The Honesty of Live Music
Recently, a young woman (19ish) came up to me at my weekly gig at Gp's and remarked that she had never seen a pianist out live doing music. Wait... What?
She didn't seem a recluse, merely a natural product of the world we live in today. It's a fact that most people get their music online. So even if it was recorded live (which is less and less the case due the sophistication and preference for electronic sounds) they are only listening to it in a produced form, nothing at all like the live experience.
I must admit I didn't hear that much live music as a girl either, not on a local level. But thanks to my own college experience, I was introduced the 90's Austin Music scene and I was hooked. That live music experience... Getting the feel of the vibration from hammered strings, on a real piano, feeling the air bend around you when in the presence of a gifted singer, having your arm hair stand on end when you feel one with the crowd, as much as part of the performance as the performer... that's live music. It's what made me want to go back to school to study music. And I'm afraid it seems to be getting more and more rare.
The current music market produces a different type of music fan. One that doesn’t seem to know how to react to a real life musician. Her expectations were out of line, like she thought I was an ipod robot humanoid who would just play whatever she wanted, exactly the way she's always heard it. And if not, than it was fair game to troll me.
At an event later that same week, this same sentiment was expressed to me by a group of much younger children gathered together for a garden event. They wanted Baby Shark, which I could oblige them. But when there was a request I couldn't honor... one child was truly baffled. “Why not?” He demanded and I told him, “cause I'm human.” I should have added "and not Siri.”
To me, live music is the essence of being a human. Like Miles Davis said... “there are no mistakes.” But that doesn’t mean that the music is perfectly laid out and corrected if something doesn’t go according to plan… it means it comes from a different mind set. One where all is accepted and you just rebound… go on to the next moment, never giving up on yourself or the other musicians. It’s a spirit of collaboration and being present… outside of judgment. It’s about honesty. And I’ll add that it’s this very honesty that Miles and his crew played from - that's what is missing from the over produced music today~!
I get it though. If that's your preference – auto tuned and all, who am I to attack your tastes. What you like, is what you like. And maybe I’m just getting old.
But 2 things to consider – music repeated enough will become anyone's preference, bad or good quality. That’s a fact. And when it's so edited (overproduced) than it's not honest anymore. At least it’s not honest about what humans really sound like.
When you hear a musician performing live, in a small setting, you get sincerity, and connection in a way that I think is lost from mainstream music – which is what most young people are hearing today.
So in an effort to do my part, I'm sharing some unedited videos from live performances on my youtube. I hope this will at least be a bridge for those who have not had the chance to experience live music. And I also hope that it inspires other musicians to just get out and play; not worry if it's not perfect like what we hear on spotify. It’s tough for musicians today, we are not paid for rehearsals, or even gigs many times. But we can’t give up.
The video I posted today on Youtube is a Cminor medley of the Game of Thrones Theme into Mr. PC in C'est Si Bon. It's from a gig at the Red Room in the village that came up so suddenly that I couldn't even get a bassist in time. Asaf Nisim is a rockstar drummer and luckily he was willing to meet with me for one quick rehearsal early on Friday morning; than played right thru our break Saturday night since a crowd finally began to gather then, and we didn't want to loose them. We ended up doing mainly tunes we’d never rehearsed, since we found out upon arrival that jazz standards were preferred. (I had created a set of originals + pop tunes + jazz) But I’m not complaining cause this is what it takes these days in NYC to get out to play live. And I LOVE it! Though it's not easy, it's worth it. This gig went so well in this gorgeous and historic space, where we were well received. We've got another date at the end of the month, this time with a bassist. - May 25th, 11 - 2 - The Descant Trio
Live playing takes courage, and it takes vulnerability; especially when the music is not rehearsed, nor played the same way every time... Rather the performer rides the wave of that moment, like a surfer. Expressing the human experience through their courage and willingness to be vulnerable.
You really do risk failure and ridicule with every gig out in this city, and every video posted online… this is no joke. But we keep doing it anyways. This is the real music in my opinion, showing how selfless and grand the human spirit is. You can hear it most in other locals like me - who do it cause we believe in the power of music. Not because we are trying to be admired nor famous, nor rich. I hope the young people catch on that there is value for this kind of honest music in the modern world. Otherwise it might die out with my generation.
Side Note – This is a perfect example of why it's important to have both rootless and rooted voicings down... with out the bassist I needed that low end, something I do lots in my solo gigs. For the next gig, I'll be breaking out the old rootless. For more on that, visit pianogroove's where I just posted an exercise for accompanying both in rootless and rooted voicings. https://www.pianogroove.com/community/t/accompanying-pianist-live-simulation-challenge