It is such a beautiful city, and to learn a foreign language is a very important thing, to be in a different culture, to be able to think in two languages, it’s been a very important experience.1 Philip Glass studied in Paris with Boulanger, said “Well, you know, Rhys — it’s a quiet backwater,” in terms of contemporary music, in that a composer named Pierre Boulez held back contemporary music here for 20 years, but now his influence is much less, and things are really starting to open up in music.
Paris did not have one advantage that we had in New York. In New York, you could be the bartender who was a playwright. You could be the waitress who was a composer. In France, for a long time it didn’t work that way. A profession was a profession. If you’re a waitress or a barman or a bar lady or whatever, that was a profession. And if you were a composer or a musician, you were given grants to do that. But when you’re given — I hate to say this, but when you’re given grants to do something, you’re beholden to your teachers, the people who are given to the grants, and so it made the music very safe here. But now those grants aren’t so available, and the only people doing music here on the underground scene are people who are out of their minds. They’re nuts.2
And so, all this interesting music is starting to happen on an underground level here in Paris, even in the museums like Palais de Tokyo, the Cartier series Fondation Cartier, puts on very, very interesting music. And so, we have a very strong music life here.