http://gothamist.com/2013/11/15/an_inte ... _who_r.phpSo recently the musician David Byrne of the Talking Heads wrote about how in recent years the increase in income inequality in the city has made it a place that's more unfriendly to artists. So from your perspective, do you think New York is changing in a way that’s making harder to be a creative person or is this something that New York artists have always had to deal with?
Well I'm not a sociologist, I'm just a composer, so I'll leave this philosophizing and the sociologicizing and the politicizing to David Byrne, that seems to be something he likes to write about. I'll say just this. I lived in New York all my life, I went to graduate school out near San Francisco and studied with Luciano Berio, I was out there either working or going to get my Master's degree from 1961 to '65 and I came back to New York City in 1965 and I got a loft on Duane Street in what was then called the Washington Market for $65 a month. And I could make as much noise as I wanted to, I was above an engineering company, they appointed me as the night watchman and it was the perfect arrangement. I was usually late on my rent and they didn't care, they were quite nice about it. Now that same street Duane Street about four blocks up from where I am lives Martin Scorsese and you know what, I'll bet you as much money as you like that Martin Scorsese is not paying $65 a month in rent.
So do things change? Things are changing as we speak. It is the nature of life to change, and if any politician promises you change, you can just say "well why don't you just promise me the sky will be blue?" Because odds are, the sky is going to be blue, but you know what? It'll be a different blue today than it was yesterday. So to say that things are gonna change is to say that life is gonna go on. And of course it did change and things got more expensive. As I understand it, and I'm far away from New York right now, I'm 50 miles away, although I'm there regularly and I'll be there all this week getting ready for the concert, I notice that all the young people, I imagine yourself, included, live in Brooklyn. Some of the rich ones live in Williamsburg, or the ones who got in early live in Williamsburg, and the others are moving out slowly to the water because it is being pushed further and further away economically. And other people are in Long Island City, and other people are in Hoboken, and they're all commuters.
Now that's very different because in my day, when I came in, anybody could live — everybody was living in SoHo, as a matter of fact I remember Yvonne Rainer the dancer giving me a ride home, she had a car, I don't know how, from SoHo down to — well TriBeCa didn't exist, it was called the Washington Market, it was a wholesale vegetable market down there, and there was no World Trader Center, that was before it was built. And she said, "does anybody live down here?" I said "yeah, a few of us do." So yes, things have changed drastically. What was then Washington Market, deserted, is now TriBeCa, the most expensive real estate in the world. And it's filled with high-rises, Whole Foods, the whole nine yards. So it's drastically, drastically different in a period of what, 25 to 30 years. And Manhattan has basically become Millionaires Island, so David Byrne can live there but most people can't.
So yes, of course it's quite different now. But if you are in music, if you are a musician, then it is really necessary for you to live in proximity to other musicians because music, as opposed to let's say painting and sculpture, is a communal art. You have to play with other people. If you're a composer you have to have your music played by other live musicians and if you don't you are starving on the vine, you have to be somewhere where there are a lot of players. Now there are other places, London is one of them, L.A. is another, and there are other, lesser places where's there's a decent crowd. One of the reasons I left San Francisco is that there were no freelance players. You know the San Francisco rock thing was going on at the time, but I had no interest in that and there was no freelance music scene going on. So New York is just teeming with all kinds of wonderful musicians who are up for all kinds of stuff, and that is a very fertile place to be. So it's worth it to suffer through living in Long Island City or Canarsie or Hoboken just so you can be part of that. And that’s what people are doing, and more power to them.
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The New Yorker talks about changes in NYC during the last fifty years or so. It's from a longer interview with a lot of interesting comments, such as how he views Schoenberg, Boulez, and Stockhausen, in the grand scheme of musical development -- all of them good composers but now "in a dark corner"-- from the Gothamist.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)
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