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Thinking Ahead, and Approaching Old with New

I guess it’s obvious to me when a group really clicks, and when I am left wanting more. It’s funny, but in classical music performance, it’s not uncommon that even within group, one performer can feel like a concert was great, and another can have the opposite impression! I wonder if this discrepancy is obvious to the audience? I think this has more to do with the quality of listening required for written music (versus improvised music) than anything. One of the things that makes me an improviser is the love I have for listening, and what can happen in a performance when all are listening on an equal, and deep level. And one of the challenges for a classical musician, or any music interpreter is to remember to approach the listening on the same level as an improviser! Unfortunately you just don’t have to. We can fall back on the notes we must play, and get lost in the reproduction of the score. - Hence the different impressions on success and failure.

Part of the excitement for me curating this 10th suddenlyLISTEN season was the idea of bringing back some of my favourite concerts from our history. Of course I have to pick and choose which collaborations to repeat. And there have been a few!

In the end it wasn’t that hard: The trio I made with Lee Pui Ming and Erin Donovan was a no brainer. I remember finishing the concert we played at the Music Room in Halifax in 2004, and thinking “that was my favourite concert ever”.

Nice. And when you play lot of concerts every year, it’s especially nice.

What was it that made it so? The shared aesthetics, the instrumentation, the personalities, Pui Ming’s shear power as a pianist, the calm confidence in the performance, the laughs? All that and a million other things I guess.

But I knew. And the audience knew. My favourite email I ever received was from a person who attended that concert and she wrote: “Last Saturday's concert the most exciting musical event in my life. It will stay with me forever. One of those memories I keep in my Chest of Treasures. I did not know what to expect exactly. It was brilliant, it was riveting, it was full of emotion, humor, color, haunting sounds.


I kept that one!

So, how do we approach this new collaboration?

One of the personal rules I have for improvisation is: “never try to repeat a piece to recapture something, it will NEVER work out the same way, and you’ll sorely disappointed! Move on!”

Not to mention that 6 years is a long time. Things can really change in a musician. I know that I am now, quite a different player than I was then.

So we have to start anew: Don’t think about the past, embrace the present - the moment. This is November 2010, not October 2004!

It will make the listening even more important. It will require us to be MORE flexible and MORE open to possibility, and perhaps we will have to be more aware of certain possibilities that no longer exist!

And of course I love the not knowing.

What I do know is that Pui Ming wants to rehearse. I am a rehearser too, but you might be surprised at how many improvisers think rehearsal is not important, or even damaging to the spontaneity of a performance. So we will rehearse, perhaps plan pieces? Maybe create written material to play?

Ah, suddenlyLISTEN, who knows what you might hear? We love the confidence in the musicianship, and celebrate the unknown!

Sep 25, 2010 at 22:06

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