Tuesday, December 05, 2006
i have had a piano in the house for two months now. this experience reminds me of one of those moments in my early creative life that shaped my outlook. my friend chris and i discovered an artist in a gallery at ucla. my friend lived directly across from the college so we would often wander across. one of the things we did regularly was visit the art gallery there. one day the gallery was showing an artist named laurie anderson. she went on to do some great things (like o superman, united states parts 1-4) and some pop songs, not so great, in the eighties. but this afternoon at ucla i didnt know anything about her. in fact i didnt even know what a performance or a conceptual artist was. i was struck by her gallery show and kept my eyes peeled for magazine articles and interviews. in one that i found she mentioned that she did not practice violin after a certain point because she didnt want her playing to sound like television; too perfect. i have used this strategy (and the quote) over the years. in fact, i dont know if this is apochryphal but, i heard somewhere that the talking heads all switched instruments on the song naive melody. such a great song. but back to the piano. i have noticed that my guitar playing has improved and my knowledge of chord/key structure has grown, i have begun to sound more and more like all the professional musicians i know. i have always been more concerned with creating music that has a vibe or mood than in crafting crafty pop songs. i believe there is generally an inverse relationship between pop knowledge creative instinct. they arent mutually exclusive but there is a danger there. i know the restlessness that comes with the basic medium of songwriting. but i dont want to make music more and more like sting. i have no eventual jazz or math metal aspirations. therefore keeping myself naive in some respects as i continue to learn as an artist is a goal. i am a rank amateur on piano. this means that i can 'discover' really basic chord progressions without being aware that i have re-invented the wheel and therefore continue writing with an energy i might lose if i was on guitar. on guitar i would recognize that i have been playing some really universal chord progression and either stop completely or begin to think about how to dress it up. the dressing up usually means thinking about what key im in and therefore what usual rules apply and then not surprisingly, it starts to sound more usual. more like everyone else.