FOUR SONGS FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH PETER MAXWELL DAVIES

solo speaking pianist

The text used in this piece is excerpted from Alison Hennegan’s interview with Peter Maxwell Davies for Gay News Issue 169, dated May 31st – June 13th 1979.

For their help in sourcing said issue my thanks go to Russ J. Graham, William Brougham and Keith Howes, and the staff of the Hall-Carpenter Archive at the Women’s Library of the London School of Economics.

This piece is dedicated to Rolf Hind and the memory of Peter Maxwell Davies; two queer icons and iconoclasts.

I

“Fifty per cent of composers, at least, are gay – and that’s a very modest estimate”, Peter Maxwell Davies asserted cheerfully. One day quite soon he hopes that more of them will take advantage of the last decade’s gradual unbending and will come out to join him. “After all, you can’t go on setting love songs to people that you can’t identify with totally all the time.”

II

Perhaps, though, after so many years in which an unnatural degree of reticence has been imposed on homosexual artists, we’re going to witness a vast upsurge of determinedly gay art and he’ll just have to grit his teeth and welcome an enormous splurge of gay liberationist music? He looks back for a moment, then chuckles, considers and says “It’s arather nice thought, actually! Yes, it is.”

III

Everything we’re touching now and looking at in this flat is old, part of the past. And then you turn round and you’re looking at the future. And we’re just a junction between the past and the future. And just to say ‘This is it’ and blinker yourself, whether backwards or forwards, is absolutely nonsense. There’s no way of understanding one’s particular point in time if you do that. What I do find very amusing is that I’m so often accused of ‘turning my back on the real world’ – whatever that’s supposed to mean. What the hell is ‘reality’?”

IV

“I really do see music as something which helps a community come to terms with itself, to sense its own values and where it’s going. And to question itself…

“Music’s political function is anarchic. Music is not there to answer questions and to pour balm upon wounds… It’s not there to lull people into a state of unconsciousness. Its function is to make people aware – and dramatically aware – to make them question themselves… you can make them confront certain questions which they otherwise might not and I think it’s very good for a community… to be forced to come to terms with certain things, through music, through literature, through painting, through that kind of crystalized experience.”

%d bloggers like this: