Interviews with ethnomusicologists
Alexander Knapp interviewed by Carolyn Landau. (1 of 4).
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Rayners Lane, West London, Greater London
Knapp, Alexander (speaker, male, interviewee)
Landau, Carolyn (speaker, female, interviewer)
Landau, Carolyn (speaker, female
Track 1 [17:06] [Session one: 25 June 2010] Alexander Victor Knapp [AK] born Clapham, South London, during Victory Week, May 1945. Parents from central Europe. Father from village on Austrian/Hungarian border; at the time was considered one of main 7 holy Jewish communities in this area. Father born there in 1902 and had 2 brothers; learned violin and also played timpani in village band. Description of types of music played by father when growing up. Father moved to Vienna and met AK’s mother there. She was from orthodox background and had learned Western classical music – guitar and piano. Parents arrived in UK in 1939. Much of rest of family didn’t manage to escape. Eventually settled in south west London. AK born in Clapham and lived for a while in Stretham, then moved to Morden, where he grew up. Only child. Father ran radio and televeision shop. Family lived above shop. Attended Rayner’s Park Grammar School for boys, nearby. A handful of other Jewish boys at school at same time. Predominantly a white middle class school. To be Jewish was slightly exotic. Grew up in this atmosphere. [5:25] Started having piano lessons and composing age 6. Remembers watching mother playing piano before this. Experience of composing and interaction with composition teacher. Continued composing throughout school and at Cambridge. [6:53] Discussion of Jewsish practices while growing up in Morden. Attended local reformed synagogue in Wimbledon: middle of the road in terms of Jewish culture. However, a number of pieces (settings of the liturgy) that affected him profoundly. Family didn’t celebrate practices at home very often. Father became an agnostic and continued to attend synagogue in order to argue with the rabbi. Mother didn’t attend but was very spiritual. He inherited both form – intellectual and spiritual. He feels less connected to organised religion now and therefore finds resonances with all sorts of religious musics. Didn’t grow up hearing Yiddish; parents spoke German dialect at home. [11:15] Musical influences at home: Western Classical. Nothing particularly Jewish. Beethoven was a hero. Composed music in early Western classical style. Musical education at school was minimal. Story about school orchestra and choir. Initially the science teacher taught music. Later the school hired a music teacher. Music was encouraged informally. Took up violin around age 8 and then viola a few years later. Still plays viola in London Gypsy Orchestra. Age 15 took up the bassoon as this was considered useful as a composer. Found this a valuable experience. Piano was always main instrument. A-Levels: French, Latin, Greek, Music. Had also been attending junior school at the Royal College of Music throughout secondary education. Particularly enjoyed the study of languages. [End of track due to door bell ringing.]
Interview with Alexander Knapp (1 of 4). The ethnomusicologist talks about his research. Interviewer: Carolyn Landau.