Wednesday, March 09, 2016

The Tuning Slide: Your Story

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Music is philosophy. Every chord, every word tells a story. If you listen you will know its meaning.
-Kamanda Ndama (African Musician, Philosopher, Poet and Songwriter

Composer, arranger, and educator Stanley Curtis has a post on his blog Trumpet Journey that talks about the three "S"s, the three key elements he believes all great trumpet players have. They are simply
  • Story
  • Song and
  • Support
As to the first, Story, Curtis writes:
Each of us has a unique story. That story may be an actual account of some event, or even the story of our life. But we also have our own stories that we keep coming back to, such as “beauty is great,” or “old things are cool” or “technology is what I’m about.” These are our thematic points that our choices point to.
Some might say that part of the "story" is your own personal mission statement, your view of what it is you see as your life's mission. That is your guiding principle. Most of us never think much about that, but we all live our personal "Theme and Variations" in what we do and how we go about our lives.

Most of us are more than familiar with the Arban's "Variations on Carnival of Venice." There's an introduction, the theme and then the incredible variations. Another famous similar composition is Charles Ives' "Variations on America". Throughout each composition the basic theme repeats, of course, but all kinds of styles and flourishes are added. For the listener the goal is to see the connections with the  original theme. For the performer and/or composer it is to make those connections real and interesting without going so far afield that the original concept is lost.

That's the "story" we each continue to "riff" on as we go through our lives. Sometimes the riff is fast and furious, putting as much energy as we can into it. Other times it slows down and floats along with ease. Then it switches to a minor key or some odd set of tonalities. Yet, underneath it is "you", your theme. As Curtis says above this "theme" or "story" is what informs the choices and that these choices support.

He goes on:
Choices about repertoire, style, equipment, venues, and even the clothes we wear when we perform can help create our own story and the story that each generation needs to hear. Many players perform to a story that is going on inside their heads. As listeners, we can sense that something dramatic is happening.
Choices. We all make them all the time. Most of the time we don't even think about them. Most of the time the choices we make fall into the pattern of our story. It's who we are. Why did we choose to play trumpet, instead of any of the other instruments? How does "being a trumpet player" fit into our view of our story? Why did we continue to play the trumpet? Many people learn to play instruments but many quit after college, if not before.

Last year at trumpet camp there were those who are planning on making music their career, while others will have other professions. Yet there is something about the trumpet that obviously fits our individual stories. Why?

That's the choice. It helps define us. It fills a place in our lives that nothing else quite does. How then do we tell that story in our music?

Think about your story. What is it? Where do you want to go? How does music help you do that? How does that come out in your music? Spend some time reflecting on that and practice your story this week.

-Link for above quotes from Trumpet Journey

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