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Music and the Creative Spirit

Tim Berne: The Subliminal Explorations of a Creative Mind

By Published: August 5, 2009
TB: Not really. The difference is that there is a lot more money for music. Subsidized stuff. There are good audiences here; it's just hard to get to them, to get the gigs. It's a bigger country, a bigger place. Travel is complicated. In Europe, you can speed around on a train. You can play a gig in Rome and take a train ten hours away and play another gig as whereas here, the cities are not that close together. There's no train service and it's just much harder.

LP: Can you explain your approach to your compositional process?

TB: It's really intuitive. I just sit down and say I have to write some music. It starts there and sometimes I just sort of free-associate and just write anything as fast as possible, or I'll sit there and stare for three days and eventually something will happen. But usually you just have to try. You can't only do it when the ideas are coming; you have to spend a lot of time thinking. After that, I'm just looking for contrast and for ways to stimulate improvisation. The point of written music is to create a structure and motivate people to want to play. Give them ideas or put them in a space where they'll feel like improvising. The transition from improvisation to notate music is really important and I try to disguise what's written and what's improvised. I like to play around with that and make it seamless so it's just not, here is the tune and here is the solo and here is the tune again. If I want to have some impact, then I have to be able to write music that makes people want to play and that's what being a band leader or composer is about. You want to have some influence.

LP: Do you have a vision for the future of music and yourself?

TB: (Laughs.) I see piles of money coming, raining down from the sky. I don't have a vision because I know that there are a million points of view and you can't really tie it all in and say OK, here's this vision. You know there's commerce music, there's so-called art music, and I don't think there is anyone that isn't playing for an audience. There isn't anyone I know that says I don't give a shit about the audience. That's all part of the picture and it's not gratifying to just sit home and play. I need the audience to really make everything work and to make it mean something. And we all think people feel it's important to have music or else we wouldn't do it.

This interview was originally published in Lloyd Peterson's book, Music and the Creative Spirit in 2006.

Photo Credit

Page 5 photo by Klaus Muempfer

All others courtesy of Tim Berne @ MySpace.

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