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A conversation with Martin Gould. This is another in a continuing series of programs each of which offers the listener a rare opportunity to hear an eminent musician informally discussing his own career and expressing his thoughts about a variety of topics related to the art of music. The regular participants in these discussions are Aaron Parsons professor of music theory at Northwestern University's School of Music and program annotator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. And George Stone program director for Zenith radio corporation's serious music station WEAA FM in Chicago. Mr. Parsons and Mr. Stone have as their guest on today's program the eminent composer and conductor Martin Gould. Judging from his works he's one of the most American of composers exploiting the jazz idiom and such works as the four Americans in finance drawing upon American folklore in works such as his cowboy Rhapsody and taking inspiration from the
American past in a Lincoln legend and others. Mr. Gold is also a busy guest conductor especially known for introducing lesser known works to his audiences. Now here is George Stone. Mr. Gould I was rereading this afternoon. A script I prepared some years ago in which it seems I placed primary emphasis upon the fact that Morton Gould who is known to us as a composer conductor and arranger a pianist kind of a man of many many hats began with a very solid classical background. Is this in your judgment apt description of your start in music. Yes yes I think that's a correct one. Was your musical family. No not particularly I mean they played like music my my father like music and my mother and her in her own way but I mean not in any professional sense that there's no
professional background. And my only musical exposure was in those days to play a piano. But my father had not he he would he had all these roles and he played and played these piano player roles and he was sort of an amateur violinist and he would sometimes sit and play the violin and pump the pedals U.S. company himself and that was how I really heard my first repertory and and I was what one called a child prodigy so I absorbed all the Chestnut's on player piano rolls you know the rock mining of seashells mind a prelude and the poet and peasant which I owe a transcriptionist to of all the office job losses and that was my first my my my really first experience I might want to experience with them with music. You began to play piano when I was about four four and a half
something like that. You started lessons at that time. No apparently I you know I just started to play there again. I would listen to the rolls and watch the keys and sit down and play the piece so you could reproduce that you know that you and I didn't get in there and I was composing improvising you know. Why not. When I was six years old my parents got me a local teacher. This was in New York. This was yes in New York and it was piano studied. Yes that was piano. But there again there was an amusing start to sort of get personal about this author tell us what it's really and I doubt as I told you before I I had a fairly good repertory of this particular kind of
piece that what we call the chestnut you know them running you know which I had absorbed to through hearing the piano player rose. And when this local teacher started to teach me the idea was of course for me to get certain disciplines as well apparently. And the feeling was that I play these pieces anyway. But what I was taught and trained to do was to look at music and I would if anybody asked me. Asked me to play. I would have music with me and they would turn pages from amazing result is that at the age of eight I received a scholarship at the Institute of musical art which is now that you really ought to speak what would you rather do it is now I was before I moved out to Lincoln Center and Dr. Frank that mush was the dean at that time and he and some people that gave me an audition and at the audition
he asked me Do you need music and I said yes and I had the music with me and I took it out and he turned pages for me and at that time they didn't take anybody under the age of 14 or 15 you were supposed to be in high school because they were not trained they were not equipped with teaching staff to teach anybody reading or counting you know. I mean they were starting with people who were close to being professionals. Well you know I was apparently I was playing like a hotshot reading this stuff and it occurred to nobody to question the fact that I what I could read and not really read this thing. Well I got the scholarship and then of course it turned out that I couldn't read and I couldn't count I was doing everything by instinct. So that was quite a situation. You know I I stayed on but they had to teach me I remember my face. My father had a cut of the apple and have to explain to me that this makes two halves and so I have that benefit from there on I got lost and could never understand why when you took that the half and you cut an apple in half and took that half and cut that in half why that should be a quarter and another
half. Quite honestly to this day I'm not sure half as much as it let's me interesting that was that age eight that you began your studies at the predecessor school right. Tonight did you this time get involved with such things as theory. No not yet. I study theory later on I think I was about 12 or 13 when I studied theatre theory and I did with Dr. Vincent Jones who was a you know University of that time you did is privately educated. Well I I I saw him there and I sat in on some of his classes and he was head of composition. And that led to some interesting developments later on. But I studied theory with him and I did most of my piano in my During my
my adolescent years with the like Abby Whiteside. That is one accurate detail that one finds in the biographical sketches. You remarked a moment ago about New York University. Leads me to go back to something we said before we began right taping. I had questioned whether it was accurate that you had graduated at age 15 from New York University and Mr. Google's reply was that one day there probably would be an alumni dinner at which he would be honored as a graduate. I have to confess that he hadn't really do it. That's right. Well that's one of those strange mix ups I had attended some of the classes I explain to you the class of Dr Jones and I I was I was there I know NYU for my lessons and I gave some concerts down there and everybody assumed that I was attending and that I was one of these you know. I suppose intellectual giants who
graduates college at the age of 14 or 15 I wish I was but unfortunately that's not the case so that it's a sort of a legend that has gotten. I've seen it you know printed about me and after a while you know what happens you. You feel it's not important enough to make an issue all the time you just you just let the thing you know just you just forget about it. So actually will you ever ruled in the universe not officially know you but you need to know anything. I think you've set the record straight on that's right and then you your studies did continue at the Juilliard School or if you know I don't know at this time I was at the Institute for just about two years. Did you concert ties. Yes in a limited way. I did a certain number of concerts I did not have a I really I didn't didn't have a paid
last concert for me in terms of traveling all over the United States or Europe or or a major appearances but I have you know I have p had I've paid it and what a torrent of concert halls colleges etcetera. And a kind of casual mind you know one was not it was not a highly organized involvement in the concert field. At what point would you say your professional career began. And under what circumstances. Well that's that's an interesting question because I would say that it is difficult to to define just one my professional career began or what aspect of it began but in any case the most and the most over varied forms that it took. It began I would say under the most unfavorable and unfortunate circumstances. And I mean this that.
As I said before I had done a certain amount of concert ties and so on but I was still a student going to school a long time musical studies. My my actual really professional involvement in terms of income in terms of earning a living from what I was doing which I suppose is one of the Imagine one of the measurements of a professional. Was oddly enough playing foetal and ending up finally on the staff of Music Hall the first year it was open and before that I did play some of the photo houses and what we would call now commercial work. Now the reason for that was very simple and very obvious I was trying basically to be a serious. So what so called serious thought us but I grew up and developed during this period called the depression. And my we had economic difficulties and off
family and you know one of many many of the families that you know that have run into this problem and now a problem as my father was second set of I was the oldest son and I was it say so at a relatively early age I had just to sort of stop my. My the things I wanted to do with that point in terms of my academic musical studies and get a good job it was simple as that. And at that time I was lucky to get you know I think it was lucky to get any kind of job but any sort of money so that in a sense the way my professional career really started. Well then early training with the piano rolls was very good for this kind of earning a living. Oh yes because you use the air so much and you play not from notes but from the actual You had to do.
Yes when you wish there was a period when I was staff and I want to be seen as an example I was staff pianist in those days in the radio days a staff pianist and everything you know you played started sometimes it's six o'clock in the morning you play at the church services and then you played up a variety show from 9:00 to 10:00 and very often if you say you would have to improvise you have to transpose for saying as you have to. You stood by if the line would break you would stand by I wouldn't announce until 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning because you know long distance lines which sometimes go up and then at that point the local pianists have to jump in and play scales a play soloist or whatever was in his repertory. Everything was light and there was no none of that keeping that you know to remember so well from my own days at NBC there was one particular staff pianist who was a great friend and I'd visit with him in the studio and there was always this terrible moment when that light moment when you realize you have a hot mike in that right place and you always wonder did we see the light in time.
Well let me tell you you started in radio back in I should say the early 30s and I ended up this time. You began also to attract attention to favorable attention as a composer of serious music. Yes. Do you recall which of you or works was the first performed. I I I wrote I work when I was about when I was I think 18 or something like that called a crawl and a few jazz and Stokowski gave that first performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra and he was the first conductor to befall me that way he was the first conducted that to perform so many of my colleagues and I and so many contemporary composers that had been in and around 1933. I well yes I wrote the work when I was 18 he performed you know about two years later two or three years
and I was about 20 I think 21 when he played it. But I I thought you meant something about radio I had done radio even when I was a you know when I was eight or nine years old I got my broadcasting in what was then radio which would be a little room. With with a piano and a microphone on and the announcer was also the engineer and vice president and president of the company and thus the velvet dressing not on the runway that's right that's right. And so that every now and then I would broadcast and I was and sense part of that whole growing up of broadcasting and then coming back now to the period of about the age of 20 21 I started to. And before that by the way I'd done a series of programs to plan a program that was part of the Channel team broadcasting all over NBC and then I started a series of
orchestra programs on another network and I remained there for many many years and then developed a whole career. Now I think the interesting thing is this that during my growing up and during the period of doing all these these are. Economic activities involving my music I was always composing and I started to get performed as a composer by Stokowski and by that I led around by other people. Wallenstein inside Iran and for its writing and subsequently I was I would say almost all the big conductors have played my my music and recorded it and so on. But at this point I was composing. But my public exposure was was in times of radio programs and I'm not of a light a kind of media. You know it's quite an important event for an 18 year old to have a piece before and to come of that a little bit as he still is one of the eminent
conductors of the country. How did you. I'd like to know something of the composition work that you had done prior to this call and phew. I think this would be of great interest. And then how did Stokowski come to select this piece to perform to question yes and yes. This was really the first the first completed full work that I had orchestrated. I compose an orchestra into line I reckon a great deal but with really no and in a way more or less experimental music you know France at the age of 15 I wrote a whole slew of ballet music really wild for a way out it would sound the way out even today. Now this piece I finished and sent somebody. Yes I know what wast amount of fact Ruth O'Neill who was a I thought
time with with author Judson. I was a very famous manager as you recall. And Ruth O'Neil who had met me through some friends and who was sort of entrusted to me sent my school to Stokowski. Now I never met Stokowski. He received this go along with you know hundreds of other schools that he used to get in those days he would have readings of as you recall with the Philadelphia Orchestra of manuscripts cause he might not play them but they would read them they would have a certain number of periods every during the season of just reading rehearsals and. He looked at the skull and apparently he liked it and I didn't even know one day somebody called me up and said Did you see the New York Times and I ran out and got it and there it said That's the custom for the coming season and announced the programs that amongst them would be new works and that would be the first performance.
So I worked my songs on St. Simons also and Martin Goul I remember this because I was so hurt that the first time I should get any mention you know I wouldn't even spell my name Roland Martin. And and that and that's just how it happened I suffered. Subsequently I saw him once I received a note from him he would like to meet me in New York prior to the performance and in Philadelphia that he was doing with it and to go over with me. And I met him and I don't even I don't recall any details of our meeting I was so petrified of you know what I mean this man and I had no experience as a composer at this point in terms of having a work before him so that that's always a mystery to me. And I even recall going to Philadelphia to hear it and. Not hearing it because I would you know I was so amazed by this whole experience that I ran out after my piece and
I was running down to get to the station to go back home and realized I should have gone back to cease the cussing and try to get back in the auditorium couldn't because I had lost my stuff and of course they didn't know who I was and all these things when you when you talk about it I I don't mean to get off on these sort of personal details but strangely enough I think to all a lot of professional people very often when you mention something that has happened to them what they recall often all they really want to mentation is on the periphery of things that went around it and sometimes you forget the exact essence of the experience. You said that some of the pieces that you had written before this come around and few jazz which is to come ski performed were way out. I'm curious to know what were some of these influences that came to bear on you then just the Schoenberg influence of the Stravinsky of this yes it was a mixture. Now I was never any real
student in a musicological sense. I mean I'm not that kind of person chemically as you know and I think in the arts of music there was a kind of a person who was who was. Very cerebral in his approach as against the instinctual I think I am more basically the instinctual Well I hope a certain amount of intellectuality and knowledge someone picks up one house forced on oneself. But I was up I was always curious and during this period of growing up as an example the age of 14 15 16 I would take home from the public library. We had a very good music library in New York. All kinds of school is set up. I was aware you see I was studying Sharia but I was studying I looked at school as not even to this day a hobby no one. I remember you know I was looking at her as I was looking at up composers such as you remember Leo on Stein who at one time you
know it was it was a very exciting name. Ruggles music call Rocco's That's right. I mean I read and I looked at all the all the new music additions that came out and I followed all these things and Charles Ives I wrote to our lives and received from him because in those days his music or not was not printed yet. Some of the isolated moments he would have obviously had a copy so would make a neat copy and they would photostat of this is before blue printing so I have I still have home today. Some of these original movements and at that time they are now so they subsequently came together as an example the violin sonata or the Concord sonata I see but at this point I think these individual movements are out of context so I was aware and curious and and I think influenced by this. How did you react to the music of Schoenberg then because this was in the 20s we're speaking of. There were there
was a very small number of persons musicians specifically not to mention the public who would concern themselves with this. So yes what who was it who might be responsible for your turning to this or is this something you did again instinctively. Let me answer that as honestly as I think I can. I feel that part of my reaction was being 15 years of age or having a certain amount of talent. And being against the establishment or whatever anybody like I obviously had to dislike and with great violence and and I had to have I mean itching to do it with. So therefore you know I I think this is this is part of it no I don't misunderstand me I'm not saying this in any sense to take away the seriousness of the work some of the proposals that we mention as we
certainly know many recognize what tremendous influence of somewhat of a potent part of our musical scene. They happen and will continue to be. But on your point as to what made me become a way I because I was not in a sophisticated musical environment really I mean I didn't come from most of the musical family. Economically I could not afford to go to a lot of concerts and so on. So but I was curious I went and I looked at this music and I think part of it was the sort of rebel you say the idea that. Do you know anything wild must be good. And anything that sounded as if my parents might like it can't be good. You know this is something that I must protest. What did you do with those early works. Nothing. Now that I think of a few of them were published when I was about
15. But you know I've been out of print a long time but the weather may be most you know the wildest pieces that were there I'll have them somewhere and I you know gloss them back to what you think it would be interesting to pull them up to look at them and you know I because some day I would like to do that I just haven't had time what happens is you know you get into motion and I think a certain amount of time has to go by before you get curious about something that you did all that you wrote. Yes you know I when you to when you're still too close to it all when you're busy moving away from it and you're not concerned with looking at it. I'd be curious one of these days to look into it strangely enough. To some extent of the period. I was also interested in art scene painting and I was almost an artist in a period when I thought I might be that instead of a composer. And this whole thing the kind of music I was writing a song was also combined with my involvement with OT and with them and with
my artistic friends about time who Oldham but I was and who felt that I should be an artist rather than rather than a musician and you know I thought that really at the age of 15 here I was 15 years old and I had to break away from my you know middle class Bush background and all that business which I was this was a this was a period of what we went through and I thought you were you know you went through this in a sense I imagine when this happens with almost every generation you're going to have initial I think today's is no different That's right. Well I believe we could see some accuracy that in composition you were self-taught. Basically yes now I just study I did study with Dr. Jones at the theory and I'm going to start an amount of composition with him. But really you know I've always been a maverick you know and in terms of any real Orthodox training. Yes I did have the opportunity to be involved
in a more academic kind of compositional approach but I can never stand still for that. Might be a failing I don't know. But that's the way it was. You're listening to a conversation with Martin Gould with there and parsons and George Stone. We paused 10 seconds for a station identification. Now resuming the conversation with Martin Gould here is George Stone. Before we move on I want to cover something which I did and touched upon briefly before obviously from that period. You have said that it would be interesting probably to go back and look at those very early. We are scholars and I think it would too because it's apparent that certain things from you were
as. But if you experience at that time you have had a lasting influence on your career. For example your great rapport with the music of I which is manifest in your performances today. And I wonder let's go to that Chorale and Fugue in jazz this is not a work with which I am familiar and I take it that it probably is not among your more from what I perform at things now because of the jazz element involved here in your judgment would it be considered you know a rather dated work. I think it would be you know one thinks of the meal right thoughts and so on and it probably then you think would be dated in the same way. Yes I think it is but I think what yes I think it's it's an interesting documentation on a certain period of you know my growing up but I don't think that it has much more importance than my time had you
A conversation with
Episode Number
#7 (Reel 1)
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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 1),” 1969-01-28, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 28, 2023,
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