Nine Questions

Robert A. Villa

Robert A. Villa, a freelance field biologist, violinist and interpretive naturalist, specializes in amphibians and reptiles, plants with a special interest in the natural and cultural world of our Sonoran region and Latin America. Villa's greatest pleasure are those special times and spaces where art, culture and nature converge, and sharing that with others. He's played violin for about 18 years. He told the Weekly, "I've played classical music, to Mediterranean, and early music, to whatever I'm allowed to sit in on here in our Saguaro-studded pueblo."

What was the first concert you attended?

I think it was a school day matinee at UAPresents of Andrew Manze introducing and performing the Vivaldi's seasons. 

What are you listening to these days?

My massive library of music is usually playing completely shuffled. So anywhere from "classical" music from around the world from all periods, American Folkways recordings, Mason Bates, Australian hip-hop (Hermitude), Tahitian choir, Bob Dylan, Joy Division, Perfume Genius, Fela Kuti, Amon Tobin, violin repertoire, Arthur Russell, Reptar, SBTRKT, The Shins, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, noise, traditional music from around the world, Fleet Foxes, Foster the People, Brian Eno, Velvet Underground, Reptar, Kishi Bashi, Nirvana, the traditional minimalists, Milagres, Waylon Jennings, Hazmat Modine, jazz of all sorts, Ernst Reijseger, Jurassic 5, Cage The Elephant, Kronos Quartet, MGMT, Leonard Cohen, Gnarls Barkley, Latin American electronic music, pre-medieval epics, J Dilla, local music, early music, Mos Def, Arcade Fire, The Beatles, The Strokes, David Byrne, Velvet Underground, old western/country, Paul Simon, Laurie Anderson, Tom Waits, Reggae, M83, Radiohead, The Cars, Bach, Foals, Beach House, Waila music, Future Islands, Peruvian psychedelia and early rock/punk, Delta blues, lots of Brazilian music, Big Mama Thornton, Andrew Bird, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Lately, I've been enamored by division viol music of England (Thomas Baltzar, William Byrd).

What was the first album you owned?

A vinyl record of Pete Seeger singing with Big Bird (I was 3 or 4). 

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone seem to love, but you just don't get?

I approach and generally accept everything I hear as a product of my environment and the soundtrack to what's going on. That said, I might rip out my spleen through my sinuses with a rusty spoon if I hear more than five seconds of this Justin Bieber parasite.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

The Texas Tornados, or the Traveling Wilburys

What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

Jack's Mannequin.

What song would you like to have played at your funeral?

I've thought about this too much to give you a single piece! But the Brahms Requiem was my first choice when I first thought about this a while back. But jeez, there's too much great music! I want a celebration, so maybe the Tchaikovsky variations on a rococo theme instead.

What artist changed your life and how?

Jascha Heifetz playing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra fell me in love with the violin in grade school. The Kronos Quartet tuned my ears to otherwise dissonant, non-melodic, ... "traditional" music (Peter Sculthorpe, Alfred Schnitke, the minimalists, post-modern Latin American composers, etc.). 

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Nathan Milstein playing the Brahm's violin concerto with William Steinberg conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.