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New York City Composer: David Chesky on Time, Place and Music

By Robert Schulslaper

Composer David Chesky’s conversation, at least when he’s talking about music, zips along, bursting with ideas and associations. This is a musician who can write a concerto in a week, whose music flows in a cataract that echoes his love of kayaking and skiing. An interviewer merely has to toss a word out and he’s off and running, holding forth with good-humored intensity on anything and everything.

Q: Let’s start with the New York Rags. The recording was made using a Yamaha Disklavier, a versatile “enhanced” piano that can be used in the conventional way but can also be programmed to perform. Which option did you select?

A: Both. Here’s the thing: I don’t want to go so deep into how we do it because I want to talk more about the music, but just to clear things up, let’s talk about making piano records. The average classical piano record has about a thousand edits in it, ok? So basically the pianist says, “let’s do bar 64. Let’s do bar 109” and then the editor sews this whole thing together to make it perfect. The good thing about the Yamaha Disklavier, you could play the whole thing in and if you play it bad then you can go back and fix the wrong notes. And then it has the same continuity of this one performance. If there’s hard things in there, they can be adjusted and all that. So I think it’s a more realistic thing for pianists. I think in the future all piano records should be made with the Disklavier. Let’s say Monday you’re supposed to make a recording session. You don’t feel good. You’re stuck. Then you have an engineer say, “I need to do it again, test it,” and all this. There’s lots of pressure. If a pianist could go into a room and wear his shorts and a tee shirt and play and then hand the disc to a recording engineer, who in turn can play the performance back in a concert hall without the pressure, you get the best of both worlds. The pianist is not inconvenienced by the recording process and the engineer is not inconvenienced by the pianist, so I think to get better recordings in the future this is a much smarter way to do it.

Q: Process aside, the piano is well suited to the music: crisp, clear, light.

A: Well, you know, my music is very fast, there’s a lot of stuff going on and the Yamaha has a very clear, precise sound that’s good for me. I don’t write romantic music, I’m not doing Brahms. So for my music it’s crystalline, it’s clean, you hear all the lines… And also, with the binaural technology, it’s supposed to be that the piano’s sitting ten feet in front of you.

Q: Do you have to wear earphones to appreciate that?

A: No, it’s Binaural Plus, so it plays back perfectly on headphones and perfectly on speakers. This is a technology we’re developing with Princeton with the 3D Audio Lab for certain recordings. Look the idea is, while I’m on the subject of recording, most people are going to get their art via electronic media. If you want to live in Idaho on a farm and have a nice life, but you want to hear great music, with this new technology we can put you in the space. Most people can’t live in New York or large cities and we can bring the actual venue to them, it makes it a more visceral expanse.

Q: For those who may not know, binaural recordings are made using a life-sized model of a head, which stands in for the listener. Are the microphones attached to the head?

A:, No, no, the head is the microphone. Inside the ears of the head are two microphones, calibrated. So it hears like a person hears, it has all these spatial cues. I mean, this could be a whole ‘nother fifty page article, but you know, spatial cues are very important. For instance, on my ballet record you can hear the bass drum and the glockenspiel properly situated in space. I think in an orchestra you need these spatial cues because when things are congested on a recording and all cramped up you don’t really hear the counterpoint, you don’t hear the line because everybody’s in the same physical space. So what we try to do with the binaural technology is properly orient everything: that tympani’s way back there and then you feel the cello on the right and everything’s spatially precise. Then the musical lines emanating from those spaces are a lot clearer. There’s a technology coming out called cross-talk cancellation with which we can do three-dimensional space coming out of two speakers. So in the future we can actually put you in Carnegie Hall, not record there, but put you there. That is how sophisticated this technology we’re working on is getting.

Q: Are you an audio engineer?

A: Yeah, I’m very conversant in technologies but when we record I do have engineers even though I direct the session. Technology development is a very important part of what I do, I enjoy it. I like doing these things and I like the challenge of pushing the entire industry forward as we’re doing with HDtracks. We have this delivery system and it can only enrich the musical experience.

Q: What inspired you to write the New York Rags?

A: Last year I was listening to Dick Hyman play Fats Waller. That was great and I just said to myself, “I like this stride piano, I’m pretty good at it, I just want to try one.” So I wrote one. And I had a ball. So I said, “You know, I’m just going to write another one.” (chuckling). And at the end of the month I had eighteen. That’s how it happened. And then I named then after New York and I did a video with my kids and all that, The Kids are Late for School Rag. But it’s just trying to take the American music of Ragtime and Jazz and as [chef] Emeril Lagasse says, “Kick it up” and make it contemporary. Joplin was writing his rags in the late 1800s in traditional harmony,

but my rags are atonal, they have fugues in ‘em, they’re dissonant, they swing, they have jazz, they’re influenced by everybody I’m influenced by. They’re influenced by Gershwin, they’re influenced by Bernstein, they’re influenced by Stravinsky, Bartok, all these things put into a rag form. Because my basic background is as a classical composer but I’m also a jazz musician. People say, why do you use jazz in your music: the question is, why not? I mean, Bartok and Stravinsky used their folklore in music and I think for music to be organic and indigenous that American music shouldn’t be watered down European classical sensibilities, we should just reinvent it and make it our own. So these rags are very difficult, they’re virtuoso, but at the end they’re quintessentially American, this can’t be written by a European. It has all these flavors of Americana in there and the one thing that we own in this country, that we need to have in our music, I believe, all of our music, is syncopation. We own it. And this is what American music is to me, the fact that we can play things off the beat where European classical music is rooted in rhythms being linearly subdivided (delivers a rapid series of rhythmically exact syllables and contrasts it with syncopated syllables). And this…I put this in my orchestra music, as well—syncopation. So getting back to the Rags, this is a homage to ragtime, jazz, Americana, it’s all mixed together, it’s New York and New York is just a collage of everything. So I took all these influences and made it into this piano record.

Q: Traditional Rags follow a fairly complex melodic and harmonic blueprint. Were you imitating that pattern in your own rags?

A: No. The form is whatever I want to do. In writing my Rags I identified with the feeling, the swing, the stride piano. They come from the same organic place as Scott Joplin, but the form, tonality, harmonic language, syncopation’s totally different. If I were writing rags like the Maple Leaf, it would be goofy. My thing is this: I want my music to be organic and not contrived. I could sit and write any style I want and all that, I could write minimalism, I could write atonal. But the thing is, I have to write music that I enjoy. I write music for myself to get off. And I like the rags. I want to write music that’s fun to play and fun to listen to. Enjoy it and it’s challenging. I don’t want simplistic.

Q: The performance sounds very natural, no one would guess that a machine was playing it back.

A. No, it’s very sophisticated. Look, I’m not as concerned as to how it’s played and all that. Basically it’s a tool to get things out quicker. If I had to sit there and do it on my own it would be a year practicing. I don’t want to sit there and practice for a year. I want to get it out quick and I can start writing the next thing.

Q: Using what’s really an outgrowth of the player piano to perform complex, virtuosic music can’t help but recall Conlon Nancarrow. Was he an influence?

A: I think if I had to draw a tree my influence would be pretty much Stravinsky, Bartok, Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein and then I would say myself. This is the music

I like because all these writers write rhythmically. All these writers are influenced by jazz, so I come from that school. That would be my school and I want to take it to the next level and see what I can do with it.

Q: It may be a silly question but what is jazz to you?

A: You know what jazz is to me? Well, it’s something that’s hard to define but you know it when you hear it. But the thing is, jazz is a player’s art form. Because if twenty jazz players play the song My Funny Valentine you’d have twenty completely different versions. It’s an interpretive art form, it’s an improvisational art form. Classical music is a composer’s medium. If twenty orchestras played the Rite of Spring they’re pretty much going to be very similar. Everybody’s going to have a staccato here and a rest here, it’s the same thing a little fast or slower. So that’s the difference.

I like to take jazz as a springboard for a poet to extemporaneously poetize, and it’s fun for the poet to do it. I think it’s more fun to play than classical because you can just do what you want to. It comes from that. But you know, I cross both lines. I need fulfillment. I have a lot of fun playing jazz, I enjoy it, it’s my therapy but I also like the depth and intellectual challenge of orchestral writing.

Q: Do you feel a kinship between Stravinsky’s or Bartok’s use of jazz and your own?

A: Absolutely. But the thing is, they introduced the jazz style of their generation. When Stravinsky was influenced by jazz, it was the Roaring Twenties, it was a different type of jazz. Latin, hip-hop, funk music is my jazz. The important thing is it’s a folkloric art form, and I want to use these art forms and take them and encompass them and recreate them into symphonies and concertos, into a higher form. You need this building block to have connection to society. For me, art has to reflect time and culture. It has to be this. And by using these blocks of culture around you then it becomes organic, it becomes art; there’s a real humanism, a connection to the world. I mean, I could sit here and come up with some mathematical atonality and tone row that would be fascinating but to me, it doesn’t have the passion that music has.

Q: Another thing you have in common with composers like Bartok is your willingness to use ethnic music. Here and there in your concertos it seemed to me I could hear traces of Gypsy music, Klezmer, even a snippet of tango.

A: Absolutely, yeah. I like gypsy music, just like Bartok did. I’m fascinated with these Rumanian bands. They play like a quarter note is a hundred ninety-eight. I mean, it’s so fast crazy, and intoxicating (makes rapid sounds). As a matter of fact, I want to do a gypsy record. I like to do new different things. Actually I already wrote it, so I want to get an orchestra that can play it. That’s the problem. I think I’ll go to Eastern Europe. I think Jewish klezmer, gypsy music, flamenco music, and jazz share a connection. It’s the frantic thing but there’s a soulful expression, like the blues.

When you hear these sad klezmer clarinet players it’s almost like a guy in the Delta singing the blues. It’s about heartache. There’s a humanity there that everybody tries to capture in their own indigenous forms. Even though it’s like pulling people up to the 21st century, I want to write and reflect my thing. I want to use rhythm, I want to use harmonic language that’s contemporary and it’s got to be organic. Just like…when you hear Rhapsody in Blue, you close your eyes and you see the skyline of New York.

Q. You don’t think that’s because you might have seen Woody Allen’s Manhattan?

A: That’s the thing too, but I think maybe that’s why he used it. But I’m saying it really captures that.

Q: Well, there’s definitely something. The idea of a zeitgeist has been around for a long time, after all.

A: Sometimes when Eastern Europeans or Europeans hear some of my music they think they’ve put the needle on the wrong speed. But I don’t live in the Alps by a beautiful lake looking at the still cows, I live in a city and the metaphor of New York is “get out of my face.” (laughs). That’s the metaphor of our time. New York is a fast-pulsed place and if you’re going to live here and write about it, that’s what it is. You know, on the subway, move, let’s go, come on, make your point. And that’s my thing. I don’t know what other composers do but that’s my philosophical thing, whether people like it or not. It’s an objective. The thing is, we have so many talented people on the island, orchestras, arts emanate from New York city. Unfortunately, I think in classical music institutions our philosophy is let’s import everything from Europe.

Q: You think that’s still true? I know in the early 1900s it was, and perhaps even into the middle of the century, but I thought we’d gotten away from all that.

A: Yeah, I definitely think that’s the way it is and I think all local orchestras should create their own indigenous local sound and export that everywhere. Look, I’m going to say things I shouldn’t say. Hypothetically, if Lincoln Center disappeared, would it affect American culture? No. It’s basically the society for the preservation of 18th century European culture.

Q: Is it that they don’t play enough contemporary, specifically American, music?

A: It’s not whether it’s American, modern, whatever, it just doesn’t exist. My point is this, we have to develop our own indigenous orchestral sound. And if we’re not nurturing it and championing it we’ll never do it. The orchestras today, they have this business model, let’s just do the same thing, the same thing, the same thing…

Q: Unfortunately they need money, so they tend to stick with what works.

A: They need money and that’s their thing. My thing is I have a theoretical cobbler shop in New York city where I make shoes called orchestra works and aim to create new American music.

Q: So if you had your way and endless funds, would you create an orchestra and only perform contemporary works?

A: I would make sure that I had things for young people. I want to see people with I-Pods and tattoos walking into an orchestral hall. It’s not like I just want to see my Violin Concerto. It’s appalling because it’s not reflecting time and culture. Look, Mahler’s Second’s great, Mahler’s Ninth’s great, but to a fourteen year old kid walking down the street there’s no relationship to it. An orchestra has to be a living thing and reflect its community. Let’s take rap for instance.

Q: Do you like it?

A: It’s interesting. I just did a Rap Symphony. I found rappers to do it. But let’s look at it right now. Rap music is a living folklore urban art form. Ok? So what they’re doing in the urban areas of New York, they’re putting up a mirror and they’re reflecting their time and culture. In orchestra halls today we have to do the same thing to an audience that appreciates a different type of experience in the orchestral world. We have to be as current, we have to as innovative and interesting and it has to be alive.

People should have the ability to celebrate anticipation. Hey, a new Woody Allen movie’s coming out. Really? Let’s go see it, I’m curious. Where is that curiosity in classical music? We need this thing where people want to hear what’s new—I can’t wait to hear it, what did you hear? Well let’s go. If you don’t have this you have this museum thing that just exists, it’s not our culture, we’re recreating the culture of Europe. Like I said, this island is what’s happening in the world today. We export jazz, we export Broadway, we export literature, we should export an American New York classical sound. End of story. And that would be successful because people are interested in what’s going on in New York.

We live in a world of rhythm and that is what I try to incorporate into my classical music so it has context in today’s society. The entire world now marches to a pulse and if classical music does not have this in its new music it becomes farther and farther away from modern culture and will have very little relevance or connection to the day-to-day world. If things progress as per the status quo in time classical music will have a smaller and smaller niche audience that’s only interested in period art.

Q: Besides the Rap Symphony, what else of yours is aimed at young people?

A: Among other things, I have a ballet, The Zephyrtine, that’s coming out next month. First of all, this is a very difficult piece. It’s not talking down to kids, it’s very orchestral, giant percussion section, but it’s my attempt to write things to get young

people interested in going out of the house and into the concert hall. It was done in Portugal. The Portuguese underwrote this because I’m Composer in Residence with the Portugal orchestra. The bottom line is to get people who are into ballet to bring their children, you have to attract them. This is the thing, how do we do it? I have an opera right now running in Asia, it opens up in three weeks, the Krakow Opera’s doing it, my Mice War (As of this writing it SOLD OUT every show at the Krakow opera and the Penderecki Center in Lustawice, Poland). It’s a children’s opera to get kids into the opera. We need to put such strength and effort…Look, I have crazy operas for adults that you have to be over eighteen to see and I have things for children. I want to get kids interested with my equivalent of Peter and the Wolf and things like this.

Q: Obviously, live performances would be best, but have you considered projecting filmed versions?

A: Well, that’s what we’re going to try to do later. Right now we’ve just recorded the music, so the music will come out. You’ve got a nice kid’s booklet in there with a lot of drawings. It’s a binaural, super spectacular recording and I think any adult will enjoy it as well and they can enjoy it with their children. I’m hoping that kids will say, “I like it, it’s a fun story, what are all these instruments?” Kids are open to new things and that’s how we get our next generation, to make it current. We have to write things for these young kids to be involved.

Q: You’re certainly doing your share. What is Classical Cats?

A: Classical Cats is a CD I’ve made to teach kids about music. It’s for four or five-year old kids and we give them away. Orchestras do kids concerts, but they’re dependent on the parent’s bringing the kids; they’re into classical music and they’re going to take them. But we only have a small sliver of the pie because we’re not reaching out to everyone else. There are kids out there that don’t know classical music exists. There’s no way to hear it on the radio, they’re not hearing it on the TV and they’re not seeing it and they’re not learning about it in the schools. Out of that big pie, X amount of them will take to classical music and love it. How do we find and reach them? That’s the idea of Classical Cats. Let’s get it out to all the kids and all of a sudden maybe twenty out of a hundred will say, you know, this is fun. And maybe ten of those twenty will say, I’m going to become a banker or a lawyer but I’m going to at least have an affinity for classical music and that will be the next generation subscriber. And maybe five of those kids will say, I’m going to take an instrument up and maybe one of them will be in the Philharmonic.

Q: Where do you give it away?

A: We give it to schools, we give them on line, we sell them. But it’s hard, it’s hard to even give things away, there’s an apathy even to giving things, it’s very hard. People say, well, we don’t know how to give it away, who’s going to pay to distribute it…I guess running philanthropy is hard.

Q: What was your childhood like, musically?

A: My mother was an English teacher and her philosophy was you learn music because it makes you disciplined and you’re going to be a better student.

Q: But how did she know you were even interested?

A: Didn’t matter.

Q: She hired a piano teacher to teach you?

A: Everybody in the house took piano lessons. That was it. My oldest brother is a professor and he’s a pretty good pianist, my younger brother had to take piano lessons, I took piano lessons, we all did. Because the idea is when you become a doctor or physicist, or something like that, when you come home you can enjoy the piano. And when I was a kid I didn’t enjoy it because like all kids I wanted to be outside playing baseball and other sports and I had to practice. What kid do you know all of a sudden at six years old would say, “You know ma, I like this Mahler 2nd.” It’s sophisticated, it takes a while to develop a palette for this. My piano teacher was John Lewis [from the Modern Jazz Quartet]. I was seventeen, eighteen, nineteen. But I didn’t appreciate it because it was a sophisticated palette. Now that I’m older I really understand what my teacher was doing, but it takes a while, it’s hard to develop your taste buds. You know, if you take a kid every day to eat hot dogs in MacDonald’s and then take him to a beautiful French restaurant he’ll say, what is this?

Q: The MJQ was sophisticated, even intellectual.

A: Exactly. John had a refinement, it was very subtle, he was all about subtlety. So when you’re a teenager, the antithesis of subtlety is, “let’s go fast and loud, here we go.”

Q: Were you interested in rock and roll?

A: No, I never liked rock and roll. I liked jazz, I liked Oscar Peterson, I liked classical music, I liked Brazilian music, Latin, ethnic music.

Q: Growing up in Miami, you must have heard your share of Latin music.

A: I was exposed to a lot of Latin music but I didn’t take to it at first. I was exposed to rock and roll but I never liked it because I got bored with the harmonic language—I, IV, V chord progression were kind of dull—but I really enjoyed Brazilian music. It had a very sophisticated harmony, as did the jazz music that was popular when I was a kid. I loved Oscar Peterson, I loved the Buddy Rich Big Band, I liked all these things, I liked George Gershwin, I love Concerto in F, I love the American in Paris.

These are really attractive because they had these rhythmic things that were happening and at the same time very sophisticated harmonic language. But I’ve always been on two sides of the fence. As a player, I want to play jazz. I don’t want to sit there and learn a piano concerto all day and sit there with a metronome and say, ok, now we’ve got it at sixty, let’s go to sixty-two: I want to play. But as a composer, I’m a classical composer. So that’s basically it because I enjoy working on my big jigsaw puzzle with an orchestra score in front of me. It’s a game. How can I create something on this big page of paper? I enjoy that process.

Q: Did you go to school besides studying privately?

A: A mixture of both. My classic teacher was David Del Tredici but my real university is New York. You know why? Because I worked as an orchestrator when I came here. It’s very simple. You see the guy at the end of the table, how great he is, and you say, if I’m going to make a living, I have to be as good as him and it inspires you to learn and study and study because you can’t hide behind a degree when you’re a commercial artist working for movies and Broadway and all that: you better be able to write. These guys taught me so much. I look at composing as apprenticing in a cobbler shop. It’s a craft first. You have to be a master craftsman. If you’re an artist that’s up to the gods. We have no control over that. But you have to have a craft that’s really strong.

Q: I’ve asked you if you could define jazz, how about classical?

A: Well, I define classical music as things that come from a history of orchestral music, the basic repertoire and things like that.

Q: It’s a word we all use, but it covers a very wide range.

A: Western classical. It’s a vague, generic term, because it’s not really the Classical period. It’s like Kleenex, if it’s tissue paper we say Kleenex. We say classical music it encompasses anything an orchestra does.

Q: There’s Xenakis and there’s Bach.

A: But however you define it, classical music for me has to work on two levels. You have to have the intellectual level because it’s an intellectual art form, it’s the synthesis of our Western civilization. At the same time, it has to have the passion of a Latin or a rock and roll or something. And when you fuse this great passion with great intellectualism you have the Ninth symphony [Beethoven]. On every level it moves you. You can be a knucklehead and when you hear that chorus come in it’s like the heavens open up, there’s something supernatural about it that’s transcendent, it’s not even music any more, the philosophical energy that runs through our bodies. And then, at the same time you pick up a score and read it, it’s a brilliant work of intellectual architecture. That is what great art has to be in classical music.

Q: That’s a high standard to meet.

A: Well that’s the hallmark, it’s out of the ball park. But every time you swing, that’s kind of the objective.

Q: Can a composer sustain a constant state of excitement or passion while writing? You must have your ups and downs.

A: Sure, absolutely. Sometimes you have writer’s block, who knows. That’s why it’s good to diversify, that’s why I do jazz and classical. I think if I do the same thing it gets repetitive. But when I’m working on a ballet, then I do a children’s opera, then I do a jazz thing, then I come back to the concerto, it’s fresh again. I like this Baskin and Robbins 31 flavors analogy: if you just had to make chocolate ice cream all day long it’s nuts but if you get to do blueberry and pistachio it makes life more interesting.

Q: I take it that your group, Jazz in the new Harmonic, is one of those flavors. What’s that all about?

A: It’s both the name of my album and the group, which we just started. A lot of jazz language is rooted in Impressionistic classical language. Basically what I wanted to do is, instead of playing jazz with chords like G dominant7, A7#5, or minor or major, I said, let’s get rid of this and I started using a palette based on atonality, clusters…

Q: How does this approach contrast with your orchestral music?

A: Well, two things. With The Jazz in the New Harmonic, the harmonic language is based on clusters. There’s no chords in there as we know it. It’s clusters and polytonality, things like that. As the pianist, I improvise that on the spot.

My orchestral music, my classical music, is a hybrid of atonality and tonality mixed in. Sometimes it’s a tonal line with a dissonant thing. I’m not trying to create atonality or tonality, it’s sort of like going into a funhouse. Did you ever look in the mirror? It’s taking life and distorting it. I like to play with things and just come up with nice sounds pleasing to the ear. I’m not trying to achieve revolutionary things, it’s just writing music that’s fun. First of all, I don’t like to use linear intervals. I like to construct my melodies on larger intervals. I don’t like to use whole tones and half tones. A lot of the melodies are constructed on augmented fourths, raised fifths, things like that. Now if you use a lot of flat fives, augmented fourths, raised fifths, to give a melody a larger interval, that melody goes up and it’s kind of quirky, it’s a blend of atonality, chromaticism, infused with this type of larger interval. What I like to do is write lines, but the lines are a minor second or a second apart. They’re actually parallel lines. If you look at a score-----let’s look at it like this-------you can write a melody with a fine line of pencil. Then you could write a melody with a wide brush. If you look at the scores there’s three or four instruments playing the lines a

whole tone apart or a half step apart or in a cluster. So it’s a parallel cluster that fools you into hearing it tonal but it’s actually the mixture of the atonality under that. When it happens so fast, the ear says, is it tonal? Is it not tonal? It sounds tonal because the melody’s tonal, the root, but it’s kind of goofy: You hear the top note but all of a sudden you hear all the other clusters in there.

Q: How many people are in Jazz in the New Harmonic?

A: It’s a quintet, saxophone, trumpet, piano, bass, and drums. And they’re all great jazz musicians.

Q: Your other jazz group, The Body Acoustic, is more Latin jazz?

A: Yeah. Jazz in the New Harmonic came out of The Body Acoustic. It’s basically the Latin jazz, but it’s based on contemporary harmony, as well.

Q: Getting back to your classical work for a minute, you’ve written an opera that imagines Romeo and Juliet as an alternate history [Juliet and Romeo].

A: Yeah, I like to write off the wall as far as comic operas. I’m trying to get that on now, we did a reading and I’m going back to Europe to see what happens.

Q: Did you write the libretto?

A: Yeah, they’re all my librettos, The Pig Opera and everything. The Pig is a satire on how we perceive art as Americans in this culture. In Romeo and Juliet, it’s tragic because they don’t have a chance to live their lives, but what if they had to get married and live the whole thing: The romance would go out. It’s nice when you’re fifteen, but then what?

Q: What’s the music like?

A: Very angular type of things between tonality and atonality.

Both are chamber operas because I think in a comic opera you can’t have a big orchestra. These are really designed for small theaters and to laugh and have a good time like they did in the old Mozart operas. I want my operas to be fun, I want them to fly.

Q: In addition to writing music, you also have your own record company.

A: Actually, we have two companies. We have the record company where we make records and we also own a company called HDtracks. With we distribute pretty much every label in high res audio. That’s what I call HDtrack. And you can buy all your favorite albums as downloads. But the thing is when you buy a download from a commercial Mp3 site it’s 128 kilobits per second. Now, a CD is 1,411 kb/second. HDtracks is up to 9,216. What does this mean? It’s very simple. If

someone practices their whole life to develop a beautiful tone on a Stradivarius, when you hear it in Mp3 it sounds like you bought it at a hardware store and the violin’s made out of plywood. When you hear it back in high resolution on HDtracks, for the people that are interested, you hear the tonality, the burnish of the strings, you hear the forty years of violin lessons it took to create this tone. So for people that are passionate about music and want to hear music attentively, and have the ability to listen attentively on a nice stereo, is where you want to be. If you want to vacuum the house while you’re listening to music, don’t do that.

Q: As a composer, what’s in the pipeline?

A: Well, what I’m working on now is, I’m going to do my guitar concertos. I have a concerto for guitar and a concerto for two guitars, it’s like, a Latin album. And then I have three Poems, songs. The Guitar concertos and the Spanish Poems are based on Flamenco rhythms. These about ten years old but I never got around to recording them. They were the first pieces in my move to this urban and rhythmic style of composition. That’s one. I want to do this ethnic record I have written. There’s my third violin concerto and a piece for baritone singer and orchestra and then I also have my urban record, which is my Rap Symphony for ers and Orchestra. We recorded it, the young people love it and it’s something they can relate to and I think it’s important. It may turn a lot of people off but it’s taking local food and using it. I mean I use local ingredients.

Q: Some rap is pretty raw, even offensive. Is this true for your piece?


A: No. I wrote the words, they’re philosophical and while there’s some four-letter words in there it’s done in the way David Mamet used the words. Nothing condescending about women or weird stuff like that, I’m not into that, but basically the words are about how a young person perceives society. Some of it has to do with rage and superficiality and all the things that we live with in the world today. For example, they’re saying “kill the Philharmonic,” which is a metaphor for saying that we can’t relate to this thing, we have to make it relevant. 

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Stereophile Magazine - David Chesky
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