Q: Do you ever run into people who say that your music drives them nuts?
A: Oh, sure! Iíll say, ďYou know, thereís a lot of music in the world. Why donít you pick something else?Ē Being culturally educated does not require that you like Philip Glass. Sometimes people will say, ďI really want to like your music, but I just canít get it.Ē And I say, ďYou know what? Just leave it alone.Ē
Q: Youíre a Buddhist . . .
A: No, no, no. You donít know that. Youíve read it in the paper someplace.
Q: Thatís trueIíve read it in the paper. Well, clarify this for me.
A: I have been involved with a number of traditionsancient ones and indigenous ones. My first teachers were Hindus from India. I had Buddhist teachers. I had Taoist qigong teachersI still do. Iíve gone climbing in parts of third-world countries where Iím surrounded by indigenous people who have never seen a car or talked on the telephone. Iím a Jewish-Taoist-Hindu-Toltec-Buddhist. Itís a very interesting mix. I discovered along the way that it wasnít particularly useful for me to have a membership card.
Q: I was wondering whether Buddhist and Hindu meditation had influenced your ability to concentrate.
A: Other way around. By the time Iíd learned about meditation, I had already learned to focus. When I was at Juilliard as a boy of 19, I could sit down for three or four hours and write music without interruptionwithout my mind interrupting me.
Q: You grew up hanging out in your fatherís record store, in Baltimore. Much of my own worldview was formed by hanging out in record stores, but now, sadly, theyíre fading away. Does that bother you?
A: Things change. Thatís the beauty and the sorrow of impermanence. I grew up in a store where I could listen to all the music that was available. I listened to country-western music; I listened to Elvis Presley; I listened to Bartók; I listened to Schönberg. I had no problem with Bob Dylan and the Beatles. I understood that talent was a very democratic commodityit flourished, it burst into being, regardless of gender, of race, of age. Talent is talent. Itís like pure gold. The second thing I saw when I was growing up: I saw my father sitting at the cash register. He would give a person a record, and they would give him $5. It was a completely honest financial transaction. So the business of music has never bothered me.
Q: You were in Paris in the sixties and New York City in the late sixties and early seventies, when there was a great deal of fondness for that romantic notion of the artistís opening up the doors of perception with drugs.
A: Well, I wasnít living under a rock. Obviously it came my way. What I discovered very quickly was that if I stayed up all night doing whatever drug it was, I couldnít work the next day. I simply couldnít do it. A couple of times like that and I said, ďOkay, I have a choice. Do I want to work tomorrow, or do I want to stay up tonight?Ē I made the choice for working. For people who are strongly motivated, as clearly I am, recreational drugs are just that. Itís just recreation. Itís not the real thing.