an addendum to my earlier post on tempo.
Let’s think about time for a moment. What is time? As defined in the dictionary:
“the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.”
We measure it by second, minutes, hours, days, weeks and years. Time is passing all the time. All we really have is the present, the past has already happened and the future has not happened yet. Most of us spend our waking time in one of these two places: either thinking about the past or dreaming about the future. As the Beastie Boys said “It’s time to get ill.”
I have to ask this question to musician’s in general and jazz musicians specifically;
“If you’re going faster than someone else in a tune that was counted at a specific (let’s say proper) tempo are you now ‘winning‘ because you’ve pushed the tempo into the red zone?” Do you want to be there first? Do you get a prize for being there first? A lot of young players have a bunch of energy and excitement. They want to play everything ‘fast, fast, fast.’ I admire their enthusiasm. It reminds me of the joke about running down as opposed to walking down the hill to a field of cows. I’ve watched this happen so many times and every one tenses up and chases after the ‘runaway train’ song. After being part of many a gig, jam session or other musical activity I would argue, NO you are not winning. The music is now losing. Music shouldn’t resemble the olympics although I’ve witnessed sessions that sound like the musical equivalent of dead lifting 300 lbs. Conversely if you’re 30 bpm slower than where you started perhaps it’s time to start getting some exercise, coffee or sleep depending on your personal variables….I wonder can we both ‘arrive’ at the same time? That’s magic when that happens.
I have nothing against technique and dexterity, I’m always working on gaining more myself and I acknowledge and appreciate the time and dedication it takes to play fast tempos, passages, etc. But PLEASE don’t sacrifice emotion, feeling, expression and interaction in the pursuit of being “the baddest cat.” It’s an empty goal. Make music that moves people and gives them something they “need” even if they don’t know it. Slow down for a minute and look around you.
The reason for time: So that everything doesn’t happen all at once.
I remember one of my voice coaches gently chiding me for keeping a somewhat strict tempo when singing a French art song. He said that it must ebb and flow, like water. I wotked with that for a long time and must have made a little progress because he never brought it up again. The moral is everything is alive when we bring it to life by our encounter with it – this is very much like quantum physics, but that’s enough for now