This week I am speaking with Dr. Cain Budds, classical guitarist and professor of music at Louisiana Tech. To hear Cain Budds perform, visit his website at cainbudds.com. It was a long interview, and I’ve finally gotten around to transcribing it, half a week later.
This is Q&Art. I’m Russell Pirkle, and this week I am interviewing Cain Budds, classical guitarist and professor of music at Louisiana Tech University.
Dr. Budds is teaching a couple of guitar workshops this summer in conjunction with the arts council.
Could you tell us a little bit about those workshops?
Well they’re just in the works right now. We talked about it this morning with Mrs. Slaughter, but planning on being July sixteenth and twenty-ninth, two Saturdays, tentatively ten to eleven. And it’d be for adults, and it’d be basic finger style guitar. And I’m going to do the same for youths from ages ten to seventeen, on Tuesday and Thursday the twenty-sixth and twenty-eighth. And they’ll take place in the music building, Howard Center, on Tech campus, at the recital hall.
So will these be primarily for people with no guitar experience?
That’s right. I’ll teach people with experience and without experience. I’ll teach them basic chord progressions and how to play basically with your fingers, without a pick.
I’m sure we all have a sort of idea in our minds, but could you tell me what classical music is, how you would define it?
Well, classical music to me is more something that’s been composed as a work of art. It’s meant to stand the test of time as a work of art. Like a painting, a painting is something you always look at and never changes. But a composition by a composer is something that can be manipulated to a certain degree by the performer, to put their own stamp on it. But it’s a work of art that’s supposed to be, you know, similar to any other work of art. Whereas pop or rock music is there more for entertainment. And for an instant gratification kind of thing. Classical music is more of a concrete kind of piece of art. That’s why we call them pieces.
Is there contemporary classical music, or is there a cutoff date where music stopped being classical?
No, it’s still classical now. Classical music is not what a lot of people think. They think it’s all Mozart and Beethoven. Well, you know, I play guitar. Mozart and Beethoven didn’t write for guitar. Contemporary composers did in the same style, and if you think about classical guitar itself, rather than classical music. It has a very piano-esque kind of feel to it. Which is a lot of what going on because in the nineteenth century, you know, piano was king, and that style was king. It’s kind of like rock and blues today. You know, it’s that style that’s popular. That’s why people play the guitar the way they do today. But in terms of contemporary art, oh yeah there’s tons. A guy named Nikita Koshka, I think he has a webpage, he’s writing all the time. Roland Diens, you can look him up on the web; it’s some really cool music. One of my favorites is Duchamp Bachdonovich, who was teaching in the San Francisco conservatory. He’s from Bosnia. And He writes just, like, this amazing music that we can call classical, but’s it’s almost like jazz. But it’s still very much more forward looking. Classical music is kind of a misnomer. because classical, there’s a classical period. Just like, in art, there’s a romantic period in art and . . .
Yeah, it’s like saying modern art and applying that to contemporary art and . . .
That’s right. So the forms that we think of as classical are the forms like Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn. But that changed, not so much formally in the nineteenth century but in the twentieth century it definitely changed. And the musical language became much more . . . I guess chromatic is a good word for it. It’s kind of you know, thinking about painting. If you think how painting’s changed. A painting is not the way it was in the fifteenth or sixteenth century, you know, Madonna and Childs. Thinking forward, it’s much more abstract. So the music became much more abstract. And now the music has kind of come full circle where it’s more, I would say modern kind of romantic. In some sense it’s not.
So you would say that in classical music there’s still to some extent a linear progression to where you can say, ‘this is the genre of classical music today, what it’s like’?
Oh yeah, for sure.
You mentioned earlier about putting your personal stamp on songs that you play. Could you tell me a little bit more about the personal expression component of playing a composition someone else has . . . What are you expressing?
Well, it’s kind of like phrasing, like how you say something. If you were reading English off a page. ‘To be or not to be.” How many different ways could you say it? You can say it, and it all means the same thing. It’s the way you say it, the way you deliver. It’s the phrasing. It’s the nuance. If there’s dynamics involved – that’s the loudness or softness. There’s the way you accentuate, the way you innunciate. Some people, David Russell, one of my heroes, he won’t record something unless he has something new to say, unless he has some new way to express that idea.
So it becomes sort of scientific in that way.
Well, I don’t know if I’d say scientific. Just more personal I suppose.
As someone with no musical background, what sort of advice or directions could you give me to become acquainted with classical music, so that I could go from someone who hears a song by Chopin and thinks “oh that’s pretty”, to actually understanding the meaning of it and the beauty of it?
Well, like a jumping off point? If you go to a basic music appreciation class, like at tech or at a community college, a basic music appreciation class will do that. Also if you go to Naxos.com. Naxos.com is the big web page for classical music. I don’t know if it’s about specific pieces. A lot of times, when you hear a piece of music, it makes much more sense if you know what the composer was thinking. If you just hear it, it can mean anything. It’s kind of like lyrics today, they can mean a lot of different things. But the music itself, it’s much more interesting to me to know what the composer was talking about when he wrote this music. And you can find out those things at naxos.com or you can go to one of those cds where the music is, and a lot of times there will be liner notes. Classical music is very different in a sense from like you know you buy a new Foo Fighters record for instance, it doesn’t tell you about the music. It tells you who played it and the names of the tunes, something like that. But often there’ll be program notes inside the cd. Classical cd books are, you know, thick. I like to read them all. Bach did this and this. And he wrote this piece because he got put in jail fighting with the town council or something along these lines. It might not be so specific. But you know, something like that would be a good place to start. Or you can just listen to NPR. They’ve got the classical thing during the day. But as far as classical guitar goes, people want to get into listening to some classical guitar. I would suggest going to amazon.com, buy Mamo Barwakos three hundred years of classical guitar. It’s like a three cd set of his first three lp records from like 1978. Bar none, that’d be the place to start for classical guitar.
On the vein of talking about getting to know the composers, could you tell me about a composer who you’ve gotten to know through playing his compositions and what that relationship is like?
Well, most of the compositions I play, I play Bach. Scholars don’t really know a lot about him. But I will tell you about this guy named Nikita Koshken. Still alive, born in 1956. Live in Moscow. I did my dissertation on him, spent several weeks with him, interviewing him personally. And, I know what he’s like, the good and the bad and the ugly, you know. And I know his music, I know what to expect. So this guy has several pieces, one I play a lot called the Usher Waltz, it’s on my web page. That is after Edgar Allen Poe, and it’s kind of like what the music would have sounded like. Somewhere in the story, the guy Roderick Usher picks up a guitar and accompanies himself on these wild fantasies, because other music drives him nuts. Only the string music soothes him. ANd I know what he was talking about when he wrote that. So with him I was lucky ’cause I have personal first hand experience with him and his music and we sat and talked about his compositions in general for hours on end. And any time I had a question I could just, you know, send him a message on facebook. ‘Hey Nikita what was going on here in bar 49?’ ‘You know, I was thinking of this and that and the other.’ So that for me is very, it’s the only composer that I know. There are a couple other ones that I’m not real close with.
Can he play guitar?
Oh yeah, he did. When I was at Arizona State, he came to record two cds with my professor who has a recording company, Soundset records. And he did a concert tour in the United States, you know probably by subscription. I don’t know how it works. But he had a hand injury, less than ten years ago. And he quit performing as much. He did a radio show for a while. Now he’s just a full time composer. His wife’s a classical guitarist. She’s very famous. So she takes up the slack for him I suppose.
Do you have ideas about how music has changed the way you experience life, just in general, non-musical experiences?
I don’t know. Haha. That’s a hard way to put it. Experience of life, I guess, in terms of making a living, it’s difficult being a professor of music. It’s not the most lucrative gig in the world. You gotta find your way. And, you know, as far as music, classical guitar. It’s just my appreciation of a much wider range of music and things. I have become much more acutely aware of things I dislike and like. I have old friends from high school, friends on facebook, we talk about music. They’re talking about band xyz and I’m like *scoffs* you’re kidding me. These guys are horrible. They’re a waste of space. And for them, music’s a very personal thing, so for them, band x is up there with God, and for me they’re just horrible. Why would you waste your time with that. Then at the same time, if I say band xyz, they’d say oh those guys are horrible. But to me, I know what I like, and I see things in a different light in terms of musicality. But then I have to catch myself and go ‘well you know, my opinion is just my opinion’.
Did learning to play classical guitar ruin any music that you once loved?
Yeah, it has. I used to love Neil Young, then I went through a stage I hated Neil Young. I don’t think classical guitar did it, I was just in a different thing. And I think I went into the classical guitar, and so my friends who I was talking about, they were into so many things and I was into nothing but studying classical guitar and listening to the old music I always listened to. Like Yes, Rush, progressive things. But it didn’t really ruin it. I found listening to music that was sheer entertainment that I thought before was really great. Then I came back, and now I love Neil Young. I had a Neil Young renaissance, and the same thing with the Beatles. I got so sick of the Beatles I didn’t want to hear another Beatles record as long as I lived, but now I’ve had a Beatles renaissance. I try to see the good in everything, but you know, some things I don’t like.
Actually my first experience with you was the faculty concert, I think it was either last year or the year before, where you and Dr. Teets performed Simon and Garfunkel songs.
Oh yeah. We did that this year too.
Are you a big Simon and Garfunkel fan?
Oh yeah. I love them. It was my idea to play those songs. He wanted to play some music . . . I said ‘you know we can’t go up there and play Joe Dallen, you know the early seventeenth century lutenest, Elizabethan lutenest. He’s awesome, if we were going to do a whole recital of that stuff, very different situation. But I said with this kind of thing we need to do something a little bit more light. We did Simon and Garfunkel, maybe something else. Oh, it was from movie music, that’s what it was. This year we did a James Taylor tune, and we did “America” by Simon and Garfunkel which I love. And then we did one of my original acoustic compositions. And I sang the melody and he did the harmonies. That’s a lot of fun too.
So, what are some mainstream popular music that you enjoy listening to?
Well, I always tell it like this. Students come ‘Dr. Budds, you gotta hear this band’ . . . No, I don’t. Haha. I really don’t. I listen to Foo Fights, I like the Foo Fighters. If it’s something that’s new and out, I put it in terms of ‘would I buy the cd?’ The Foo Fighters, I’d buy the cd if it came out tomorrow. All Foo Fighters all kind of sound the same after a while, but I still like them. I would buy Paul Simon put out that new record, So Beautiful or So What in May. No questions asked, I don’t need to hear a track, I bought it. Rush, they’ll put out a new album this year, I’ll buy it sight unseen. Steve Lynwood, back in the Clapton days. Traffic, if they put out a new record. U2 I’d buy, that’s kind of a holdover from when I was a kid. REM, I bought their latest album.
What did you think about that album?
Are you and REM fan?
Yeah, well a fan of the older things.
There’re some songs on there I really think are cool, and some of them I don’t like so much. My favorite tune, you got that album?
I listened to it when it was on NPR as the album of the month.
My favorite tune is the second to last, the last two. One’s a nod to Neil Young. Neil Young had this tune called “Pocahontas”, and it talks about sitting around the fire with Pocahontas and Marlen Brando. So REM sings this song called Marlen Brando, and the words are something like ‘please tell Neil I can pow-wow now.’ It’s just kind of an ethereal nod to Neil Young and that song “Pocahontas”. The last two tunes on that album are really good. There are other things I would buy. The new Cars album came out after about twenty years. It’s really cool. Things like that.
Hearing you talk about the Rem song, and earlier about like Bach and liner notes, it surprises me how big a part context and biographical information plays in your appreciation of music.
Well it’s always been that way. When I was a kid, I was big into Aerosmith. I had three older brothers, so that’s a kind of the demarkation between me and some of my friends in high school and stuff that I mentioned earlier. I read record covers, cover to cover. Peter Frampton Comes Alive 1974 or 5. I read everything. I know who’s playing keyboards on it. The whole mp3 craze blows my mind, ’cause I want to hold the cd. Like the new Paul Simon record. There’s liner notes in that, as a matter of fact, by Elvis Costello. And I read every line. I know what’s going on. I look up a video I can watch and read, I know who’s playing on each track. I’m very interested to know who’s playing what and why. And when it came out, like say the Aerosmith records. I know the dates for all the records. I know the dates for all the Led Zeppelin records. Rush records I have to think about, but I know pretty much all the years. Not that I read Circus magazine or anything when I was a kid. I’m not an organized person by any means, but I like to keep the music I listen to . . .
Have a sort of timeline?
Yeah, exactly right. I like to have the record in hand. I like to smell it. The way the ink smells. I like, if it’s got a gate fold or whatever have you. Very kind of visual, in a sense. I like to see and hear.
Interesting. I’m probably about to offend a lot of people, and I could very well be grossly under-informed, but I tend to think of the Foo Fighters as a sort of power chord band, kind of a holdover from the grunge era. I was just wondering, as a person who, I would think you put a lot of emphasis on the instrumentation and complexity. What’s your response to that, I guess?
Well they were. They came from Nirvana. Dave Grohl, the singer and guitar player. He was the drummer for Nirvana. Which, I liked Nirvana, but I got kind of tired of it really fast. I think that first record was really cool, back in the day. And at that point, I was already kind of moving past pop music and grunge. I liked Soundgarden a lot. I still like Soundgarden a lot. Pearl Jam, I didn’t like those guys so much. But Foo Fighters, their first record, it was clear to me that the production and the sound, the song writing was, maybe not the lyrical imagery, but it was just better, miles beyond Nirvana. Then each record got better. One I really, really liked was the second one, The Color and the Shade, the blue record. And “My Hero”, that’s a great song. So is “Everlong”, and “February Stars”, I mean, that’s just a great album. And they all sound the same, and you can say like the bands like Boston or Rush, they all sound the same. But there’s something in it that’s not just power chord stuff. I’m just surprised that this Dave Grohl, this guy with long hair, he’s always smiling these giant teeth and, you know, chewing gum constantly. In interviews, it’s hilarious. He comes off like he doesn’t care about anything. But the music is deceptively simple. It sounds very simple, but if you dig past, there’s a lot more that’s, for me very interesting. It’s not really technical, but the way he comes up with these things for me is very interesting. I think they’re really cool, really interesting.
We’ve sort of been doing this for a while now, but could you compare and contrast popular music and classical music?
Well, popular music is generally, if you want to get down to basics, like I said earlier, a classical composition is a composition with a specific form a lot of times that may or may not be really obvious. Pop music, like a Foo Fighters song, it’s generally got an introduction, and it’s got, what they call if you’ve taken a music appreciation class, there’s what they call strophic form and through-composed form. Strophic form means, like verses. Same music occurs over and over, like a Neil Young song or Bob Dylan song. Different words, the music’s the same. And it’s got a chorus, and it’ll have a bridge and it’ll come back. It’s the form that we know without even knowing that we know it. We’re used to that. Same with blues. Blues is just a twelve bar blues that I knew how to play before I knew that there was even a form, that I knew what I was listening to ’cause you’ve heard it so much. But classical music can be in a very simple form in some sense but it can be very complex in other ways. But it’s the way the music is arranged often times. And the way it’s presented.
So would you say that classical music is more complex or somehow higher?
I wouldn’t want to say higher. But I think it’s much more complex. If you play a Neil Young, it’s a great song. Or even Skynyrd, “Sweet Home Alabama”. It’s a great song. Everybody loves that song. But really it’s the same three chords when you get down to brass tacks, same thing over and over. Most songs, I used to teach a rock class. Rock and roll, even a Foo Fighters song, will be the same four chords over and over. And we just love that. It’ll be slightly changed in some respects. They may add some flourishes or some decorative things. But if you really get down to it, the big difference is it’s much more redundant. Classical music is much more developed. That was the big thing, with Haydn back in the 1700s. You have this sonata form, where you have a thematic idea or two thematic ideas stated in a specific way and then it has another section called development where they take ideas from the two themes before and they mix those up, chop them up and get bits and pieces of those themes. And then you get the recapitulation where all these ideas come back out again. All in the same key, without changing key. Classical music changes key, that’s a big difference. If you have a Bach fugue or something, it’ll go through a circle of fifths progression. It’ll go through, not every, but a lot of related keys. And you listen to a Lady Gaga song, it’s not going to change key.
What influence would you say that classical music has on mainstream music, not necessarily just pop and rock, but maybe also the music in movies or jazz music?
You hear it in movies all the time. Jazz and classical kind of cross over. And you get it in pop too in the sense that you hear Aerosmith or whoever, alot of these rock bands will record their songs with a symphony orchestra and go on tour. I find it a little cheeseball. Sometimes it works. But classical music you hear all the time in movies, almost every movie. Like Jaws, the ones that John Williams did for sure. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, that kind of thing. So back to the original question, what was it?
What influence do you think classical music has on non-classical music?
I think you could probably say that pop music has more influence today on classical music than it does the other way around. Maybe.
In what way?
‘Cause you hear . . . When I was describing earlier some of this Duchamp Bachdonovich music, the Bosnian composer, with much more jazz influence into the classical kind of thing. I don’t really hear a lot of classical influence in pop music. Of course I don’t really listen to it all the time. Maybe I’m completely wrong. My kids listen to 101.9 on the way to school in the morning, that station out of Monroe, Star 101.9. Can’t stand that stuff. The things I do hear, like Lady Gaga, some of those songs, you hear some elements in that that are, of course it’s the same four chord progression over and over, but you hear some things that you could maybe trace back to classical influences. But sometimes you’ll hear string music in some pop music. I don’t know, that’s a very good question. haha.
I just wanted to learn a little bit more about this. You mentioned earlier about the idea of having musical ideas in the composition that come back later in different forms. Is it like chord progressions, or what are they made up of?
They’re like melodic motives. Melodic ideas. I don’t really play jazz, but I pretend to. And I know people who really do play jazz, and they tell me ‘if you want to play a solo, you only need a couple of notes. You just need to repeat a motive, like the rhythmic motive.’ If you think of Beethoven’s fifth symphony, the famous one, ‘dum dum dum, duum.’ You listen to that, you’ll hear the formal motive in so many permutations throughout the whole thing. You’ll hear it in the other movements, ’cause it’s usually a four movement symphony. You’ll hear it come back. He’s intended that kind of nugget of information as kind of a tying together point, a cyclical kind of form. And so you hear a main theme and you know what it is. For instance, if you listen to Yes, the band yes one of my favorites, you will hear musical ideas from that album, Close to the Edge. And they will develop ideas. They’ll take melodic ideas. It’ll come back maybe in minor mode, or it’ll come back maybe changed, not necessarily in a sense of theme and variations, but it’ll be kind of modified. And so you still recognize it. One sense, think about musical ideas, think about Nirvana. The grunge time was after the death of the guitar solo. If you listen to Nirvana there were guitar solos. But most of the songs, all the guitar solos were the melody from the vocal line. “Come as you are”, then the guitar solo “nah nah nah nah”. And it just kind of follows that, so that’s a motivic idea that connects everything. It can be manipulated and brought back in different ideas.
Do you have any ideas about what music is capable of, what it does, what effect it has on people.
Well it obviously has an effect. I don’t know what it is. If you listen to Van Halen from 1978, and it’s really high energy. Listen to a band called The Sundays, they’re pretty mellow. A lot of James Taylor. My kids call it pancake music. Usually Saturday morning I like to play a lot of James Taylor. I don’t know how to answer that. Music obviously, I think you’d need somebody like a music therapy person to answer that. I’m not sure they could answer it. Music means so much different to everybody. One thing a friend of mine did say, he gets tired of people saying ‘oh, classical music it’s so soothing, so relaxing.’ But if you really listen to classical music, nine times out of ten, it’s not relaxing. It’s very much, you know, high energy. It can be everything. I don’t know how it affects people. It just touches people in so many different ways. That’s why people love the music they love.
Why listen to classical music? If you were trying to market it to people or promote it, what would you say?
That’s a hard thing, you know, like this morning I was listening to an old Sting cd, Dream with the Blue Turtles. Cd was over. I pop it out, I was going to put in something else, but there was KEDM was on and it was classical music. I just wanted to listen to it, and I think that it’s really hard to have an appreciation for classical music ’cause it’s so hard to know what you’re listening to or for. Back in those days, some of that music was written for aristocratic kind of circles, or different social circles. And pop and folk music has always been there, a lot of times not written down, just like music today is a lot of times not written down. It’s so much more helpful to have some sort of working knowledge of it. Not always, and you can really get into things like that movie Fantasia, it’s got visual things. A lot of times, you play a piece of music, it may be an abstract kind of piece of music, but if you tell them the program, where music follows a story, you can describe the program, people will have a better appreciation for it. But I wouldn’t know how to just start doing that. It’s really hard to get people interested. It’s the same kind of thing with painting. People can see paintings and appreciate it, but to get them to go past that, and come to the dark side and see further. If I were program director at KEDM, that would be the big problem.
I think there is often an issue with, you know, the older the works of art get, the contextual elements and the sort of visual language change over time, and so it’s harder to understand it.
Yeah, I mean if you’re thinking about like Catholic church art, tempura on board. There’s always the tryptichs, the Madonna and Child or the Jesus on the Cross. That was, often times they didn’t sign their works, but we can see it now and really appreciate it. It still blows my mind when I look at these old paintings. It’s just mind blowing. For me, I think about, you know, I got into classical music because I’ve always loved history, and it’s kind of like how did people speak way back in the 1800s during the civil war. They didn’t say ‘hey man, what’s up dude,’ these kind of things. How did they hold and carry themselves. Obviously they were people just like us. But even back in those old painting times, they were painting for the church, but to me it’s interesting how it was done and the context it was done, what was said while it was being done. Same thing with music, Beethoven wrote these nine symphonies, but we don’t know what they really sounded like when they premiered. We don’t have recordings. And they have had to have changed. And the context is so much different now. With some things, like rock and roll, it’s only like fifty years old, right, some of it still sounds cool. But a hundred and fifties years from now it might sound very different. But I don’t know ’cause we have recordings of it, and we didn’t have recordings in the late 1800s.
One experience that I had recently, I was listening to a song from the thirties, and it was just so alien to me, ’cause it was so strange and different. And I realized, you know, because that was basically the oldest recordings possible, we’re hearing music now that’s older than anyone in the past could have heard. Like, ten years ago, people couldn’t have heard music that was eighty years old. So that’s something new. The experience of the exact recording.
Well everything was live back then. I always think about, in terms of anthropological kind of things. If Benjamin Franklin was in Paris, which he was, 1870 or something like that, trying to win the French support for the Americans. At the same time, Mozart’s touring Europe, playing his own music. I don’t you know if, you know he won’t return my calls, but if Benjamin Franklin heard Mozart’s music, he saw Mozart or he was in a room with Mozart, you know what I mean. They did their own composing and performing. So Franklin didn’t download the mp3 or whatever. Music was very much live and in person. And now we take so much for granted. And recording also, especially classical guitar. Van Halen, in an article I was reading, talking about the new pro tools, the music recording programs they record all this stuff in, make everything so squeaky clean and so clinical that it’s for him hard to listen to. And I know what he’s talking about. ‘Cause I listen to, like the new Foo Fighters record. It is so squeaky clean and so tight. You can’t do that in real life.
Yeah, I guess you lose a lot of little contextual things that way too. I remember someone telling me about the old Rolling Stones records, hearing background noises, some words and things.
Doors opening and closing. Zeppelin records too you hear those kind of background noises. And they kind of cut all that stuff out. But people used to complain that the new cds didn’t sound, if you have like a Rolling Stones record, if you get the cd you’ve lost a lot of the quality. You’re kind of just taking the surface of it. You don’t have the depth and warmth of an old lp record. And it’s true because I’ve played them back side by side, ’cause I have cds of almost all my records you know. And you hear a big difference.
As a music professor and a performer, could you tell me your sense of the prospects and challenges that musicians face today?
Well there’s all of them, you know? Classical musicians especially, it’s getting an audience really. Last year, most concerts I played, classical guitar concerts, I played over at Mississippi state. We do swaps with other professors. And if you get twenty people to come to your concert. Whereas if you go play at a bar, if twenty people show up, at least they pay the cover charge or whatever. Do you play music too?
Um, I’ve played drums a bit. I’m not very good at it at all, but I had a lot of fun doing it.
Really, for me it really changed how I experienced music. I think one thing it really did for me was it changed me from experiencing it as one sound to actually thinking about it in terms of the separate parts and instruments playing it and things.
Yeah, it does that. Where were we?
Oh um, I was talking about the prospects and challenges.
Well, you know like you said your friends who are musicians and music students, always looking for a gig, you know. And it’s the same thing with everybody. A friend of mine who was a professor here at Tech. She saw someone with a bumper sticker on their car that said “real musicians have day jobs”. Haha. She goes ‘what’s that mean for us? Our day jobs are being musicians!’ It’s kind of funny. And, you know, the whole starving artist kind of thing. Ruston’s not a very big town, so even the area’s kind of hard. There are venues. It depends on what your style is. Classical, it’s really difficult. But I’ve found ways of making things work. I hooked up with a guitar professor at ULM, and I’ve played over there. I’ve played down at ULL. College in Texas. Mississippi State, and you just gotta get out there and hit the pavement and make it work. And you don’t get paid a lot doing it. You get paid more to play at Portico or something. It’s kind of like the doing what you love kind of thing.
Did you ever have the starving artist experience?
I live it every day, man! Yeah, I do. You know, we’re not the highest paid. The liberal arts college is the least funded in the whole university here. And, it’s very real, especially in the summer. I spend a lot of time, I’ve got four kids and a big dog, trying to find ways to supplement the income, you know. So starving artist, I can say that I live it all the time.
How long have you been composing? You mentioned an original composition.
I don’t compose, it’s more decompose. Haha. I wrote some pop songs last year. I started doing a couple gigs to make money, like playing cover songs at Sundown or something like this, which some people like and some people don’t, you know, it’s fine. But somebody said one time in an interview in the Tech Talk or something ‘oh yeah, he’s fine. He can play the song as well as the original people, but it’s not really original music so anyone with a guitar can go up there and do that.’ You know, that kind of thing. So I just started writing songs, and the first song that came out was this song called “Anybody with a Guitar”, you know it was kind of a jab at this guy. But then I wrote probably about fourteen or fifteen songs that are not classical at all. They’re more like Cosby Stills and Nash, Neil Young kind of folk rock kind of things.
But still instrumental?
Oh no, I sing too. I have a couple instrumental things that I do on steel string guitar.
Tell me about what the study of classical music is . . . the scholarly pursuit of it. And what is progress in that study?
What do you mean . . . Oh, you know, the influence on pop and rock music, that kind of thing. Sting put out a record back five years ago, maybe four years ago, of all John Dallen music, lute music from 1620, something like this. And that was kind of interesting. But as far as uh, I’m still not sure what you’re getting out with the question about today and classical music. You mean old music? How is it viewed now? Or what?
Sure. Maybe just how, I guess I’m just sort of taking shots in the dark about something I don’t know very much about, but how the study of it changes maybe. For instance, in your masters program, you did work with your professor on the lute works of Bach. What was that research like or what did you accomplish?
Well, the music’s already there, and it’s written for lute. The lute is a precursor to the guitar, with doubled strings, a twelve string guitar. We were kind of adapting that to the six string classical guitar, and the challenges there are fingering or changing notes from like a lower octave that we can’t reproduce on a guitar to a higher octave. And fingering and articulation. Mainly that edition was supposed to be a performing edition to be sold to people who were interested in performing this music with connotary and editor’s notes in the beginning. Talk about ornamentation, baroque ornamentation, this kind of thing that was typical in Bach’s time. But my job was basically editing what he did, and playing through his ideas, figuring how to make these notes work on the guitar. And we had some interesting guitars that got a little heated sometimes. I’d go through all this music and try it out, and I’d say hey these are great fingerings if you’re going at a snail’s pace, but if you’re going to bring this up to the proper tempo, then it was like impossible, that kind of thing. That’s what we were doing. So we’re kind of reworking, this was a second edition of that book. Bach only wrote four groups of pieces for the lute. And I think it was kind of for the lute harpsichord combination. And so we’re just arranging those for guitar, and making it user friendly.
Well I think we’ve been going for about an hour now. I won’t take up any more of your time. Thanks for being here.
No problem, I appreciate it very much.
This has been Cain Budds, and I’m Russell Pirkle.