Cecil Taylor


Well, I don't know what jazz is. And what most people think of as jazz I don't think that's what it is at all. As a matter of fact I don't think the word has any meaning at all, but that's another conversation...(...)


One of the most important things that happened to me, really--I've always had difficulty with teachers in school. Right after Pearl Harbor I wrote this poem about December 8th--I don't even know why I remember this--and the teacher said, "Oh, that's a very bad poem." Well, I knew that I should write poetry then. If she said it was bad, then it must be okay.

you know teachers--I ran into a lot of teachers where it was very clear to me that if you didn't do what they told you to do, they would try to stop you from doing anything at all. That's what that teachers do. When I went to the Conservatory, it was the same thing, and boy did I fight with those people up there

in the whole four years that I was at the Conservatory I only had three teachers, really, that were interesting, and all three of them were women.

anyway, the poetry saved my life, actually.

Music, Poetry, Dance

I never understood how musicians could play music for poets and not read poems. I don't understand musicians who can play for dancers and not know how to dance. I mean, it's very interesting to me, you were talking about your research; well, one of the things--before I put words down, I probably have read a thousand words. (...)

I have a lot of interests. Dance is certainly one. Architecture, particularly structural engineers. I look at basketball. I'm not interested in it though.

Not "making money"

(...) That's the wonderful thing about maybe never being allowed to get into the business--the music business-- because I was not a very well-behaved person according to the gangsters who control the business. I'm lucky to be alive, really. So what you had to do--and also the fact that what I was doing was considered not very viable. [Laughs] That's a cute word to mean it didn't make any money, or they didn't see how they could make any money. And they would tell you what you were supposed to do. That's the way they are. So, not being malleable that way, the resources that my mother and father gave me, since I didn't have any money--but my father would always give me money. When I wasn't working I always went to see plays on Broadway. Then years later, this woman that I was sort of involved with worked at the Living Theater. So I got a whole new concept, and a whole new thrust of beauty right there, you see. And actually I ran into Baraka around '57. So, what I mean is that one dedication leads to another, especially if it is very important for you to continue to grow, especially when they tell you that "We're not going to allow you to grow in this area." So what does that mean? Meant I had to practice at home. It also meant that I had to look around for other sources of beauty that could aid in what I was doing with the main thing. Then finally, you see, these things mesh, and it takes a while for it to happen. But then, you know, it does.

And so therefore there is no possible way that I can have any regrets about not working, where these other people did. Cause I was always working. I just didn't make any money. [Laughter]


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