Mark Zuckerberg just expressed his intention to use his monetary power to “help create a better world”. The development of new technologies is what he is mostly thinking about, including powerful technologies in the realm of education: new, more sophisticated ways to help more and more human beings to develop their unique potentials. Fantastic. That’s what needs to happen more and more.
But I wish we could convince him, and others that control most of the material wealth today, that there are “technologies” as old as mankind that should deserve their utmost attention in this respect: artistic creativity in general, and especially music.
We live in a world that categorizes art and music as entertainment. And, of course, it is potentially all quite entertaining. Most of it today is actually produced to be just that: an awe-inspiring circus of sounds, rhythms, movements, colors, stories. It is actually one of the biggest industries in the world.
Yet, no matter what form art and music takes, it hardly ever looses an element inherent in it that goes way beyond entertainment. An element of transcendence; reaching beyond the obvious environment of our comprehension. And it is that essential element of transcendence, or expanded sense of reality, that draws more and more people into active roles in art and music.
Einstein opened the doors to realizing that there is a reality beyond our capacity to comprehend. That we live in a world where what we call spirituality is actual reality: Infinity is real, relativity is real, connectedness of all minds, subjects and objects is real, all matter being pure energy is real. Yet we cannot really comprehend that. At least not with the logic of our thinking minds and languages.
But we can through art and music. And developing that way of comprehension may well be crucial to how the increasingly hectic and dangerous worlds of ours can find more sentiments of peace, creativity and togetherness again. The age-old “technologies” of art and music are uniquely poised to take us there, in many ways and on many levels, personal, social and spiritual.
My area of expertise is music. Many studies show that the practice of music is unique in its capacity to fine-tune the intuitive and highly personal mind that we are born with. And that it is also the perfect “technology” to train and fine-tune group interaction and dynamics, listening, respect, patience, compassion, sense of space.
Terrorist groups ban music in their territories with a vengeance.. It totally gets in the way of their extremely narrow frame of mind. That is true for all violently competitive minds. If we want get out of the spiral of violence that governs the world now, if we want to help to create a better world, we need to find ways to invigorate, change and expand education through art and music, not cut the little that we have, as it is happening now all over the world.
I am glad to report that the MUSIC MIND book, that I have had on a slow burner for so long , is finally taking shape. The consultant/writer/trombonist Rick Maurer is helping it along. It will be out next year.
I thought I’ll use this blog to carve out the themes of the book in brief posts, to collect some feedback, especially from musicians. The book itself is written with the idea that listeners and players alike will be addressed.
Listening and playing are actually inseparable. When we really listen, we actually play. Ornette called it “Dancing in your head”. And its not just the head: our whole being goes into “play mode”. From there it is just another step to decide to actually play: dance, sing or pick up an instrument. The intensity of listening, really listening, needs to remain when we play. When we play without listening, then there is very little communication. Its more like a virtuoso display. That form of communication is very short-lived. It is a “wow” effect and then it is gone. For music that is truly remembered, the players need to take breaks to listen intensely to the details of the moment, which are different every time; just as the listener needs these breaks to “play”, to intuitively respond. This is a big Music MInd theme, with lots of angles to be discussed and practiced.
So I will now, in retrospect as well as down the road, mark all those blog entries with an “MM” that deal with Music Mind themes. And, again, I am looking for feedback, as we are writing this first Music Mind book.
Thanks. You may, of course, communicate via email:
So far, Ingrid Sertso, myself Karl Berger and Peter Apfelbaum are spearheading a mini-festival, that is just coming together. Check for updates. as the event draws nearer. The story behind this: Ingrid Sertso, the inimitable vocalist and poet, had to spend 4 months in hospitals and rehab to fight a heavy staph infection. We will celebrate her recovery and raise money to cover her co-pays on the doctors’ bill, which are staggering.
Come back to find out how this event is shaping up. It will be quite out of the ordinary.
UPDATE: Bansuri Flutist Steve Gorn and drummer Tani Tabbal are joining us
More info soon.
I admit that I neglected this blob for too long. I plan to now activate it and use it more regularly.
Please let me know if you are there, and please respond as much as possible.
The book project “Music MInd”, long in the works, is now taking shape, with the help of writer/consultant Rick Maurer. We will test the writings with you, as we move along. So please stay tuned. I am planning to have several texts being posted every month.
You may also respond to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next CMS Workshop days are coming up soon. Maybe I’ll see you there?
Go to http://johnrogersnyc.com for some amazing photography art work and record covers.
John is not only an outstanding artist, but he has done an immense job in connecting many musicians to Ornette during his final years, where Ornette hardly left his home but welcomed so many musicians to come and play and interact with him. John’s work speaks for itself: just beautiful!
I never met John. We got in touch, because I, naively, used quotes or Ornette’s that he had collected and published (see story below). I hope that he’ll forgive me for my ignorance and that we’ll meet some time down the road in a more positive and creative situation.
Here is a text describing our (Ingrid Sertso and mine) connection to Ornette Coleman. He has been our guiding light since the sixties. But first:
I was invited by Denardo Coleman to give a talk at the funeral service for Ornette at the Riverside Church in New York.
I used most of the content of the following statement and added quotes by Ornette that John Rogers, an eminent jazz photographer, who became a close friend of Ornette’s, had published in a blog of his. Little did I know that even quotes are not public domain. So I want to use this opportunity, and others, to apologize to John for using the quotes, which he rightly considers his domain.
So here’s my text:
Our way to Ornette Coleman and the Creative Music Studio
It is hard to find words about Ornette Coleman. He is, ultimately, the reason why we are here, in New York, and doing what we are doing. In 1971, Ornette helped me and Ingrid Sertso, vocalist/poet and my life-long partner, form the Creative Music Foundation as a non-profit organization. At the time, Ornette said, “That’s fine; you do the non-profit and I’ll do the profit.”
Ornette’s words were always powerful, as convincing and thought-provoking as his music was. The soft-spoken intensity and spontaneity was just mind-blowing. No one talked like Ornette; he talked the way he played, often starting with a perfectly “regular statement” (melody), only to pivot into a completely different direction in the middle of the sentence or the next sentence (like changing the key, for example). When you insisted on an in-depth discussion, he would say that too much thinking gets in the way of your emotions.
But first things first: In the early 60’s Ingrid and I heard Ornette’s “This is Our Music” (Atlantic Records). Our spontaneous reaction: ‘This is OUR music, too! It was so crystal clear. But how to go about it? At the time we divided our time between my hometown in Heidelberg, Germany, where we played regularly at the legendary “Cave 54” (We met Carlos Ward, Don Ellis, Lex Humphreys and others there) and in Paris, where a thriving jazz-club scene had developed (we met Eric Dolphy there among many others). In April 1965 we took one of those five-hour trips to Paris and saw Don Cherry play on the first afternoon in the Buttercup Café. I was so magnetized by his energy that I simply walked up to him and introduced myself, saying, “I want to play with you.” He smiled, gave me an address, and said “rehearsal is at 4 pm tomorrow. ” From that day on we played together for years, and pretty much every day, in European cities, eventually coming to New York for the “Symphony for Improvisers” (Blue Note) recording session. I soon realized that Don always acted on a highly intuitive stage, and that our spontaneous form of coming together was not unusual at all for him.
Suddenly I was in the middle of a veritable storm of “harmolodic” music. Don shared with me (and the other members of the quintet – Gato Barbieri, J.F. Jenny-Clark and Aldo Romano) the full scopes of Ornette’s approach, which he started to translate into world-musical dimensions. In addition to original themes by Ornette and himself, Don would bring melodies from all over the world to the daily rehearsals and performances. Ornette later told me that called Don ‘the man with the elephant memory’ because Don could hear the most intricate melodies, or any sounds for that matter, and perfectly memorize and reproduce them. Ingrid and Don became close friends, like brother and sister. He loved her voice would frequently invite her to participate in special events and recordings.
We first met Ornette at the Paris-Club “Le Chat Qui Peche,” which was our steady club engagement for more than a year. Ornette was in town for a concert with his trio (with Charles Moffett and David Izenzon). It would be the first of many meetings, which became more frequent from 1970 on, when Ornette had established a loft space on Prince Street in the SOHO district (where he later opened his performance space “Artist House”). It was there that the idea of the Creative Music Foundation was born and where we signed the founding papers with Ornette, Ingrid, myself and two lawyers, establishing the organizational framework for the legendary Creative Music Studio. CMS would conduct workshops, seminars, concerts and recordings, which support the communication and learning of principles common to all musical styles, encourage personal expression in any form it might take and provide the stage for meetings of music minds from very different backgrounds, as well as for experiments and productions of new music (see “Wire” coverage 2014)
Ornette made the Creative Music Foundation interesting from the start by proposing an Advisory Board consisting of John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Willem de Kooning, Gil Evans, Gunther Schuller and others.. John Cage said: “I don’t like jazz, but I like Ornette” and subsequently became a Guiding Artist at CMS Sessions in the 70s in Woodstock NY, when CMS had grown into a year-round institution.
Essentially, many of CMS’s philosophical directions are the same ones that take on a highly personal form in Ornette’s music and words. But Ornette was always quick to deflect attention from himself. He always emphasized that sound had a different meaning to everyone, thus completely taking all individual judgment out of the equation.
When Ornette formed “Prime Time” he described the music he envisioned in words that perfectly describe a central philosophy at CMS: “It allows every musician to participate in any form of musical environment without them changing their own personality, their own tone or their way of phrasing.” He also always referred to another central CMS point, that Ingrid opens her workshops with: that everyone and everything is musical in essence and capacity.
Once Ornette, Ingrid and I were driving a car in the streets of New York and we saw a taxi cab that had a bumper sticker that read: “I won’t blow my horn if you don’t blow yours.:” Without missing a beat, Ornette said: “That could be the title of my next album.”
We just celebrated the 75th performance of our Improvisers Orchestra. It is an amazing journey. I would have never thought that we would get together 75 times in 42 months and grow from month to month.
For those that are new to this experience, as listeners or players, here is a quick synopsis of the processes that the KB Improvisers Orchestra is involved in.
Our aim is to harmonize improvised sound. The way that happens is both very simple and extremely complex. Here are, in a sketch, the major points:
1) All sounds have within them the capacity to harmonize with any other sound.
When we are the ones making the sounds, it is up to us to make it so that it harmonizes with the sounds that occur at the same time.
In the case of this orchestra: what is required is a fine-tuning of our sensitivity to the tuning and to dynamic quality of the sounds that we are playing. Every note that we are playing contains every other note in its harmonic structure. To harmonize means to become ever more sensitive to the fine-tuning and perfect dynamics of each note that we contribute to the total sound that occurs at the moment.
This sounds like impossible to accomplish. But this is not a cerebral feat.
Thinking is much to slow for music on that scale of sensitivity. We need to let go of trying to control this process with our heads. We must rely on our natural ability for spontaneous action and reaction. We “feel” the perfect spots. Once we let go of trying to manipulate this process, a world of feeling clarity and perfection opens up. We just tune in, become one with the sounds occurring, the whole sound, not just our own.
This is the secret: we identify with the whole sound that occurs at any moment, not just our own. We play the orchestra, not just our instrument. Even in the sections, where we don’t play, our silence is our contribution to the sound at that moment.
We realize in a very practical way the knowledge of our time that there are really no separations: we realize the one mind that we are all part of.
2) Amazingly, as we leave our thinking self behind, our personality begins to shine, the absolute uniqueness of our own sound, our own voice. So we make this uniqueness the second anchor of our music: solo statements, duo/trio conversations, chamber groups within the orchestra, set the tone for orchestral responses.
Each player is the orchestra, but is also a unique voice. The orchestra, by over-riding our self-consciousness, brings out this uniqueness, our very personal expression.
No longer having to prove anything or impress anybody, we just express our musical feelings in contributing to the feel of that moment. It might just mean a few notes, a long tone, or a cascade of sounds. Or silences framed by sound
3) My role as conductor is mostly to react and act on the motions of individual voices, structure the sequence of sections, introduce orchestral responses and dance the tightrope of compositional balance. I also occasionally introduce some
pre-conceived parts that we practiced together before the performance. These
written and mostly memorized lines may define beginnings and endings, or they might show up anytime in the process.
Of course, written compositions and arrangements could be introduced to any extend, without losing the intensity of the processes of the KBIO. We just want to
really go to the depth of them here. So far, we purposely by-passed the traditional elements of realizing someone’s ideas of composition and arrangement and executing the routines connected with them. One of the goals is to go beyond all routines and experience music fresh and new in every moment of it. Doing so we
are not only exploring the infinite journey of harmonizing sound, letting our personality flow freely and feeling the intensity of each moment: we also begin to realize that all sense of routine is actually a construct of our conceptual minds.
There are actually no sounds or rhythms that repeat exactly the same way ever.
Everything is new, always. There is only new music, even if the structures may
Once we realize and experienced music in this way, we can take this to any style
or form of music making. We can feel and play new music in every moment that we play in any form of music that we like.
As a listener, by the way, you can go there too: you can listen with a player’s mind.