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RE: zen and the fluent music
A quick disclaimer:
After my last post, which upon rereading was unecessarily vague and poorly
worded, I should really say that
I probably hacked Bateson's thesis about mind and certainly made it
sophomoric (sp?) compared to the brilliance and elegance
of his presentation of it to me some 25 years ago. I apologize.
I'm musing here. I am no expert and I can't hold a candle to the
philosophical knowledge that Krispen has.
That being said and done:
About the notion of causality, I did not mean to say that Bateson
that all things were causal. Not at all and thanks for all the accurate
refutations of that idea. No, what I meant was that he said that because
of the limitations of our neurophysiology that we are forced to make
maps of reality....................or at least binary maps.
It's probably more accurate to use maps that are arranged with patterns
It is an interesting, the Jungian notion of synchronicity: I think it
a particularly human perception. Because, according to the
model of human perception, we try to see patterning in our attempts to
survive and live in the world and because we imbue those patterns with
we have a tendency to align percieved patterns together and they line up
with each other (the Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd's "The
Wall".................Ted and Jeff's improvisations with the premade video
animations of David Tristram from the other evening). Does it mean that
outside of human perception that there is a connection between the two.
Maybe yes, maybe know.
Frequently in improvisations with musicians, audience members have come
and said, "You guys were so psychically linked with each other during
last piece." When, however, we talk about it later as musicians we
that the listener had projected this alignment of pattern onto their aural
experience and it has no resonance whatsoever with the experience of the
musicians. This has happened to me far more frequently than the sublime
experience of having all the musicians thinking, "Wow, we were really in
the zone together on that one." Even so, though, because we are
oriented (and remember eschewing pattern is a still has much
in it----------witness all the predictable 'free improv' shows that we've
all suffered through) it can be argued that the musicians are still
responding with some set of 'strategies' to each other so there is a
I know a great bass player where I live who if I lock into what he's
playing rigidly (with a pop aesthetic) he will immediately change his
line and move away from me. If I start a groove that is repetitive (as is
my want as an acknowledged trance/groove oriented pop percussionist) he
purposefully eschew playing any subset or 'skeletilization' of the drum
I'm playing. His response to me is so predictable as to almost be
laughable. He just doesn't want to be 'locked' down. I think he is
amazing and truly unique, creative musician but I , personally, have
absolutely no fun playing with him. The only thing that works (with my
aesthetic of playing) is to play a completely non-syncopative 'framing'
rhythm to sound good with him. Still if you see where I'm going, he is
using pattern orientation in his approach. He actually writes great
ostinato bass lines.........
just don't try to lock in with him..........lol
What I'm really trying to get at is the initial impetus for my first post
which is a response to Matthias' original fascinating and provacative
musings about the tyranny of simple binary form in music.
My only contention is that is that if you took a bell curve analysis of
the musical expression on this planet that the 'bell' would firmly rest on
music that has fairly predictable binary form. I just think this is
because we are human beings and that we have limitations in what we can
percieve (Bateson's thesis, if he's not rolling in his grave with my
oversimplification of it.)
If you are interested in what he has to say, I suggest that you read his
brilliant and somewhat difficult book,
"Steps Towards and Ecology of Mind". His thesis is far too complex
me to butcher it here so please forgive me
trained philosophers, neurophysiologists and aesthetes out there.
I would suggest that you start with the essay, "Form, Substance and
Difference" which is in the middle of the book.
If you dig it, I'd be happy to let anyone know the order that Bateson had
read the book in.
He begins it with a whole group of conversations with his daughter called
'Metalogues' that he said should have been at the end of the book, not
beginning of the book. We truly wanted people to approach what we was
saying in a non-linear way and felt constrained by the linear nature of a
printed book......beginning, middle and end, but confessed after it was
published that it was the wrong way to publish it.
Because of the seeming lack of connection in it (he was seminal in
accepted theories in art history, anthropolgy, family systems,
dolphin and whale intelligence.............an incredibly brilliant thinker
who eschewed getting PHDS in subjects (some thought arrogantly) and moving
into subjects that he had no expertise in and truly changing their
"In any event, what sort if relevance does this type of synchronicity
have in the group free improvisation context? Trey Anastasio from Phish
once commented in an interview that when Phish improvised, the music did
not come "from" from, but "passed through" them. This is the first time
I heard someone say this."
Yes, I have heard this from many many master musicians that I have read
about or had the privilege to play with.
There seems no doubt about it, whether in sports of in art: there seem to
'peak moments' that occur. I know that neurophysiologists
have attributed these phenomena to the brains production of theta waves
(which are associated with creative thought and trance).
I know that every couple of years I will wake up in the middle of the
and my mind will just pour creative idea after idea out.
For those rare occurences I now keep a small notebook with a pen by my
when I sleep because I have learned that everything I right down
when I"m in that state is a 'gem' and a potential for a very creative
"It is as if we get in this state of mind when
improvising in a group setting, and events occur, but it isn't obvious
that they are caused by us. Certainly, our fingers and hands are moving
and causing the fluctuation of air pressure, but we are talking about
something more fundamental here. "Passing through" as in "unfolding"?
Not sure, but it's worth some investigation. I'm now entertaining the
thought that free improvisation could benefit from Synchronicity, if one
can actually harness the principle...which is a whole different matter."
Yeah, Krispen, this is intriguing....................I keep going back to
the amazing performance I saw with Mssrs. Killian, Kaiser and Tristram.
There were seemingly amazing synchronicities in that performance where
Jeff and David's performances (two in real time...........the latter
It was just stunning, but I imagine if I polled all the musicians and all
the audience members that each person would have a really different take on
what had 'happened'.
I keep coming back to projection of patterning onto experience that we do
naturally as human beings. In group therapuetic work that I have
participated in years ago, I discovered that probably 90% of all
that we make about members of our family of origin are false when they are
examined by both parties. In those same exercises, done with three
different families with completely different socio-economic backgrounds,
were all impressed with the fact that nearly 100% of all assumptions that
made about what we assumed our family members had were wrong.
There's a whole lot of projection going on in performance.........by
performer and audience alike.
But that's what so wonderful and mysterious and unpredictable about
live and why I keep coming back to live looping as a great love instead of
precanned looping (which I use extensively in my composition).
Okee dokee, I'm well aware that I'm just too fucking chatty on here at
times and write too much. If anyone is still with me here, I thank them
profusely for letting me muse a little.