Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Musical Inspiration versus Musical Intimidation
Have you ever listened to someone play and come away feeling that anything is musically possible?
Or maybe you came away feeling that you wanted to quit music? And I don’t mean because you thought they sounded horrible.
If you have, you’re not alone.
Skilled improvisers can often leave us feeling inspired by what they do, or they can intimidate us. The best way to recognize the difference between the two is this: If after hearing someone play, you say to yourself, “I’ll never play that well. He or she makes me want to stop playing music, ” then this is obviously a feeling of intimidation. On the other hand, if after hearing someone play, you say to yourself, “This person makes me excited about playing music and being a musician. I can’t wait until the day when I can play as well as him, ” then this, of course, is the feeling of being inspired.
To say it plain and simple: An inspirational player makes you feel like you can, an intimidating player makes you feel you can’t.
So what is it that makes us feel inspired when we hear someone play?
Whereas, Rollin’s originality was displayed in the way he breathed new life into the bebop and hard bop vocabularies. All of these things are inspirational because they create feelings of hope, potential, and possibility. Whereas if someone is playing the same old stuff, so to speak, only cleaner and faster, we aren’t left with hopeful feelings, only with the feeling that we have a lot of work to do, if we, too, want to play very clean and fast.
I also find players who have a strong melodic and rhythmic sense inspiring. Even though these two qualities tend to captivate the listener in different ways: One resulting in the aural stimulation, the other affecting us physically-- they often work in conjunction with one another in helping us play more expressively. Melodious sounds coupled with a strong, yet, unpredictable rhythmic drive can often take over our mind, body, and spirit. Whereas when I hear someone who sounds intimidating, not only do they tend not to have much originality, but often don't play with much rhythmic variety--even though they can have great time. They’re playing often sounds very “eighth-notey” and fractional. Meaning they tend not to play solos, but are often more idea-oriented, playing without creating a singular comprehensive musical picture.
All of these things mentioned, of course, are somewhat relative. If you aspire to be the fastest guitarist in the west, then that style of playing is going to be more inspirational to you. Or if you want to sound just like Cannonball Adderly, then you will be inspired by other players who have been successful at cloning him.
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