Since his million-seller "The Way It Is" (1986) and "Scenes From The Southside" (1988) the singer and pianist Bruce Hornsby has developed into a musical chameleon. In addition to a one-and-a-half-year guest appearance with Grateful Dead, the man from Williamsburg in Virginia has been releasing Americana, jazz and bluegrass records since the nineties. His most recent work "Absolute Zero" is largely based on so-called "cues", short, functional pieces of music for films by his buddy Spike Lee, to whose strip "Clockers" he contributed the duet "Love Me Still" together with Chaka Khan in 1995. "My entry into the movie world," as Hornsby says. "Since the documentary 'Kobe Doin' Work', I've written music for six of Spike's films, most recently his Netflix series 'She's Gotta Have It'." In an interview with eclipsed, the 64-year-old ranges from his literary interests to modern classical music, which also influenced his new album "Absolute Zero".
eclipsed: Did Spike Lee give you any original cues tips on how to make them sound?
Bruce Hornsby: No, no. He likes what I do. He just doesn't like it when it gets too absurd and dissonant. Then he says, "Don't give me that weird shit!" (laughs) For the last ten years I have written about 230 pieces of music for Spike, lasting between one and five minutes. Often I made a song out of it right afterwards. Three or four tracks on the album didn't originate from "cues". I have combined music with lyrics that are often based on books. I am an insatiable reader and read everything from Thomas Mann to David Foster Wallace and Don DeLillo to Toni Morrison. Apart from that I also take up scientific topics, as you can see from titles like "Fractals" and "Echolocation".
eclipsed: The album features some well-known guest musicians such as Jack DeJohnette and Justin Vernon. Vernon or Bon Iver is a great advocate of your music and is jointly responsible for the fact that certain trade magazines finally appreciate it..
Hornsby: There's a lot of truth to it. As the saying goes: "Open the doors, open the ears". If you've ever been on the radio, you like to be typed - but I never wanted to be a pop star. What I'm doing now doesn't have much to do with the sound that the mass audience knows about me. And that's a good thing! Many of my musician friends after 30 or 40 years still sound like they did when they started.
eclipsed: On your last live album "Solo Concerts" you demonstrated your preference for modern composers like Elliott Carter, György Ligeti and Arnold Schönberg.
Hornsby: Most people hate this music. And I can understand them. (laughs) In his book "The Rest Is Noise" Alex Ross described modern classical music as "this obscure pandemonium on the edge of culture". But that's exactly what I'm interested in, for example what you hear in the bitonal song "The Blinding Light Of Dreams" or in the atonal bridge of "Take You There (Misty)". I try to use not only the white but also the black keys. Because I want to lead a chromatic life, which I then impose on my poor, unsuspecting audience. (smiles)