Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A look into my CHITTA

Over the past couple years I have gotten interested in yoga.  My initial interest was for health reasons but I think it can be beneficial for anyone regardless of age or health condition.  One day, after a particularly intense yoga class (which sounds like an oxymoron to non-yoga folk) I decided to stop over at a breakfast place close to the yoga studio.  I had brought a backpack with me that had a book and some manuscript paper in it.

I went into the place, kind of a diner vibe, and was seated by a very sweet older woman.  When I was seated a waitress came and filled my coffee cup.  I got out my book and started reading.  I must have gotten sucked in because the waitress came back and asked if I was ready to order.  I hadn’t taken a look at the menu yet so she topped off my coffee cup and left.  After a quick glance at the menu I chose what I was going to order.  When the waitress returned I placed my order and she topped off my coffee cup.  I relaxed back into my booth and started reading again.  I was feeling very at peace.

After about 15 minutes the waitress returned with my order and warmed up my coffee again.  I ate my breakfast.  When I was finished I checked my cell phone for the time.  I had a half hour to kill before an appointment nearby so I pulled out the manuscript paper and began to think.  I wanted to write one new tune for the upcoming record but no ideas were really coming to me.  The waitress returned to get my plate, topped off my coffee, left my check and headed back to the kitchen.

By now I was starting to feel the effects of the coffee.  I stared at the manuscript paper.  As caffeine is known to do it was staring to make my eyes dart back and forth and it made tracking the 5 little black lines on the paper difficult.  I was still feeling the after glow of the yoga class and I was in a state of inner peace but my body was definitely not at peace at all.  I’m not sure how much coffee I drank but I was starting the sweat and my feet were shuffling. 

Suddenly the humor in the strange juxoposition of those two feelings hit me all at once.  I had a deep sense of inner peace but was very caffeinated.  I laughed out loud.  Fueled by prana and caffeine I put pencil to paper.  In about 15 minutes I had it.  The piece I was hoping for.  Caffeinated Om.

Decide for yourself if I captured that feeling in music.  Listen here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

the creative process and you

So here is some insight into the creative process.  Actually just my creative process.  I learned long ago that I am an expert on only one thing, me, and not that much of an expert on that.  Anyone that claims to be an expert on anything other than themselves is suspect in my opinion.

Like many artists I find inspiration for creating from real life.  My first real encounter with that was in music theory class as an undergrad.  I have never been good at composing on demand and filling in the blanks, like theory assignments often require, and found many of the assignments about as interesting as doing math homework.  As my mother can attest, that was not one of my favorite things to do.  Our professor, a brilliant man but not my favorite teacher, gave us a counterpoint assignment.  I don’t recall the assignment exactly but I do recall the feeling I had when he handed it out… dread.  

I got back to my room, made some coffee, took out manuscript paper, and stared blankly at the page.  Music theory assignments can be very ‘paint by numbers’.  I could have just plugged stuff in and been done with it.  I was feeling something bubbling deep inside though.  It might have been the cafeteria food or the really strong bargain coffee I had just brewed double strength. 

Wait, double strength. 

Let me explain.

First brew coffee as directed.  Discard the used grounds.  Add fresh grounds to the basket.  Pour the coffee you just brewed back through the coffee maker.  Voila… double strength.

Anyway, I had that burning feeling in my gut.  I started to recognize it as anger.  Anger at what though?  I knew it was related to this assignment but what was the big deal.  My rational mind was just telling me… plug and chug, plug and chug, plug and chug.  My creative mind said fuck it. 

My pencil hit the paper and it was dripping with sarcasm.  I started thinking about the most musically sarcastic response to this assignment.  I wrote all kinds of silly rhythmic variation, extended harmony, unrecognizable melody, and broke every theory ‘rule’ I could think to break.  When I was done I went to bed with a deep sense of satisfaction.

The next day I put the assignment in a spiffy report cover and practically skipped to my professor’s office to drop it off.

Needless to say I got a pretty bad grade when I got it back but I learned a few very valuable lessons.  I learned that I knew the rules well enough that I could break them and get a poor grade.  I learned that intentionally getting a poor grade was not the best idea.  I learned that I needed a reason to compose even if that reason was malicious.  Finding that reason was key.

A few years later I submitted the piece for publication in an arts and literary magazine.  It was accepted.  I won’t say that I felt vindicated but I did get a little chuckle out of the fact that something could be so poorly received in one place and so well received in another.  I guess I also learned that venue matters.

Take a listen for yourself.  The piece is called Diminuation.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hello and welcome

Welcome to my first attempt at blogging.  I’ve been resistant because I feel a little self-important getting on a soapbox like this.  When I tell stories of the music biz people are always telling me I should put it in the form of a blog.  So I finally succumbed to peer pressure.  Fortunately this is a soapbox that can be easily walked away from.  No hard feelings if you choose to.  I am planning to use as a platform for sharing my crazy stories about the music biz, gig stories, insights on bass playing, gear, my group Walk East, and life.

First I should share why I chose to name my group, and this blog, Walk East.  For my entire life I’ve had to live with people mispronouncing my last name.  It is sort of a custom in jazz to name groups after the leader.  When forming my own group I wanted to help people out.  I don’t care if people mispronounce my name but some people are absolutely socially paralyzed if they are concerned they are going to say someone’s name wrong.  In an effort to help those people out I chose Walk East.  Why Walk East?  Some sort of mystical significance?  A sort of spiritual journey?  Wrong and wrong. 

When I was in fourth grade we did a unit on the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  One afternoon two boys got into an argument and started calling each other names.  Seeing a teachable moment my teacher stepped in and pointed out that, in 1871, people were much more creative with insults.  This stopped the two boys short.  She went on to tell the boys that one of the popular insults of the day was to tell someone to ‘walk east’.  The boys looked at her with puzzled faces.  She then asked them what was east of us (in Chicago).  One boy answered “the lake”.  Exactly.  So she explained that telling someone to 'walk east' was telling them to go jump in the lake.

Fast forward 10 years to college.  The scene is a group of college students sitting around, probably with the help of some chemical amusement aid, sharing stories of their hometowns.  The topic hit on the Great Chicago Fire so I felt compelled to tell my story from fourth grade.  People loved it and one of my friends pointed out what a great band name 'walk east' would be.

The day came when I had a group of my own to name.  I thought back to that day.  I thought that it was a great combination of humor, my life experience, and would raise all sorts of questions for those not “in the know”.  Thus  WALK EAST.