Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In response...

This is a response to both VER and Shilpa –

You’re both hitting upon something that I think about a lot: the huge gaping hole where everyday music-making should be.

Between kids taking music lessons and professional musicians (from all genres), there’s not much in between. Besides karaoke (and Marie’s Crisis – which sounds like a step up?) and wii music (and all its relatives), and maybe community choirs, the opportunities for casual, communal music-making are rare.

This fall I joined a “performance group” that meets monthly. It’s basically a loose collection of musicians who need an outlet to share music they’re working on or have performance anxiety. We met on Saturday and this particular gathering included a cellist, two classically-trained pianists (one learning jazz), two guitar playing singer/songwriters, and myself.

The afternoon started off somewhat strained. There was an immediate polarization of those who fell on the classical side of music and those who fell on the…other side. After everyone had played, I suggested we do some improvisation, since that is what I have been working on these days. I set up a chord progression, we began to play, and the whole energy of the group shifted. We came together in that way that only playing music together can do. From separate individuals, we became a unit and by the end of the meeting, we were just making music together, at whatever level each of us were comfortable with. The exuberance was palpable. Our host said it best in her follow-up email:

Hey all!
Great group Saturday! For those of you who weren't there, we had a mix of jazz, folk, classical, free improv, and an ensemble jam on a couple of pop songs!!! Quite the musical gathering! Where else can you hear a song about murder and prison time followed by a Beethoven sonata! Or an ensemble of cello, violin, piano and 2 guitars playing U2???

I don’t know what it is, and I wish I was more articulate about this, but experiences like these seem so ‘true’ to me, and are of ‘now’. All these stories remind me that music is participatory in nature; it is a communal act. The improvisatory nature of an evening at Marie’s Crisis is necessary for us, and something we need – music woven into everyday life, where there’s not a stage, there’s not an audience, and there’s not a program; there’s just people making music together.

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