iamom: (horn)
Two isolated events inspired a minor existential crisis with my music recently. The first was the receipt of an e-mail from a friend and musician whose opinion I quite respect, which indicated that those recordings we made a few weeks ago didn't measure up. Like, they really didn't measure up: in his opinion, we should just go back to playing jazz standards instead of trying to pull off this funk jazz hip-hop fusion stuff, because it just wasn't happening. The second event was that gig we had a week ago where we each made a disappointing $37.50 for a full night's work.

The minor crisis these events inspired was predictable: if the actual music itself (i.e. the groove, the beats, and the playing) was second-rate and we couldn't even make a reasonable amount of bread on a monthly gig, then why was I doing this? Maybe what we're playing really isn't as good as it seems to me, and maybe there's no real future in it. Furthermore, if I think really hard about the music we're playing, it's not actually all that original right now. Who hasn't seen a live band cover 60s funk tunes before? And who cares if it's a live jazz band who's also improvising on these tunes and transforming them into something different? I mean, does anyone really care about that? And is there actually going to be a decent audience for this stuff?

I resolved these questions over the past week not by coming up with convincing answers to them, but simply by letting them fall away in the face of my own self-confidence as an artist. I told myself, and I hope I'm right, that I'm putting the cart before the horse right now in worrying about whether or not what we're doing is astoundingly original or if we can make any money with it. What we need to focus on is the music itself, and we need to play it as well as we possibly can and put every bit of energy into that all the time. I believe that if we're true to the music for its own sake and if we trust our collective artistic vision, then the product of that collaboration will be worthwhile, and hopefully other folks will think so too. In other words, I'll worry about the "other folks" later.

I suspect that many writers, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and other creative people have all faced these same questions in their careers, and my intuition tells me that the best ones have taken a similar approach to what I just described: closing out external distractions, they just stayed true to their inner artistic vision and let the chips fall where they may.
iamom: (zoe looking up)
"You've climbed many mountains in search of the Dharma. Rowed many boats hoping to catch the other shore. So many long hours sitting, breathing, breathing...

The gravity of Emptiness and the profundity of Non-Conceptuality make for heavy baggage, no?

Here! I've picked you a bunch of wildflowers. Their meaning is the same but they're much easier to carry."

--Hsu Yun (an old hag)
Our band just played a pretty good show at a restaurant called Soho. Drinks and a meal are included with our pay, but it was so hot that I only drank water and I could only finish half my dinner. We did, however, have a good time playing.

When I studied jazz music at McGill University, I remember learning that a band only develops its own sound after it has performed in public a number of times. This is our third gig in as many weeks and our repertoire is definitely coming together in a good way.

We had also intended to record tonight's show, but a snafu arose with the mixer board and alas, it was not possible. We'll record our next rehearsal again though, just for practice, and I might use this technique to record some jazz Christmas arrangements for that idea I've had about a jazz Christmas CD since last Christmas. If we have some nice demo cuts of good arrangements, I'd like to see if some label (or maybe even CBC) would record it professionally for us and allow us to distribute it this Christmas season.

My main musical objective with the band right now is to tighten up our arrangements; our sense of time (or at least, the tempos for each tune); and the grooves. There was a few moments tonight when we were all locked into the same groove, but those were rarer than you might like.

See, when the groove locks in for a whole set (or at least a few tunes in a row), something quite transcendental occurs. At least it does with me. The music just lightens up, detaches itself from us, and floats up on its own breath of air. Not unlike a soap bubble you blow for your little girl in the backyard: you focus your energy on it, you watch it grow and take shape, and then you let it go to lift off on its own and float the way it's designed to float.

every subsequent moment unfolds as it should
iamom: (horn)
We laid down a handful of tracks, I think 4 separate tunes (some with multiple takes), tonight. I have Adam's DAT machine here at home with me and my job tomorrow is to connect it to my computer and convert the DAT tape recording to separate WAV files. That should be fun -- I've never done that before.

From a personal perspective, I find it difficult to listen back to myself in recordings. It's so easy to screw up an improvised solo and so hard to nail it. I want it to be authentic improvisation (i.e. I don't like to play pre-rehearsed licks), but I also want it to be perfect, full of energy and intensity and with a great big huge sound. I want the listener to stop what they're doing for a minute and say to themselves, "Damn! Listen to that horn player blow! He's really cuttin' it up right there."

And of course before all that I want there to be a perfect groove, a perfect beat. (Once a true and good groove is in place, I've noticed that it becomes easier to play funky over top of it.) That's all I want, really. Nothing short of perfection in the groove. No biggie.

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Dustin LindenSmith

January 2013

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