Friday, October 23, 2015

Emotion & Magic in Musical Performance - quia pacis tempore regnat musica

A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.
– Martin Luther
Over the years I've collected anecdotes about 'interesting' experiences people have had with music, mostly as performers, but some as listeners. I'd enter them into a document so I could find them easily when it came time to write this or that about music. I recently decided to post a slightly edited version of that document to the web so others could appreciate and work with these stories. You can find that document at my site:

The document is in three parts. The first is some experiences I’ve had as a musician which give me some insight into how emotion & magic arise in musical performance. The second part contains a few statements by listeners. The third part is a list of passages by various performers that I’ve collected from various sources over the years.

I've listed two entries from the document, one about five jazz musicians, the other by Martin Luther, and the table of contents.

* * * * *

Earl Hines, Art Hodes, Roy Eldridge, Ornette Coleman, Sid Catlett

Whitney Balliett. American Musicians: 56 Portraits in Jazz. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press: 1986.

p. 87, Earl Hines talking:
I'm like a race horse. I've been taught by the old masters – put everything out of your mind except what you have to do. I've been through every sort of disturbance before I go on the stand, but I never get so upset that it makes the audience uneasy. . . . I always use the assistance of the Man Upstairs before I go on. I ask for that and it gives me courage and strength and personality. It causes me to blank everything else out, and the mood comes right down on me no matter how I feel.
p. 151, Art Hodes talking:
Now, you can play the blues and just go through the changes and not feel it. That has happened to me for periods of time, and I can fool anybody but me. Right now I'm in a blues period. The blues heal you. When I play, I ignore the audience. I bring all my attention to bear on what I'm playing, bring all me feelings to the front. I bring my body to bear on the tune. If it's a fast tune – a rag – I have to make my hands be where they should be. . . . I'm trying to get lost in what I'm doing, and sometimes I do, and it comes out beautiful.
p. 176, Roy Eldridge talking, about playing the Paramount Theatre with Gene Krupa:
When the stage stopped and we started to play, I'd fall to pieces. The first three or four bars of my first solo, I'd shake like a leaf, and you could hear it. Then this light would surround me, and it would seem as if there wasn't any band there, and I'd go right through and be all right. It was something I never understood.
p. 407, Ornette Coleman talking:
I don't think about feeling, seeing, or thinking. I try to have the player and the listener have the same sound experience. I'm not thinking about mood or emotion. Emotion should come into you instead of going out.
p. 187, Mel Powell, talking about Sidney Catlett:
He'd fasten the Goodman band into the tempo with such power and gentleness that one night I was absolutely transported by what he was doing.

Martin Luther

Forward to Georg Rhau's Symphoniae, a collection of chorale motets published in 1538, as follows:
I, Doctor Martin Luther, wish all lovers of the unshackled art of music grace and peace from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ! I truly desire that all Christians would love and regard as worthy the lovely gift of music, which is a precious, worthy, and costly treasure given to mankind by God. The riches of music are so excellent and so precious that words fail me whenever I attempt to discuss and describe them.... In summa, next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits... Our dear fathers and prophets did not desire without reason that music be always used in the churches. Hence, we have so many songs and psalms. This precious gift has been given to man alone that he might thereby remind himself that God has created man for the express purpose of praising and extolling God. However, when man's natural musical ability is whetted and polished to the extent that it becomes an art, then do we note with great surprise the great and perfect wisdom of God in music, which is, after all, His product and His gift; we marvel when we hear music in which one voice sings a simple melody, while three, four, or five other voices play and trip lustily around the voice that sings its simple melody and adorn this simple melody wonderfully with artistic musical effects, thus reminding us of a heavenly dance, where all meet in a spirit of friendliness, caress and embrace. A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.
.... if one sings diligently with skill and application, then music can make man good and at peace with himself and his fellows by providing him a view of beauty. Music drives away the devil and makes people happy; it induces one to forget all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and other vices, quia pacis tempore regnat musica (for music reigns in times of peace).

* * * * *


PART 1 • Music Through Me 3
Mind, body, and music 3
On lizard brain: animal power 3
Magic of the Bell 4
Ego loss 5
Lump in the throat 5
A well-formed solo 6
Autopilot 6
White-out 6
Confounded expectations 7
Pickup Group: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door 7
For the Children 8
Recognition 9
William Parker Workshop 10
Jamming for Peace 11
Trickster 12
PART 2 • Listener’s Speak 15
My Music 15
An 8-year old 16
Alias high on Trane 16
Kronos Quartet 17
A Resonant Sound 17
PART 3 • Testify! 20
Musicians on Performing 20
Leonard Bernstein 20
Leonard Bernstein, West Side Story 20
Vladimir Horowitz, Leonard Bernstein 21
Pablo Casals 21
Seymour Bernstein 22
Yehudi Menuhin 22
Dizzy Gillespie 22
Earl Hines, Art Hodes, Roy Eldridge, Ornette Coleman, Sid Catlett 23
Harvey Swartz 23
Ira Sullivan 24
Sonny Rollins, Roy Eldridge 24
Stephanie Burrous, Terence Blanchard 24
Miles Davis 25
David Craig, Lena Horne 25
Milt Jackson 26
Neil Young 26
Smyth, Bullard, O’Conner, Marsalis, Starr, Lewis, Clapton 26
Jean-Baptiste Arban 27
Cuda Brown 28
North Indian in studio 28
William Harvey 28
Martin Luther 30
Miles Plays: My Man’ s Gone Now 30
Penn Gillette in the Groove 31
Paul McCartney 32

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