“The hippest thing you can do is not play at all. Just listen!” Lennie Tristano…
Sage advice to all improvisors, myself included.
This reinforces the view that the practice of improvising is so close to that of mindfulness/presence and attention. Regardless of our private and personal views regarding religion and faith traditions, our musical practice offers a means to balance our mind, creating mental wellbeing as well as enabling us to access an open attention close to a flow state. Find out more about Lennie Tristano at www.lennietristano.com and here at https://simonpurcell.com/practicing.
Thank you Liam Noble for alerting me to this video…
Consider the notion of embracing difference in learners, an absence of comparison and the centrality of experience.
Krishnamurti’s profound philosophy of education is in direct opposition to the current industrial model of education than not only works against differences in learners/people but has also systematically removed the philosophical aspect of the training of teachers themselves. Teachers used to be educated themselves to integrate a values such as “difference” within every lesson plan, programme of work and curriculum.Today they no longer have time to devise child/student-centred curricula and are instead shackled to the sick paradigm in the name of so-called quality and accountability. Krishnamurti is a voice in the wilderness but a reminder of the true purpose of education.
The American educational philosopher John Dewey wrote in the early 20th century that “self-realisation is the goal” of education, “creating desire for continued growth”, not the mere acquisition of knowledge and information. This used to be central to teacher-education but chillingly these values have been and continue to be unpopular with government officials, including the highly influential Chris Woodhead (Chief Inspector of Schools in England from 1994 until 2000) who advised that “the words of John Dewey ought to be banned from all teacher-training institutions” (Daily Telegraph, 25 April 1999). Sadly, Head Teachers, Curriculum Designers and teachers themselves are generally corralled into compliance while at the same time the general educational culture is vulgarised by low-level and inexpert discourse in the press and even parents and learners themselves forget the authentic purpose of education and its and humane philosophical themes.
Education, from the latin Educare – to draw out that which lies within.
I was surfing the website of David Valdez and came across the tributes to and Ph.D about the American jazz educator Charlie Banacos. This man was a very significant figure and worth investigating if like me, you are unaware of his work (see CasaValdez for more information)… Just for starters some of the saying attributed to him:
“If you play with your fingers, you’re dead”
“The fingers are passive”
“The body doesn’t want to stop”
“The body doesn’t like angles”
“Row the boat”
“You feel like a diver by the side of a pool, ready to jump”
“Play with your arms, not your fingers”
“Of course it’s difficult; that’s why they call it an etude”
“Ear training—it’s Zen, not Aristotelian”
“Don’t measure” (as you practice ear training—hear it all at once)
“Piano technique—it’s Aristotelian, not Zen”
“Each note has its own shape as it goes by, like you’re driving by the planets”
“Keep your fingers near the keys, and don’t be afraid to raise your wrist”
“Don’t change the exercises”
“It’s a coordination problem”
“Just because you don’t speak like MLK doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk”
“Think of the numbers, not hand positions”
“Circles, Squares, Triangles -separate them” i.e. one idea after the next, not on top”
“Plan your practicing, or you will be overwhelmed”
“Use all the tensions on the lines; use all the figurations for each voicing”
“It doesn’t matter what finger you use”
“Think like a drummer, using space and range”
“Close your eyes and sit in the audience watching and listening”
“Re: sight reading—it’s a craft, not an art”
“Oh, and do it in all twelve keys.” Kill!
“Divisive rhythm/additive rhythm”
“Elephant with a stick in his trunk” (using it as a guide as you walk/play).
“He’s [insert name here e.g. Mingus, Jerry B. etc.] whacked, but he can play”
“Deep into the keys” (toward the center of the earth and toward the fallboard)
Apparently, he also would stress the following…
“It’s not technique, its timing” —Oscar Peterson
“Practice without accents” —Oscar Peterson
“The body is a rock; the arms are snakes” —Claudio Arrau
“All notes are ‘up’ notes” —Martha Argerich
“Feel the Ground” —Anton Rubinstein
“It’s all about circles” —Chick Corea
“Think of elephants, giraffes and hippos as you play” —Bill Evans
“C fingerings in all keys” —Franz Liszt
“Giant Steps solo in all keys” —George Coleman
“Music is Technique”—Nadia Boulanger
“Practice for the performance” —Chick Corea
“You must be a good draftsman before you can be a great painter” —Bill Evans
“Practicing is pushing a wall—you wake up the next day the wall has moved” —Bill Evans
“Don’t force the keys” —Art Tatum (to Red Garland)
“Each time is different”—Artur Schnabel, upon practicing the same phrase 200 times
“Three hours before breakfast” —Mike Stern
“Enslavement to the notation” —Craig Taubman
“Nothing difficult about it—just hit the right keys at the right time” —J.S. Bach
“You can’t be unhappy and be learning something new at the same time” —Merlin
If Music be the Food of Love, a response to Phil’s Robson’s FaceBook post.
Kate Williams is right in her comments on Phil Robson’s original post, it is definitely a political issue. It is a matter of values, and as artists we are in the “values business”. We assign so much of our energy and intention towards an ideal, a version or subtle representation of life so clearly at odds with the value system of the corporate world and the mass collective narcissistic neurosis of celebrity.
I have thought for many years that as human beings we possess a primal impulse towards creativity, artfulness and spirituality, as much our need for shelter, relationship and sexuality. Indeed, the signs of the collective creative and expressive impulse are ubiquitous, humanity’s need to create constantly revealing itself all around us.
Creativity and artfulness are natural states. When suppressed people become ill. When suppressed for long enough, communities and society becomes ill (read the research). The Spanish philosopher Jose Arguelles wrote: “When a man is deprived of the power of expression, he will express himself in a drive for power.” It is counter to our natural state and emotional health that hoards of artists are not only unknown but under-employed, while the need for more creativity in schools is obvious for all to see (not just in art and music but in the license afforded to creative teaching across the curriculum). And then there is the workplace and popular culture… The crime is that creative talent is as common as sand yet the dominant economic, social and political paradigm would have us believe that it is as scarce as gold. Actually, it is expedient in the post-capitalist world. (American theologian Matthew Fox had contributed insights on the subject during the 1980s.)
Phil’s points about Spotify are straightforward. Free or dirt-cheap listening makes music a “free-gift disposable consumable” that can be discarded in favour of another quick/free fix. Notwithstanding the argument about free access to great music, Music is now commoditised to such an extent and consumed as automatically as junk food, listening habits and purchasing behaviours vulnerable to extensive manipulation the market. I prefer to see quality music in the same way as quality food in that:
• It can take longer to prepare.
• It can require an investment in time and commitment on behalf of both performer and listener.
• It might take longer to digest!
• It can be (generally is) better for you (food for the soul). There is much research about creative activity and improved psychological well-being, reduction in mental illness, improved immune-systems etc.
I admire Phil for taking a stand on these matters and wish that the musical community had the confidence to support and actively promote the discussion. Couldn’t we take a more collective position on behalf of music? The irony is that very few musicians make a lot of money from music in any case, and the argument that free downloads promote the sale of merchandise at large scale or stadium gigs is hardly relevant for improvising musicians. Perhaps we have nothing to lose by reflecting and proposing some alternative practices – together. It won’t work otherwise.
There’s more comment here… www.facebook.com/simon.purcell.313
Everybody has their opinion about how to play the music. Monk was a one-off, a totally individual and realised artist, but he thought about it, in his own way too. This manuscript is freely available on the web (I found it at Sean Driscoll’s excellent blog – check it out). Makes a change from chords and scales…
- Just because you’re not a drummer, doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep time.
- Pat your foot and sing the melody in your head, when you play.
- Stop playing all those weird notes (that bullshit), play the melody!
- Make the drummer sound good.
- Discrimination is important.
- You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?
- ALL REET!
- Always know….(MONK)
- It must be always night, otherwise they wouldn’t need the lights.
- Let’s lift the band stand!!
- I want to avoid the hecklers.
- Don’t play the piano part, I’m playing that. Don’t listen to me. I’m supposed to be accompanying you!
- The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.
- Don’t play everything (or every time); let some things go by. Some music just imagined. What you don’t play can be more important that what you do.
- A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.
- Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig, and when it comes, he’s out of shape and can’t make it.
- When you’re swinging, swing some more.
- (What should we wear tonight? Sharp as possible!)
- Always leave them wanting more.
- Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene. These pieces were written so as to have something to play and get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal.
- You’ve got it! If you don’t want to play, tell a joke or dance, but in any case, you got it! (To a drummer who didn’t want to solo)
- Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along and do it. A genius is the one most like himself.
- They tried to get me to hate white people, but someone would always come along and spoil it.