(If you’re my client reading this please skip to the second paragraph)
When Carolyn and I first arrived at Chamber Music America’s 32nd annual conference in New York City this past weekend, as “Jazz People” people there representing the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, we thought “what are we doing here?”
At the outset people self-identified as either “classical” or “jazz.” Racial, ethnic or other superficial characteristics of difference were clearly insignificant in contrast to one’s musical orientation. By the end of the weekend, however, all realized at a visceral level the deep value of cross-cultural communication in the form of collaboration between jazz and classical traditions.
Musicians played jazz with string instruments (Quartet San Francisco, and Harlem Quartet-above). Saxophonists played Chopin (Capitol Quartet). A violist and percussionist (duoJalal, featuring durbakeh--goblet drum, djembe and riq–a tambourine, but you’ve never seen one played like this before) commissioned original work to play together.
And genius never goes wrong. Keynote speakers included Steven Reich, called “our greatest living composer” by The New York Times and “the most original thinker of our time” by The New Yorker. He humbly and personably laid bare before us his inspiration and creative process, including drawing upon classical, non-Western and Jazz traditions, spoken word, pigeons flapping wings, and spoken word, even interviews with Holocaust Survivors.
We stood in the back at the beginning of the session with Leon Botstein, President of Bard College, agreeing to slip out as soon as we started to nod off during his speech on “Performance in the Age of Recording.” I sat down when he opened by warning that he would offend most if not all of us, and laughed openly with his reference to going to church as an analogy to distinguishing between composers and performers in classical music: “If you don’t like sermon you don’t say “I don’t like Jesus…you just don’t like the way that particular preacher is talking about Jesus.”
He won Carolyn’s heart when saying how live performance will always trump a recording. “You want to see the musicians have fun and engaging with each other on stage…that will engage your audience.”
The constant theme was about creating new music based on thinking out of the box… by stepping out of narrowly defined possibilities for creation into a world of possibility.
This idea was embodied by CMA’s recipient of the 2010 Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award, Chick Corea. According to CMA, “A jazz luminary for more than 40 years, Corea has been a transformative voice in virtually every style of chamber music.” In addition to 55 Grammy nominations and 14 Grammy’s, at least 10 presenters talked about meeting Corea and experiencing his music as a “life changing event.”
And now back to the performance by the Harlem Quartet: It’s a single, visual image in less than three minutes that sums up the power of drawing from diverse traditions to create something new and exciting.
In adapting this concept to my own work, I win from an audience development perspective by appealing to a broader base (classical, jazz, and Latin music aficionados, plus a wider age demographic.)
But then it looks like I already won, when I walked out of my own knowledge-base and into the “Chamber” room and said “let me listen and see what I can learn.”
What are “opposite” traditions, theories or approaches in your field? How have you or might you integrate them into your own practice. What were the results?