The Three Rules of Everything
Listening to a jazz radio station a few nights ago, I was becoming increasingly agitated by the jagged edges and broken lines of the "music" as one might become annoyed at a piece of writing whose author kept changing the story line.
First one plot, then another, and then another, until all of the plots and sub-plots became hopelessly entangled and fell in on themselves, like a flimsy house of cards.
It doesn't matter who it was - I wouldn't name names anyway - but it did drive me to turn off the radio.
Later that evening, I made an Internet stop at YouTube and listened to (and watched) a video of the Miles Davis Quintet playing "So What"... and I started to cry. The power and style and beauty and quiet control of that wondrous band just made me weep. What is it that makes us react so strongly to great art?
For me, it's always a visceral reaction, in my heart and stomach.
If it doesn't touch my soul, it doesn't matter much. I turn it off. So when I watched a young Miles stand, shoulders hunched, back arched like a bow, eyes watching some distant muse without so much as a blink, making such silky magic come from his horn, I just had to cry. He picked each note and turned it on the lathe of his spirit. It came from deep within him. It was tribal. It was what I call social music. It touched anyone with an ear to hear it.
So I decided then and there that:
If you're going to do a thing, do it with all your heart, and stay committed and never give up on it no matter what the odds or the cost. If you give up on it, you give up on yourself and on everything you love and believe in, and
If you're going to play social (jazz) music, then play it like the tune you're playing is the last tune you'll ever play in this world, and put every last bit of your soul into it, because it replenishes your soul at the same time so you'll never run out of notes, and
Don't ever give a hoot what anyone thinks or writes or says or believes about you or your Art because that's not your problem, that's their problem, and they would just love to do half of what you do. They're jealous, or they're mean-spirited or they're just plain bored with their own lives. You just pay attention to the road ahead and drive.
When Miles hung up his horn (around 1975 or 1976), most musicians wouldn't even play with him anymore.
He had some demons to fight.
He needed to be quiet.
He reportedly watched a lot of TV.
The critics had panned him, the jazz snobs had rejected him, and he was tired. Quoting Gil Evans: "His organism is tired. And after all the music he's contributed for 35 years, he needs a rest." (from Wikipedia)
Lord, who wouldn't need a rest?
I can't ever compare myself to the inventors of this fine Music called jazz, but I can learn from my teachers. He got lost, and he found himself. And because the pressure to perform is so great and the pay is often so miniscule, most musicians never ever stop playing long enough to process, to listen to themselves and their body of work, to ruminate, and to take a new or more evolved course.
Miles embodies the three "rules" above, rules every truly successful person lives by, and he reminded me of them, because I knew them already. In my heart and in my mind and in my stomach.
He just played those notes and they set up some sort of harmonic resonant frequency that made me remember the words again.
Now I just relax again and let it flow, let it do its own magic.
Like water over stones.