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
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.
Jazz education in the UK owes an enormous amount to Graham Collier (alongside Eddie Harvey and Lionel Grigson) without whom our current positions and extent of provision would been considerably harder to achieve.
As well as being an instigator of projects for young jazz musicians, Graham was an articulate and politically astute advocate for the music within the academic world, at a time when degree courses did not exist within the conservatoire sector. To initiate and establish a course at the Royal Academy was no mean feat in those days and assisted us in all institutions.
Unfortunately I didn’t know Graham well but he was always generous and supportive to me, never assuming a protective position regarding his host institution or his own position as Head of Jazz at the Royal Academy. Instead he actively encouraged vigorous debate and even criticism of his own work.
Jazz Education in the UK has lost a pioneer, advocate and supporter.
Yes, its about to start, another “silly season”, the Jazz Summer School season. Actually, many of us feel that this is a special and immensely valuable time for aspiring musicians to immerse themselves and experience the music in a concentrated fashion. It is my understanding that great British composers of the mid-twentieth century such as Vaughan-Williams and Finzi considered the summer school to be the most important learning experience of all.
Nowadays, jazz schools are businesses, but they also offer a transformative (and frequently healing) experience. The Barry Summer School changed my own life, making me determined to pursue a career having on the first night heard Tony Oxley, Alan Skidmore, Gordon Beck and Ron Matthewson. I was later privileged to co-diorect the course.
Mediterranean Jazz Summer School (small course in the south of France with top UK jazz musicians Liane Carroll, Julian Siegel, Martin Hathaway, Geoff Gascoyne, Simon Purcell et al) – click here
JAZZ’S COOL 2011 (a big event in Rome with International figures such as Dave Liebman, John Pattatucci, Daniello Perez, Sheila Jordan and a host of top European musicians and educators including me!) – click here
Trinity Jazz Summer School (the wonderful setting in Greenwich hosts the descendent of the historic Barry Summer School, featuring many of the top UK artists Bobby Wellins, Dave Hassell, Liam Noble, Pete Churchill, Dave Wickins, Nikki Iles et al) – click here
Footballer X has refused a £50,000-a-week salary plus a bonus payment of £500,000.
Footballer Y is reputed to earn £250,000 a week.
The teaching budget for all Arts and Humanities subjects within the University Sector is cut by 100%.
I wonder who practices more, footballers or violinists, goalkeepers or pianists. No contest if England’s recent form is anything to go by!
10 per cent of the UK workforce earned less than £276 a week while in full-time employment (see http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=285).
Wise person sayeth…
"Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself."... Miles Davis