Last Saturday afternoon, some 75 Butler University students and faculty members gathered in the Clowes Hall Krannert Room for an informal, intimate conversation with Elvis Costello. He began by warning students that he had no advice whatsoever for those interested in exploring careers in the contemporary music business. Elvis Costello plays for Butler University students last Saturday, prior to the Clowes Hall performance.
He claimed to have no real ambition as he was beginning his career; he felt his success was "all by chance" and the simple fact that he "collided with a time when they [labels and music execs] were looking for people who didn't fit in."
He intimated these days the very opposite largely seemed to be true.
Current radio, in its strict, formatted mode, is "the death of imagination." He expressed interest in satellite radio, but suggested there should be a "shuffle" band that randomizes all the separate streams of broadcast into one completely unpredictable songlist.
It turned out Costello did have some advice: In honing one's artistic voice, "be ruthless with yourself."
Moderated by Marc Allan, the festivities included two performances by Costello: "Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes" and "Delivery Man." Then, he received three performances from Butler University music students. The Jordan Jazz vocal ensemble sang an a cappella, jazz-arranged version of "People Will Say We're in Love," from the musical Oklahoma. Biljana Bozinovska impressed all with her cello composition. Finally, Miho Sasaki played a piano work that turned out to have a random construction: Discrete passages are composed by Sasaki, but the order in which they are played is decided by the individual musician performing the piece.
Costello was sincerely impressed with all three pieces, calling Sasaki's composition "ingenious." He and the students exchanged ideas on musical theory and, at one point, Costello expounded upon American composers, concluding that Richard Rogers is his favorite.
Afterward, the line was long for personal greetings. Costello stayed until each person had a chance to give thanks and pay honor.