Putting Art in music at the Klein on Thursday
March 16, 2009
By KEITH LORIA
While sitting in his home office, the set-list for his upcoming show at the Klein Memorial in Bridgeport in front of him, Art Garfunkel takes to his interview like a prepared A-student salivating at the test that is in front of them. Having faced questions about his music for the greater part of his life, the legendary singer knows what to expect and comes off a little coy in some of his answers.
Not that he is limited to the pat answers one might expect about his music. A discussion with the heavily educated Garfunkel (he has a bachelor's degree from Columbia College in Art History and a master's degree in Mathematics at Columbia University) runs the gamut with subjects such as philosophy, existentialism and even horror films (can you say "Boxing Helena") coming up in relation to his career.
A career, by the way, that he says he owes to luck.
"My age and the 20th Century and America's place is a very lucky sync," he explains. "People of my age came of age as swing music was turning into rhythm 'n blues, rock 'n roll .... We were coming of age as America was becoming a post-War success story. We took mono and made it stereo, a beautiful soundscape. Songs like 'Let it Be,' 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' and 'Good Vibrations' took advantage of this and rode the phenomenon....
"I had a Columbia college seriousness about what it could mean to record. Me and my buddy Paul were trying to take it to that next degree at work and not be casual when shuck rock came along and all of that punk. For us, the love of the amateur is not where it was at, it was the love of getting it beautiful as where it was at."
Of course, that buddy is Paul Simon and ever since first teaming up in 1957 as "Tom and Jerry" the two have made spectacular harmonies together. Once switching to Simon & Garfunkel, the duo rose to fame thanks to songs such as "The Sounds of Silence," "Mrs. Robinson," "Bridge over Troubled Water" and "The Boxer."
Together they won five Grammys, sold hundreds of millions of records, played to half a million people in Central Park and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
That success, combined with all he has achieved as a solo artist in the past 30 years, has allowed Garfunkel to do what he wants and when and right now, he is loving being on stage as he tours the country.
"I was thrown into a place called 'Do what you like or why do it.' Live performing and not recording has become my focus," he says. "Present tense is all you have and you have to stay cooking in the present tense in order to like one's self. It's important to continually be interesting in your own eyes otherwise you sag a little. As a live performer there are many things I have not gotten to do, so I am new at the game of refining my show. I have been doing different formats and different set lists and I play on my note pad to design the different shows."
Turning to different subjects, Garfunkel says "Lately I have been attracted to more acting roles," including an appearance this season on HBO's "Flight of the Conchords." He also talked about his being a veracious reader and he's read probably as much as anyone, including the dictionary word for word. That led to his writing poems and prose that was published as "Still Water" in 1989.
"Choices of expression are bouncing around in my head all the time," Garfunkel says. "Being a literary-type fellow came upon me in the '80s. A facility of words has come to me. I ask internal rhymes and I keep rhythm of syllables dancing in a dance I am controlling."
Going back to his Bridgeport list, Garfunkel explains that every set gets a separate thought process, although each has the same basic formula.
"Don't do too many Simon & Garfunkel songs or they will think you are retro. Don't be too stingy with them because they want to hear 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' and some of the others," he says. "Match your tempos and your slows and don't do too many slows in a row. I'm one who doesn't have too many spikes in the show, so I need to place them judiciously."
He promises that there will be material from throughout his career, including some of the work from his latest CD, "Some Enchanted Evening."
"I think this will be the quintessential Arty Garfunkel show," he says, showing that coyness. "This is the set list I have been waiting to do."