Energies: A Note on Having or Making a Sound

The question of how I want to sound is better derived from how well I play than the other way around. That is, I am more likely to be able to manage the sound of my kit if my strokes are assured, my sense of the kind of energy I want to create and support is clear. Without aspiration or inspiration, the best-tuned array of drums and cymbals won’t get me or my group very far.

So rather than search for a sound, I’ve come to feel that one might go so far as to take one’s sound for granted: allowing that one is, more often than not, no stranger to his or her instrument, its sound is not at issue but has in fact been chosen already. By the time one makes a noise, the decision has been made. In which light, there’s nothing to do but get on with the effort of solid play.

Inspiration: Geoff Dyer

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Years ago, he used to catch himself thinking about what he was playing, conscious of his own technique, and while this distracted it also reassured because it meant that in between these spasms of self-consciousness he had simply been playing — and he played best when least conscious of what he was doing. At a certain point, playing became a wild amnesia of technique.

— Geoff Dyer, But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz, p. 174.

Inspiration: Wendell Berry

The various reductions I have been describing are fairly directly the results of the ongoing revolution of applied science known as “technological progress.” This revolution has provided the means by which both the productive and the consumptive capacities of people could be detached from household and community and made to serve other people’s purely economic ends. It has provided as well a glamor of newness, ease, and affluence that made it seductive even to those who suffered most from it. In its more recent history, especially, this revolution has been successful in putting unheard-of quantities of consumer goods and services within the reach of ordinary people. But the technical means of this popular “affluence” has at the same time made possible the gathering of the real property and the real power of the country into fewer and fewer hands.

— Wendell Berry, “Feminism, the Body, and the Machine,” 1987.

*What Are People For?*, 185-6.

Energies: A Note on Music and Disbeliefs

I do not believe that the act of making music, however deliberate or spontaneous it might be, aspires to a preordained ideal. That is, there is no perfect music, except insofar as a given musical piece or performance fulfills the needs of its participants — listener, composer, and performer alike. This fulfillment is, in the end, all that matters.

I also do not believe that all music aspires to art, nor should it, any more than any other activity aspires to art. I emphasize my use of the word activity because I believe music is something one does.1


  1. This idea will be familiar to readers of Christopher Small’s Musicking, a book I’ve only recently come across. I recommend it to anyone who’s interest in music is more than passing. His development of a theory of music-as-action has inspired rather than deterred my remarks here.