ARCHIVES: The Greg Herriges Interview

Greg Herriges is a Minnesota-based composer and player of many world instruments who brings together a wide range of musical traditions to create imaginative, stirring musical pieces.

“Imagine All Things as an Expression of Universal Imagination . . .”

The song “True Smile” is about finding true human connections between cultures and that was something that I always kind of struggled with. For most of my life I’ve been kind of an isolated person, very solitary, and the true human connection that I finally started finding came from immigrants and people from other places.

This tune came to me during a trip home from Buenos Aires where I had attended a guitar seminar. I found there was such a differences in the smiles between the people I had met down there and the people in the northern-western hemisphere. The smiles of the people down there were much more sincere. It might have something to do with the economic situation of the people down there. They were without many resources and so appreciated what they had in life. Interactions like that helped me appreciate the things I have and the things around me.

Telluric Currents

I was a big fan of Umberto Eco. I read Foucault’s Pendulum, which kind of dealt with a conspiracy to harness the telluric currents, the currents that run underneath the earth’s surface. It was an appropriate name for this project because the natural currents underneath the surface of the earth run in a pattern that is hard to harness; they’re somewhat random, scientifically. It seemed like a good name for the ensemble I was putting together and the CD that came out of it. It carries the idea that we’re picking up on currents from all sorts of distant places.

How it Began

In my early musical training I was self-taught. There was very little structure and discipline in what I was learning, outside of myself. I was self-motivated and self-disciplined to teach myself guitar and various other things.

But after playing music for a long time and playing a lot of progressive rock and things like that I ended up studying ethnomusicology at the University of Minnesota. That wasn’t so much applied music as the study of music and musical sources—musical anthropology, sort of. So I took that and applied it to the music I was making. From there I started working with musicians from different places, learning from them as I went along.

Bollywood

I listen to all sorts of Indian music, not just classical. I love and am heavily influenced by Bollywood music. From a Western perspective it breaks all the rules. It’s like early world fusion.

Pooja Goswami and A. Pavan

I met Pavan while working with the Indian Music Society of Minnesota. I was a fanatic about the concerts that they were holding locally and Pavan was one of the directors of that group and also a great tabla player who had studied with all sorts of tabla masters. I hooked up with him and he hooked me up with Pooja.

I had seen Pooja Goswami perform a long time ago in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and I thought, “This is somebody I would love to work with sometime in the future.” It came around full circle eventually when Pavan became associated with her and eventually married her.

I also write guitar instruction books for Hal Leonard but I’m going to have to put all that on hold for a while because I just got a composer fellowship; I’ll have to concentrate on making music. The fellowship came from the Bush Foundation, which is kind of a philanthropic foundation set up by one of the founders of 3M. With that money I’m tentatively planning to start a project called Sympathetic Strings, bringing together string traditions from different places. I’m hoping to bring together a Chinese pipa player and a South Indian veena player. They’re people I’ve worked with a little bit but we all have a desire to work together more, to explore the possibilities.

The Power of Consciousness

I’m not of one particular religion necessarily but I do believe in the idea that consciousness can create matter or reality, the way that it relates to quantum physics and the way that visualization can make things come true for you as an individual but also for people as communities or societies.

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