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Free Improvisation

I always feel that the free improvisation has to have shadow of the structure in certain extent.
The freedom does not exist by itself in the first place.
It always carries the shadow of structures. The structure can come from
the form of the tune, the harmony, rhythm or even certain style could be a part of structure.
Then we go beyond all those structure to get free.
The funny thing is that we can feel total freedom with being deep within the structure
as well. So, in a way, the freedom and the structure co-exist, or maybe it is the same thing.

Last year, I was asked to do a classical piece during a trio concert. I am a Jazz pianist who loves classical
musica and in no way I am a classical pianist. So, I chose to improvise over a Bach piece.
Then, the strange thing happened that I was in total ease playing free improvisation over Bach, much more so than when
I play a Jazz tune.
After the concert, I realized that normally when I try to play Jazz tune freely, I start with the structure then try to go beyond
by breaking some of the structure, however when I improvised over Bach, since i had no intension of playing Bach music,
I started with Free Improvisation and musically touching a sporadic shadow of the structure that Bach created.
I do not imply that the music of Bach is sporadic. It is amazingly concrete and complete. Since the classical pieces are
not written based on the simple repetition as in Jazz Standard Tunes, when I improvised
over the classical pieces the way I touched the shadow of the Bach naturally becomes sporadic and
to me that gave a perfect balance for the free improvisation. This, too me, was totally a new dimension.
Then came the idea of the new solo album, “Dimensions”.
The whole idea was that not to play any of those classical pieces but start with total freedom and use the shadow of
the structure from the tune as a guide to sail through the music.
And I did enjoy playing through those free music.
I hope you can share some of my feeling as well.

Do we need art?

“Do we need art in our life?”
You can give it a simple ‘yes’ to this question but those who are involved in art with a little more depth, can’t often stick to this simple answer and ask this very same question over and over throughout the life, because when pursuing art you are likely to encounter many situations where you find the society or people don’t seem to give any space for the art.
The artists consequently tend to carry this feeling that we have spent so many precious hours of our life for something that the society don’t even care. Then come to a little shady corner of the life and say “Maybe art is not necessary for our life”
Indeed, although with full of irony, Irish writer Oscar Wilde did put, “All art is quite useless” in his famous novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Though Wilde’s real intention of this statement being somewhere else not just limited to simply irony, maybe it has some truth in its literal sense, at least it seems.

Then what do artists do? Look for the proof that can favor art, as nobody like to think we spent our time and energy for something that is not worth a dime.

Some might hold onto the fact that art has been with us since the ancient times and say, “This is the proof that we need art”, or some might try to remember the time the art was well received by the audience and say, “See! The art penetrates someone’s heart, that’s why we need art”.
Unfortunately the comfort that those remarks give might not last for long. At least it didn’t for me, as soon after, I encounter yet another situation where someone or some fact seem to insist the art is meaningless.
Then we have to go back to the very first question and start the same routine again.

A few years ago, I came across with a book, “Art of Piano Playing” by George Kochevisky in which the author/pianist describes the relationship between the brain function and piano playing. The insight he gave in this book was not only fascinating but helped me a great deal in actual piano playing.
From there, I started to wonder about so many other things, as to how the brain works, how our body works, how the instrument works…..

I am not the kind of person who often read books about Math, Physics, or Biology, or any kind of science. My grade on those in schools days used to be horrible.
So I can only wonder, except for a tiny bit of knowledge gained from certain books.

Even so as a non-scientific person as I am, the other day when I was fiddling with the piano action model, trying to understand the mechanism of the piano and how it produce the sound, it all suddenly came to me with a clarity:
when I play a piano, the brain control the body, the body operates the piano mechanism, then the string produces the sound and it vibrates the air. This involves Human Anatomy, Philosophy, Physics, Acoustics, and many other things in natural science that I don’t even begin to understand.

It’s like a nature where we see beautiful sun rise but so many things I don’t even understand are happening within the nature to create that beautiful scene.

This tells us art is like a nature. We are a part of the nature. Therefor the art is simply us!
Everything where the natural science is involved there should be an art.

So, not only there is an art in the nature, but there is an art in a human being even if he or she is not an artist, there is an art in steel building, in a packed train, or even in the traffic jam.

The art is everything in our daily life.
The only thing is whether or not we can see it.

Do we need art in our life?

The question was only irrelevant after all.

Smile!

“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.” by Plato

To define what is art or what is not art is a kind of challenge that does not have any sort of relevance in it, as art is so personal that art approaches a thousand different individuals in a thousand different way.

In the age when music is digitized and the data that consists of zeros and ones are downloaded or received as a streaming data which doesn’t even stay in a hard drive or mp3 player, just mentioning the word “art” might not even feel like it has any relevance.

The form of art also has become so vague. Of course I am all for the naturally-arising argument that the vagueness could be translated as versatility. But asking ourselves, “when to use the word “vagueness” and when to use “versatility”, it will not be an easy answer, so the word “vagueness” might have more win than “versatility”.

I am not writing these to repent the art has been fading or even dead.

On the contrary, to me, art has not changed even a bit in spite of all those changes in the technology and the society.

Because, we, our inner-self, have not changed. No one can ever describe what the inner-self is by words. It is for sure, though, that art talks to our inner-self, and when it did, we have this special feeling of our inner-self smiling deep inside of us. It does not matter if this art is like a therapeutic music or extremely avant-garde. This inner-self smile is so effortless and natural that it does not require any understanding or training to be able to feel it.

I came across with  a beautiful quote of Mr. Glenn Gould posted on Facebook by one of my former colleague and a pianist/composer Mr. Neil Olmstead, which read, “I believe that the justification of art is the internal combustion it ignites in the hearts of men and not its shallow externalized, public manifestations. The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenalin but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity”

That’s why art can talk to our inner-self, and when it did, our inner-self smiles back.

“everyone becomes a poet”

The Plato’s quote is clearly a metaphor. Plato might not have intended to point us to the insights of music by this quote.

But so what!

When I read it I think of music and art.