One can look at Dr. Michael Budds as a "Music History teacher at MU." And while this isn't inaccurate, I believe a better description is one that reads: "Dr. Michael Budds is a human who has a passion for helping people reach a higher historical perspective, and he happens to do that by being a Music History professor at MU." Many hundreds of students every year pass through Dr. Michael Budds's Music History learning experience. He's one of the most dynamic lecturers I've ever encountered and is one of my favorite people to catch up with.
Recorded on 2019-05-30
Speakers: Joseph Weidinger and Michael Budds
Dr Michael Buds. It's May 30th 2019 were both Hear it. Shakespeare's downtown. You are one of the most famous, beloved, memorable professors here, emu and have been for decades. You are not on ly known for your strike and striking and engaging lectures, but also your devotion to your students. But one thing has always struck me. We're stuck out to me. Rather, however, is your simple honesty and engagement in personal conversation.
So I know we'll have a lot of that today in the next hour, doctor. But thanks for joining me. You're welcome. First question is, what is your earliest memory? Bye. Earliest memory is being in my crib alone in my bedroom, hearing a train go by. That was about a block. The train tracks were about a block away. I grew up in a small Midwestern Illinois tam, and my family home was two blocks from the railroad track, and I began playing a game with myself that I continued long past my college years.
I would every time I heard a train, I would hold completely still, and that's how I would go to sleep. There were many trains and mine and Then I went toe Knox College and Gales Berg, which is when the train centers of the United States and I would be in my dormitory bed and hear all these trains going by at night. And I would be that completely still and go to sleep. Is it the sound of the train? You just enjoy my relaxing.
I love the sound of the train. And how long does it take you like? If, uh if you're trying to go to bed, for example and train starts going by your house, I assume that you don't live by a train station today, and there's not that many trains that go in and out of Colombia. But how long would it take for you to fall asleep? Is something that you're keeping yourself awake to enjoy? Listening to the sound?
No, I just think that it was kind of ah Azan experience of, you know, letting everything go and listen to the sound of that. It's interesting. I'm having a hard time sleeping these days. I had to get a tape of a train and play it in the middle of the night. Have always heard that you go to bed at, like, 12 and wake about five. Is that true? He's still to this day. Oh, when did you start that schedule? Well, most of mine.
Life here in Colombia. And is that just natural for you to sleep five hours a night? Cause that doesn't like I need a lot more in that personally. Well, I think that, you know, they say that at the turn of the 19th 20th century, almost everybody slept nine hours a day. I don't probably haven't slept nine hours a day since I was a baby, but I learned that if you do something regularly, your body accepts it and you know it by going to sleep at midnight and gained a five o'clock every morning.
You Khun do that? My dad did that. But if you sleep until 81 morning and you have to get up for the next morning, you've got it's got to be systematic. It's gotta be regular or it doesn't work. Right. So I wanted to get preflight run down. How long did you live in Illinois? Well, until I graduated from college, I went to graduate school. Okay, so you went to graduate school in a different state. We did your undergrad at Knox College in Gail's Burg, Illinois.
Cool. The day after I graduated, I was graduated. I went to Iowa City and began gradual school, and by the end of that summer I had been drafted by the United States government, and I was not eager to serve in the military. And I got the opportunity to public school without a teaching certificate. And if I agree to do that, I could postpone my military service for a year. And that's what I did. And then after I was in the Navy for three years and seven months, I went back to graduate school.
And when you we're in the Navy for that long, How long were you initially required to stay in four years? Four years that the deal wass. If you went into the Army for two years, I, of course I was a musician. That's the other thing you need to know. If you're a musician in the Army, you do whatever your unit does. If you are in an infantry division, you bivouac. And if you're in an airborne, the visit you jump.
But in the Navy, if your musician. That's all you are. I mean, you're a glorified custodian, but still, you know, you spend your time making music. So I was in. I was a member of com crew. Dez packed commanders, cruisers in the stories in the Pacific Ocean. And I was primarily a musician in the Navy, but it was for four years. So you were actually on a ship. I was on a guided missile cruiser. The U. S. Says Chicago, and we're your coast of North Vietnam.
Okay. Okay. Wow. And how is that? Is there anything that you look back? And you think I didn't really want to go in the Navy? Obviously. But that was cool. It was kind of cool. Well, well, it's a good question that the most powerful part of the Navy for me is that it forced me to come to terms socially with individuals that I would have never under ordinary circumstances, have come to terms with and, you know, way became good plans.
But their lives styles were different and their interests were different. In fact, most of the people in my unit band, you know, did not complete college, and they were just you know good old guys who had a good time and my goals and in the home incentives are quite different than theirs. But I learned how to build bridges to almost all of them. And one of my memories from the may be that I will never forget as long as I live.
You know, there's lots of free time in the Navy, so you're always carrying around books. I was, I would care. I was always reading a book and there is a sky in my band. And he was reading the book and I was reading the book, and his book was a book of pornography. I had never known anybody who read pornography like a novel, and he turned to me and he said, Why do you read good books? And you know, that was I thought that was the strangest question that anybody had ever asked me in my entire life.
And when we were on the ship, we were on the ship for eight months, and when you're on the ship, you could be in your bed for an hour at noon and then from five o'clock until eight o'clock on the weekends. And so Most of my friends would go to sleep at five o'clock on Friday afternoon and sleep until Monday morning at six o'clock in the morning. What's They would get up once, maybe on Saturday afternoon and go to the bathroom.
But they you know, I had a vacation from the Navy for a three day weekend and I simply couldn't do that. And so I'm sitting in the corner of this dark room with a flashlight. You know, reading history books and biographies of composers and people like that. They were off having a wonderful time in their dreams, and I was sitting there in the dark reading books. And so you were in the band. What kind of a band was it?
What you play? Wow, it was a square bay of the military band that would be transformed into a dance man. A square band? Yeah, marching band. You know, we marched down the street because remember that the maybe it's one the most next of the Catholic Church and the British royalty. It's the most ritualistic, you know, operation in the world and is music for everyone of those families. Way provided that music.
But we also provided, you know, popular music via Vance Pans for other kinds of things. And what do you play? I played the piano and in the square band I played the Bass Track Square van. I don't even know what that is. What's squared. It's like a wind band, okay? And so there's like there's 50 a 60 people. Well, you know, band was about 20 people, so probably one person for a partner or something. It's like a chamber.
When ban chamber version of a one man and one of the most interesting parts of this was at sea. There is something called replenishment, and the most important kind of punishment is replenishment of fuel. And so there were these incredible experiences where a huge oiler would make itself available and all the cruisers would line up in rows and go by and be serviced by this Oiler. It was in the middle of the night.
There were all these flashing lights, green and blue and red and huge hoses would come across and hook up the oiler to the lines of the story, airs on both sides. And while they were replenishing the refueling, we would stand in the superstructure of the guided Missile cruiser and play music for the men who were doing this work all night long and one of the things I bid Well, first of all, I had to tie myself to the superstructure because we're going so fast that you could be blown off way played for so long that the brass players lips bled.
But I arranged popular music so we could play it for those guys so we wouldn't have to play Carl King Marches and Sousa marches and the music that we have music for. I have made arrangements of the Chicago tunes and things like that. Of course, it was fun to do, and it's fun to play, but it would last for hours. Yeah, that's really hard on brass players, and they're probably playing the melodies, thes pop tunes.
Just the melody never really stopped right in. In traditional orchestration, you're like brass. People have tohave a cz much rest as they do, you know, playing time otherwise that we're out. If you're covering someone's voice, they probably seen a little more than half on this pop song. So cool and so what did you do when you got out. I'm going back to graduate school just immediately after. Basically, continue your life as you had originally planned it.
I can't imagine just life being put on hold for, like, four years. Well, but it wasn't. I took advantage of it, right. For example, I went to school and took some classes in Los Angeles and met one of the most influential scholars on me in my life. Um, on Sunday morning in Los Angeles, I would get the newspaper and sit for two hours and circle every fabulous musical event that I could go to that week and then if I didn't go to atleast two or three of them.
I thought that I was underprivileged and, you know, not getting my due. And I took that opportunity to learn about music that I didn't know about. For example, you may be aware the fact that one of my research specialties is jazz. I didn't learn about jazz at the University of Iowa. I learned about jazz from my friends in the maybe by going to the jazz clubs with them in Los Angeles and by trying to play it when I was in the maid.
So it had a from combat standpoint. It had a major impact on my academic life. But I was if I didn't get to go to the opera or the orchestra or a jazz club or something fabulous. Each week that I lived in Los Angeles, I thought I was an underprivileged person. And that was just like on your time off. Uh, like, every few months or something, you get a few weekends or Oh, no, we wait. There we go. The Navy, 8 to 5 every day.
Played the schedule of gigs that they had for us, but the rest of time we live like normal people. Okay, so you're, like stationed in L. A. Yeah. Station at Long Beach, huh? Okay, So how did you live out there? Well, I was in the Navy for three years and seven months. So you're based in L. A. The whole time or based around about first we were in Long Beach. We went to Asia for eight months, and then we came back.
First we were in San Diego, and then we went to Asia. And then we came back to Long Beach, which is the port of Los Angeles. Have you been back to l A Sense once and I was terrified. I used to draw and, you know, in in Los Angeles, when you get on the interstate, you have to go for a ramp and just put your foot down and hope that they let you in. And I did that. I'm just riding in the car when I went back was terrifying.
I don't think I could do it again. Well, the good thing is that these self driving cars that were talking about before we started this, uh, that that's pretty much more the hot spots of where things are being developed. So yeah. Uh, anyway, so cool. So after that, you got out of the military, went to grad school and then got your doctorate after that immediately after and you see, came to Masuo after that.
Yeah, I I got my undergraduate degree. It and Gales Berg, my masters degree at the University of Iowa and a doctorate at the University of Iowa. And I was a member of the baby boom, and it was a situation where people like me have been very successful in academics until the moment that we wanted to get a job because the job market started to shrink because there were so many events. And so for people of my generation, it was very hard to get a job, and many of them got PhDs and then never got academic jobs.
And they're doing something else. So at the end of my time in Iowa City, I had a survival job as an editorial assistant to a journal and exercise science and sports kinesiology. And that's what I was doing when I got a call from back in the cloth on here at the University, Missouri, to come on an interview. I didn't know that Cool, did you? Uh, how long did you work at that gig? A year, At least a year.
So was it remotely fun and interesting? Well, you know, it might not surprise you to know that I've spent a lot of time trying to teach people how to write English here at the University of Missouri. And, you know, all that was I was editing the manuscript. So scientists all over the world trying to help them learn how to write English too, including, you know, professors at Harvard and the Ivy League and people who I got paid a lot more than I did.
But they didn't know very much about the language that they were using. So I love that. I I've also, you know, spend a lot of my career editing books so that the editing thing is interesting aspect of my life, talents and interests. And you said, That's something that you're really good at. Is that something that came from just being a reader? I think so. Like, if you I wasn't a reader in my English professor in high school always made fun of me because I was relatively smart, but just not of reader.
And so there's some things that I just you know, I'm very basic things that I didn't know. But long story short people who were readers just seem to have this effortless ability, too. To write in the written language is so different from, uh, the spoken language. Anyway, cells look, but being a professor and a lecture and an editor means that you have to be top notch in both, so anyway, so let's talk about your teaching career.
How do you think your style of teaching specific, specifically lecturing? I would say, How do you think that style is different from other professors at Mizzou? Orjust other professors in general? You know, I really don't have very much insight into that. I think that we teach on the glue of human personality, and that personality can be made manifest in many different ways. Contrary to the college of Education, there is no cookie cutter model of a good teacher.
And, you know, I've had teachers who were introverts, that I have had teachers who are extroverts. I've had teachers who are dramatic. I've had teachers who are restrained, and it doesn't really make any difference in their ability to teach, because the attitude towards what they're doing is what's most important and their respect for the students and their respect for what they're teaching. And there it's attitude and it's personality, and it's surprising on some level, it surprises me that I when you introduced me to on this little um interview, you know, I don't think of myself in the way that you described me at all, and I can't explain it, except I think that you have to know your audience and you have tto have strategies to make connections.
I sometimes think that university teachers don't care about their students very much there. They're just a spout information, and people can take it or leave it. I can remember arguments I've had with students in the past, and they don't understand why I care to the degree that I do. Why don't Why should I care if you attend my class? Why should I care if you get a good grade? Well, the reason I care is because this is my life, you know?
How could I not care? There are members of the faculty who accused me of personalizing everything, and they say this isn't personal. This is business. Well, my being a teacher and my spending my time as a teacher is as personal as it gets. And I would encourage every teacher to get personal and if they're approaching things like this is business to consider data processing, half to go find the business, right.
R yeah, that's good. Knowing your audience. I mean, that's basically what you're saying is you're performer innocence and or you see you see the lecture as a performance venue in away in some sense. Although I resist a little bit the idea that teachers are performers because what performers typically do is give their audiences what they want to hear. And I don't think that I'm a performer. In that sense.
I want to make what I have to talk about. Interesting. But I also you know, if I gave students what they wanted, I wouldn't be teaching them 90% of what I what. I want them to know what the tradition is. So how have you observed the audience changing over the years? Then if you say that you focus on the audience and you make it personal, do you see or have you detected major shifts and the quality or not quality, but just the type of your audience?
Oh, absolutely, it's It's changed dramatically in my lifetime. Like, what are some big ones? Well, you know, it's kind of a difference between what can I do for myself and what can we do for each other to what have you done for me lately? You know, its its there's a sense of entitlement that has grown incredibly. I, you know, I don't think that kid's teachers are people that should be carried around on a pedestal there, really, and they do everything their body else does.
But I think that there's a certain amount of respect that should go with and one of the things that makes him a aggravated. I'm you won't be surprised to know that I'm the kind of person who screams at my television when I hear things that I don't like. And there has been a commercial for the past several years. Then some bright eyed young man stands in the middle of television screen and said, I'm never going to listen to another boring lecture for as long as I live because I'm going to some, you know, distance learning, computer generated program.
You know what? That guy is too naive, I guess. I understand that lectures aren't boring. Students are boring on often times. What the teacher has done is served up all this information in a manner that so that you won't have to do it for yourself. You know that it's an act of a certain kind of consideration, and I think that boring is an attitude that many students bring tow their lectures that has nothing to do with their teachers.
There are bowing teachers. I had some I learned from them, but I don't think that. I guess what I'm saying is that I believe that a human being an adult standing in front of a group of students will always be the perfect paradigm for teaching. And that one on one. You know, I want students to hear the inflection in my voice. I want them to see my eyebrow go up. When I talk about Mrs Beach, I want them to perceive my enthusiasm or disgust or whatever, and that cannot be communicated in any other way.
Then from one person to another, Yeah, I think you're right. I think there will definitely always be a lot of space for that personalization. Play it. Yeah, it takes a person who's a student who's not who doesn't bring boring to table. But, you know, if every teacher in the world were Dr Buds, then there probably would be fewer. But and the course is about is the concept of the contract. You know, I want to do my very best to teach you, but you have to do your very best to learn for me.
You know, it's not that I have to seduce you into learning part of that you should have done just to get there. You know, I don't make any student take any course that I teach. They have made a decision to take it. And if that's the case, you know, one of my things is there are all these people who want degrees in music, but they don't want to listen any music. Why would you want a degree in music if you didn't want to listen to any of it?
Why would you decide to go to college? If you don't want to go to Clacks, they kind of go together. Now I do think that universities should have two degrees. They should have an academic degree and a social degree, and I'm a big believer in both of them. I think that it's very important for young people to leave the nest and find out how much they could drink, how attractive they are to other human beings and all that kind stuff.
But why given academic degree for doing that? Let people come to the university and get their social degree. But let's not pretend that Colvin students, because they're not. That's an interesting point, but, like logistically, how would that work? I'm just humoring that for a second. Well, that's not my business. OK, come up. But it's the same thing. You know why? If what someone's going to do when they come to college is be a public relations person and play athletics at a very high level in the name of the university and make money for the university?
Why should we call them student when? What? They are our public relations job number three, you know, be honest with what's going on. I think there's a There's a trend for a while where people just went to college out of the gate, not really knowing if that's what they wanted. And I think there's more return these days. Uh, and so that's my rational. Explaining why someone would be at a class which they didn't really want to take, or whatever is that they don't even know why they're there.
Well, you know what? They should figure that out. That's right. Then go on. And there's nothing wrong with that. That's think everybody gotta have a gap year. Everybody got to go. Do National Service Society go find out who they are, go to Germany for a year to like. You did it right, you know, Think of how important that experience wass in making jokes. I wish I would have done it before I went to college and have been a different experience.
Maybe Yeah, most, yeah, definitely would have. But I don't know. That's interesting. Um, so when someone takes a class by you like, say, your intro to American music, which that's what your big that was your big election, one of my big ones. So what's the number one thing that you want to communicate, like biting this semester? I want this person to B. I want them. What Understand that it is possible for them to benefit from musical experiences that were not necessarily a part of their growing up that with a little knowledge, a little experience that it is possible for them to derive benefits from music that they may have been unfair Amillia with.
If I can teach any student that one point, I'm a great teacher because most human beings only want what they already know, and there's not any group of students who are more closed minded. Then freshmen and sophomores at American universities because they know it all. They think it's suddenly slowly that they figure out that the world is a little bigger than their hometown. Are there social group? So I have an interesting down on this, and I want your reaction to this.
Um, I've always found that, you know, when you said that it reminded me of of like, older cousins that I had growing up, That's like, Well, listen to this Nirvana record or whatever, and it's like, Wow, I really love this thing, but not only because it's nirvana and I love the sound, but because I love my cousin who was introducing it to me, and I, like, respect his opinion or not respect his opinion.
But like, there's something in that relationship that that makes that music so much more attractive, Yes, in a way possible. Interesting. And so when other people, when people that I don't like or whatever say, Hey, check out this music, I don't even want to check it out, and this may be just me, and I don't know, but I feel like there's a way of introducing new things in general and so on. The subject of new music or music that's new to the person.
Uh, there are like sometimes it's very easy to get someone interesting something, and sometimes it's very difficult to just based on your relationship with them. When you are introducing new music, our music that's new to your students to a classroom like Have you noticed this at all? Or is this just all in my head? Well, now it's an interesting thing, because you must understand that when I'm playing that music, I'm having a completely different musical experience than the majority of those students are.
I've been listening and thinking and worrying and loving this music for years. And, of course, it's an old friend about one of the neat things about what I do is the opportunity to keep coming back to the same piece of music over and over again. Some of them lose their dizzle sizzle. Others of them just get better and better and better and better. But the students are oftentimes hearing that music for the very first time, and once again this we go back to this attitude thing.
I know that I was not the normal student, but I was so interested in what my teachers had to teach me and that I was interested in their points of view. And when they, you know, thought something was important, I certainly was going to give it the benefit of the doubt that it really might be important. There are a number of students now to think that they're the ones to get to decide what's important.
And you know what? Beethoven is not on trial at the university, a Missouri. Stravinsky is not on trial at the university Missouri. Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald are not on trial. I don't care whether you like it or not, because those are some of the most important musicians the world has ever known. So the students have to be willing tto make that journey, and if they're not, it doesn't happen. Catch it.
Why? I always remember that first class or whatever, and when you took us on that journey of hears this big playlist and now there's something that you did. Or maybe it was just the whole being a freshman college thing, I don't know, but it made that music instantly likable. And so, um, yeah, what? Whatever your technique is whether you, you consciously or not, I feel like you have a pretty good way of of introducing music to people that like, yes, they may have an opinion about it, and it's not really the class is not about whether they're going to like the music or not.
But you have a way of of communicating it in the classroom setting, that people are going to be more in favor of liking anyways and well. But it's gloving. My my supposition is that good musicians respond to good music wherever they hear it. You know the other thing. That's interesting to me. You know, in that class at the end of the semester, I make everybody write essays, and they have to identify the piece of music that they didn't know before the class started, that they developed the greatest appreciation and why.
I love to read those essays because you know what? One of the favorites is the unanswered question of Charles Ives, a piece of music that probably not one of those students would have ever recognized as interesting music before taking that class. And some of them love glitter and be gay by Leonard Bernstein, you know, and there's interesting reasons for that. And then the music that they love to hate are the hymn tunes.
And you know, if you know anything about history, anything about sociology, anything about music. Millions of people think that those Hinton's are the most important music they've ever heard. How could anyone possibly teach a course in American music without taking him too seriously? But a lot of students I don't know whether it's because of familiarity or because of their associations with, you know, church or something like that.
But they love to hate that music, which I find peculiar. They also loved to hate the experimental music of, you know, Cage. And you know, it's funny because, as you're mentioning experiment music, the first thing I thought it was that cage piece that goes like that but don't come from the prepared piano. I can hear my I can sing it, but like, that's something that came up in the class and I was like, Oh, that that's a groovy John Cage, just like invented, like funk in that piece anyways, So by being a professor at university, I imagine that you have some some standards from the university or some bureaucracy involved in how you teach your class, our assignments that you give, or the type of the way you collect grades or all of this business.
If you how to design your own course without any sort of mould to satisfy. And that that's me making the assumption that there is a baby, there's not, I don't know. But anyways, if you could design a class that it was just Dr Buds class and it was totally independent of anything, what would it look like? Structurally? Well, first of all, there isn't a mold, and this brings up another interesting thing.
Because when the music department hires a teacher, no, The problem is that the question does not exist. Toe. Ask them on if they understand what their job is. Nobody had to tell me what my job was at the University of Missouri, because I've been worrying about it for, you know, 10 or 15 years before I got here. I didn't have to ask anybody about how to do it. I never will forget we had a new teacher and I told him what course is he was going to teach the next semester, and he said he'd contact all of his friends and get their syllabus is I didn't have to ask anybody for a syllabus.
I wanted to make my own. So it's having a sense of what is appropriate. And this is another thing about knowing you're students. I'm once again, uh, one day's someone who taught here with me bolted into my office, and it was just crazy with anger because no one would have a talk about Bach cantatas with him, and I pointed out to him that that wasn't his job. His job was to teach the children of Mid Missouri toe love one Bach cantata.
Since I didn't know what a Bach cantata wass somebody else got to have the conversation about Bach cantatas. His job was to teach some sophomores at the University of Missouri Toe Love one. Cool. So you've enjoyed a lot of, in short, like, uh, freedom to Teo, and I love the idea of creating the course of which I have been a great number, you know, and that's one of the fun parts of getting just, you know, deciding what you're going to do, how you're going to do it, but you're going to do it with all that.
That's the That's the, you know, being that the great part about being a teacher is going to use your imagination. No. Cool. So of course we know each other from a zoo. And I met you here when I was getting my music composition degree. So I want to ask questions about the relationship between, like, history, combination. So what I discovered is that composition and theory are largely historical studies to like when you're studying, shouldn't the Harry you're you're not just studying the current year radical thought you're studying the history of theory and you're saying history, composition, right, Right.
And so And I realize that this is probably true in a lot of other fields to, like, philosophy your math, Max, you know, you're not on ly getting a degree that says I know what the current is by. I also know the historical lineage of it, too. So But that got me thinking I'm like, Well, what is music history than if What is music history cover That's not you covered in other departments to, with their historical approaches, specifically to like music, our music, composition or music theory like what makes music history well, One of the most important things is the connection between historical practice, musical practice and other ideas in society at the time, and other expressions of other artistic expressions at the time.
The context and then another part of it is how the evolution of these styles affect each other in some interesting and powerful way. Cool, yeah, context. That's that was the word I was. Yes, I was looking for that. Good. You know, it's a different kind of knowledge or a a different kind of approach. I like to think of the periscope and the microscope, and maybe when you study music theory in terms of composition, you're doing it with the microscope and you're looking at this micro level that is very explicit.
And when you study it in a music historical sense, you're getting the big picture that you would get in a periscope and seeing relationships the other things as well, well put. So in music, we often refer to Western music as meaning from my perspective, at least European music or more, perhaps broadly, a non Eastern music Where where does American music branch off of Western music? Or is that even an accurate categorization?
Well, you know, in a certain sense, American music is a part of Western music, and in another certain sense, by teaching at the way we do, we have ghetto ized it because we've taken it out of the survey and put it in its very own course, and they're good reasons to do that. The same thing has been done, for example, with women's music. Instead of studying women's music in the grand survey, we take it out and study, have a course on the music of women and that get allies, is it in a certain sense, which is not necessarily an attractive thing to do?
But it's also true that you can't teach everything in one class, and you know, we're picking and choosing now the way it is and because of the multi cultural imperative. There is a general assault on Western music in the academy, and okay, wait, there's a general salt fine music. What does that mean? That means that there are many people who think that the music school curriculum is too Eurocentric. Well, it's just funny, because I remember from your courses.
We focused exceptionally on. It was a diversions from just learning about European music. Because I remember studying. You talked a lot about, uh, something like Native American symphonies and obviously, like the African American influence on American music is just paramount professed profound. So that's fine that you mentioned that. But for example, there are people in the world who believe that the curriculum of music departments in the United States is the ultimate white supremacy, and I have difficult problems with this.
I've even heard some people say that singing in four part harmony is white suppression. And, you know, I just have problems with that. Yeah, that's a little that's a push, and that that that the important thing is that music schools, I think mellow music school can do everything. Everyone, every music school cannot teach the music of all places. And all times choices have to be made based on the knowledge of the people who teach there the budget of the building and all that kind of stuff.
And so it seems to me that each school out of this side, what it can do, what it wants to do, announce it and then not apologize for what it doesn't do. You know, every school can't have a gamble on every school can have. You know, medieval singers, you know? I mean, you just have to make choices, but you can't convince me. And, of course, the thing with world music. Nobody knows all of it. It's impossible to know all of it and you're going to go.
You're going to fail if you're going to pretend that that's what you're going to do Well said, Okay, but anyway, just drives me crazy. This this idea that you know that that obviously there are things to improve and refine and and and all that sort of thing. But you're never going to convince me that people who go to a university in the United States of America to get a degree in music should not be familiar with the music of Palestrina, Bach, Mozart, Chopin and Stravinsky.
I'm just never going to get there. But I also think that they ought to respect music everywhere, you know, and and and have an open minded curiosity about all music of all times and places. What's your favorite decade of American music? Tio to study. Oh, I don't think in recent times. Well, I think the 19 sixties there pretty interesting for all kinds of reasons, but, I mean, that's a That's a kind of question that I would run away from in general.
That's like people who ask me what my favorite music is, All right. I don't have a favorite music because you know what? I've never found me a kind of music that I didn't find interesting on some level. Obviously, I like some Performance is better than others and as some performers, some composers better than others. But it's not. I'm not about teaching my likes and dislikes right about teaching the tradition.
Here's a more refined version of that then, so you do research, write books at books. How do you decide what to work on specifically when you're not dealing with class work and what are you working on now? Well, it's a lot of it is just kind of opportunity and, you know, accident things like that. Right now I'm working on a thematic catalog and performance chronicle of the music of Back to Cheatham. I think he wrote important music.
I and I want to do everything I can to help, you know, document that fact. One of the things I especially like about him and his music is that there are many, many composers, as you well know, and there are many, many premieres. But most of those premieres are a one time thing, and the vast majority of pieces never get heard again. His music in general gets performed over and over and over. It's conservative, but it's finally crafted.
It's interesting to listen to, and I also believe that when the history the 20th century is written, that it's not going to be the avant garde that's remembered, or the Mannerist they're going to be remembered. It's going to be the metric tonal people like Samuel Barber and Rachmaninoff who are going to be remembered. That's the line that comes all the way through the It's enrich. There are all kinds of new harmonies, but people like Corigliano and Glass and people like that.
It's that metric tonal line that is going to be the foundation. That's just my own fest, right? What is it in your you mentioned that branching off cheating? Because, ugh, that's that. That's just the tonal in the music world in the classical fine art tradition of the 20 century. The total music was academically very, uh, not ostracized, but just like, well, Leonard Bernstein, you know, that a big chip on his shoulder because he didn't write a tonal music.
But, you know, the Chichester Psalms is the most performed piece of American choral music of the 20th century, and it's just his tonal as anything could possibly be. But he he was kind of ashamed of it, you know, about bad that that was his music. All right, so we got about five minutes left. I want to ask you just some more lighter questions, and we'll probably talk. The answer's probably shorter. Well, let's just see how many we get through here.
Okay? What's your favorite time of day either early in the morning or late in the evening? Cool. Are you very rude? Routine oriented? I am. And I wish I was kind of more ritualistic. For example, I'm facing my retirement, so to speak. And even though you know, I live alone with my dog, I'm really a gregarious person. And what I'm going to miss is the human contact, and I you know, I kind of there. I know people, you know, have lunch with somebody on Monday and supper with somebody else on Friday night.
And, you know, I wish I had more of those kind of routines in my life that I could count on having some social contact that I don't have toe go out of my way toe come up with. Well, then we may have to do a follow Sunday in the near future. Is human progress cyclical or cumulative? Well, I'm suspicious of the very concept of human progress because progress implies refinement. Now I believe that there are some aspects of our civilisation that there has been.
Probably. There has been great progress medically in the 20th century. But whether the quality of your life is better than the quality of your grandparent's life, I'm not prepared to argue. I'll bet you your grandmother laughed just as hard as you laugh, and that your grandfather cried just as hard as you cry. I don't know that there's been a change in the quality of human existence. There might be a change in the quantity, but not in the quality.
And I think that it's best to look a history, music history, if you will, as evolution in musical preferences. Because if you believe in progress, you're going tohave to argue that Palestrina was better than my show. And you might argue that. But then you're gonna have to argue that Bach was better than Monteverdi and that Beethoven was better than Bach and Tchaikovsky was better than Mozart, and Philip Glass is better than all the rest of them put together.
You know, I like Philip Glass, but I thought that was really funny the way you say that. But you have to believe that that that that if there is progress that the music of the Middle Ages is somehow, you know, preliminary to the music of the 20th century and in some sense it is. But it's not in terms of quality. Okay, okay. And maybe in terms of technique or something like that, but anyway, I'm suspicious of progress when it's applied the artistic expression.
Sure. All right, last question. If you if you were ruler of the world, what would you do on your first day? That's a great question. And I used to have an answer for that. I can't remember what it is. Anyone you can't remember or it's changed or probably changed. I'm a little leery of one person trying to make someone else behaves in a certain way. There's only been two or three times in my life when I wished I was a great big bruiser and could pound somebody for being for doing something I didn't like.
I didn't get that bully. Gene, you know, do whatever you want to, as long as you don't hurt anybody you know s O I. I just don't have that need toe force other people to do things my way. But I don't want people to hurt each other. And there's so much ugliness that goes on in human society. It's always been that way. It probably always will be that way. You know, a lot of I think you could explain a lot of things in human society with the simple phrase.
Mine is bigger than yours now, so that power for one person over another, whether it has to do with gender or race or profession or whatever, you know, And I don't know how you eliminate that dark side from human nature, but I'm all for it all for the elimination of All right. Well, doctor, but it was great talking to you today. Thank you very much for the interview. Did