Saturday, November 17, 2012

Misanthropic Composing

I've been recently been reading "Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation" by Paul Berliner. This is an excellent book and goes into detail about how jazz artists learn and improve their improvisational skills. As an amateur, I don't take what I make musically too seriously, but still....

I have to admit that I am trying to find ways to improve what I create and do. I think hobby or otherwise, that is sort of human nature and all this has me thinking a bit about how things have changed and the processes that online musicians follow now.

In the past, the collaboration and jam sessions were the normal means of picking up tips, learning chord progressions, mimicing styles and adding them into your own repertoire. Musicians would jam after hours or in apartments just to pick up styles and to play off of each other. Learning in this way must have been a unique experience. The back and forth between players often formed great synergies that carried over into the studios.

I recently got to hear a local jazz combo play with Randy Brecker which was a bit of a humbling experience. I've been putting a number of jazz pieces together recently and this was a chance to hear live musicians interact (in this case after only a few days rehearsal!). Of course I realize there is a big gap in talent between my own hacked out pieces and life long performers but there was more than that. I think in live improvisational performance, you see players build on each solo and off of each other's playing styles. This is something you don't see in the online amateur musician - like myself.

I can put many tracks together - drums, saxes, trumpets etc, but every one is me playing or tweaking the sounds. You get my perspective on everything and aside from the skills gap, I think there is a creativity difference there. I can put some things together that I think are very listenable and occasionally pretty good but they are homogenous in a sense. It is presumptuous of me to attempt to put jazz charts together in the shadow of Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter or many others, but since its a hobby, hubris is OK and failing is without consequences beyond slightly wounded pride.

Collaboration in electronic music is often done virtually and disjointed. It is easy to collaborate anywhere in the world which is tremendous but you do lose that immediacy and the back and forth that goes on with performers. What impresses me most is the live improvs between jazz masters. My own process of getting a half decent track involves take after take, practice and finally recording. In live jazz, you see musicians following rapid 16 note patterns immediately with no rehearsal - pretty amazing!

So I am well aware that the process I use in music is different, probably inherently flawed and probably won't match the incredible efforts of skilled jazz combos. But I'm vain and stupid enough to keep trying!

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