There’s an interview with me available online now; here’s the story behind it.
In 2009, the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) staged a show devoted to John Cage: The anarchy of silence. I was asked to write an essay for the catalog, and I wrote my first extended discussion of Cage’s silent piece, 4′ 33″: “What silence taught John Cage”. I enjoyed writing that tremendously, and it opened up new areas of thought for me about Cage’s work. I followed up that MACBA piece with an extended essay that will be part of a collection on contemporary music and spirituality, and again with the lecture on “Cage’s silence piece(s)” that I have been giving lately.
When I was planning to travel to Barcelona in October to give the lecture there, I contacted MACBA to let them know I’d be in town. I was hoping to meet Clara Plasencia, the director publications there, who was my contact for the catalog work. What came out of it was an invitation from Anna Ramos of Ràdio Web MACBA (RWM). As they describe it, “RWM is a radiophonic project from the MACBA website that explores the possibilities of the internet and radio as spaces of synthesis and exhibition.” Anna asked if I’d like to come to their studio for an interview, and I thought, “why not?”
I am not used to being interviewed. First off, my day-to-day work is as a technology developer at a non-profit here in Princeton. I am strictly a behind-the-scenes person, not someone the press would seek out. Secondly, even in the world of music, I am known as a musicologist and writer. I’m perhaps good for a citation or a bit of background, but musicologists don’t tend to be the sorts you think of as personalities that you’d like to spotlight in a media piece. So I had little idea what this interview was going to be like, but assumed that it would be about the Cage centennial, the festival in Barcelona, my lecture, etc.
Instead, it turned out to be about me, James Pritchett. Lluís Nacenta posed the questions, which ranged over my work on Cage, Tudor, and Feldman. I talked about how I think about writing these days. I talked about my work with technology and music. I talked a lot, actually, about an hour and a half. The results have been edited down to a little under a half an hour, with Lluís’s questions removed, so it’s just 20-odd minutes of me, me, me (even the clips of For Bunita Marcus that punctuate the show are mine, on my then somewhat out-of-tune piano).
It was a very unusual experience for me, to spend that much time thinking of how to describe what I do as a writer, why I do it, how I do it, etc. It opened up my mind a little bit, changed my attitude, and, perhaps most importantly, inspired me to write more and work harder at my writing. I am very grateful to Anna for arranging it all, and especially to Lluís for being so kind and intelligent in his questioning. While his voice is not heard overtly in this, the nature and style of his questioning is heard in the character of my responses.
You can hear the show at RWM’s website.