The Big Think

August 12, 2007

Necessary

Filed under: Disclosure,Music — jasony @ 12:47 pm

quipsmile.342.gif
cartoon by John Cox.

I really like this sentiment, and I find that I use it as a subconscious guide in much of my professional and personal life. To me, life is about simplifying as much as possible so that you don’t get lost in a morass of unnecessary details. Musically, I find that reducing the amount of clutter, sound, and instrumentation very often leads me to my desired result: to connect emotionally with the listener. It’s become a sort of unspoken mantra for me: what can we get rid of? What can we do without? What is just getting in the way? Some of the most profound and memorable musical moments I have had have been in near silence, because when there is very, very little going on, the audience is able to hear their own thoughts and responses to the work. And if I’ve done my job right, that moment is when we connect.

Now, I have definitely written my share of huge bombastic wall-of-sound moments, and they’re great in the right context. There is a time for triple fortissimo, and I love those moments, but I find that I have to always be on my guard not to over complicate things.

As a solo performer I tend toward business in my playing, always trying to do everything on the piano that the bass or guitar or whatever would be doing if they were there. That’s okay when it’s just me, but I have to consciously turn off that tendency when there are other musicians playing. It can sometimes be hard for me to get out of the way and let another instrument speak. I think I can be difficult to play with because I’m always trying to fill the gaps that other musicians are occupying, so I keep having to tell myself to simplify, simplify, simplify. My hope is that this bad tendency of mine has led to the happy result that my music will connect with the audience more often because I try and make it easy to hear everything.

In life, simplicity can be very good when it causes you to decide what is really important and what’s just in the way. I jokingly say that this is why I grew a beard and keep my hair short: because I don’t want to waste an irreplaceable asset (time) on something transitory (shaving/messing with my hair). Yes, it’s a joke, but there’s a point. We all spend so much time living life on automatic (commuting, cleaning, paying bills, taking out the trash, etc), that it’s very, very easy to miss what’s important. And yes, I still clean and take out the trash (and vacuum, and cook, etc, etc), but it’s in the attempt to be aware of time and life even in the midst of mundane daily activities that I think we really live. Those things are necessary, but if we just go on autopilot we can find ourselves like Adam Sandler’s character in Click. Yes, I did just use Adam Sandler to illustrate my point. Seen the movie?

And just because I know some people are thinking it, I’ll address the point: simplification of life doesn’t necessarily lead to a simple outlook. Yes, some things, like prime numbers and political discussions, are irreducible. Life is complicated. There are often many shades of grey. I’m just saying that if you can chuck what’s extraneous and decide what’s important you can have more time to concentrate on what matters.

So go live at Walden lake and tell them a sophomoric thinker sent you.

Take a Shower

Filed under: Space — jasony @ 12:21 pm

Don’t miss the annual Perseid meteor shower tonight.

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