Who does the music belong to? ( meditations on “Silence” by Charlie Haden)

2014-05-09 17.41.10Silence

I have always thought this a moving piece: I am not sure of the back story, this history, although I believe it is political in nature.( I swear I heard a version of this on “People’s Liberation Orchestra “ by Charlie Haden) ( and it is.. from ” ballad of the fallen)

The version I  just heard on the ‘net ( and later just had to buy) was the trio of Charlie Haden ( bass), Jan Garbarek ( soprano saxophone), and Egberto Gismonti ( piano).

The piece is long for a trio- based on a relentless , brooding passage of chords, with close voicings, shifting only a note or two at a time.  I have to transcribe this. It seems to be deep sadness,crying out for justice.

This is a  juxtaposition with “ the season” of unbridled greed, where people trample each other in shopping malls: where people die in mines, unnoticed, extracting coal to keep this whole economy going;where suffering of all kinds abound; where somehow we have to live in the most profound way, to create even a little value with our lives.

As I took Victor on our walk on Thursday morning, ( unseasonably warm, around 60 degrees) I  thought about the esoteric, mystical  role of  music creation- do we really own the music? Doesn’t it just come through us?  Aren’t we all just “ arrangers”?

I sat with these pleasant thoughts for a while.

The temperature dropped.

I dug up my parsnips, to give to Paul.

The wind picked up, the sun began to disappear, the temperature dropped 30 degrees, and more.

Cooked and ate a turkey with old neighbors. Played cribbage.

At sunset, it began a wet hard sleet, which turned to snow.

And as our friends left, my wife went to bed, I returned to hearing

“ Silence “ play in my head, and returned to those idyllic thoughts of earlier in the day.

So If I don’t “own” my music, who does? If the music just “goes through” musicians, then how are we supposed to earn a living?

No wonder we are exploited.  I will not give up on the mystical aspect of music- it’s wonderous ability to transform our inner being, to encourage us, to express our  deepest emotions, to bring out hope for the future.

But, I have worked very hard for my music. It’s time for my music to start working for me, earning it;’s keep.

The odds are against this.  The number of working musicians has certainly dropped in the past few decades: While I do not have empirical data to back this up, one can just reflect on our own experiences and those of our community to back this up.  Talked to an engineer at our school; a guitarist of my age, who was able to play in his cover band ( 6 people, with a horn section) work  every weekend and more, and raise his family.  His wife worked as well, and they weren’t rich.  But Craig made a living.

That doesn’t exist any more.  It never existed for me, playing jazz, ( improvised, original music) , with a few weddings thrown in, a few society gigs.  People get DJ’s now.

At the same time, playing music is more profound for me at this time of life.  I have a regular gig, 3-4  Friday’s a month.  For two years I have been developing a different approach to my solo playing, and have slowly evolving with a trio .  For the first time, I am playing at a cafe that I care about: I feel that it is my duty to bring in an audience, because I am treated with such respect.   I am truly fortunate.

Could I do that with music?  Several ideas go through my head.  Now, I am going to celebrate by going  back to bed- with “Silence” in my head.


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