Here’s a rejection note for an Arthur Russell demo tape from a Warner Brothers Records junior A&R guy named David Berson. Berson must have been perplexed by Russell’s demo because he wrote: “Who knows what this guy is up to – you figure it out.”
Great mini-interview w/ Beck and Philip Glass about their recent collaboration.
I’m interested in what happens to music when other people use it. Whereas there are composers who don’t like anyone to touch their music, I think people should because they do things I can’t think of. I’m the opposite of being possessive about a piece.
He illustrates this idea in a story about Arthur Russell:
I wrote him a cello piece, and he liked the work and was playing it. And I came back about three months later, and I heard it and I said, “Arthur, that’s beautiful, but what happened to the piece?” And he said, “No, no, that is what you wrote,” and I said, “Arthur, it’s no longer what I wrote, it’s your piece now.” And he thought I was being upset, he apologized and I said, “No, no, no, I think we should put you down as the composer.” He had reached the point of transformation. The incremental changes had turned it into this other thing. I love the fact that he did that. And I love the fact that he didn’t know that he did it.
Had things played out differently, the fourth position in Talking Heads might have gone to Arthur Russell. He was a fan of the band; he had helped them get their first art-scene gig in March at the Kitchen…Russell’s friendship with Talking Heads got him invited to play cello on a take of “Psycho Killer” during the sessions for Talking Heads ‘77 (the band ultimately went with a different version for the album).
This was such a tender documentary, with great interviews with Russell’s partner and parents. A boy walks out of the cornfields and into the avant-garde—but tries to make pop music. If you’re an Arthur Russell fan, it’s a must-see. If you’re not an Arthur Russell fan, you’re crazy.