Culture Of The City
One of the things that I really liked about Los Angeles, especially because I’m Jewish and my mother was an immigrant, and my father’s parents were immigrants, that there was an emphasis in Los Angeles about how the culture of the city became elevated because of the escape of refugees from World War II.1 So, very early on I learned as a musician that Los Angeles had been a haven to people like Stravinsky and Schoenberg and Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann and people like this, that they had come to Los Angeles as a refuge.2
And the idea that these people would come from these other countries and bring their musical culture with them, Schoenberg and Stravinsky and all the other people. And my composition teacher, when I was a high school student, was a refugee also, right. So, my teacher Henri Lazarof, who had come over — he had gotten out of Bulgaria and gone to Israel and then immigrated to Los Angeles. So, the idea that there was this place where there was a direct connection to European culture in LA, but not necessarily with deep roots, that was kind of interesting as a kid.
I think also the other thing that was interesting is growing up in Los Angeles about — which really is, in many respects, a town where all the culture runs through the film studios, was interesting for me, because when I started getting interested in music, people started telling me oh, you know, your highest goal that you should aspire to is to write for films. And I think that’s true for everybody in Los Angeles. I think if you make a restaurant, your highest goal as a restaurateur is to become a place where movie stars will go.
And it just becomes the way that success is defined in Los Angeles. You’re interested in art, maybe you can be a set painter. You’re interested in cartooning or animation, well, you should go to CalArts and learn then how to go to a studio. And that was really important for me, because I think it sort of helped me figure out how weird I really wanted to be.
It made people — when I started — when I was in 1973, and I’m like a junior or a senior in high school, and I’m listening to music of Philip Glass and Steve Reich and La Monte Young, before anybody else is really listening to them in the general culture, I think one of the things that really attracted me to them was thinking this is not music which is aimed at the studio, it’s not music which is aimed at trying to please the largest number of people and make money.3 And so, I think seeing that there was this way of being successful laid out in front of me by all the practical people in my family, and in my surroundings, made it more attractive for me to find out all the alternatives that were available.