Saturday, July 30, 2011

Where Music Comes From

Young Adash pulls his guitar from its case. He begins to pick and strum, and, at first, it’s a bit jarring. There’s nothing prepared or practiced here. He picks one note, or three, and he follows it with others. I recognize the slightly muddy aura of a guitar strummed open-stringed. This is the instrument itself talking firstly, Adash only follows it, pressing down on a string and responding to the vibration that shudders or twangs into existence, born into the air, into space.

This isn’t music, exactly. It’s an exploration into sound. It’s a tactile “What might this sound like?”, followed by a “Let’s see what plucking this note will do.” It’s music by questioning, by being willing for the surprise to spring out of the instrument and direct the hand to do the next thing.
I’m enjoying Adash’s music. No – not music – the sound he invites from his guitar. And so I walk to the car and I retrieve my alto, take out a reed and put it between my lips, allowing my saliva to soften it, preparing to play.
Play is what this is. The essence of music, not? Adash is nowhere close to professional. But this is a responsive, second-by-second musicality. It reminds me, it remembers me. This is what all novice musicians sound like in that early period, when they are willing to allow an instrument to be teacher, to teach its own voice, its own expressions.

I get my sax put together and go and sit by Adash. He looks up and, for a moment seems to slow and shift away from what he’s been doing. Maybe he’s expecting the standard, “Do you know ‘Body & Soul?’ type of question.” But instead I ask him just to keep on doing what he’s doing. Which isn’t a fair request, really, though it’s the best one possible, if something needs saying. I know because I remember doodling. I did it with my guitar, thirty years ago.  No time, no money, no talent – I thought – for lessons. No space for taking this seriously. Only space for playing. Which isn’t really ‘doing’ anything.
Playing? That’s what it’s called, isn’t it? Playing music. A game, a joke, a free-hearted, goal-less exploration of vibration and sound, the confluence and the channelling of something like meaning, like feeling, like living, into something called notes.

Adash and I play together. And it’s some of the freest playing I can remember. He lays down gorgeously invented, brilliantly found foundations, and I dance upon them, stumbling and weaving through the notes that materialize, in the scales that arise, in the patterns that seduce and invite us.
This is music. Not something remembered. Not something reached for. Just a bubbling presence, a potentiality breathed in, an afternoon suspended and flowing in time, so much so that it stands still while it floats and bobs and weaves. Music being discovered as where it is. In the thin air. Everywhere. All ways. Now.

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