My artistic voice was there all along. After recording dozens of short piano pieces over the summer and fall of 2021 and previously with the cinematic noise trio "Fade/Dissolve", I've discovered, of course, that my voice was there all along. Listening to the playlists/videos, one can hear the "voice" as clear as a bell. Our "artistic voice" is revealed in a body of work, created a long period of time.
The next question of course is do I like what I hear? Does anyone else?
Why do we play music "nobody" likes?
Many styles of music are of a minority interest. Especially if your musical interest originates from a country, era, or culture different than your own.
Hanging out and posting online only goes so far.
So why do we persist swinging, shuffling, rocking and improvising decades after demise of these once popular forms in tiny rooms to tiny audiences? We are hardly making art with a capital A. We are essentially paying homage to something that already exists. Yet we continue.
I think there is a bit of all the above in myself.
The pressure to conformity chases us every day. Conformity can overwhelm our own voice.
On the other hand learning the "language of a music" requires a long period of apprenticeship on both the instrument and within a style before one can craft a voice of one's own. In short conformity to the standard practices of your instrument and the restrictive boundaries and culture of a genre.
Finding your voice in Country Music assumes and requires that you can play Country Music. Otherwise you will just make an ass of yourself. For shameless examples attend any open mic night and watch what happens when art is hobbled by lack of skill.
Step one to finding a voice is learning your craft.
Step two getting out there and honing your craft.
Step three being comfortable being uncomfortable as you develop and grow.
Step four? Don't be boring.
Seeking a "voice" Part 3
Victor Wooten in Developing your musicianship video has some interesting thoughts. He echoes the idea from the previous Berklee video about intention. He even discusses some of the same artists.
He downplays skill in the beginning of discovering your voice. Hmmm, I'm not so sure about that. Sophisticated music needs sophisticated skills.
He quotes Chick Corea, a truly expert improvisor with a unique voice, that only 30% of his improvisations are truly improvised, the rest is vocabulary and things previously worked out or prepared. In short, he prepares much of the music ahead of time in the practice studio and then in the moment sees what happens.
Victor thinks musicians practice too much and don't play enough. Wise words, making music with others really brings it all home in real time.
Time to develop my own drum phrases and have them in reserve, I guess.
I will continue with lessons and workshops. This week I’ve both a drum lesson and jazz trio workshop. In parallel with skills I've added a secondary goal: developing my individual voice on the drum kit. I’m starting to hear this voice in my head. Hints and snippets are starting to poke through. It is both exhilarating and frustrating but encouraging.
How about your voice? What are you doing to find it, develop it, cherish it?
I’ve been drumming for 12 years and a professional musician for 45 years. I’ve been around. With the drums I can now play with confidence in the situations I find myself: Jazz, Rock, Country, Studio, New Music, and rudimental concert band work. Every week I share my knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm with my drum students. It is a blast!
Am I ready for a world tour? No. Have I reached my musical goals? No.
The quest to develop a musical voice.
A short aside. Many musicians desperately want to sound like someone else. They are anxiously chasing a sound. Someone else’s sound. But as my early mentor pianist Bill King would say, “haven’t we already made that record?” Life is too short to retell someone else’s story I say. But before you can work on this voice, a few things need to happen.
Deliberately developing one’s voice will be the focus of this blog over the fall and winter of 2021-2022.
"To everything there is a season". Sage words. But perhaps a bit self limiting if taken too literally.
Here are some seniors, of my acquaintance, who inspire me.
1. Heather, now preparing for her Grade 2 violin exam. Yesterday she shopped for a violin upgrade.
2. Gary, now running his own weekly jazz jam session with his new found pals.
3. Glen, recently performing online with musicians and dancers from 2 European Countries. Today I found him practicing the piccolo.
4. Eleanor, writing music for her website for her fans around the world.
I say, don't sell yourself short.
It won't be easy. Going stale, losing interest in things, aging out, and other maladies are well known and well documented in aging adults. What can one do to stay in the game?
1. Stay fit or get fit. Creativity takes energy. Fight like hell to stay upright. But work with what you've got. Your high school track days are over. Accept this gracefully and with your doctor's advice, get to the gym.
2. Stay connected. Friends matter. Who you hang with matters even more. Are the folks in your orbit "in the game" or are they lazy, burned out, narrow minded, and in denial of reality? If they are, I'd make a move.
3. Take on new challenges. Start with your tech. Learn to use your phone, tablet, and laptop like a pro. It's not hard, start on YouTube and get busy. Working with senior adults who can't do even simple tasks is heartbreaking to see as a teacher. Tech literacy is a real thing. Incompetency with your gadgets is an impediment to being creative, connecting with other creatives, and just participating in modern life.
4. Learn something new. Take some lessons on your instrument, go all in. Learn a new instrument even. I'm working with a bass teacher this summer learning the basics of Country music bass lines in the music of the 1950s and 60s. My appreciation of that period of American music has grown. I hear it with fresh ears.
5. Do something new. I'm deep in the breakfast piano minute series. I've been creating 1 minute daily postings. It's been fun. It is leading to lots of new connections, and it encourages some daily creative effort. I've learned about camera lighting, video editing, and much more. And folks like them. I've a new and growing audience on social media.
If I can help you find some new creative activities, call me.
I’ve an aging body. Accommodations will have to be made. If you are reading this, you are likely in the same boat. Here is what was recommended by the physiotherapist recently.
Twenty three days and counting. How long can the chain continue? Good question.
David Story: Professional pianist, drummer, composer, and educator. Well into his 5th enthusiastic musical decade, David works with adults pursuing musical dreams in the autumn of life, while he maintains an active presence in the Toronto arts scene.