Robert Rich: Not Playing to Get Laid

Robert RichThere’s an interesting interview with Robert Rich in the SFGate:

“Harry Partch and Indonesian music are big influences,” Rich agrees. “A lot of the music comes from an analog modular synthesizer I’ve been building for the past few years, so I can create sounds that people have never heard before. I got into space music in the ’70s as a teenager and I wanted to play with those cliches again — the cyclic, repetitive structures of ’70s electronic music — but steer away from the formula by using some of the compositional methods of Steve Reich and Terry Riley, for example. It’s a combination of world music, modern compositional methods and ’70s schlock.”

Rich grew up in Menlo Park in a musical family. “My dad was a weekend jazz guitarist who played briefly with (pianist and composer) Vince Guaraldi,” Rich recalls. “I rebelled by getting into Sun Ra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. In the fifth grade I discovered Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd and started building a synthesizer. It was the only instrument I could afford on paper-route money. I continue to build them out of necessity. The music’s in my head and it comes bubbling out, but it’s not the kind of music you play if you want to get laid.”

He also talks about a recent accident and its affect on his music:

“One of my hobbies is making wine,” Rich recounts from his home in Mountain View. “One evening I slipped with a glass jug in my hand. In the fall, the glass slashed through my wrist. The thought did go through my mind that I might bleed to death.”

Rich had severed the ulnar artery and seven tendons. There was a lot of blood. His wife called 911 and he survived, but the accident left him with a buildup of scar tissue that made moving his hand problematic.

“I’ve had several surgeries to get the tendons unstuck,” says Rich, who documented the healing and artistic process in a “handblog” at “My keyboard chops took a hit, and I had to rebuild the flutes I use, drilling thumbholes so I can reach the notes the hand doesn’t stretch to. It’s like being a broken marionette. Still, in this life, we all work within limitations, and they change as we grow older anyway, so you just work around them.”

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