Chapter 1 FB: Well welcome once again on this glorious, good Friday morning to the Berklee Oral History project. Today our man in the chair is Matt Glaser who's been the chairmen of the string department at Berklee for a long time, has been in the department for 27 years? MG: 28 years. FB: Hard to believe. Despite the bald haircut style, he's a very youthful guy. MG: Well this is intentional because you know, I have like a big landing strip here if I grow my hair and so that I decided to try to look like a tough guy even though I'm a very, I'm not a tough guy at all, I'm a very nice person. I'm not tough in any way. FB: Landing strip, considered a reverse mohawk? MG: That's right. FB: Anyway, he's a, his accomplishments are inumerable. He's worked with people like Stephane Grappelly, Dave Grisman, Lee Konitz, Bob Dylan, Jay Geils, Leo Kottke, Darol Anger. All you have to do is go to his Wikipedia entry: he's probably one of the few faculty members at Berklee who has his own Wikipedia entry. MG: I spent many hours putting that together -- no, I'm just kidding, sorry! Somebody else did it, I don't know. It's filled with inaccuracies, but that's the internet, it’s all about that anyway, so... FB: Right. He's an advocate of a rich and varied tradition on fiddle, violin. Has whip-lash recall, an all embracing musical mind, a Tom Hulce ‘Amadeus’ shriek which I find very enchanting. When you get enthusiastic you... MG: I laugh like a girl, yes. FB: It's great, it's great -- I love it! He's had his own groups such as the Fiddle Fever and Wayfaring Strangers. He's been on the board of advisors for Ken Burns' Jazz and Civil War documentary docu-pics, in which he appears in the film as a talking hydra on many, many subjects. Wow. Taught at Mark O’Connor’s Fiddle Camp, University of Miami, IAJE; he's off to Dublin with Jim Kelley to get the Celtic fiddle-ists to loosen up and improvise. MG: Okay, that's right. FB: Matt, welcome. MG: Fred, thank you, it's great to be here. It's great to talk to you about music. FB: Yes, we always do. It was nice to drop into your marvelous group session, your bluegrass gang over in 5E1 yesterday. MG: Yeah. FB: That was quite an earful, I must say. MG: Maybe we can start right now with the present and then work backwards a little bit. FB: Fine. MG: Right now, as you know, Boston -- and Berklee specifically -- has become over the last 20 years the epicenter of a scene of string music of all sorts. And all these young players who play various forms of folk music, bluegrass, old time music, and related offshoots, they play this music all at a very high technical level and they're kind of omnivorous in their musical interests. They've all congregated in Boston and most of them come to Berklee. And so, I teach a class from 11-1 this semester with 15 or so just killingly great young musicians. And I feel like a mad scientist because they'll do anything -- any crazy idea I come up with -- they'll try to do. So anything at all: I mean, the sky is the limit with these folks, it's really amazing. FB: I've caught the brunt of it, even on occasion in my literature classes. I had Walid Zahir come in one day playing his oud. MG: Oud, yeah! I know Walid very well, he's great, amazing. FB: His classmate Joe played mandolin. MG: Joe Walsh, incredible. FB: Those guys came in and played duos in my literature class. MG: They played duo, mandolin and oud? FB: Yeah. MG: Wow, that's a new duo, I've never heard of that before! FB: They were really hip. And your gang yesterday, they're all young people, freshman, sophomores? MG: Yeah they're all, that's right, I think they're all in their first year here. You know, there's really been a kind of sea change. I've been at Berklee for 28 years, and 28 years ago it was possible to know all the people in the United States who were interested in, who play the violin, let’s say, and who are interested in jazz, who are interested in improvising, interested in contemporary, non-traditional forms of music, or interested in various folk styles. You could know about them. Remember those days? We had phones before the internet and there were rotary phones; you'd have to dial them with your finger and someone would give you on a piece of paper the name of some guy in Portland, Oregon and you'd call him up and some other guy. Like somebody gave me the name of Harry Lookofsky and said, “Call Harry Lookofsky.” So I called him up, I said, “Harry Lookofsky, I'd like to study with you.” He said, “Learn Paganini and listen to Charlie Parker.” And he hung up the phone. So, I've been listening to Charlie Parker and listening to Charlie Parker for a long time, I still can't play Paganini. But... so those were, it was a different time. FB: Stringsville, 1960. MG: Stringsville, incredible! “Swingin’ Till The Girls Come Home” -- all those records, he was really a genius. So that was a different time and somehow through a variety of events, energy has really skyrocketed or snowballed I think would be a more appropriate metaphor. And now there are all these young kids who treat it as the norm that they should be able to play their instruments at an incredibly high level with perfect choral musical values. That is, their time is incredible, their tone is incredible, their intonation is incredible. Kind of the fundamental issues of playing your axe, these people have this together, you know they really serious. FB: That is awesome. MG: And they take it as a given that they should be schooled in jazz and classical music and various folk traditions. FB: Welcome to Berklee! MG: It's a paradigm shift, you know. I always say to people, in the days before somebody ran a four-minute mile, it was impossible. And then somebody did it -- what was the guy’s name, Bannister or something? FB: Yeah, Roger Bannister. MG: Roger Bannister did it, I think. And then it became the norm, then everybody had to do it. Or “Giant Steps”: there was no such thing as playing over this rapid series of changing harmonies: then it happened. Now it's the norm, everybody has to do it. So these are like, and it's depressing when you're a geezer because for evolution to proceed, it's necessary that students outstrip their teachers. It's a head case, you have to really deal. Don't you feel a... FB: I feel way behind. It's like upping the speed limit. Whatever you put it at, somebody's going to go 10 miles faster. I mean look at the heritage that Wynton Marsalis came out of. People would go hear Louis Armstrong in the 20's and say, “People can't play that stuff.” And then you heard him and he could play it. And then they started writing for it and people in the symphonies couldn't play it so they had to get people who could play higher and better and faster on the trumpet or the sax or the fiddle. MG: Yeah. It's really freaky, evolution is a freaky thing. But it's really stimulating to be around, in the midst of a scene of young people who are kind of on fire creatively. And really, it's very very thrilling. So that's where we are now: I mean in the present, we’re 2009. This scene exists now, but we can now go back and trace the history of it a little bit.