"Talking Music is comprised of substantial original conversations with seventeen American experimental composers and musicians—including Milton Babbitt, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, Meredith Monk, a"
Duckworth, a music professor at Bucknell, is a composer himself, which helps when talking to avant-garde composers about their works. His book consists of lengthy, original interviews with 17 of them, beginning with the granddaddy of them all, John Cage, who died three years ago at 80, and concluding with John Zorn, who is barely into his 40s. The profiles are sympathetic, informed and lucid, teasing a remarkable quantity of information, even emotion, out of people whose music, to a majority of listeners, must seem remote or perverse. Most of the composers-experimentalists, minimalists, performance artists-describe years of experimentation, often in conditions of adversity and poverty, before having achieved their signature forms and styles. They have a great deal in common: few of them are remotely interested in the Western classical music tradition (John Cage acknowledges here, ``I don't have an ear for music and I never have; I can't remember a melody''); many are more interested in rhythm and timbre than in harmony, melody or counterpoint; and Indian, Asian and African musical styles are common sources of inspiration. Some-Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass-now have a measure of fame and success, while others, such as Conlon Nancarrow and Pauline Oliveros, remain essentially fringe figures, though with devoted followings. Duckworth's enthusiasm and understanding help to make them all more comprehensible. Illustrated. (June)