Edward Albee and J.S. Bach



American playwright Edward Albee was recently interviewed by Vice Magazine. The questions ranged from the topical and sometimes quirky to the usual regarding his childhood, early work, etc. The entire piece is worth the read as a primer for getting to know one of America’s pre-eminent writers for the theater.

When asked about his musical tastes and whether or not he listens to music while writing, Albee gave a straightforward if unexpected answer (not all writers work with music in the background).

What kind of music do you listen to?
Classical, early jazz, gospel, and folk music from around the world. I listen to all kinds of music, but I’m most interested in starting with Bach and moving in both directions—earlier and later.

Do you have music playing when you’re writing?
Good God, no. That would get into the rhythms of what I’m writing. When I write my characters, I hear them talking. I have to hear the rhythms of their speech. I can’t have other music getting in the way of that. And also, I don’t think the serious stuff should be listened to as an accompaniment to something else, like, “Oh, I’ve got to eat now, so I better put on a string quartet.” Listening and eating are two separate matters. You should concentrate on one or the other.

Bach came up again, related to a question about cell phones.

Do you have a cell phone?
No. It’s a waste of time. I might as well watch television. I walk along the streets of New York and I find people bumping into each other, bumping into things, and they have these things in their ears or in their face. They’re not seeing anything of the real world.

But it could be Bach on their headphones.
It never is. It never is. If I heard someone listening to Bach on a machine, I would congratulate them. I would ask them what recording it was and I would tell them there’s a better recording.

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(Edward Albee; photo: Wikimedia Commons)

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