= page 8 = PAUL DRESHER -- Interview by Mario Ferrari
ANOTHER ROOM: Can you tell us something about your background?
PAUL DRESHER: I was born in Los Angeles and left soon after high school. I wanted to come up to Berkeley, but first I went to Antioch College and while there got into a rock and roll band. We decided to head for San Francisco as had other bands from Antioch, but not all of us made it. Eventually, I got into a group that worked with theater, called The Rubber Duck Company. I started hanging out at Mills College from 1970-73 where I worked with a bass player named Craig Hazen, and with Peter Gordon and Blue Gene Tyranny.
Then I was down in San Diego where I got my master's degree in composition, so I have a lot of contacts there as well. Paul Tydelski, who built the tape processing system, is a recording engineer and he got me into the studio there for free. I produced the first side of a record, a piece called "Liquid and Stellar Music" which is not really one piece because everything I do on that guitar and system I call Liquid and Stellar music. I performed the piece at New Music America this past summer.
. . .
Fripp is always re-recording, but the sound is always degenerating. My system is very different in that I have a closed loop system, as opposed to Fripp's open loop. My machine has a single piece of tape that goes around and around and I can have it either re-recording or playing back so I can lay down tracks, rather like a multi-track recording studio on a loop. So, I have a lot more potential of building up layers and textures without the sound deteriorating.
. . .
The whole other side of my music which we haven't touched on is writing chamber music for ensembles. It is of equal interest to me as all the solo stuff and pop related rock and roll stuff. I mean, that's a whole different thing where you sit down and on paper and by yourself work out a piece of music that is a lot more complex in its structure and internal coherency; the form of the piece can be much more evolved when you have the time to write it all out and test it.
I use a multi-track recorder a lot. I will play on the keyboards all the layers I am writing and actually, I am doing the solo thing as an economic necessity. A chamber piece for 6 to 10 musicians cannot get played very often unless you have the money. At my point I can't afford that, so I use the tape system to allow me to build the same kind of dense textures and the complexities of the music, as a soloist.
AR: You mentioned that you were doing a record?
PD: Right, the record I'm doing is sort of trying to cover both bases. On one side will be the guitar piece and on the other side there will be a two-piano piece that I wrote back in 1976. I haven't decided who will record it. There are two duos; the choice is between Steve Reich's musicians and two French pianists who do it really well in a much more romantic style. The piece is less pop oriented. The guitar piece has certain pop music appeal. People who listen to it who are most interested in experimental rock and roll can listen to that and some of my other music. The audience wouldn't understand because it is not as immediately seductive on the surface level. The piano piece, "This Same Temple" has, for me, a lot more in it. The ensemble pieces have a kind of depth; you become aware of the more formal and structural elements of the piece and that is important.
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THE WAY OF HOW
AR: How are you involved in the production with George Coates?
PD: It's a piece called The Way of How and it is really an experimental piece, working with George, who is directing tenor John Duykers, tenor Rinde Eckert, mime Leonard Pitt, and myself. We got together and improvised. Everybody has wireless microphones so people are free to move in the space and all of it gets fed into the system. I mix it unless I'm actually on stage performing. There are also objects that make sounds and we try to find ways to use these objects. Sometimes they are visual or sculptural, then they transform into instruments.
AR: So there are musical instruments and you all play against each other, or how does it work? Is it all improvisational?
PD: The was we generate material is improvisational and so someone will say, "Let's try this. . ." If it's musical, I will say it, and if it's theatrical, that might come from Leonard or George. Then we work with an image until we perfect it to a point where we think that it is a finished image. Then, we have to think, how do we get into that image and out of it (the implications of that image in terms of how the objects or sound have been created before, and what is to come later).
AR: Is The Way of How a new medium for you, and is it challenging?
PD: It's very challenging. I'm not sure it is one that I will work in very much; I've been curious to see how my ideas can work in a theatrical context. In my own work, it is strictly music, no direct manipulation of theater in it at all. So, the music I do is pretty different in this case.
AR: Are you using prepared sound?
PD: As of yet we haven't used any, but, I am using tape loops. Most of what we do is live. When I play live, the audience thinks that I am using pre-recorded tape and that I'm just playing along. That is not true at all. Creating everything live has a presence and impact that pre-recorded material does not.
Other people use pre-recorded material and it doesn't bother me, except when I think they are cheating because they haven't mastered their craft well enough to be able to play it live. For myself it is the challenge of doing it all live. I think it is the aesthetic purity.
AR: Are the sounds in The Way of How primarily non-musical?
PD: It moves in and out. That is one of the aesthetic ideals of the piece. There are sections where people are focusing primarily on the gestural and theatrical elements and gradually those elements transform until all of a sudden you realize this is a musical piece. To move between theater and music and transform something that is theatrical into something purely musical and then out again, that is the kind of transition we use. That is how the objects which are visual but also become musical play a strong role. That is why I have a problem with the guitar -- it is such a strong reference, an instrument very difficult to see without being cued in on rock and roll, although the sounds I make aren't necessarily rock and roll.
Typed by Cheryl Vega 5-12-95