When we talk about music, we talk about our reaction to it. One person might say that music is so poetic, while another says it's all mathematics. Yet another might say it's about sensuality, and so on. That's all true. But music is not just one of these things. It's everything all at once.
We need a certain amount of energy to produce the sound. But then to sustain it, we have to give more energy, or otherwise, it goes and it dies in silence. And therefore, sound is absolutely, inextricably connected to time, the length of time.
In order to lift a certain object from the ground, we have to use energy. But then to sustain it at that level, we have to keep on adding energy, or otherwise, the object falls to the ground. It's exactly the same thing with the sound.
Of course there is really vile anti-Semitism in Wagner's writings, but I can't accept the idea that characters like Beckmesser and Alberich are Jewish stereotypes in disguise. Would Beckmesser be a court councillor if he was meant to be a Jewish stereotype? No Jew could occupy such a role.
Beethoven was a deeply political man in the broadest sense of the word. He was not interested in daily politics, but concerned with questions of moral behaviour and the larger questions of right and wrong affecting the entire society.
For me personally, Elliott Carter was and remains one of the most meaningful composers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries because he represents substance. He was the living proof of uncompromising, complex music, which at first seems inaccessible. But it becomes accessible if one digs in and sees the development through.
The thing about Wagner is we're always wrong about him, because he always embraces opposites. There are things in his operas which viewed one way are naturalistic, and viewed another way are symbolic, but the problem is you can't represent both views on stage at once.
There are many wonderful orchestras in the world, but very few who have a character or personality of their own. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is one of them, and I think it very important to recognize and respect that character.
It's funny, because in 1970 I met the Beatles quite by a chance at a party. It was the Beethoven bicentenary, and I was then also playing the Beethoven Sonatas. And that's all they wanted to hear about - I wanted to talk about them, and all they wanted to talk about was Beethoven.
Wagner is contrapuntal in a philosophical way as well as a musical way. What I mean by that is that every tendency has its opposite, and you see that in the man himself. He's a metaphysical hermaphrodite - he embraces hard and soft, masculine and feminine.
I think the most important thing for a listener is to realize that he, too, should not listen to music in a passive way; that if you sit in a concert hall and expect to be moved or taken off your seat by the music, it will not happen.