The music of Perry Botkin is unclassifiable. But this is merely a truism.
Today all music is unclassifiable. What, for example, do we mean by "serious
music?" Beethoven or Duke Ellington? How do we characterize
pop music? Rock? Rap? Ethnic? Folk? Jazz? As mere entertainment? Non-art?
Previn put it well: "If classical music is serious, then what is
Perry Botkin's new compositions are certifiably electronic. But in his
case, Marshall McLuhan is dead wrong: not the medium, but the message.
The musical message. And what a message it is! Botkin's music is exploratory
and wildly romantic romantic in the broader sense as defined in
The New Harvard Musical Dictionary: "...the uncontrolled play of
the individual creative imagination, with resulting connotations of the
highly idiosyncratic and even the fantastic."
Botkin follows nobody's rules. He uses any technique that strikes his
musical fancy. He is not afraid to utilize standard everyday synthesizers:
Roland, Yamaha, Akai Samplers, et. al., the kinds of sounds you hear everyday
on any Pop, Rock, or New Age radio station. But he uses these instruments
in his own way. A highly personal way. An intuitive way. (Dare I say it?)
In a serious way.
Everything is grist for his musical mill: 12-tone melodies, consonance
vs. dissonance, jagged driving rhythms, common and uncommon harmonies,
free counterpoint, odd intervals, mirror inversions and retrograde devices
strange timbres, bizarre vocal samples, snatches of modernist poetry
along with touches of Jazz, fragments of Rock, thunderous symphonic
passages, and (occasionally) even moments of lyricism.
In expression and form, his musical compositions remind one of Robert
Rauschenberg's "combines," i.e., a mixture of photomontage and
silk-screen techniques. Yet Botkin's musical style is dramatic, or theatrical.
Perhaps even ultra-theatrical. A glance at his titles is revealing:
Women Who Won't Give You The Time of Day
Conversation on the Citizen Band
None of these compositions can be called "easy listening." As
with all unconventional music, they require a bit of effort on the part
of the listener. For Botkin has not opted to seduce the listener with
attractive tunes dressed in derivative harmonies. He has chosen "to
follow his inclinations rather than to make his way," as Talleyrand,
the French statesman, advised.
Not that he has failed to "make his way" through the commercial
Hollywood musical jungle--as numerous hit records, TV and Film scores,
Grammy awards, Academy Award nominations, etc., amply demonstrate. And
merely to mention the Theme from "The Young and The Restless"
or "Bless the Beasts and Children" should put an end to any
questions about his ability to handle a melody.
But beware! This CD represents a new Perry Botkin.
You will hear no "Young and Restless" themes in these works.
And no monotonous minimalist loops, rigid mathematical systems, or New
Age meanderings. His music is daring and original emotional, uninhibited,
explosive, enigmatic, off-center! I would call him an American Original,
influenced to some degree by the John Cage "every-sound-is-music"
philosophy, and to some extent by the dream-like (hallucinatory?) musical
world of Charles Ives.
However futile the attempt to classify it, this innovative, exciting new
music deserves to reach a large, varied audience. It should appeal to
"serious" and "pop" listeners alike. (A false dichotomy
one hopes will soon die out.)
But all of this hardly matters. The great French teacher of music, Nadia
Boulanger, put it best: "What matters is being oneself."
With these new musical works, Perry Botkin has achieved this elusive goal.
He has succeeded in being himself.
No more can be asked of a creative artist.