Eleanor Rigby

Mas Que Nada

Joe Syrian on NPR Hawaiian Jazz Radio

Evaluating Music and Musicians--------Part 3 

Music is often called the universal language. Let us compare how we think about a musician and how we think of a poet. Could you imagine a poet who was illiterate? He certainly might make a few clever rhymes, but his lack of vocabulary would limit most depth of expression. Poor spelling and limited language skills would handicap him even more. Not being able to write things down would even limit his ability to remember and organize his thoughts. Would colored lights, make-up, tattoos, a stage or designer jeans make his poetry better? Formal education is an assumed background for a writer. As a matter of fact, formal education is an assumed background for all skilled people.

A musician with a degree means he can read and write music. He played in marching band, concert band, symphonic band, jazz band accompanied a choir, can follow a director, understand the art of conducting, did musical theater, has knowledge of music theory, studied the history of music and played in a rock-pop group. That is certainly a good starting point. It is not the degree itself that matters, but the all of the knowledge, background, and experiences around it and in it. 

To play by ear is an important musical skill. It is a part of music theory. Called ear training it is continuously developed throughout a musicians career. It is not complete without reading and writing music. The music disappears into the air after it is played but to hear it, then write it, it can be studied, analyzed, understood and replayed. Music is a language.


More Thoughts about Music and Drumming Part 2 

....A family member of mine, an engineer, about 30 years old, just returned from a concert. I asked him if the group was good? He said, "They were great....you could feel the heat from the fireworks in the tenth row!" I was appalled, what did that have to do with the music?

Obviously we were not communicating. He was listening with his sense of touch! People also listen with their eyes and confuse musicianship with entertainment. 

If we are going to improve as musicians, drummers and as an audience we need to concentrate on our musical senses. Ears! 

A great musician, Alan Dawson used to say that, ... "we are all musicians and our instrument is merely instrumental." So our goal should be making great music by expressing the music through our instruments, in my case the drums. Not the look of the drums, not the color of the drums, not the light reflecting off of the drums but only the sound expressed from the drums. Listeners should be focused on the musical sounds as well.

Let’s digest these ideas for awhile…I have much more to say on the subject.

Comments on Music and Drumming Part 1 

To better ourselves as musicians it is important that we develop a system of judging ourselves and others. In a perfect world we could study every player, listen to every piece of music, read every music book (even those out of print), watch every video and of course read every issue of DownBeat. We could glean something valuable from every player (after all they are all children of God). However, it is not a perfect world. God created some real jerks! Ignorance is not only bliss but it is abundant and spreading. There is not enough time to study every musical avenue. To evaluate and continue to grow we must define our goals and zero in on our target. Peeling away false impressions and rethinking premises developed in our youth.

Let's start by defining music. According to Webster's Desk Dictionary, music is the art of combining sounds of varying pitch to produce compositions expressive of various ideas and emotions. 

Keep in mind that music is what comes into our ears (sound). A nice tattoo, good boobs, or electric hair does not effect music positively or negatively.

To Be Continued.........


Welcome to the new home of the Motor City Jazz Octet. 

I am looking forward to hearing from all of you.

From time to time I will post some thought provoking item about music for you to think about and I hope you will contribute your ideas and thoughts as well. 

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