Why are you playing?

Recently, I had to stop and take a serious look at my motives. It occurred to me that, with the democratization of music production and distribution, the airwaves are filled with an inordinate amount of music made solely for profit. In fact, it seems that most people now engage in music making solely for the purpose of making silly money or “becoming famous”. This is evidenced by the proliferation of the “Idol” type television programs and the consolidation of the principal record labels. I mean: whatever happened to making music for the sake of making Music?

Not to diss anyone – I have as much respect for Red One and anyone else who’s doing an honest day’s work – I grew up believing that making Music was its own reward. I learned that if one “follows the Muse” all of the details would take care of themselves. Naive? It seemed to work ok for me this far and it certainly appears to be working for Cecil Taylor. To make Music, to explore the sculpting of silence, differs greatly from what is represented in major media as music. For the first, there is rarely – if ever – any silence in commercial music. In fact, silence is the worst thing that can happen in a disco. Note the panic when a power failure or some other error causes the music to stop. Contrast that with the importance of silence in “serious music”. What would Feldman be without silence or Mozart? Not to mention Cage


So, why are you playing? What inspires you and motivates you to pick up the instrument? One of the great divas was quoted by Gary Karr as saying that she sang because she loved the sound of her voice.  “Love” should be the only motivation because that which we do out of love we do best. Engaging in Music making for/out of love for Music results in Music which is passionate and meaningful. Meaningful? We know that Music is worship. It always has been and always will be. This is why all of the major religions require that all priests/congregation leaders have a complete education in Music before they can become priests. Music is that important. It has been a part of every significant rite and ritual in human history.  Just consider the number of the sixty-six books of the Bible that are attributed to non-musicians: they aren’t many. “…when he stood before the alter, Solomon sang“. Worship is adoration. Music is worship. Music made from any other point of reference is by nature not Music. That doesn’t mean that other musics are bad. They  just aren’t Music. It’s like these Jazz related oxymorons like “Nordic Jazz” or “Balkan Jazz” and the like. These musics are not “Jazz”. “Jazz” is a term we use to describe a style of music made by African-American musicians from the beginning of the twentieth century until about the beginning of the 1970s which was characterized by very strict harmonic and rhythmic conventions particular to this style of music. These other musics are rather “modern European chamber musics” or “instrumental pop musics” – not Jazz. This doesn’t make them inferior or “bad”. They just aren’t Jazz. We need to find another name for music that isn’t Music.


Are you making Music or are you making music? Are you playing your instrument or are you engaging in a meditative practice that is raising the vibrational frequency of your “good”? What are you doing, really? Albert Ayler said in an interview that he needed to get his Music out of the Jazz clubs because people were drinking and getting high while listening to the Music.  Just as you wouldn’t go to temple high, you shouldn’t be engaging in Music in an altered state of mind either.  Music making is an altered state of mind in itself. It is a very high form of meditation and like all other forms of meditation, in order to get the most from it one must be “present”.


So, why are you really playing? Are you playing or are you doing something else?


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