I had an exhilarating and inspiring weekend with thirteen musicians for the maiden voyage of the Game Symphony Workshop!
The event brought together a diverse group of musicians, including professional orchestral players, band directors, university students, and amateur musicians. The two day workshop at Seattle Pacific University culminated with the premiere of sixteen original pieces. The performance featured an improvised film score, abstract soundscapes, meditative minimalism, musical settings for poetry, solo improvisations, and Soundpainting, a sign language for live composition.
I’m fascinated with how artists reconcile creating art with earning a living. Being a starving artist isn’t inevitable, but being passionate and skilled doesn’t entitle us to earn a living. The saying “do what you love and the money will follow” just doesn’t cut it!
As players and teachers, many of us obsess over what to practice, how to practice, and how many hours to practice. This often puts the cart in front of the horse.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Jason James
I want to share a writing exercise from composer, pianist, and author W.A. Mathieu. If you feel overwhelmed or frustrated with trying to measure success by someone else’s model, this prompt will help you define a personal musical vision.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/alexanderward12
The mindset for creating a body of original work is simple, yet enormously challenging.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Florence Ivy
I had the privilege of leading hands-on improvisation workshops for music majors at Seattle Pacific University and Central Washington University earlier this month. This article is based my presentation.
Courtesy of Flickr/lemonjenny
If you find creativity mysterious, you may be stuck in linear thinking.
Courtesy of Flickr/PunkToad
Improvisation, the most widely practiced of all musical activities, is probably the least recognized or understood. Vague descriptions like, “making it up as you go along” or “playing off the top of your head” give no idea to the pervasiveness and power of improvisation in music. Perhaps the air of mystery that surrounds it is inevitable.
Derek Bailey, On the Edge: Improvisation in Music
Photo by Steve Korn
Common myths about improvisation contribute to the “air of mystery.” I’d like to address four of them.
All music is village music. We are collective beasts, more collective than individual. Our music reflects this. Even artists who seem to jut out angularly from their culture, like Beethoven or Cecil Taylor, are speaking for their village, though their village may be hard to find. Maybe theirs is a village of some particular mind set, a prevalent psychology, an ephemeral community of feeling. Even if their village seems crazy to us, or irresponsible, or suicidal, it nevertheless exists. . .So the very idea of “finding your own music” is in some ways counter to culture. Yet there are millions of us “looking for our own music.” That’s our village.
– W.A. Mathieu, “Finding Your Own Music” from The Listening Book
Courtesy of Flickr/David Stanley
I meet countless musicians who are interested in musical improvisation, but are paralyzed by fear and anxiety.
Fear of sounding bad
Fear of being criticized
Fear of making a mistake
Fear of being laughed at
Fear of being called a fraud
Fear of not having the talent to be successful
Fear of failure
When confronting this multitude of fears, the path of least resistance is to hide, avoid risk, and never create original music.
Courtesy of Flickr/Justin S. Campbell