it's wasted on the wrong age!
V: Earlier, you downplayed originality -- but aren't you
striving to do original work?
GK: I was always striving for originality. But I also made a
lot of enemies because I was outspoken about everything. If I notice
something unjust, it drives me up the wall. And my music, I hope, has
always been honest music. If only five people around me enjoy it, then
I am happy. I cannot pretend, I don't want to impress anyone.
Sometimes you come to this realization late -- maybe when I was
younger I wanted to impress people. If you really want to become a
true individual artist, then you may have to do like Philip Glass did
-- for years he drove a cab because he didn't want to compromise his
music. His music is very controversial. One either hates it or loves
it. But still it has a personality --
V: It's instantly recognizable. Can you summarize how your
musical career developed?
GK: As I said, I grew up in Germany, but because I was Jewish I had
to leave and go to pre-Israel. I was an autodidact -- I taught myself
to read scores and played in some bands. We would listen to the BBC
(on shortwave radio) and imitate the music of Benny Goodman, Glenn
Miller and Teddy Wilson. In 1946, I came to America intending to go to
Julliard, but they wouldn't accept me because I hadn't attended high
school. I moved to California where my brother was living and I
answered an ad: a violinist was looking for an accompanist. At the
same time I went to night school, finished high school, and went to
the LA Conservatory (now Cal Arts) where I graduated.
If you want to survive as a composer, you have three choices: 1) get
tenure at a university and work in academia, 2) work in the commercial
world of movies, television, commercials, etc., or 3) marry a rich
woman...Me -- I married out of love! [laughs] But I always tell
my students, "Don't follow in my footsteps." When I was
young, I became a musical whore. I did everything to
survive: played for children's dance classes, gave lessons, played in
seedy clubs, etc., etc. Then I worked in the theater; I conducted many
Broadway shows and worked for one of the most successful producers,
David Merrick. My first job on Broadway was being the Musical Director
for "The Entertainer" starring Laurence Olivier.
The Moog synthesizer fascinated me: a strange contraption that looked
like an elephant switchboard and made sounds I'd never heard before. I
began learning about things like oscillation and frequency modulation
and finally decided to meet Mr. Moog himself. I went up to New York
State to Trumansburg and there he was, sitting in a basement with a
few technicians working away. I have tapes of him trying to explain
the theory to me. I remember saying, "Mr. Moog, I'm a musician,
not a scientist--how can you explain this to a musician." He
replied, "Don't you understand? This is the future." I was
down to my last $3,000 and that's what the Moog cost back then. I
decided to take the chance. In a few weeks, I earned my money back
doing my first Moog commercial. Then I met a lawyer, Herb Wasserman,
and he asked, "What would happen if you put four Moogs together?
What would you call it?" I said, "The First Moog
Quartet," remembering that one of the greatest commercial
successes of its time was called the First Piano Quartet. He said,
"Let me talk to Sol Hurok."
I got a call from the office of Mr. Hurok: "We'd like to visit
your studio." (At the time I had the only Moog-equipped studio;
later on everybody copied me.) When Sol Hurok appeared, he looked
like an impressario: white hair, silver-handled cane, big white flower
in his lapel, a uniformed chauffeur. This was the man who had launched
the careers of Heifetz, Horowitz and Rubenstein. He simply said,
"Play me something." Of course, I tried to impress him with
all my weird new sounds, but he wanted to hear a melody: "Can you
play 'My Yiddish Mama'?" I had a "whistling" sound
programmed and I used it to play the tune for him. Almost immediately
he asked, "Do you have a phone?" He called his secretary and
asked, "What opening nights do we have at the end of '69?"
Then he said to me, "You have a concert at Carnegie Hall on
January 30, 1970. We'll let you know the details."
Now first of all, I didn't have four synthesizers, so I called
up Bob Moog and asked, "Can you build me four more Moogs?"
But he needed money to build them, so Herb Wasserman (a very smart
man) went to Audio Fidelity Records with a proposal: "I'll offer
you the recording rights to this concert at Carnegie Hall if you give
us an advance of $25,000." With this money, I bought the Moog
synthesizers, and auditioned about 150 young musicians, mostly from
Julliard. I needed people who could play jazz as well as classical,
and who could improvise with dexterity. It took a week to audition 150
people; then I was down to four.
First, I taught them the Moog. Second, I needed a repertoire -- I
didn't have a program yet; what would we play? So I composed the first
piece, which was titled (appropriately) "In the Beginning."
It started out with white noise and little random cricket noises, like
the beginning of the world.
A week before the concert, nobody had bought any tickets. But Hurok
said, "Don't worry." Three days before the concert, NBC and
CBS talked about it...and it was sold out! By the way, this was an
early multimedia event. We brought in a huge screen and projected
movies (like rock groups do today), and we brought in dancers.
Everybody came -- the magazines, all the press, and it was so
controversial. People in the audience went up to Hurok and said,
"How can you present a piece of shit like that?!"
The next day the reviews came out. Some were horrible -- the Times murdered
me. One writer for the West Coast equivalent of New York
magazine wrote an incendiary review saying that I was a fake; I had no
right to call this music! But about a week later, I got a call from
Arthur Fiedler of the Boston Pops Orchestra, saying, "I heard
about your concert. Do you have a piece for four Moogs and symphony
orchestra?" I said, "No, but I can write one. When do you
want to do a concert?" "In four weeks." So I got
together two orchestraters and in two weeks I completed a 30-minute
work, the Concerto Moogo, which was performed on TV and became
Then under Sol Hurok we began touring and playing colleges,
universities, and concert halls with major symphony orchestras. I
wrote more avant-garde music. Years later in Kyoto, Japan, I performed
"Popcorn" in different styles (Japanese, Hungarian, etc.)
with a Japanese student orchestra -- they were marvelous. That one
tune sent my daughter to university and paid a lot of bills.
V: You can't just sit down and write a hit, consciously--
GK: No! But record companies are greedy; they want you to do it
again. After "Popcorn," I recorded
"Cracker-Jacks," "Sauerkraut" -- all these stupid
titles about food. "Sauerkraut" was a minor hit in Germany.
"Cold Duck" featured a girl singer recorded very slowly and
then speeded up; it became a small hit in France. But nothing ever hit
again like "Popcorn."
Then I became very busy doing work for television and movies; it
seemed like I was vomiting music out from morning to night! [laughs]
I've been waiting all my life to do something for the theater. Now
I've written both a Broadway show and an opera about Christopher
Columbus; the opera was just performed in Germany. All my music is
visual and theatrical, even my religious music -- you can stage
AJ: Can you tell us more about your involvement with early
GK: I was only on the periphery, but I did a few programs with JOHN
CAGE. In one "happening" he recited something by Buckminster
Fuller while Merce Cunningham danced and I improvised on the Moog. But
I think I was always aware that the word "avant-garde" has
"derriere-garde" built into it. These performances were too
intellectual for me -- despite all my craziness, I'm pretty "down
V: Let's talk specifically about The In Sound From Way
Out. How did you meet Jean-Jacques Perrey?
GK: In 1964 someone told me about "a stout Frenchman who has a
very strange sound." Perrey invited me to his studio where he
demonstrated his "Ondioline" for me. Years ago when you went
to a piano bar, the pianist would often have this little organ-like
keyboard -- he would play a melody with the right hand and piano
accompaniment with the left. The Ondioline was better -- its inventor
in France had figured out how to produce tones that sounded more like
a real violin, a real trumpet, a real trombone, etc. I had an
idea; I said, "Look. You talk with a nice French accent; why
don't you work up an act playing the Ondioline?" And he began to
make a living with it.
Later Perrey invited me to his studio, and showed me a reel of tape
with all these splices on it. I asked, "What is it?" and he
said, "Listen." On the tape I heard boom-chuck-a oom-chuck
squeal oo-chuk -- it made me laugh. Then he explained, "I
took a sound, recorded it and spliced it together according to
measurement -- an eighth note might take exactly one inch of
tape." At the time I was staff arranger for Vanguard Records and
I asked Seymour Solomon, the company president, "Would you be
interested?" He said yes, so we made a demo tape and he loved it.
Then we went up to his studio and recorded an album on a 3-track Ampex.
We began our collaboration at a time when ad agencies were looking for
new sounds to use in advertising; consequently almost every track we
recorded we sold as a commercial -- we made a fortune. "Baroque
Hoedown" is still used as a theme at Disneyland. After recording
a second album, Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Spotlight on the Moog,
we split up.
V: What's amazing is the humor -- how can humor embody itself in
GK: I was always interested in the relationship between sound and
humor. First of all, our greatest composers have written humoristic
music. Bach wrote the "Coffee Cantata," Haydn wrote the
"Surprise Symphony," Mozart wrote for the glass harmonica.
You cannot be a great artist without humor being a part of your
personality. You have to have a certain distance from yourself, and
humor can provide that.
V: You must have had fun making The In Sound From Way Out
GK: It was both fun and painful, because each piece took a solid
week of tape splices to prepare. What we did preceded sampling; we
recorded the sounds and spliced them together. Nowadays you just
record the sound and digitize it. Now I can generate sounds of my
Kurzweil and compose with my computer.
V: Why did you call your album The In Sound From Way Out?
Did you feel you were in tune with the '60s, after the horrible '50s
McCarthy era --
GK: Someone else named it. And to me, every era is horrible and
good at the same time. In the '60s-'70s I had a house in Woodstock and
of course was aware of the whole youth movement then. I was never a
hippie, but I had friends who were hippies; I never took drugs, but I
had friends who took drugs.
Besides The In Sound From Way Out, I made another musical
innovation: in 1969 I wrote the first rock service for a synagogue,
"Shabbat for Today," which has been performed all over the
AJ: You've blended the worlds of classical and pop music--
GK: To me pop is an aspect of the whole, larger culture. On the
radio you can hear pieces by Stockhausen next to Pink Floyd and they
can sound not dissimilar. Electronic music bridges those worlds and
makes the question, "Are you a serious composer or a pop
composer?" harder to answer. What's the difference? In a negative
sense, you could say that pop music is trying to appeal to the lower
aspirations of the masses, like the fantasy of instant success. You
see that in film, you see that in television soap operas. But there
are a lot of different, smaller markets opening up, whether it's New
Age, or Minimalistic music, or whatever you call it. All so-called
mass market ideas are slowly getting dissolved; as a market becomes
more global, you find regional groups starting their own variants. For
example, in San Francisco there are at least 3 or 4 little companies
bringing out New Age music, which is a category that didn't even exist
10 years ago.
V: How do you deal with the criticism of your work?
GK: If you want to survive you have to develop elephant skin.
You have to trust your own ideas. When I performed at the Chicago
Symphony, one of the reviewers said I should go up to a tall building
and jump off! For an artist, the act of creation is what
matters. When I'm finished with a work, it's not so important
anymore--the doing is the best part. And I don't want to become
involved with business -- I write and that's all. I may only
have another 10 or 20 years left, so I want to use my energy to just
work. I'm still in good health and can work 12 to 14 hours a day.
V: How do you handle periods of discouragement.
GK: I look at each moment to experience and know that it can all
change in the next moment -- still I go on. When I compose, I go with
a theme for hours or weeks and suddenly -- bingo; it's like Zen and
the Art of Archery -- you've hit the target without even trying.
The moment you become too conscious of "it" -- you lose it.
And I think that my most important work is not done yet.
V: That's a good way to feel.
GK: The '90s are going to be awful--terrible. Yet to me, hope is
the essence of living -- if you give a homeless person a quarter, then
he has hope, if only for the moment. I'm a survivor; I pick myself up.
It has something to do with self-respect; if you don't have respect
for yourself, how can you respect other people? Respect your own
personality (including its dark side), and know that even if man
destroys the earth, the universe will keep going -- the universe is
more than the earth. When you go out into nature and examine how a
plant or butterfly works -- well, this didn't just happen by coincidence.
And all creation involves destruction; it comes out of destruction and
V: People are brought up not to contemplate their dark side; to
pretend they only have a light side--
GK: There are many times when you feel like killing someone, or you
hear voices saying strange things. In order to work, you must distance
yourself from this. By projecting the dark side into something
external, like another person, people have tried to pretend this is
not part of their personality. This reminds me: recently some old
prayer benches in a medieval church in Italy were undergoing
restoration. When they opened them up, they discovered some very
pornographic wooden sculptures inside! The past 40 years have shown
that many of the pillars of our puritanical society that go to church
on Sunday also have a dark side -- what they do in their private life
is being exposed. My wife and I have a certain understanding: when we
have a fight we say (to the dark side that flares up between us),
"We accept you."
V: When you argue, do you conceptualize a "dark"
entity that embodies both of you?
GK: Yes. And I feel that the most interesting things in life are
caused by their opposites. New York has such great energy because
there is so much evil and darkness in the city. The energy comes out
of that dark chasm. Sometimes when an idea comes I think, "Ohmigod,
I think I'm going crazy." It's interesting how close creativity
is to insanity. Many modern psychiatrists let the "insane"
express themselves through drawings and paintings....So that through
intuitive means the creative imagination can be released.
I've made friends with my dark side, it doesn't haunt me anymore. In
1951, I returned to Germany thinking I'd forgotten about Hitler and
what had happened with Nazism. But I'd be waiting in line or something
and find myself getting really angry -- I didn't understand why. This
got worse and worse. Finally I went to an analyst and we discussed
this strange dream I was having.
In the dream, I was sitting in a chair surrounded by a circle of
people who were all looking right through me, as though I didn't
exist. I wanted to get their attention, but couldn't. Suddenly out of
the air came a pointing hand that came down and went right through me
and out the other side. I got goose bumps; I began to say these Hebrew
words which people say when they fear that they are about to die. Then
I would wake up in a cold sweat.
After months, I understood that this dream had to do with the fact
that I'd always negated my background. Always I had said to the
Germans, "I'm half-Jewish; my father was a Polish Jew but my
mother was a real German Catholic" (before she converted
to Judaism). After psychoanalysis, I could look people in the eye and
say, "Look, I'm Jewish -- so what? I have a Christian mother, but
I was raised Jewish." I had accepted my heritage. You see: what
Hitler had achieved was to make many Jews ashamed of being
Sometimes when I walk on the street I have this strange feeling of
being in the eye of the hurricane -- a place where everything is very
peaceful, yet on the street there's all this insanity going on -- the
cars, bicycles, people all rushing by. And I feel, "I am my own
eye of the hurricane."
V: Do you watch TV?
GK: Yes, I can watch TV without being brainwashed by it. If fact I
very often find myself amused by what I see. When you become more
aware of your true self, you don't have to be afraid it's going to
brainwash you. I follow the ingenuity and the technology in the
commercials -- some are very clever and humorous. I love to watch old
movies. But I don't have that much time to watch anything -- if
you're an artist, the most important thing is doing. I keep
clippings for my kids of all the press I've received, but I don't look
at them. A friend of mine (I won't mention his name) who was once an
artist and who retired has now become his own audience and his own
critic, but that's very bad. My rule is: Don't look back.
V: You worked in films--
GK: I did the score for Silent Night, Bloody Night
--remember that? It was also called Deathhouse. Then I scored a
softcore porn move, Sugar Cookies. I did a film on drugs that
won an award at the Venice Film Festival, plus a movie called The
Dreamer which was Israel's entry in the Cannes Film Festival.
There were a few more whose names I forgot. Those were the days when I
was still trying to pay for my studio.
A lot of people wonder why horror movies are popular. Well, it's
because we like to be afraid! Even though man has rationalized
away "god" and most superstition, they reenter through the
back door in the form of horror movies. Man seems to enjoy renewing
his sense of fear...that emotional dimension which sometimes separates
life from death.
V: By the way--was learning computers easy?
GK: There's a big problem with working with computers. It took me a
long time to learn computer technology, and you have to constantly
upgrade. I think back to when we were making The In Sound From Way
Out -- we had to be crazy to sit down and make those tiny
tape loops. We would take sounds and splice them together manually,
with scissors. Then we would add a rhythm underneath and a melody on
top -- it would take a solid week just to do one number. Today you can
do this much more quickly with a computer (but the sounds we produced
are still original just because no one today would have the patience
to do manual splices day and night). Recently someone referred to me
as "the granddaddy of electronic music" -- now I've become a
In 1975 Stuart Kranz wrote Science, Technology and the Arts,
which profiled all these unusual artists and visionaries like John
Cage, Dennis Gabor (father of holography), Stan VanDerBeek (multimedia
artist), and Dr. Jan LaRue (computer musicologist who did musical
scores). It's a fascinating book in that it shows how much technology
has changed. Now it seems back in the Neanderthal Age, yet it was only
20 years ago.
V: How did you write your biggest hit "Popcorn"?
GK: Well, it only took me about two minutes to invent the whole
song, but I could never do that again! It's a mystery how
people write hits -- especially instrumentals. Look at the song,
"Winchester Cathedral." What happened to that group? Nobody
knows. Most people only write one or two big hits during their
The topic of "inspiration" reminds me of James Burke's book,
Connections. Everything has a connection. Mozart could not have
been Mozart without Bach; Beethoven leaned on Mozart, and the
evolution of electronic music is based upon the evolution of
instruments in general. One of the original electronic instruments is
the organ; it's the predecessor of the synthesizer. And evolution is
ongoing. Right now I use a Macintosh computer, eliminating the need
for carrying around instrument modules; everything's getting smaller
and more refined. And who knows about five years from now?
What did Beethoven hear when we wrote his "Pastoral"
Symphony? Hoofbeats, insects, birds, folk dances, thunderstorms. Now
look at what composers put into movie scores or television soundtracks
or commercials. Electronic sounds and noise are part of our society;
artists always reflect the changes in their environment. The evolution
of sound will continue.
V: In general, people's tolerance for dissonance continually
GK: Dissonance is a very philosophical concept -- one man's
dissonance may be another man's consonance! Today if you go to a heavy
metal or hard rock concert, you hear sounds like guns going off,
sounds of violence. Guitars have become dangerous weapons!
The pause or silence has largely disappeared from music because
silence has largely disappeared from our lives. And I'm trying to put
it back in. I have to react the way I feel inside. I'm not Philip
Glass, I'm Gershon Kingsley, and whatever I do (whether it's in a pop
vein or a more serious vein) can only express the way I feel. I
have 25 minutes on Cruisers 1.0, a "New Age" CD from
the Hearts of Space label, and some people think it's boring and awful
while others meditate to it and feel wonderful.
V: Do you consider yourself avant-garde?
GK: While I don't support the obvious or the commercial....I guess
that makes me a bit avant-garde. The avant-garde was always about
shocking the bourgeois. Well, one thing about getting older and living
a long time: nothing can shock me anymore. Even moral infractions and
injustices no longer shock me, because I expect them.
V: In your music, were you trying to integrate spirituality with
GK: First of all, I don't like to use the word "machines"
because then we'd have to call the piano a machine, the flute a
machine, they're all machines. The "purest" instrument
probably is the voice; the moment you use strings you're creating a
machine. What's important is: if you use a clarinet, that you use your
own personality to create a sound or tone by the way you blow into it.
The problem with synthesizers today is: even though they're touch
sensitive, a lot of the sounds sound alike.
It's so easy today to produce notes -- anybody can become a
synthesist instantly with one of these instruments that can even be
programmed to compose. But composers are now sampling their own
sounds, a truly new development in creating new sounds to
express your own personality. The future of electronic instruments
will be to use the modern technology so that the musician can play an
instrument like the violin, but also create different sounds with it.
Penderecki in Poland combines electronic sounds with live
"traditional" instruments or voices. In the end it's your
own personality that determines how successful you are at creating
your own musical sound....and whether people like it.
When I die, maybe I'll have an electronic tombstone with a television
monitor so that people visiting my grave can push a button and my face
comes on the screen: "Hello -- nice of you to come! What
would you like hear -- Popcorn?" If it's solar powered,
maybe it could last for eternity.