|PAUL COTTON... Musical Archive|
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| Joe Schwantner was a school friend who, along with Buddy Riley, inspired Paul to play guitar. Here are some more reflections from Joseph Schwantner July 2002: |
I did enjoy many jam sessions with Walter (Buddy) Riley and (Norm) Paul Cotton while I lived in Hazelcrest. As a teenager, I still recall with much anticipation and excitement receiving a new Gretsch "Country Gentleman" guitar from my parents! For me, the guitar and anything having to do with the guitar was clearly my passion along with engaging music that would help me advance my musical technique. Throughout high school, like those who were in the Capitols, I played in a variety of ad hoc and school ensembles while my own musical interests continued to broaden. I explored and engaged a wide range of divergent music that included pop (also blues- Muddy Waters, rock- pre Beatles, country- Chet Atkins, folk, and an intensive study of the classical guitar repertoire) and jazz (from Charlie Parker, Bill Evans, Miles Davis and John Coltrane to free improvisation-Ornette Coleman and Charlie Mingus) leading to an intensive study of classical music and the works of such 20th century composers as Bartok and Stravinsky). As a guitarist and composer in the Thorntoneers, I wrote a series of experimental pieces (music with polymetric rhythmic schemes; i.e., alternating 5/4 with 7/8 meters and non-tonal harmonic and melodic vocabulary) for that ensemble. (The director of the Thorntoneers was a professional musician who was the lead arranger for the WGN radio orchestra- at the time it was still common for many of the major radio stations in the country to have their own radio orchestra, with Toscanini and the NBC radio symphony orchestra perhaps being the most famous example from the early 1950's).The performance standards of the musicians at Thornton, and especially the Thorntoneers, were generally quite high (given that the Thorntoneers consistently played professional arrangements as well as a fair amount of new and original music). As you may remember that some of the musicians who created their own "garage" bands also participated in the "official" high school musical ensembles. It turns out that the music programs in the suburban grade schools and high schools around Chicago was rather exceptional during this period.Looking back then as a young musician trying to find his own voice in the cacophony of disparate musics that were "in the air" during the late 50's and early 60's, the eclectic musical environment at Thornton was particularly conducive to exploring not only vernacular musical styles but non-Western World music, as well. (I remember being thoroughly fascinated by the extraordinary rhythms of African drumming and the Gamelan music of Bali). I'll leave to the historians to properly explain this cultural phenomenon although radio and the wide and easy availability of music on records certainly contributed to the increasingly informed and sophisticated musical environment. Also of particular interest to music historians would be the emergence of young musicians (primarily white suburban males?) and bands that were interested in creating ORIGINAL music (i.e., Paul Cotton) as opposed to those who simply aped whatever was currently in vogue on records or the radio. Without question, my life as an American composer and musician is inexorably linked to and framed by those important early musical influences and experiences that many of us have shared.."
At High School Joe wrote a song for the Thorntoneers called 'Offbeat.' The band played it at the competition the year they won the Chicagoland Stage Band Festival where they got to play at the old McCormick place with Stan Kenton. Joseph Schwantner is currently Professor of Composition at Eastman School of Music, Rochester University, N.Y. He received a Pulitzer prize in music in 1979 for writing an original piece of music called "Aftertones of Infinity". Click on the pic for more detailed information on his career. As of 2002, he lives in Spofford, New Hampshire.