ANDREW SHAPIRO IN CONVERSATION WITH LARRY GOLDSTEIN, WVOX RADIO (NEW YORK)
October 14, 2005
Larry Goldstein: From the community right next door to New Rochelle along the Long Island Sound shore is Larchmont and originally from Larchmont is composer Andrew Shapiro. Good morning Mr. Shapiro.
Andrew Shapiro: Good morning, happy to be with you Larry.
Larry Goldstein: So, you have chosen to make your fortune in ways other than being a doctor or lawyer or CPA… so where do we stand now?
Andrew Shapiro: Well, I guess the reason I’m here with you is that after doing a lot of performing and living a bunch of years out of Larchmont, I’m returning to my hometown and performing there. It’s a solo piano concert of my compositions at the Watercolor Café. So it’s sort of a “local boy goes home” type of story.
Larry Goldstein: In playing the piano, that covers a multitude of things from, shall we say, the Goldberg Variations to Thelonious Monk to Dr. John. Where do your ten fingers land on the 88 keys?
Andrew Shapiro: Where it lands is that it’s fusing a classical musical influence ––which is what I did growing up training as a classical artist–– but also fusing it with a heavy dose of a popular musical sensibility. And also with a contemporary classical sensibility, for lack of a better term, like a minimalist and ambient musical sensibility. Artists such as Brian Eno or Philip Glass or Steve Reich are kind of in the ballpark of where I sit. These are very influential artists for me that came across with a musical language that has a big influence on a great many composers and musicians of my generation. And so this is something that I learned a great deal about while I was in music school at Oberlin and thereafter. So it’s a mix of these things…I should say that that if they are curious, I invite your listeners to listen to some of this music on my website: www.andrewshapiro.com.
Larry Goldstein: The decision to try to make your living as a performer and composer—I’ll give you an example: my son plays the guitar and he plays with a little bit of skill and at my wedding he performed with the band. But the members of the band also seemed to have other roles, whether they’re lawyers or businessmen. But you’re really putting it all out there–– it’s brave. At what point do you go out there and say “this is what I’m doing?”
Andrew Shapiro: Well, I think it’s always what I’ve been doing since the third grade [laughs]. But I think that it comes from the fact that I don’t think that I could be doing anything else. I think on a very gut level —and it took a while to fully realize it–– but I think I just don’t really see myself being able to do anything else.
Larry Goldstein: So when you went to Oberlin, that was the decisive event that you were not going to major in accounting?
Andrew Shapiro: Right.
Larry Goldstein: And we’re speaking with composer Andrew Shapiro. He’ll be performing a solo piano concert at the Watercolor Café in Larchmont this coming Wednesday, October 19th at 7:30PM. So this business of performing unaccompanied–– I have a fondness for hearing a pianist without, let’s say, the backup of a bassist and drummer. Where the pianist takes responsibility for everything that sounds in the room. There’s a certain level of bravery there.
Andrew Shapiro: I guess that, aside from giving a vocal performance, playing solo piano is probably the most personal thing because it’s such a direct channel of communication with an audience. Most of the other music that I’m writing —I’m not only composing solo piano music— involves synthesizers and more studio based methods. So there’s a sense there of additional layers that fall between the composer and the listener. But, as a piano soloist, particularly more in the realm of a classical concert realm ––as opposed to what you’re describing as a jazz combo setting––it is pretty personal. You can really distill a musical language down to its essentials when you create for piano. And I think that comes through in the performance.
Larry Goldstein: Are we losing our flair for chamber music? Once upon a time you could imagine yourself sitting in Clara Shumann’s house as a group of musicians were performing and a bunch of friends were listening. I don’t think we have that going on today.
Andrew Shapiro: I read an article once that talked about how the chamber music of today is the CD and the stereo system, though I guess that needs to be updated as well to the computer, internet and mp3 player. I’ve read a lot about the Schubertiads and Franz Schubert and his social life and the concerts surrounding that. And I suppose that is sort of lost but I think that you could always find a chamber concert somewhere. For instance, while I was a student at Mamaroneck High School I was playing chamber music with people. That literature is obviously still very much out there and certainly at any music school it’s being played like crazy because it’s such a huge part of the classical repertoire. But if you go and see a rock band down the street at a bar or something, that’s going out to hear chamber music in a certain sense as well.
Larry Goldstein: Well, clearly you can go to Alice Tully Hall or the Goodman Auditorium in Manhattan or, as you say, Mamaroneck High School and hear chamber music. I more meant the experience of chamber music being performed in a garage band version, where folks are just performing at home with friends listening. I’ve been involved with that in jam sessions in a rock and jazz band environment but not in a classical one.
Andrew Shapiro: I suppose that’s what Craigslist is for. I bet you could find that sort of experience there. I’m sure you could find some people around town who would be willing to bring their violin over and play with or for you.
Larry Goldstein: Fair enough! So the problem is between my ears! Well, we have just about a minute left so let’s give people another heads up about what’s happening at Watercolor Café next week.
Andrew Shapiro: It’s a solo piano concert of original compositions at the Watercolor Café in Larchmont this coming Wednesday, October 19th at 7:30. Further information can be found at www.andrewshapiro.com. I need to say Larry, on a personal note, I just turned 30 and the last time I had been to WVOX —although I’m now talking to you from my home in Brooklyn— was when I visited the station when I was a Cub Scout when I was 8 years old. We took a field trip there [laughs].
Larry Goldstein: [laughs] Well, you’ll be pleased to know that I was a Cub Scout in Brooklyn! I used to sneak into Ebbets field because you could get in for free with your Cub Scout uniform. So, paths cross and I am double your age at 60. Andrew Shapiro, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us.
Andrew Shapiro: Thank you Larry, and thanks for having me.