Ladies Logo

Keith Emerson

Born: 2nd November, 1944

Todmorden, Lancashire

"His unique use of the Hammond organ; his fusing of classical, jazz and pop styles; his almost single-handed creation of the popular image of the multiple keyboardist; his pioneering use of the synthesizer and his all round technical ability - all these have served to prove that he is indeed one of the most important, if not the most important innovator in the field of rock keyboards". Dominic Milano, Keyboard Magazine


"Keith Emerson lives for music. If some guy he really respects like Andre Previn was to compliment him on his music, that would mean more to Keith than selling a million records. He's your original loner, introspective and unpredictable, and I suspect he's only comfortable with other musicians." Keith Altham, Former PR man

The Violent Stage Act

"It's a natural instinct for me to perform this way on stage. The music is very important, but the music can only take you to certain heights. After that it's like trying to achieve the Diamond Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon, or whatever. You don't know quite what it is, but whatever it is, you can't grasp it through music alone. You have to go one stage further and my complete climax comes through violence. It's through exercising this violence on stage that I can be so subdued off stage."

On Composition

"When I compose I don't stick to a time signature. I just develop an idea. I feel I want to create something and I go to the keyboard and allow that feeling to represent itself through what I play. I've never really sat down and studied pentatonic scales and things like that. Really I write at a purely instinctive level - I know what I want to hear and I just keep working at it until I achieve it. Sometimes it doesn't work out. I think that if I had more schooling in the art of orchestration and the art of counterpoint and harmony, it would have made things easier for me because you can always fall back on a formula you know.

"Everything I do is at the piano but while I'm playing I don't hear the piano; I hear the instrument it's intended for. It's a matter of convenience. You see, if I write at a synthesizer you've got so many sounds at your disposal, you can easily get sidetracked. With a piano you know it's just one sound and it doesn't sidetrack you. You can lock into the composition that has to be written. As for the programming, that can wait. The main thing is that if the melody is important you can get the melody. You can trust the piano: it tells you the truth. If it sounds good on the piano it'll sound good on anything.

"Sometimes the simplest things can be the most difficult, while more complicated things are much easier once you master the notes. In learning a new piece of music, I find it harder to rely on notation than to do it by ear."

On performing or adapting other composers' music

"As for other people's music - simple reason - I like the tunes! I want to play these tunes but I want to play them in a way that's acceptable to our audience and stimulate new interest in the original. You know, I started doing this in the sixties and that was my intention but obviously since that time audiences have become far more perceptive - and intelligent! One doesn't really have to do that now. I think people are going for classical music as much as for any other form. So I don't mean to be insulting the public's intelligence by saying the reason I'm playing 'Fanfare For The Common Man'is because I want them to listen to the original. That may have been the case before but since then it's become part of what people expect of me. I still occasionally enjoy other people's music. If a piece comes out which lends itself to a particular situation, a particular meter, then I use it. If it doesn't then I don't force the issue."

On ELP's musical style

"My music has been tagged with the label 'Classical Rock' which I guess is okay. Broadly speaking, I suppose that's true, but it's not a term that I want to like. I guess it is classical rock, mainly because I can't think of any thing else to call it. It's classical music with a definite meter behind it. That sounds nicer. It's like calling a guy who collects rubbish a waste disposal officer instead of a dustman. It sounds far more polite: dustman-classical rock.

"Our adaptations of classical music that we use in our concerts are not really what this band is about because most of the stuff we play in concert is our own material. If our rock is different from the usual variety you have to understand our roots. Most of the rock groups in America come up with the blues, that's genuine American music, as a foundation. But we are from Europe and our heritage, if you like, stems from classical music, which is really a lot more complex than the blues. I myself had around ten years of classical music, the effects of which I suppose I still carry around.

"My style with ELP is a heavy integration between classical music, jazz, country music, and any style you want to name. It's so heavily integrated into one thing it gets difficult to pick out whether I'm playing jazz, classical, ragtime, stride piano, boogie woogie or what. But I know where my influences lie.

"I feel music should provide some sort of enlightenment. I think music should expand one's consciousness.

"My views on how I do things change every day, you know. I can say something one day and totally believe that what I've said is true. Then the next day I'll have moved one step further forward and I realise it is complete rubbish. But over the top of it all, I think, my music is the only thing that remains constant. That's the only thing I can rely on."

On internal friction

"ELP were a very complicated band and there were a lot of internal jealousies. Everybody wanted to be a soloist at the same time. When I listen to it now I find the overall effect exhausting, but exciting."

Valid CSS!  ©2001 Ladies of the Lake. Valid XHTML 1.0!