Ornette does almost all the speaking in this June 19, 1997, discussion previewing his four-night stand at Lincoln Center the following month. The interview was recorded on cassette at his Harmolodic, Inc., office on 125th Street in New York, and aired shortly afterwards on WKCR-FM New York. Great thanks to Margaret Davis (now Margaret Grimes), who volunteered to transcribe the interview after hearing it on the radio.
Evan Spring: So first I guess we should talk about the Lincoln Center extravaganza for a while.
Ornette Coleman: Okay. Mm-hmm.
ES: At what stage are the preparations now?
OC: Well, the score has been completed, the music that I am going to play with them, Prime Time. I’m playing with Prime Time twice, once with the symphony and one without the symphony, and then I’m going to play with Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, Wallace Roney and Kenny Barron and Lauren Kinhan and Chris Walker, and most of that music is done. The problem I’m having—not a problem, but the time I’m having now is to prepare the music I’m going to be playing in Paris in the next two weeks, and most of that music is done. And when I get through speaking to you today, I have another rehearsal, and I hope to finish writing that music.
But, well, I guess one of the things that would probably be more interesting to your listeners is originally when I wrote—it’s a fact that I’m doing “Skies of America,” and originally I wrote that concept in 1972, and I think I had some of it, thirty-eight minutes of it, recorded in 1973, but I haven’t played it in Lincoln Center since then. I’ve played it maybe four or five times in Europe and once in Texas, but each time I played it I have never been able to achieve the format that I am achieving with this performance, because in this performance I approached it with all of the memory and experience over the last twenty years. I sat down and took my original score and dissected it in such a way where, you know, the harmolodics that I’d been playing with Prime Time and four or five people, now I’m going to play with a hundred people.
So I said, “You know, this is a good opportunity for me really to express it as fully as I can, since I’m having such an—” What is the right word? “—“opportunity to work with so many professional musicians.”
ES: Yeah, have you revised the orchestrations at all since?
OC: Yeah, I would say ninety percent, you know.
OC: The other ten percent: I’d say that’s rearranging the themes. It’s probably at least eight, nine—I would say it’s at least maybe fifteen different themes, you know, total. And the technical part that’s really amazing is that when the copyists got back to me about the score—Originally I spoke to some of the members, and I had some music recorded by the Juilliard School, and I wrote the trumpet part, I had the piece written for a solo trumpet, and it is very, very high. And I was advised that, you know, I can’t use all these high notes for the orchestra because the musicians just physically wouldn’t feel good about having to play that high for that long.
So I said, “Okay, I will take it and rewrite it.” So actually, when I wrote it the first time I had written it in the high notes, and I had written all the high parts that way because I wanted it to sound more like music ascending and descending, and as you know, the Western scale, all scales ascend. So to me, when I write a high part, I’m at the level of the descendant part. So I said, “If you have a C and you’re playing, like the trumpet might be able to play three high Cs, if I write that last high C, I know I’m at the top of that C.” So I was thinking how to get that kind of sound involved, like, with all kinds of colors in sound.
But anyway, not to bore you with all of that, I had written it a lot like that, and then I realized that in harmolodics, you know—Do you play?
ES: I have some basic musicianship, but I’m no performer.
OC: Yeah, well, say, like, you have a C-scale, right? So if you start on C, when you get to F, already F is a higher note than C, but because you have octaves, you can play them one higher than another. So that’s what harmolodics allows a person to do, is to make all of the octaves equal in relationship to unison, you know.
So I sat down and rewrote it, rewrote the string parts and the woodwind and the percussion parts, all equally related to the resolution of their own instruments. What I’m really trying to say about that is, like, if you have E going to F in a treble clef, that’s a half-step; if you have E going to F in a bass clef that’s a whole step; it’s like that, you know, when you have the same two intervals, meaning two different sounds, you know.
ES: So to someone who is familiar with the early recording from—I guess it’s 1973?
OC: Mm-hmm, ‘73.
ES: —And that was recorded in England—
OC: Yes, uh-huh.
ES: —So it would, I’m sure, sound very different now—
OC: Oh, I’m sure, that sound, uh-huh.
ES: Do you want to reissue the original, or would you rather re-record it?
OC: Well, what I would like to do is to record what I’m doing now. Is that what you asked me?
OC: Yeah, that’s what I’d like to do, because the one I recorded was only thirty-eight minutes, and I played the saxophone as if someone was soloing in an orchestra, because you couldn’t use “jazz” and “classical” together at that time, you know. But now that’s not the case.
ES: You mentioned that Wallace Roney and Kenny Barron were going to perform with you.
OC: Mm-hmm, they’re going to, yeah, that’s right, and they play real good bebop, you know.
ES: And so how will their musical concept integrate with what you’ve been doing?
OC: Well, as you know, I have two records out right now. Everyone asks me, “Well, you just started using the piano,” but David Bryant started studying with me in the ‘8Os, and when he had absorbed enough of the information, I decided that “Oh, I’m going to put a piano into Prime Time, ‘cause I don’t want people to think I’m anti-piano.” It’s just that I can make the same mistakes without the piano, you know.
So basically, I have two records out, one with Geri Allen and one coming out now with a European pianist named Joachim Kuhn. So I just thought, “Well, I’m going to play at Lincoln Center, and I haven’t played with a trumpet in my band since Don Cherry,” and so I said, “I’m going to find a trumpet player.” So I asked Wynton, and he was busy, and I asked Tom Harrell, and someone asked me about Bobby Bradford. And, you know, in the summertime, that’s the jazz business, so everybody wasn’t available; they had their own jobs. So then I asked Wallace, and he said okay, he would. He said, “Yeah, I would like to.” So I wanted to use a trumpet player, ‘cause I haven’t played with a trumpet player in my band or had a band with a trumpet player in it since Cherry and Bobby Bradford. And what else did I—?
ES: Does that mean you won’t be playing trumpet yourself?
OC: No, that means I will be playing trumpet, yeah, the little, yeah, I play the trumpet.
ES: And violin as well?
OC: Yeah. Yeah.
ES: Now, you once said something about the title “Skies of America” having something to do with finding a racial common ground.
OC: I did say that?
OC: Uh-huh, well, I can’t remember saying that, but if you’re asking me what are my comments now about it, you know—
OC: —I would say that if I said that then, what I really was trying to say is that music, the existence of human beings, the quality of the environment, of what we call knowledge, inspiration, and enlightenment, when it’s in the spiritual realm, are all done under the skies. So in my sense, in the sense of what you’re asking me, I got the idea for writing “Skies of America” when I was in Montana watching some American Indians do their peyote ritual. And the first thing that came to my mind: “Here’s a group of people doing something that has nothing to do with any Americans or any people from Europe, any people from Africa, any people from anywhere.” And all of a sudden I realized something: I realized that here I’m born in a country where everyone in the country is coming from somewhere else, and being a minority, I never felt the feeling of someone coming somewhere and starting a life for yourself, as opposed to someone finding yourself there and not realizing where you stand.
And then I saw the Indians. Oh, man, it blew my mind! And I said “Oh!” It really was an enlightening relation, experience, for me to see a race of people relating to something that was so ancient to them, and so new to me, that I realized that they seemed more like they came from the sky than the people I see every day, you know. So I said “Oh.” I just got inspired.
But to make a long story short, I realized that when I went to Europe, I felt the same way about Europeans, and when I went to Africa, I said, “Oh, these people feel like—” Everybody. It’s really strange. And I don’t know if I’m explaining this in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m trying to make a statement on being a minority and black, but it’s really strange when—You know I was born in Texas, and in Texas there was lots of segregation. I mean, you know, if you were a black person, you were limited. And it’s really strange to realize that someone somewhere has been limited even when not restricted as a race. But you don’t realize that, because lots of things that human beings do are covered up with their pride and ego and intelligence, you know.
And with me, the one thing that I think I really should have reconsidered: the kind of intelligence that I wanted to be related to, growing up as an adult. Instead of that, I used to think “intelligent” meant people just wanted to be better than people. And I said, “Oh, this is terrible. I don’t want to be like that, you know.”
And later on I find that in some ways some people use intelligence like that; some people use intelligence to give off different concepts of how they are trying to achieve what they want to do in their environment, like a scientist or whatever. And so at the time, I really saw the difference between an adult concept of life and a survival concept of life and a racial concept of life. I realized that the designs that were available to people, being restricted or not being restricted, are still available now, and they’re even getting more titles coming to the surface, but the results of how they’re used are going right back to the same environment.
And the environment, now: It’s like you take New York. The only time I see a building, the people who live in brownstones are not tearing down brownstones and building better brownstones, but you see a brand new building go up in New York every two years, almost, I mean, for some kind of business. So I say, “Oh, you know, this is amazing, to realize that architecture and science and all these things are not community environments, they are international environments, and we’re all scuffling to find a community environment that we can afford to live in amongst all of this technology and stuff,” especially in New York.
And I find that any creative person, whether a musician or not, has the hardest problem to do that. I don’t know how the people in your field do with, I mean, living in whatever community. I have never found a community environment that—If I’m with my neighbors, you know, just the idea that you’re playing music or doing something in their environment must make the people feel—well, maybe they might like what you’re doing, but they don’t like the idea, they want to be doing something else, they don’t want to hear that, they will come somewhere and hear you, but they don’t want it there.
So it’s really very hard to realize what is a community environment and what is a technical environment within a city like New York, or any large city, you know. And as a minority it’s even worse, because you have many different groups of professional people: you have ballerinas; you have choreographers; you have composers; you have musicians; you have a place like Lincoln Center. And somewhere there are people who are providing a community for those people, for them to wake up every morning and feel like that. That doesn’t exist for a jazz person, you know, it doesn’t exist, and yet jazz is supposed to be—I think maybe Wynton Marsalis is probably the only one I know who has an apartment in the same location so that when he gets up in the morning, he goes from one level to another, which—God bless him, you know, because whatever he has done to be there, he deserves it. It doesn’t matter, because, you know, when you think of the kind of technology that exists and what you have in your pocket and what your environment is, regardless of what your race is, it’s going to be hard, you know.
But I don’t know if I’m answering your question, but what I’m really trying to get at is that to be born and to find out that the rules of being born are to find an environment that you want to be in, that you’re interested in, and to see if you can afford to pay for the knowledge to complete what you believe you can do in that environment—But that’s very different from having something that you want to do where there’s no environment to do it.
And for some reason, music is one of those kinds of environments. For instance, you know, if you take rock music—well, for a better word than “folk” music, because I was just telling someone that every white person in America is not English, they may speak another tongue—right?—so therefore when any of your ancestors go home and your mother started singing the songs in the country where they were, that’s “folk” music, right? We know that. But now when you turn on the radio and you hear a rock band, they don’t necessarily have to be folk music, right? That could just be collective music that had been designed to please the people who look like you, right? There is another people who look like someone playing the music, who look like them. But the problem is it’s the same music; it’s the same notes; it’s the same exact notes. It ain’t a different note.
So then why is it that since everyone is not English and everyone is speaking a different language, you have to be suppressed to believe that since you’re not speaking your own English, you’re going to be someone else anyway? And since my ancestors come from somewhere else, I’ve got to be someone else anyway, but yet we’re both—Whoever has designed that kind of image is doing a disservice to us as human beings, you know. And then it goes, you know.
And the point I’m making is Lincoln Center at this time for myself: I have found an environment that deals with music, and that environment said, “You know what? We’re interested in something you’re doing, and we want to see if what you’re doing is on the level of what we are doing.” They said, “Oh, yeah, it is. Let’s see if we can do it together,” right? That’s different from being a composer and being a jazz musician—right?—‘cause there are lots of composers and lots of jazz musicians.
But the result of what I’m trying to say is that I have written a theory book called Harmolodics. Harmolodics is a theory that is applied to the twelve tempered tones that have been created and used to make collective music in relationship to the instruments invented to play that music. The only thing that’s different: When in European music there was a method to use those instruments, and when they play that method, they call that music “classical,” when an E-natural still goes to F regardless, whatever you want to call it, okay?
So here we are in America, and the American person has that history and this history both at the same time. Now, the non-European person has that history, then not that history, and the same thing to deal with. So we have all these collective memories and experiences to be able to get to one expression, which we call the human expression. What is that going to be called? Is there a word for it? If it wasn’t “classical,” if it wasn’t “jazz,” what is it going to be called, where the human expression is the strongest, not the title?
ES: Well, in the brochure for your concert, it just says “music” and not “jazz.”
OC: Yeah, that’s right, that’s right, and it also has a question mark and says “civilization.” Yeah, that’s right. Well, that’s what I’m talking about. And the thing about it: I am not saying that every black person or every white person who still wants to have his roots in his own native tongue shouldn’t do that. You know, when you get up and—I mean, I like cornbread, I like biscuits, you might like muffins—right?—you know, and it’s still bread. You know what I’m saying? So you don’t have to change the quality of what you like to get along with someone who’s doing something that’s different from who you are, you know.
But that’s why I’m trying to—not to say “trying”—That’s why I’m involved in trying to find a collective human expression regardless of what signal it is sending out to people. The first signal is “I am not interested in lowering the status of your existence so that I can be better than you. I’m not interested in that.” Here is a country where many white persons have found a way to better each other’s lives and to create an outlet for something they can achieve, call it wealth, call it whatever it is, but it exists.
Now, when all the other people that are not of that race can do the same thing without having any problem with that person, it’s only going to be a better world. It can’t be any worse.
ES: Well, we’re here on 125th Street where you have your own office, and you have your own imprint at Verve Records, and you’re also able to recruit different artists to record on your label. So how much of a sense of your own community, or getting up in the morning and going right to work, as you mentioned, can you create on your own here?
OC: Mmm, yeah, I have it. Well, to be more precise, it’s that I’ve had more to do with making records, from a musician’s point of view, with musicians, not as a record company. The record company is a precise image for things that are reproduced that go to the marketplace, but far as making a record, I am no different from any other musician. I have the same problems, you know, and the same things. The only difference that I think I might be in a position is like with some other musician: “Oh, man, you know, I have something, and I sure would like for you to listen to it”; I’m sure they ask me that because they say, “You could put it out.”
But the problem is Denardo is my manager, and right today I’m trying to find a way to give him more time to do the things that I have been doing, that he’s supporting me to do, to do for himself. But there’s something called money. Now, obviously, I’ve been making records since ‘58, and I’ve made lots of records, so maybe from all the work I’ve done, I can pay my bills, not all at the same time, but I do get a kind of fixed subsistence to pay them. But making music is not paying a bill; making music is paying to have an exchange. And the thing that’s so amazing about that: The emotional part of music is always new, but the sound is not always new.
So lots of musicians have a beautiful feeling, and for them they’re playing something totally new, and when you hear it it reminds you of something, and you say, “Oh, no, but this is” so-and-so. And it’s very hard. Even a person asked me, “Are you still playing the music, some of the music you—?” Say, “Are you going to play some new music when you come up there tomorrow?” You know what I’m saying? They’re not asking about, you know, whose music I’m going to play; they ask me, am I going to play new music? Well, that’s the same thing that I’m trying to say to you, is that being a composer and playing music is different. I’ve been writing music since I’m seventeen, and just in the last two or three years someone discovered I’m writing music, because they always say, “Where’s your saxophone?” You know what I’m saying? And you know how many compositions there are, how many saxophones?
Kenny Garrett, a very beautiful guy, is the number-one saxophone player, and he was over at my house, and I was trying to show him my thoughts about harmolodics, you know. So what I’m saying is that the competitiveness that we have as being a collective or individual player—We’re like boxers, you know. When a boxer gets in the ring, the only person who wins is the person still standing. The person who’s knocked out is no longer at the top. But in music, you know, you can’t blow someone down, I mean, you can’t do that, so to answer your question, what you just asked me, I don’t know the competitiveness in music, like “This is the best” or “This guy sounds better,” but I do know this: I know the difference between ideas and styles. I know that. And I haven’t heard those many different ideas. I hear more styles than I hear ideas in music, in all music, you know.
And even the music I’m playing with harmolodics: The reason why I don’t go out and play with lots of different bands is because it’s hard for me to get the musicians I am showing what I do to have the time to do it on the level of how I could do it if I had the means and time. You know, if you have eight musicians and they have families and you’re working once a month, they’re not going to be around too much, you know. If I had an organization where I was hiring them like the Philharmonic, I would have a better opportunity to perfect them with.
So to get to the conclusion of what you asked me, yes, I am in a position to have an open mind about the things I hear, and I am involved in seeking out. I just recorded some music with the Juilliard performers, and we’re recording some music with a singer. But it’s like I said: I am only interested in ideas and styles, and when I hear someone doing ideas, then it gets me very excited. I usually want to play with those people, you know, those musicians.
So I’m not able to sit here and speak like a record executive and tell you about sales and all that kind of stuff, because I know that that’s a business, and there are people who know that like I know harmolodics, you know.
ES: Yeah. Now, you mentioned a book that you had written about harmolodic theory, and you’ve been mentioning this book for quite a number of years.
OC: And you know what? I’ve finished it several times, yeah. I keep adding, adding, adding. But the one reason why I haven’t sat down and finished my book: I know I would like to write my book so it can be used in the educational system and also for just individual people. And when I just think of musicians, I don’t think about finishing it; when I think of people, I think about finishing for them, people as being more on my mind. And you can’t keep me at this word, but one of the things that keeps me from finishing it: It’s life, the same thing.
Right now I’m reading it to you, so I’ve got enough, because I’ve got to go in there and have a rehearsal and then I’m leaving town, and then when I get back there, I’ve got to do what I’m doing with you: I’ve got to go to another country and start that. So that’s what keeps me. Paying the bills keeps me from it, has made me not be able to finish my book, because I have to be doing something else besides doing that. But it’s coming.
ES: About harmolodics, I’ve always wondered something, very generally; it’s kind of the chicken-and-egg question: that is, did the theory come first, or did a kind of intuitive leap while you were improvising come first, and then—?
OC: No, the theory came first.
ES: —and then the theory?
OC: No, I’ll tell you what happened. In 1944, ‘45, I got an instrument, and I was exposed to rhythm and blues, and I used to play just for an all-white environment, an all-black environment, and an all-Mexican environment in Texas. And then I was just playing whatever was on there. I’d go and get the lead sheet to a song and play it for people to dance to, right?
And then finally I’m with a jam session one night, and Lester Young—Actually, I played the Spannkins [spelling?] band in Texas, and I’d written a song, I had written an arrangement, and I played that arrangement in this band. What I’m trying to get to is that I got my collarbone broken. I liked to play football, and I got my collarbone broken, so I had to stay out of school for a year. And I had an alto, and I told my mother, “Oh, I have to get a tenor,” because, you know, the alto is so sweet nobody would dance to it. You take the tenor and you can make people dance, and it’s like rock-and-roll, right? I “blew the rhythm,” it was called.
And I went on the road after that, and some people in New Orleans didn’t like me because I had long hair and they thought I was, as they said, a Yankee or something, and they beat me up and threw my horn away. And a friend of mine named Melvin Lassiter let me live in his house, and his brother had a saxophone, and I picked it up. You know what happened? I made a discovery about transposing. For instance, like, when you play C on the piano it’s A on the alto and it’s D on the trumpet, but when you play A and C on the piano it’s a minor third, when you play A and C both, each, on the piano it’s a unison, then when you play C and B on the piano it’s a unison, but when you play D and C it’s a seventh.
So I said, “Wait a minute. These notes are indicating what harmony, what it is; the voicing on the piano is just letting you hear it all happen at the same time.” So I said, “Wait a minute.” So then that means that it’s happening equally, singly, as it is happening collectively, I mean, what they call harmony. So not only that: I realized that the dominant of the E-flat was the tonic of the B-flat, and then the minor third and the minor seven was the same note. How can you have—? That’s like me saying, “You know what? We look like twins, because we have two eyes and a nose and a mouth.” That’s like me saying that, and here you are one race and I’m another, right?
So when I realized that, I started investigating. I had also found out about bebop music, bebop music, which was basically when you would take a C major chord and put A on it, and it would become an A minor seventh, right? So when I realized that on the piano everything is a seventh, and bebop came right out of the seventh—So anyway, I got interested in wanting to become a composer. That’s what I’m leading up to.
So when I found that you couldn’t compose, you couldn’t translate harmony, you had to use harmony as a unison—In other words, you have to have a C7 in the structure of it to know if it’s a C7, and you couldn’t transpose that sound. You had to use those notes to play something from it, to transpose something from it.
And I said, “Wait. This is strange.” So after I realized that I didn’t need to play chords to resolve harmony, I said, “Oh, I am going now to see if I can actually improvise without key, harmony, or resolutions.” And you know what I found? I found that according to the instrument you’re playing, it’s only the level of how you can do that. But there’s a flaw in every instrument: Every instrument is designed to play the scales in a vertical way, but up to a certain range, some of ‘em can play higher and some of ‘em play lower, but when you start using your brain, you want to go higher or you want to go lower, and you don’t have it, so you’re limited.
So you have to learn how to make up for the same resolutions by what I now call harmolodics. And what I’m saying about that is that when you play C-natural and you put the four clef signs to it, which is in classical music, you have the basic clef, the—Well, really, there are eleven clefs, but the bass, the four basic clefs…[tape interruption]
…But harmolodics—When I found out I wanted to be a composer more than a player, what happened: I got this job opportunity to go to California, because I must say this: There were two musicians in my hometown, one of them named Red Connors and one named Ben Martin, who I liked better than Charlie Parker. When I heard Ben Martin play at fourteen years old, his parents were in the same age I am now, and he was about ten, and so he thought he was hanging out with older people. And, you know, he went somewhere and robbed someone. At that time, Benzedrine and all that was popular for musicians, it wasn’t marijuana, there was something else, and, you know, in Texas if you get caught with one marijuana you can get twenty years. So his mother told the jury, “Send him down to Huntsfield,” and, oh, it was just a tragedy.
So what I’m saying is that I started trying to find musicians to play with, and I went to California the first time I left, and I had a disaster happen to me when I went to California for the first time. I had learned all the bebop music you could learn, I loved Charlie Parker, Bud Powell—Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Monk, and who else was it? George Shearing was writing some nice bebop music too, you know. And I was playing all this bebop, all the bebop lines.
And so when I got to California I went to a jam session one night and sat in with a very famous bebop band, and I was playing the same way I’m playing now, only I think I was even more free then—No, I wouldn’t say more free, but I was more free in spirit then than I am now, because now I play with my band but I don’t go out and play with musicians like I used to, because I don’t want them to think I’m trying to outblow them or think that I’m trying to show them how good I could play or something.
Anyway, I got up on the bandstand to play, I was playing with this band, they asked me what I wanted to play, and I said, “Let’s play ‘Donna Lee,’” and so I started playing it, and I played it real, real fast. And everybody started taking solos. And when it came for me to take the solo, I said, “Well, if I can ever play, if I’m ever going to play, I should play now the way I really want to play. So I know these guys are going to support what I’m doing.”
It was just the opposite: One guy put his horn down, another guy. Oh, I was sitting there crying like a baby. You know how embarrassing it is to have someone make you feel that you don’t know? Oh, it was really terrible. And so I decided, “Well, I’m not going to go out here. I don’t want to play music no more. I’m going to just retire from music.” I’ve done that maybe four times, once in California, about three times in New York.
And so after that experience, I went in and I started just staying home. And I met Denardo’s mother, and I got married, thinking I would just be valuable to someone else, and not to music. So one day Harold Battiste, Wynton Marsalis’s father, and someone came to visit me from New Orleans, so they come and said, “Oh, we heard somethin’ you were doing.” And I got more excited, ‘cause, “Oh, these guys are—” You know, they’d come to California and they came by, and they started hanging out with me. And I got really excited that they were interested in what I was writing.
Then I went to a jam session, and then with James Clay coming, I wasn’t going out, because I thought, “Oh, no, musicians—They treat me like, you know, I don’t know nothin’ about music,” because why would I want to play, to get along; why would I want to play with someone and not be able to play, you know? So I said, “No, I don’t want to. I’m not going to go out and play with anybody, because they treat me so bad.” So anyway, I went to this record company, and the guy wasn’t interested in me playing the saxophone; he wanted to buy the music that I had written. And I sold him the music. And finally I got to New York.
But the point I’m getting to is that I realized from that day to now, this is the first time that I am doing something that made me realize I was trying to get to here then, when someone was seeing me as one part and I was trying to see me as a total part, but only the people only interested in the part they wanted from me made me feel more valuable to them.
And to me I think that’s where that’s gotten to my career, from agents down to—You know, the music business is a huge octopus, and someone’ll say “You know, I just want your shoes” and someone say “I just want your brain,” “I just want your eyes,” “I just”—I mean, you’re gone, you know. And you can’t make them mad, and, I mean, even if they do the worst thing to you they say they’re doing it in your favor, you know, and it’s not true, you know. And I’ve had some really terrible experiences from the music business, and they put bad rumors, and they do all that. But I’m not the only one they do that to; it’s just like that, you know. All the people who love music and don’t have to get up on a stage and do it: They’re having a good time, you know.
ES: I know you have to go, but I thought you might want to preview the final night of your four-night series of concerts at Lincoln Center, where you’re going to have a rapper and also video artists onstage with you.
OC: Yes, that’s right.
ES: Is there anything you’d like to tell our listeners in advance of that, what sort of concepts you’ve been working on, and—? You did a concert in San Francisco like this.
OC: Well, yeah, yeah, last year. Well, as you know, the title of my performance that represents what I’m performing is the question mark and “civilization,” and I’m working with a young man to create a video of things that have occurred, I don’t know how much information, but we are creating diverse images of the human condition representing all the things that people have achieved and have been through. We’re going to have a video that will show all the diverse conditions of civilization as we have been experiencing it, and a young woman rapping, and now I want to say this: Her name is Avenda Ali, and she’s kind of a revolutionary rapper. I mean, yesterday we had this rehearsal, and man, the stuff she was writing about: Every race in the world would be offended by it, but she’s trying to make a point that it’s not them; it’s them not knowing what they’re doing that’s not good for them in order to be at peace with something else. So anyway, she’s going to be there, and some dancers, three dancers.
Actually, I am really interested in the human expression as a global expression. Also, I have met a man named Moshe Nayim [spelling?], who was born in Israel and lives in Paris, and he is one of the most brilliant human beings. And his whole concept of existing is what he says: “One die [?] to others and one for the others.” And he has built something that makes chess almost outdated, called the vertical circle, and I don’t have time for him to come out and show it, but we’re going to do a video for him, because you should see how this man has analyzed technology, spiritualism, and survival, and how collectively everybody could have the same condition without changing what they believe, which is a very advanced form of philosophy. And he has that.
ES: And if I remember, I think last time there was some sort of creative sensation when someone pierced himself during the—?
OC: Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s right, yeah, yeah, well, I wanted to find some people who have transcended their mentality through the body, doing many other things like that, you know, and we’re looking into it. You know, the thing that’s so amazing: I just had an interview, and the guy was discussing the ocean being people, and kind of like on a seeing-type level, but what I’m—Tell me your name again.
ES: Oh, Evan.
OC: Evan. Evan, everyone I talk to is always speaking about how there are people who have reached a certain consciousness, like, say, a guy could take a piece of glass and start chewing on it. Now, something is in his mind telling him that this glass is like paper, and in his mind he just chews it. So if you think of that and you think of all the things that human beings have been able to do with their existence and arriving in that state of mind, imagine what that must be on the equivalent of love or music or something.
To me it’s all related. It means that the person has bypassed the cruelty of doing something to someone else and is trying to show you, “Look, if I can do this to myself, I don’t need to go out and be a bad person.” You know, that’s what it means to me. And piercing: I’ve seen people pierced on every part of the body, you know, so it’s another form of religion to be able to show that your consciousness is in touch with something that you are to yourself, which I think is really healthy, you know.
OC: I mean, what’s your message? “I,” the word “I,” sounds—