Wanted to share with you a few samples of the gifted musicians, singers, and composers who I have the great luck to be able to hear live quite frequently, here in this city! Enjoy!
Completing a first draft led me to neglect my blog. But it turns out that flow feeds in in multiple ways.
This week it´s been great to have a new student. Combining piano, and English (I´m here in Spain, where learning English is more of a psychological trauma than a language). Apart from the pleasure of getting to know someone new, (competent and busy engineer with a family) it´s always good to be reminded of basic facts. Like, no-one is an absolute beginner. There´s always a desire to play, usually showing in childhood: and often a block – in this case, finding it hard to understand written music. There´s a starting point – something he or she can already play, or would like to. And lots of things to get right first off: how to sit well, how to hold yourself – ok guys, I didn´t mean that – and I´ve covered it in my book, and that´s reassuring for me.
It encourages me to hope that people will find it easy to access the resources in the audiobook in the same way as when I´m sitting next to them at the piano. You remember a tune you picked out once? Ok, let´s hear it. What key is it in? How can we identify this? Listen for the key note / construct the scale: or check out which scale has the same notes in in the scale table. You want to play something to go with it in the left hand? Let´s see what chords naturally occur in that key. How I´m longing to be able to bring out this audiobook as a multimedia experience where you can just click on links! I´m battling to make it linear and sequential, when it really needs to be four dimensional!
In the late 60s, I had the privilege of getting to know Horace Ove, Britain´s pioneer black film maker, and Mary, and their children, tiny then, and hanging out at their house on Sundays, when they always had a load of friends round. It was my first experience of that kind of wonderful sociable hospitality. Horace had made a documentary about reggae, filming the first ever “Reggae sunsplash”, with Bob and marcia Griffiths singing “Young Gifted and Black”, the Maytals “Talking about that Big Monkey Man” – and I distinctly remember we were talking about how it didn´t look likely that reggae was going to catch on! 45 years on the music from one small island has conquered the globe.
Had just written the above when I got news of Horace´s 80th birthday celebrations – wish I could get there! Please, anyone near Crouch End go on my behalf!
“Brain scans of jazz musicians unveil language and music similarities.”
Look what I found in medical news today. If you check out the article there are some very pretty pictures of what happens in musicians´ brains when they´re trading fours. And I thought “Jazz is like talking” was just a pretty metaphor – until this morning.
“Jazz is like talking”, Ian Carr, trumpet player and jazz educator, during a jazz summer school in Hull, sometime in the ’80s.
Hearing this was a lightbulb moment for me. I thought how odd it would be if we were prevented from talking until we could read and write. Just pause for a moment, to take that in.
We learn to talk by listening, imitating, babbling, making sounds and having the sounds reflected back to us by the people around us. Our efforts are encouraged, and we intuit the structures of language, learning by doing. Quite a lot later, but still rather too early in my opinion, we learn to read and write. Why not learn to play the piano the same way we learn to talk?
I hope they don´t any more kill elephants to make pianos. I wasn´t going to write about that – suddenly it´s just taken me somewhere else. OK, here´s a poem from years ago, written for a great drummer.
I want to come back as an elephant,
because I hope there still will be elephants,
and I want to live a long life
and we wouldn´t have to play quiet
unless we wanted to.
Don Campbell´s work has been a huge help to me, both personally and professionally, when I was working as a music therapist. Just recently, I got hold of a copy of his “100 Ways to Improve Teaching Using your Voice and Music” and found it so marvelous – rich with suggestions – and so practical – one a page – that I wanted to beg for it to be reprinted, or made available as an e-book: it would help every teacher on the planet.
Recently I sought permission to quote from “The Mozart Effect” an “Interlude”, where you are invited to listen to Mozart´s Theme and Variations on what we know as “Twinkle twinkle little Star” and imagine different ways of approaching a routine task. It was only with the favourable response I received that I heard the news that he had died two years ago. I was very sad. We are very lucky that he left such a comprehensive body of work behind.