Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Learning to Artistically Recalibrate

The one admirable quality of the GPS system is how singular its objective is: To get you to your desired destination. And when you get off track, what does it do? It will recalibrate and find a new way to immediately get you back on track so that you can continue towards your desired destination.

I see this as a way that we should live our lives--always being ready to recalibrate. No matter how many times we make a wrong turn, or find ourselves going in an undesired direction, the GPS doesn't complain, it doesn't call you a stupid moron or try to shame you in any way. It's only focus is to get you to where you need to go.

Even though I had never thought of this issue in quite the same way, I do, however, see myself as an intuitive "plan B(er). Meaning that, I always have a plan B--an alternative way of doing things. Having spent so many years playing jazz, I've been conditioned to think this way. Recalibrating is at the core of being an improviser. We're constantly having to find an alternative route to our creative destination. Just like driving, playing an improvised solo is not a straight trajectory. Sometimes we get lost. Sometimes we end up in a place we don't want to be--rhythmically, harmonically and melodically. Sometimes we have to stop, but most times, just like the GPS, we recalibrate our creative endeavors and keep moving.

Being willing to recalibrate our creative routes can sometimes mean the difference between playing a good solo and a great solo, being a good improviser versus a great improviser, or simply being skilled musician versus a creative artist. And in these instances, recalibrating means finding a new route that takes us to where we need to go, not necessarily where we want to go. These two factors are not always working in tandem.

And this is where it requires some soul searching as well as humility. Having a geographical final destination is easy. You're basically going from point A to point B. However, having an artistic one is more complex. Sometimes it's not as tangible or may have more than one. Only we can know that. And sometimes we don't even know.

But no matter where we're headed, or even where we think we're headed, we have to be prepared for that metaphorical missed turn, that traffic detour or anything that takes us into a direction different from where we intended. And we have to be ready to instantly recalibrate, get back on track. No drama, no fuss, no sorrow. We must simply turn our artistic car around and keep our eye on the sparrow.

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