On Friday, August 31st, The Dymaxion Quartet was featured on WKCR, Columbia University radio playing an hour's worth of previously unrecorded music. Wanna listen? All the tracks are archived here (or they will be soon, at least). Some of this choice material includes an interpretation of W.B. Yeats, some adolescent Shakespearean drama, speaking in wooden tongues, and music in Pig-Latin.
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I discovered, not too long ago, a Twitter feed posing as the late, great muse of this group: Buckminster Fuller. Run by the Buckminster Fuller Institute, it is a collection of some of his greatest quotes pulled from his prolific writing career (prolific for a guy who spent much of his time as an architect, engineer, and inventor, amongst other things.) Bucky's writing is a fertile seabed of these 140-character pearls and this twitter feed is a virtual Mikimoto of his wisdom.
It got me thinking again about how easily his ideas translate to music and composition, and further enforced my view that pretty much everything in the universe is related and one of the great uses of music is as a reflection of the world around us--seen and unseen. To illustrate my point, below are a few of these intellectual gems and my own reflections on them, refracted through the lens of music.
If there was ever a reason to learn music it is this. Whether you play an instrument, compose, or just understand music structurally and listen on a deeper level, music is like a gym for your brain. Namely conceptual formulation. Precicely because music is so ephemoral--you can’t see or touch it, and it happens in time and thus dissapears instantly--you must concieve it structurally in your mind. This is using all sorts of excellent cognitive faculties like memory, pattern recognition, and symbolism. Every time you are actively listening to music you are exercising these and other faculties and making them stronger. Before long you can’t help but see the world differently.
This is really a requirement for good music making. It can’t be competitive. Music, and I would argue Jazz in particular, demand teamwork and cooperation. And at its highest level it demands intimacy. This is work. It’s what Seth Godin calls emotional labor. You have to listen hard, let your gaurd down, turn off your brain’s judgmental center, and then respond with honesty. You have to give in order to get. Run your office like a great jazz group runs the band stand and you just might revolutionize your product.
Control... one of Man’s great conceits. As a composer I struggle with this one so much, but I find the best music is always made when I let go. When I let the moment evolve and I put my musical agenda aside. This is certainly my greatest struggle as a composer and player... striking that balance between pushing the music in a certain direction because that’s the musical or conceptual idea I’m trying to illustrate, versus embracing the organic nature of a jazz approach to music and letting the moment and the players and the energy of the room lead the direction of the music. The best of our musical moments tend to be serendipitous surprises rather than calculated events.