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It IS about technique!


coyote

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Otherwise, what do you do in live performance if a **musical** idea comes to you, and you don't have the skills to execute it?

 

If you are a bass player and you cannot play the ideas composed by either yourself or someone else, how can you call yourself a bass player? Obviously you can always have it played by a sequencer, or by a real bass player.... I'd hate to be the guy who tells the band "I can't play that part, so I'll step aside that you may hire someone who CAN play it".

 

Once you have the technique, it then becomes about using that technique to transmit emotion. But if you lack the technique, the only emotion you'll ever transmit is frustration; you won't be able to transmit the emotional content of the music itself. For those who HAVE technique to say "it no longer matters" means they've transcended it - it no longer gets in the way of their communication with the audience. For those who DON'T have technique to claim "it doesn't matter" is just a cop-out.

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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yeh, i think it was victor who said about music being a language and its about building up the vocabulary. If you don't have the vocabulary to express this great music it would merely be in your head.
Derek Smalls: It's like fire and ice, basically. I feel my role in the band is to be somewhere in the middle of that, kind of like lukewarm water. http://www.myspace.com/gordonbache
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Originally posted by coyote:

Otherwise, what do you do in live performance if a **musical** idea comes to you, and you don't have the skills to execute it?

Therefore it's about the music. If you don't have any music to play, what use is technique? It's about having music to play and sufficient technique to execute it.

 

Alex

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Originally posted by C.Alexander Claber:

Originally posted by coyote:

Otherwise, what do you do in live performance if a **musical** idea comes to you, and you don't have the skills to execute it?

Therefore it's about the music. If you don't have any music to play, what use is technique? It's about having music to play and sufficient technique to execute it.

 

Alex

Right.

 

Let me use "Portrait of Tracy" as an example.

 

I think this is a beautiful piece of music. It certainly moves me. However, there are some masterful technical skills, particularly regarding natural and false harmonics, in play to make the music happen. I cannot play this piece (yet?! :D ) because I haven't developed my technical skills to a level where I can play parts of it. Yes, the technique is necessary to execute the musical idea, but the musical idea is primary: it is the motivator to use those skills.

 

I think the point of DBB's thread is not to discount the need to have technical skills on the instrument and to continue to develop those skills, as to reaffirm the primacy of the musical idea. It's like the scene in Philadelphia when Tom Hanks is listening to "Madame Butterfly" with Denzel Washington. The technical skills of the opera singer are necessary to execute the musical idea, BUT the conversation and emotion of the moment have to do with the beauty of the music and the meaning of the lyrics.

 

But let's face it, if I can't fret a note properly, the musical idea might as well find its way somewhere else! However, I might not need to be able to slap 32nd note triplets to express myself.

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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Wow! A gauntlet!

 

Actually, I thought about making the argument that at the moment a musical idea comes to a player and they need technique to play it, the music itself is being bent to their own ego.

 

But I think that argument might vaporize away.

 

Of course, there is a relationship between technique and art. I make this point in my second post on my thread.

 

What I'm arguing can be illustrated by the Country music lead...Can some country player explain how they can get joy out of playing 2 notes all night long...

 

And the responses seemed to fall in the "they can play more chops than that, but they choose not to" category.

 

But I think that you shouldn't need to justify country bass playing with that argument. Who CARES if Lee Sklar can play incredible melodic fills on James Taylor albums?

 

My argument on that thread was that the whole package...the music itself...was being served by the bassist. And that's all the justification necessary.

 

We have a lot of younger posters here, and in my experience they often think..."If I could just do what you do...." and I want to change that mindset.

 

I want them to think..."If I could just know who I am as well as you know who you are...."

 

I'm convinced that the music that makes us anticipate joy, that builds us, that thrills us...technique or no...comes from people who've explored that self-actualizing question. All of it.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Yeah - music is a language, a communication. Technical skills can help you say what you mean, and express what you hear... and people will always hear different things.

 

Like a pair of 5 year olds who can talk all day versus a pair of academics who can talk about the same subject as the kids using greater vocabulary. Both conversations are legitimate. Both conversations involve exchanges of ideas and require interaction. Music is like this, and some people will communicate better in 2-beat roots music and others will prefer psychedelic funk. It's all legit to someone. I think it's human nature to gravitate towards the music the speaks to us most, and too easy for us to slander music we don't understand.

- Matt W.
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Maybe this is too simple, but IMHO, if it is the technique that enables the expression, that's cool. But if the expression is created largely to demonstrate the technique, there's a possibility the Wank-o-meter will become active.

1000 Upright Bass Links, Luthier Directory, Teacher Directory - http://www.gollihurmusic.com/links.cfm

 

[highlight] - Life is too short for bad tone - [/highlight]

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To use the 'vocabulary' analogy, if your vocabulary is at a 6th grade level, and you're surrounded by college literature majors, your ideas are naturally vocalized in 6th grade terms.

 

Using what you have to express yourself doesn't make your expression any less important to the conversation, just because it's said in 6th grade terms. Indeed, some of the most beautiful imagery I've ever heard/read was from the minds of young people.

 

In that respect, some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard was from performers with little or no 'technique', but just an honest expression of their 'feel', showing their emotions thru their instruments, be it either vocally or instrumentally.

 

If you're a 'hired gun', you obviously need enough knowledge and technique to cover most anything you may be asked to play, but someone who writes, composes or collaborates will bring their specific 'level of technique' to the table, and their compositions will most likely be within that framework. Technique is essential to some, but having the right 'feel' is necessary for all.

 

In my house, I do lots of repairs. I'm not a contractor, carpenter, electrician, painter, decorator, etc. But, somehow, it always seems to work out. I use my '6th grade level' of home repairs and complete the project with whatever skills I possess. I'm sure Bob Vila could do it quicker, but I know that my work was done with love for the project, and it shows - not only in the quality (such as it is), but in my feeling of accomplishment afterwards. It's not just something that I'll forget about because it was a piece of cake, rather a fond memory (or not so fond, if it's plumbing!!) of a task started, worked thru, then completed, and I can see the results each day.

 

Pardon me, I ramble...

 

Peace,

Tim from Jersey :thu:

Play. Just play.
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Originally posted by Bob Gollihur (bob@gollihur.com):

...there's a possibility the Wank-o-meter will become active.

Bob, do you carry "Wank-o-meters"? And if so, do they come in both rackmount and stompbox formats? :D

 

And, by the way, I don't think you're being overly simplistic.

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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You know, many people spend a lifetime practicing violin technique. They run endless scales and arpeggios, they practice different bowing techniques, they read new pieces of music constantly.... only to end up as 2nd violin in a local orchestra, endlessly droning whole notes or plucking pizzicato quarter-notes. But you know what? The constant practice is what allows them the facility to drone those whole notes in a way that serves the music. The ability to play the complex stuff in no way diminishes the feel to play simple stuff; to the contrary, it very much enhances their execution of the simple stuff so the true mood of the music may be transmitted.

 

I think the reason so many young players become enamored of 'chops' is an instinctive understanding that they will NEED those chops in the future to express their musical selves. And I think it's a mistake to give them the illusion that music can be served without skills; unfortunately, the title of **that other thread** :) might lead one to believe they can get by without skills. Unless you want to spend your entire life speaking the language of music at a 2nd-grade level, of course....

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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We have a lot of younger posters here, and in my experience they often think..."If I could just do what you do...." and I want to change that mindset.

 

I want them to think..."If I could just know who I am as well as you know who you are...."

 

sacred words....

 

think about miles davis' kind of blue, there are in jazz a lot of records with incredible chops, if you take a look at the be bop movement you can find a lot of them, on kind of blue miles does not play many chops but plays with pure feel as cannonball, coltrane, evans, chamber and cobb. it's not a matter of tecnique but of how they express theirselves with music... miles himself told he wasn't able to play all the chops dizzy gillespie played...but he has been however one of the greatest (if not the greatest) of the '900.

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Adderly & Trane both do some serious blowing on that record. And while Miles may not have been as flashily dexterous as Gillespie, there's no doubt he knew the horn inside & out - as well as the theory to play bebop. He had the technique to blow hard or subtle, and to weave his spell.... had he never learned proper mouthpiece technique, his tone would have been all over the place instead of being incredibly focused. Could a second-year player (or a 20-year player who never bothered learning technique) have created "Kind of Blue"?

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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Confusion alert!

 

From the fact that X is necessary for Y, it doesn't follow that it's "all about" X, not Y.

 

I prepare every day so that I can teach well. No prep, no good teaching. So, it's all about prep? I teach so that I can prepare? Nope. I prepare so that I can teach. It's all about teaching.

 

Likewise, you've got to have technique in order to make music. So it's not all about technique? We have music so that people can demonstrate technique? Nope (as Bob noted, when this happens, it sucks). We have the technique for the sake of the music. This is not hard to figure out.

 

And I'm glad that I'm not the one to suggest that DBB's point was a cover-up for inadequate technique. Because I'm sure that's utterly false.

 

To the extent that the statement "it's all about technique" is true, it's uninteresting & obvious ("you need to have technique to play music"); to the extent that it says something interesting, it's highly implausible.

 

Still, it's just fun to say provocative things, eh?

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If you've got nothing to say all the technique in the world won't help you to say it.

 

John Lennon was a great musical artist despite having a rudimentary technique on the various instruments he attempted. There are any number of session guys who have wonderful technique but would be the first to concede that they are not great artists in the sense that Lennon was. Lack of technique doesn't prevent good art being created, and good technique certainly doesn't guarantee it.

 

Citing, say, Jaco or Charlie Parker, is a red herring. Certainly, some artists display wonderful technique and if you want to create something in their particular genre you too will need good technique. But essentially, the proposition underlying this is a tautological one: if you want to create the type of art that demands great technique you will need great technique. If, on the other hand, you are Paul McCartney or Brian Wilson, you might just manage to create works of genius without it.

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The word "technique" does not necessarily mean "play fast." When players have good technique, that means that they play an instrument well...slow or fast.

 

There's tons of technique requrired to play a slow walking blues properly with the right feel. You have to know how to play around the beat, you have to have to know where every note is on the fingerboard, and you have to know multiple ways to finger whatever figure you happen to be playing as you move into the next chord. All of this falls under the umbrella of "technique," yet none of it has to do with playing fast.

 

It's about one thing only: Playing the right note at the right time so that the music sounds good. Everything else is bullshit.

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George Harrison did not have the Beatles play the instruments on "Within You Without You". Regardless of their great creative talents, they could not execute the parts required. He needed people with TECHNIQUE to fulfill his auditory 'vision' on that song. Likewise, the string quartet on "Elanor Rigby" was not Lennon/Harrison/Starr.

 

Great technique may not help you say nothing if that's all you have to say - but it certainly can help others who lack the vocabulary to say what they may be thinking express themselves.

 

Originally posted by bc:

If you've got nothing to say all the technique in the world won't help you to say it.

 

John Lennon was a great musical artist despite having a rudimentary technique on the various instruments he attempted. There are any number of session guys who have wonderful technique but would be the first to concede that they are not great artists in the sense that Lennon was. Lack of technique doesn't prevent good art being created, and good technique certainly doesn't guarantee it.

 

Citing, say, Jaco or Charlie Parker, is a red herring. Certainly, some artists display wonderful technique and if you want to create something in their particular genre you too will need good technique. But essentially, the proposition underlying this is a tautological one: if you want to create the type of art that demands great technique you will need great technique. If, on the other hand, you are Paul McCartney or Brian Wilson, you might just manage to create works of genius without it.

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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I certainly hope my thread title alone didn't lead people to believe that I was espousing the "think" method.

 

I think I was fairly clear that I believe technique is nothing more than the tools you use to express...and that more technique enables more timeless music...

 

Beethoven didn't exactly think about how hard the Basses job was when he composed his symphony. He wrote the sounds he heard in his head.

 

Here's a mental exercise: Could a composer of merit could write something inexpressibly beautiful and yet impossible to play?

 

And of course, we see people attempting that all the time...with sequencers and samples.

 

I, who make my living as a teacher of music...teach technique. Every day. And I'm NEVER satisfied with the my own abilities, or the abilities of my students.

 

But I teach those techniques by relating them to music...meaningful music. Fun Music. And although I devise lessons to solve technical problems inherent in the music, we all make the technique as transparent as possible in the performance (even rehearsal performances) of the music.

 

Of course, ya gotta know where an F is before some music asks you to play it. And ya gotta know a whole lotta other stuff too.

 

But from the very beginning...every day...as often as possible...my students strive for expression through music. That is our focus and our love. We may be playing repeated F# eighth notes, but we'll make them musically meaningful...dynamics, tempo, bow placement and speed...as many factors as they control, we use to make music.

 

And it is as they strive for this expression they recognize deficiencies. And they want to express better...and they solve their technical problems.

 

Technique grows in even pace with expression...but expression is always the leader. You know this is true; if it weren't everybody would be making recordings of technical exercises, and they guy that played them the best would be most honored.

 

By the way, and a BIG oversight on my part. (I've been thinking about this for a while...but haven't gotten to it 'til now.)

 

POST of the Day to coyote, for his random Mark Twain reference in his sig.

 

For those who don't know, read the essay "James Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses."

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Pretty amazing Dan,

 

I'm writing about transparence at the same minute here that you are writing about invisibility on the other thread!

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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"George Harrison did not have the Beatles play the instruments on "Within You Without You". Regardless of their great creative talents, they could not execute the parts required. He needed people with TECHNIQUE to fulfill his auditory 'vision' on that song. Likewise, the string quartet on "Elanor Rigby" was not Lennon/Harrison/Starr."

 

And it STILL doesn't follow that it's about technique! Imagine a master carpenter looking at a task & saying, "I need a ball-peen hammer this time, not the claw hammer I usually use." Aha! So it's all about the hammer? He is, after all, choosing between hammers, just as Harrison chose between players with different technique; should we say that the carpenter is building so that he can use one hammer or the other, or that Harrison wrote that song so that he could use a technique? No, we shouldn't, & no, he didn't. It was about the music; THAT is why he chose the technique. The end is not about the means.

 

You might as well say it's all about your instrument; you can't make music without an instrument, even if it's only your voice making a grunt. For that matter, you might as well say that it's all about what you had for breakfast; you can't make music if you pass out from hunger.

 

What we seem to be discovering here is that making music requires (among other things) mastering the techniques reqired to make music. Fair enough...but didn't we know that? And who could possibly deny that to do something, you have to have the means to do it? Can you seriously believe that anyone here HAS denied that? Why are we having this conversation?

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Originally posted by coyote:

[QB]George Harrison did not have the Beatles play the instruments on "Within You Without You". Regardless of their great creative talents, they could not execute the parts required. He needed people with TECHNIQUE to fulfill his auditory 'vision' on that song. Likewise, the string quartet on "Elanor Rigby" was not Lennon/Harrison/Starr.

QB]

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I don't think these guys needed anything. They used what was at hand, including a string quartet. If the string quartet hadn't been at hand they'd have done something else. Because they had something to say.

 

Who can name a single member of that string quartet? There was a division of labour, creative imagination on one side, technique on the other. Which of these mattered most?

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Originally posted by dcr:

"."

 

What we seem to be discovering here is that making music requires (among other things) mastering the techniques reqired to make music. Fair enough...but didn't we know that? And who could possibly deny that to do something, you have to have the means to do it? Can you seriously believe that anyone here HAS denied that? Why are we having this conversation?

Great Question, dcr,

 

We are having this conversation because I made a proposition. This proposition is deep and strikes to the heart of what we do.

 

And I know, as a teacher, that to move ahead, people have to think deeply about questions that they've never considered.

 

Now, I won't compare myself to Socrates (one of my heroes) but by proposing this Socratic question, anyone who wanted to chose to engage their brains...and in the ensuing discussion we all were made better.

 

So, I was practicing teaching skills.

 

And of course, there was an opportunity for finely honed sarcasm...useful in a pinch. I found CDMD's thread hilarious, and I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHO LEMMY IS! Now I gotta find out.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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'Course it's a great question! :D

 

And I certainly don't intend to say that we shouldn't be having this conversation; we should, for just the reason you say, Dave. My question was rhetorical, aimed at underscoring the fact that there's really nothing being said in this thread that disagrees, in any very interesting way, with anything said in the original thread. I think it's important to see that, to avoid confusion. In particular, no one has said technique VS. music; it's all been about having BOTH, but in BALANCE, one being in the driver's seat, & the other in the passenger's seat (to continue Dan's super-cool metaphor!).

 

What really matters, though, is that I actually take my own advice, & get my priorities straight! I know they're often backwards, more often than I'd care to admit. But I avoid Bump's problem by just not listening back to recordings! :D:freak: (Bump, that advice is free, and worth every penny.)

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I like Bob's take on this - well said :thu:

 

As to the Harrison example, it shows the importance of both musical vision and technique. They are both required.

 

For me, I don't have every possible technique in my bag (and that includes both mechanical techniques (e.g. slapping) and musical techniques (e.g. playing clave)). So there are musical situations that I can't handle and therefore stay away from (no Latin auditions for me).

 

Coyote, you mentioned that bassists that can't manage to play their own ideas need to develop the techniques to do so. I almost agree - I could see if once in a while you brought a superior technician in. For me, I can play what I think of (or it's learn-able). But I don't think/develop ideas that are outside what I can do. To put it another way, I don't think in "slap".

 

Hey - these threads are fun !!

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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In response to the original post - very rarely will an artist be playing live and think of a musical idea that they can't execute.

 

That does not mean that everybody is perfect. However, as an early post said, the majority of players "know themselves" well enough to make the musical ideas in their live performance feasible to them.

 

Maybe I just speak for myself, I don't know. But to use myself as an example: I'm not good at slapping. If I have to solo live, I won't slap because I know myself well enough to not tread on thin ice like that. Maybe I think that other people are like that too.

JOE
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'Course it's a great question!
I'm not sure I agree, at least as it is phrased. Too much of confusion arises from different understandings of what "technique" means.

 

In a sense, anything that actualises a musical concept is a technique. If you sample a bassline and then record a child banging a coffee mug on top of it, you are utilising a technique.

 

If you want to define the term a broadly as that then most people will accept that the original proposition is true. Music that has not been actualised and remains at the conceptual level is not yet music. So technique is a sine qua non for music to be created.

 

The problem is that, having said this, you have made a proposition that may be of interest to a philosopher but is a boring one from the pespective of a musician. In a sense, it is a tautology: music cannot become actual without some method of actualising it.

 

Most people reading the original proposition will have in mind a much narrower definition of technique. Something along the lines of "a set of largely conventional skills for playing a musical instrument, acquired by practice." They will also have in mind some notion of the degree of technique being implied. They are not likely to consider a beginner who has learned to play an E major and and A major chord on the guitar as being technically proficient.

 

Using this second definition of technique, the original proposition becomes the one that people like me disagree with: something like:

 

"It's all about having, at at a reasonably sophisticated level, a set of learned and largely conventional skills for playing a musical instrument".

 

This is a difficult proposition to defend - there are too many examples of successful art that exist despite the absence of such skills; but it is a proposition that many people want, very anxiously too believe, because it adds extra validation to the time they have spent acquiring such skills.

 

The conservative's first tactic in such circumstances is to create a new tautology. They deliberately define good art in a way which excludes all art that doesn't fit their proposition. Art that doesn't exhibit the kind of technical skills they want to believe are essential - Carl Andre's assembly of bricks, or sample-based electronica or whatever - can be dismissed as being of no merit. And the evidence? The lack of sophisticated technique.

 

A second tactic - one that is in evidence in this thread - is to adopt a sliding definition of the term under discussion. As I've said above, if you define the term "technique" widely enough, the proposition becomes true, but drained of meaning. A "pro-technique" debater (eg someone who basically believes Joe Schmoe is a better artist than Fred Soap because he plays faster and uses more complex harmonies) will judiciously retreat to a wider definition of technique. This is somewhat dishonest - he is no longer defending the proposition he actually put - but it makes him less vulnerable to attack.

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Brilliantly argued.

 

Of course, I started this ball of works with the proposition "It ain't about technique." So the gauntlet thrown here proposing "it" is does make the arguments as you state above.

 

Now, my whole point was neither the fact that great art exists without technique OR that technical mastery is not essential to making the great music out there.

 

I'm speaking specifically to the purpose music works in our lives. It seems on this board (and this is something I should rightfully expect) there are people who knowingly or unknowingly seem to value the music they listen to primarily because of the technique involved in producing it.

 

Back to the world of painting....Rembrant could paint with vibrant realism, so could Albrecht Durer. Amazing, photographic technical mastery. Put them next to each other, and (at least I) find Rembrant more moving. Incredibly more moving.

 

So I propose there is something inherent in art, something in the value system of the artist himself that technique only supports.

 

I know anyone here who feels accused of listening to Jaco because they admire and emulate his technique has a broader musical life than Jaco. (Of course, the thread about good bands in spite of badd bass illustrates this.) My proposition is designed to stimulate thinking, and the realization that we aren't "bassists" as much as "musicians, speaking, who happen to play bass." It's designed to remind all of us that we spend our lives dissecting bass lines in order to perform them better...and it is quite easy to keep this mind in this "analysis" mode and never live in the "synthesis" mode....putting it together.

 

Mendelssohn wrote "Elijah." In the middle is a chorale...very short. "Cast Thy Burden." Textually, a direct quote from the Old Testament. Just about 32 bars, really.

 

And in that 32 bars he captures the dreams of the battling religious world....Christian, Jew, Muslim. It would also exist peacefully with the Tao.

 

Evaluating what we listen to, what we see, what we eat, who we are by plumbing the spiritual depth of it is what brings us closer to ourselves, closer to each other.

 

There are so many arguments out there which seek to avoid the spiritual depth of our influences. Dull our senses so we don't have to consider our own mortality. Some of this evil is evident...but some is merely distracting.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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