Sam Newsome

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

A Needle in a Haystack: Getting Inspiration from Unlikely Places

As an artist, I often feel like a fraud. Little of what I do and what I play is anything that I created. My real talent is not coming up with original thoughts, but being able to see the parallels between the commonplace and the under-explored. What appears as random occurrences to others, often appear to me as logical sequences in perfect chaotic order. 

One of the reasons that I enjoy listening to experimental music is that I'm able to take away from the listening experience a new order of constructing musical ideas, producing unconventional sounds, and hearing the order in chaos. In some cases, finding that which is great is like hunting for a needle in a haystack. And I've rummaged through numerous stacks in recent years. 

Many don't have the patience to await the sporadic moments of greatness to emerge from much of the music I listen to. That's not how we are conditioned to appreciate music during this age of shortened attention spans. I get it. I've been there numerous times myself. We need to have a comprehensive understanding of the piece in the first 8 bars, and there must be transcribe-worthy ideas played with in the first chorus of the solo. Again, I've been there many times. But what I'm often seeking is the under-explored, or if I'm lucky, something new. 

When you don't limit yourself to the typical go-to players, the types of players you end up listening to run the gamut as far as ability and historical significance. 

I've often listened to recordings or watched YouTube clips of someone who was hardly considered "one of the cats." But then he or she would play something that would make me go "Wow! What was that?!" In some cases that would be all that was played which caught my attention. But if that one idea enabled me to see things from a new perspective, then in my mind, it was well worth it. Just check out one of those 20-minute Evan Parker circular breathing solos. Every moment is not going to be utter brilliance. But around 5:22 into it, he might place something that will make you rethink the sonic possibilities of the saxophone. Many ideas with the potential to impact us musically, are not always going to have the easy Kenny Garrett and Mark Turner accessibility and/or applicability. 

Just as the creative process is not linear, neither should the stage of information gathering. And in closing,  I'd like to leave you with a little biblical verse--not to go all Jesus-freak on you:  
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7

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