AZ: I was interested in hearing you talk about more of the classical reference points you use in the album. I mean, we've talked about the '80s thing-- we’ve talked about the language of the present-- but you're also reaching into the deep past.
John: I think every moment's been kind of obsessed with itself and itself alone. But it seems to me that, for instance, the 18th century guys were kind of familiar with the early 18th century and the 17th century Baroque. They knew it. It was part of their vocabulary. Even though they were disparate musical truths, they all had a relationship. But then we get to this moment and nobody knows about anything but pop. They think that this or that rock band is really radical because they've never heard Luciano Berio. You can take a Josquin mass and quantize it into quarter notes and there's triads there, there's chords that are modal and don't adhere to any kind of major-minor tonality scheme. Then you can just add a drum beat and a vocal melody over the top, and it's something slightly resembling a pop song. You can only speak English better and understand etymologically what’s happening with English if you speak French and German. Just as we'll make a better use of pop knowing about Romanticism and Viennese Classicism and the German Baroque and the High Renaissance.
AZ: How do you think we’ve gotten to pop now?
John: Every musical moment is almost entirely reducible to the discursive regime and the mechanisms of power. Pop music is how it is because our master today is commercial capitalism. Just as bourgeois aristocratic court music was what it was because it was part of pleasing the aristocracy.
AZ: And what is your role in all this?
What we would-be artists and musicians all need to remember is that it shouldn't fall to us to transform the world politically, it should fall to those who would make a creative medium of politics instead. That Joseph Haydn didn't refuse to serve the Esterházys, or J.S. Bach the Lutheran Church, and so on, makes little difference with respect to the music they made. Transforming the world of who-serves-who-and-why, finally, fell to the Saint-Justs of the world. We would-be musicians are not political innovators in the strict sense (Joan Baez was not substitute for MLK). Let those who would make a medium of politics articulate a way forward for our world, we'll met them with enthusiasm when they do this, I promise! The world where music is used to sell shoes and useless gadgets made by slaves in the "third world," and, meanwhile, we'll keep trying to make revolutionary music.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Altered Zones does an interview with one of my favorites, John Maus:
at 8:10 PM