Monday, August 13, 2007

Good Experiment in Listening

Tonight I did something I've never done before. I'm doing some research for an upcoming article I'm writing on jazz composers who happen to be bass players. I recently purchased a small pile of new CDs by Ben Allison, Drew Gress, Avishai Cohen, William Parker and Scott Colley. It's a lot of music to really LISTEN to so I've been waiting for a break in my schedule to start. I somehow hit upon this crazy idea to take all five of these as yet unheard albums, stick them in my CD changer, hit shuffle play and listen without having any idea whose music would be playing at any given moment. I sat back and had one of the most interesting listening experiences of my life.

In addition to hearing some really great stuff I came to the realization that I often waste too much bandwidth reading the tray card and looking at the photos and artwork on the CD case while the music is playing. So I've been often guilty of not really giving the music my full attention, which is the least any music deserves if one purports to be a serious listener. Not having a pre-conceived notion of WHO is playing was also very telling. I know I would be pre-disposed to like or dislike something based upon my previous experience with that artist or because of something I may have read or heard about the music. This way I was free to respond to each piece as it unfolded right in front of my ears. Very refreshing.

After about an hour I started to get rather tired and thought I might get up and do something else for awhile. Just as I was about to do so, something came on the stereo that really caught my attention. I can't tell you what or who it was because I really have no idea. It was a short piece that used a repeating pedal tone, first heard on the bass. I think it was an Eb because that's the pitch that kind of stuck in my ear but I could be wrong (I don't have perfect pitch but I can usually get pretty close by listening to the texture of the note being played on my instrument). This one pitch kept being sounded as the chords moved underneath. Then the bassist played a wonderfully jagged yet melodic solo while the pedal note kept being played by the pianist.

This tune got my very excited. As it ended I stayed on the couch and started singing the note to myself and wound up writing a little folksy sounding tune in my mind. I ran downstairs to my music room and spent the next hour or so writing something of my own that echoes the concept of whoever's music I had just heard.

And if that's not the best result of listening to great music from a player's point of view then I don't know what IS!

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