Preston shares synthesis of sounds
Posted Feb. 23, 2007
Rhiannon Mim
Known in the music business for his continued contributions in the use of piano and synthesis, Don Preston performed Feb. 20 in Founders Auditorium. Preston played original pieces as well as compositions by Frank Zappa, with whom he previously performed. With a career marked by 20 musicals in feature films as well as 14 plays, Preston was given the name “the father of modern synthesis” by fellow composer John Carter.

Imagine for a moment an elderly man dressed in a velvet jacket, t-shirt, Dockers and Nike tennis shoes.

That man is Don Preston, an accomplished musician, who performed Tuesday in Founders Auditorium.

The concert was one in a series of several concerts put on by the music department.

“I’ve wanted to bring him here for quite a while; he played here before, back in the 1980s,” said Reed Gratz, professor of music.

“I saw him perform at Claremont and thought it would be great if I could get him here,” he added.

His music presented a combination of the piano, the electric keyboard and a synthesizer programmed with various sound effects and percussion instruments.

This combination of sounds gave his music an interesting appeal.

Most of the songs he played were instrumental. The few that featured lyrics seemed more like spoken word.

Preston is known for his work with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.

Preston was born in 1937 into a musical family.

His father was a composer for the Detroit Symphony.

“My father always tried to discourage me from doing music,” Preston said.
However, Preston continued his musical endeavors.

Ultimately, pursuing a growing interest in eccentric and jarring sounds.

“Obviously his warnings did not keep me away I have been playing since before I could remember.”

“The first four years of my life were spent on the road,” Preston added.
Preston’s musical style is hard to categorize.

“It sounded as if he was doing poetry,” said Diana Lopez, a sophomore liberal studies major and music minor.

“I really enjoyed the two different types of piano, his music was very calming and it had an aquatic feel,” she added.

His lyrics were very interesting.

Some of them sounded as if they were made up, or as if they were a
completely new language.

Yet all of the songs he performed featuring lyrics told a story.

“His music makes you visualize things,” said Julianne Hadfield, a senior liberal arts major from San Diego.

“I liked it, even though I didn’t know what it was,” she added.

Most of his compositions were preceded by funny antidotes about himself and his band members.

Preston, who said he gets his inspiration from God, said he practiced for hours before his performance.

Preston is looking forward to getting some rest and touring with his band, the Grandmothers, in September.

The next concerts sponsored by the University of La Verne’s music department will be the Belrose Duo, a husband and wife team, on March 6 and award winning composer and musician Milchio Leviev on March 8.

Both events will be held in Founders Auditorium at 8 p.m.

For more information visit

Keisha Clay can be reached at

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