Friday, July 30, 2010

there he goes again: “symphonicity”—laughter

Jeffrey Brown of the PBS News Hour interviews Sting today, who’s touring with parts of the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra:


JB: But is something lost? I mean, as someone who grew up with rock ‘n’ roll, including your music, much of the power of that [to me] is the rawness and the edge.

Sting: Yes.

JB: What happens without that?

Sting: You have to make a trade between having this huge, very rich palette of color to work with, which is the symphonic—symphony orchestra, as against having this edgy, kind of spontaneous, almost improvised feel of a rock song. So, you give that up.

But, in exchange, you get this huge, almost like a continent of color. And so it’s an exchange I have been willing to make. There are compromises you have to make. Classical musicians hear time in a different way. Time for them is much more elastic, whereas time for rock musicians in modern music is very, very strict, in strict tempo.

Time in classical music is—it’s much more—kind of breathes more. And so you have to learn how to do that.…


JB: You know, you were talking about the ego of having the orchestra. You know, in some quarters, they’re—they’re—people roll their eyes, right? They say, there he goes again, right?

Sting: Yes, I like that.

JB: You like that?

Sting: Because there I do go again.

JB: Uh-huh.



JB: Even if you get accused of various pretensions for the lute, trying the lute, and now the orchestra, and the...

Sting: I love that word, “pretentious.” I’m not quite sure what it means. It means pretending. And, for me, it’s about experimenting and taking a risk and putting yourself in the position of a student constantly, where I’m here to learn something.

I’m here to learn how to play the lute. I’m here to learn how to sing in front of an orchestra. I’m here to learn how to arrange for an orchestra.

I’m not a finished product. I never will be. I’m a work in progress. If that’s pretentious, guilty. I’m card-carrying, bona fide pretentious.


JB: There is the—inevitably, the aging—well, there’s the aging baby boomer. There’s the aging rock star, right, trying to do it gracefully.

Sting: I always found that phrase odd, “the aging rock star.”

Aging to me doesn’t seem to be particularly a pejorative. And, in many ways, I have enjoyed this decade—I’m 58 now—more than any other.

JB: Because?

Sting: So, by extension, I’m hoping that my next decade will be just as much fun.

But I think it’s really about flexibility in the mind, you know, being able to take on new things, learning new skills. That’s—that’s how to stay at least young in spirit. And I think I have managed that. [full transcript]

But the cliché “young in spirit” is just an easy way of referring to the creative edge that has nothing to do with youth per se at all. Potentials begin in youth, and time at its best ages that, like gaining a vintage. No vintage wants youth again. But the creative edge!

Learning never ends. And experimenting is intrinsically “at risk” of pretentious pretense in pretending to validly act, to write in the improvisation, as so—becoming at best some edgy continent of color in elastic time, even breathing others’ vintages, like poets imbued with echoes, into something truly one’s own.