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But I mean it's out there now I have no idea why it should have. It's just one of those things otherwise I felt comfortable with this with school paper. And to this day and an empty sheet of a school paper can trigger me I can kind of stimulate me. Now I guess the person who might be a very creative person but who is thrown by the machinery of an orchestra where an empty school place can really paralyze this person who would have problems you know it's just like not not knowing how to run a piece of machinery if you know how to run it then it's it's when you look at it you can almost feel you know which knob to turn it on and if you don't know it it's something I can that I can relate to. Get in the way if you're if you're being able to handle it. How do you go about composing a piece for orchestra. You start with one of the piano reduction of what you do in school or what is Barry's.
Generally I take office to work. I do really shorthand sketches but very often my real composing the whole thing comes together when I get to the school paper and more often than not I will. I might have sketches out this or got them on the second point I just go right into it and score and. And I found that at times things when I run into blocks blockages stop which is something that I well I can overcome them once I get to the school paper. This is rather unique because I believe the other way round is a more common practice that the composer works first from his sketch which he then elaborates on the yes. Yeah well I think you know it can be done in many different ways. And there again I don't say when I write an office to work.
I think when I write that passes down that's already for the instrument. It's not a question of writing it down and trying to figure out where it goes you see this is this is this is part of it and I think that there again for good or for bad my works have that quality that you know they sound when a section plays it it sounds as if it's written for that section and so if it's not transcribed not transcribed for it. Just the way of just saying there are a lot of composers who use the piano. You know I don't I don't touch the piano when I compose even though I improvise I can sit down and improvise you know synonymous without end. But when I compose I do not use the piano. Because I hear everything in my mind. Now this doesn't prove anything. But it's very convenient which means that I can work when I when I'm traveling for instance I often take my work with me into the hotel room I can I can sit and write. I don't need a piano. Now there are some you know there are some great composers who use the piano and some terrible composers use the piano
and the same ratio for those who don't use a piano but it as a convenience. The same thing is true of conductors. Studying scores yes. No when you study in school or you know I don't you know like just to read. Yeah and he was like my I think I can I hope I'm not stepping on a line by bringing up these personal things but on the business of using a piano I must confess that once I tried I thought that I would try to compose at the piano and the reason I did it I must say is a very probably naive one because I had seen some movies of composers working at the piano you know you know the movies where they were frothing at the mouth and I must admit I was I was impressed by that you know I thought myself you know I could be this way too now. So I try that I set myself up and I you know and I pull out a cigarette thing about the sign my mouth and I play it and I had a sort of a sketching table by the side and I don't know but I just and when I found it I just blotted out all my ideas because I'm
tired you know. There again that's purely a chemical thing. I just don't work that way. I don't often actually you would separate you know facility with improvisation at the piano from the active composition Yes. Yes which is I know it's a kind of a strange contradiction but. Well it's this business of hearing. As you conceive what you want where exactly you know that you don't want the strings and the pad out there may of course blankets that blot that out gets in the way because you think orchestrally in you you don't have the need to trends. New York is still something that one of you must have absolute pitch. Yes I do have this early childhood experience with indicates that well granting even this facility the experience you had in arranging and especially arranging for radio. Yes must have polished this for all I was a little economic status
because turning out the amount of material that you had to do in those days don't remind me. Do you want to come for a copy. Just busy that's for sure. Yes I get it. Just you know when I think back of all that all the notes that I've written now say that they did. What happened was on the on the on the facet of my talent that involves Australian when I start a radio conducting I took this particular aspect of my talent and used it and that was the ability to orchestrate and what you just said before was absolute truth that I honed this through. Actually every week you know I did seven eight nine 10 arrangements a week big and small and for all kinds of combinations and I took a pot of whatever talent I had and in this case my orchestration ability. Plus my whole
attitude as a composer and I think this is very important in talking about my orchestration. Even in my range just not talking on the arrangements I think one of the things that in those days generated a certain amount of reaction and I suppose excitement because I remember you know very distinguished musicians used to listen to my broadcast or come down and attend them when they were in New York and you know I mean they they knew that I was not doing the pop B Minor Mass certainly but in the context of what these were. I try to make them as creative as possible. It was not only the orchestration of all that but I think was also my approach as a creative person. What was the orchestration was saying it was just as broad as just that. It's just the color you know one thinks of of classic examples among them. There are so many but let's take a little black magic. Oh yes I'm here. And I wonder how it feels to you to hear subsequently from other sources your ideas lifted a bit here and I don't you know
they keep turning up. But these were classics of the arrangements of their time at that time and they remain so today I imagine that probably many of these are still current record. Yes yes that's interesting that a great many of them seem to still hold up because now in a sense they say they sound of course more in a way more more part of the whole scene than what they in those places you know this is that also considered you know not commercial I mean I remember I mean I was the commercial people of radio felt that I was not commercial and they because they artistic people felt it was commercial so I was always in the middle in between somewhere. You also must have had a particular affinity to the music of the latter. Yes. This however I think is reflected in your basic use of
rhythmic elements in your writing whether it happens to be of that type or not. Because in such a work as the spirituals we find this wonderful use of rhythm as a coloristic element right. Yes. Now read them to me it's a very vital part of the musical projection. And here again by the year stick. With which these things are measured. These works have survived so well so many other things that were done at the time. Spiritual is what must be thinking is certainly one you know. So I think even you know 1940s for something or around the time I recall the first time I heard it I didn't. And oh yes Cleveland Yes and it was one of the pieces they took on tour. This must have been around one
hundred forty two or four and three. And it was the head of the program a program which included. Much other material standard repertory a little bit on the list a little of that but the spirituals had a great audience impact and by that years this could now be considered a classic of American music because it's it's still very much here. Yes I know if we go back to that first professional performance that you had understood confiscated the corral and Fugue in jazz we jump about 10 years we come to the Lincoln legend which Toscanini played in the MDC orchestra. Curious to know how this came about. Well that's sort of a I think an interesting story I was broadcasting. I thought time you know a weekly program and Toscanini used to listen to the radio and Alford whilst I was a musical director of the
station which I was broadcasting at that time and he was a friend of Toscanini's cellist. That's right. One day when I came in to do my program there was a message from Mr. Wallace Don's office that Toscanini it called and wanted to wanted me to call him up to see him or something like that and I thought that this was a put on you know this is a some of the musicians thinking this is you know this is a joke play on me because I've never met Toscanini I started off him. There again you know although I was old up. And I thought to myself now I mean what he mean he heard my program and I should call now this is testing us but I think it was time to listen to my radio program. Well it turns out that he had listened to what he and also he had heard a word he had heard my spiritual somewhere some heard somebody spurts of orchestra and he wanted to meet me and see some of my other scores
and a few weeks later I wanna Stein called me and said Didn't you get a message you know he says I spoke the old man he always spoke in this you know managers and he said and he said he left word for you and you never called him so well. We got together we met and I don't wonderful relationship with Toscanini. He didn't my my you know Lincoln legend and it turned out of course that you see when I first met him I thought to myself you know if he finds out that I do these weekly radio programs of popular music he'll throw me out and he'll never play my music you won't look at me again. You know you have all the stories about him out of how you know what a purist he was and one day end up in his home in Riverdale. To my shock he said to me two weeks ago on your program the third number what was it. And he paralyzed me and I couldn't and he got Then he got mad he said you can doctor you don't even know what you are. I said well I said well I said that. I said did you. I said You mean you listen to you. Well I said I thought he told me listen to me every week I say.
And he like this number whatever it was. And to this day I have no idea what I'm talking about because you know you there's so many of these programs and so many pieces. But now he you know he was there again he was listening to this program and and contacts in terms of what the program was supposed to be. And in those times he apparently enjoyed it. And certain things he liked more than others. But you know it turned out later Also I found out that he listened to all kinds of radio programs including soap operas. And he would you know he would stand away from Box Tops and all this stuff one of those give away programs in those days. But that was all a revelation to me about that point. There's a certain thread that I see going through your own compositions and strew we have this fugue in jazz for example a certain American touch and there's the spirituals which of course is based on the American Negro spirituals. There's the Lincoln legend in the
Fall River legend which is a work of about 1940 belly. Then quite recently 1967 is broadsides for orchestra on Colombians emerges like Columbia the Gem of the ocean and then we know of your interest going way back in the music of. You have a certain American theme that runs some very common theme that runs through much of the concern and composition. Yes you're absolutely right I think that that's been there and. You just write this off you know you can suddenly see a pattern I don't think it's something that one does consciously I did not start out to write American music as such because in a way this is a dubious enterprise but here again we all hear you know we all have the sounds of certain kinds of trumpets and second kinds of ears and this is the sound that I have. And this apparently is what I followed I think I followed it fairly
consistently and I don't think I get too far away from and I've gotten more complex certain works of mine such as much on higher variations as an example in my dialogues of piano and strings are much more advanced and complicated in their and their objectives musically etc. but I think the basic pattern and the basic. Fertilisation element and my music has been our intention as American sauces and cereals. Would you would you attribute this to the fact that your your background is so wholly American. There are so many quote American close quote composers who came up in that generation just ahead of yours
who actually contributed very little to America's musical art because what they did was the translation right into their own terms of what they had learned abroad. Yes yes. I think of course we're talking about a very fascinating part of. The musical scene that not only involves me and my own personal relationship as a composer but but but generally but I think one must have a face moment of his Yakama me and I think part of this comes from where you off. You have become so active in recent years not only as a composer but as a as a conductor. I would be interested to know how you came into conducting. Because you. Well I came into conducting really for the for the reasons that I went into commercial music and that is you know ultimately this was a way of my my earning my keep as a professional musician I started to conduct these
radio programs. You see we must forget that I'm talking about a period now this is during the 30s when an American composer certainly so-called serious music rarely got played. If you did get played you didn't get paid. I mean this is a completely you know I mean I received like many of my colleagues who would tell you the same story of my generation. We received very distinguished performances you know by some a major orchestras and great conductors and this is all wonderful We were lucky to get our stuff exposed and played at that time there were no foundations there were no grants there was nothing going for us. And even up a following societies as an example. I'm on the board of directors of Ascot now the American Society of some publishers. I'm chairman of the symphony concert Committee Well we recognise these this area of music now and you know there are certain payments made for the use of so-called serious material but in these days in those days of the 30s we didn't get paid if we got paid it was nothing. You know you might be able to buy yourself a meal with it if you are lucky
and therefore many of my colleagues took to teaching. They did other things. I used certain facilities that I had arranging and so on and and I was sort of interested in conducting I always had sort of a yen to conduct. I used my conducting to do to earn a living that's what I came down to this thing sort of permeated. And one thing led to another and I found myself a recording artist etc. and then subsequently doing guest appearances with symphony orchestras and and then getting more and more involved in the symphonic repertory of a certain category. I never had any drive to be a really symphony conductor in the orthodox sense of the term. And that's the way that thing developed. Did you at the time guest appearances began to come up have a considerable repertory as a conductor. No not particularly really. Now when I say that I say that because in a sense of
course I knew repertory you know the way one studies music you know. You know the school as you've heard them but in knowing it in turn is a real serious conducting. No because this is this is something that takes. That's a full time occupation in itself. Now as I got into it of course I just applied myself. Let me be specific not being a person who has had a yen let's say to get up to be a musical director or have any permanent post. I don't I don't mean I want to have you know I mean I think smart alec you know critical sense. But in the sense that this was not my involvement never has been. Therefore there was no reason for me to be prepared let's say to jump in and do the Beethoven Ninth Symphony at a moment's notice because one nobody will ask me to do and two I am not interested in doing it. And there are some great distinguished figures around who do it superb and who have it and you know this is this is what they want to do this is not what
I want to do. Now being that I didn't have was not concerned with these things therefore I. I did not get involved and learning in detail all the standard repertory. However when I started to get involved then I would apply myself obviously you know when I go in and I conduct I try I hope that when I was going to that first rehearsal I pretty much know every note that's in the score and what to do with it. I mean I might not I might do the wrong thing with it but at least I have a point if you know what you just have to know the repertory that you have that's resulted from this was a attitude that you've expressed has led you into some very unusual fields I think of the well the child to have included the first symphony I believe in fact you do the first American performance the first. You recently involved with bringing to American audiences some early Shostakovich rights have not been
heard here before. You recently recorded with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra the Nielson clarinet concerto Are you concerned with reviving good old Russian music obviously that's right. That's his hundred and I'm going to see which which means KOSKY 21st 2015 which was written for the Chicago Symphony. Yeah I was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony and I for that 50th anniversary one of the few works we've shown one of the few coffees which has been available on recordings in recent years but I think not for at least 50 that's right it's been been deleted so that you you know bring in a very she was a unique type of programming to the to the orchestral repertory. Well I hope so yes. This stimulates me I'm very curious about you know seeing scars and and I have to my mind of value and worth. And for one reason or another not you know not exposed and not
played. There again you see as a regular conduct completely all involve sense. One gets involved and trapped into Satan into Satan. Regular repertory which you must do. You know you have said it was all it was you wanted it was open it was just a con.. And so on there's nothing wrong with that but this is something that I am not really particularly interested in. I mean I like to hear it you know I hear a great performance so I occasionally off I've conducted you know. But when I do a program as a soloist do certain of the Orthodox pieces both orchestrally and in terms of charity but I am fascinated by this whole area. You mentioned you know I also brought in did with Chicago the first American performance of the Charles second orchestra which I also recorded and which is one of Charles Ives major works which was never performed in the United States. I want to know two things. First of all.
And because I think it will be of particular interest to our nationwide audience. I'd like to know what you think of the opportunities afforded aspiring young musicians in all fields of music today as compared with the time when you began. Do you think there is more or less of it all yes. Yes many more opportunities. There are many more facilities. I think that's much more awareness much more sympathy you have. We've met some before all these foundations and grants based things didn't exist before. And I think it's all to the good out extent excuses now of how to what extent do you think perhaps the elimination of such sources for employment as the musical
which played a big part in your getting stock yes. To what extent has this diminished the opportunity do you think the the new opportunities have offset these. Yes I think they have. But just the facilities and the money and themselves don't produce great OT. So I see I mean it's not that easy an answer. Really great OT as the result of many factors was the first of course facto is something that we cannot control in knots. That's talent. And you know if you don't have the talent you can have all the foundations and grass in the world and you just won't make it. I mean in any area. And any facet of the musical expression. But I do feel that certainly possibilities today for the young musician are much better and make his
achievement more possible than. That and they feel free to call the old days. Well probably also we. We hear of those who have successfully made the transition from the music of the cafe or wherever to the serious music field but perhaps they're not as numerous as we might assume they were. The other question that I wanted to ask because we know that from your very earliest days to the present time you lived as your first love composition. We know that conducting is not buying an ever larger part of your activity. Do you still play the piano. Very rarely. As I said before I don't touch it. You know when I'm composing every now and then I have to do something like sometimes appearing as an example sometimes of some
some years ago I recorded all the carry from work sell the concerto enough for the Rhapsody in Blue and so on and I'd played and conducted and so well of course I practiced like a madman you know for a few weeks before the recording are far Iapetus some way I as a soloist or as a soloist conduct them or every now and then I'll do a program of improvisations. But otherwise I don't touch the piano. Sometimes a year might go by when I literally don't put the key down and the one other thing on this same line of thought are you doing any arranging. No hardly any. I really doubt not except for special. I know that for a special thing a recording a lot of what might not be called I'm aging as much as transcription as an example right now I'm finishing. Of all things a big piece on balding.
Faulty material some of it is known a great deal of it as is. It's not you know not too well known. It's for a it's for a double orchestra for one orchestra divided into two minute divide into into three quizes amount of fact and this is being done to a compliment to go on the other side of the eventual recording that will be done of the work of mine called of all things Venice for to walk us. Which I did on a commission last year for Milton Katims and the Seattle Symphony and sadly this ties in with some of the things you mentioned before while the intent of the work was to write a piece that would involve not only a major orchestra but a a youth orchestra or a community orchestra. All Guest major orchestras the host and guest. And the fantasy of course is a completely original work evoking Venice and the Gabrielli.
In a way you can call it a very vague kind of setting of the Gabrielli idea. Ideas are not literal music ideas but the text. And of all they of course is the setting up of transformation amount of metamorphosis of all the themes. But other than that kind of arranging if you want to call it that in quotes I feel very very very little you know of course I think this comes a lot closer to composition than it does yet stranger in the sense we were thinking. We certainly have enjoyed this opportunity to talk with you and to know you better. And since you will be in Chicago from time to time with your appearances with the Chicago Symphony we look forward to meeting with you again. Well thank you. Thank you very much Mr Gove for this insight into your careers that many of them yes indeed as we said at the start he's a man who wears many hats.
A conversation with
Episode Number
#7 (Reel 2)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Identifier: 69-12-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Chicago: “A conversation with; #7 (Reel 2),” 1969-01-28, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 27, 2022,
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