What if the thing the world needs most…
you've always known
I saw a video on Facebook this morning of someone on a snowcapped ridge top that looked about four–five feet wide at the most with drop-offs on both sides that would have had wing-suit jumpers howling in delighted anticipation. The only thing that kept my heart from crawling right out of my body was the very existence of the footage.
For 20 years or so, my family had a place in Summit County, CO and I got into skiing enough to navigate most any slope, including some nice bowls, some time-trial runs and some pretty scary-looking triple diamonds. (More than once when I got up there I thought, Holy ______, the only way out of here is THAT?!?!?! The only real decision to make, at that point, was which moment to lean forward and go.
I heard Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert album when I was a social work student at UT Austin in the late 70's. It was the most stunningly beautiful piano music I have ever heard, And it was mind boggling to me that it was just coming through him in the moment. For years the dream of learning to do that was both blessing and curse, and I was paralyzed both by the desire to do it and the immensity of the gulf between people like Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Oscar Peterson and ... me! I occasionally come back around, though, to wondering what it must feel like to play such exquisitely beautiful music freely, fiercely, masterfully... and spontaneously!
After all these years I actually find myself teaching people how to improvise on the piano. I've got a kind of trick for helping people learn all 12 keys of the keyboard without ANY of the things most people assume are prerequisites that (e.g. music reading, learning chords or scales, at least note names!!).
So I'm all about encouraging us all to step beyond our perceived boundaries and try new stuff, even (especially?) when scary. So, okay Daniel, you gonna practice what you preach here?!!?
Thinking about my business can sound like I'm up on a ridge-top with skis and a GoPro (except now with maybe a loin cloth). I mean, what if I get going a little too fast, overestimate my capability and miscalculate in a way that could cost me dearly? I've certainly done plenty of that in my time.
What makes me so sure it's okay to put this video up? What if people watch and listen and think "what the heck can THIS guy teach about improvising, I don't want to sound like THAT!!! He's clearly not prepared for this." (or... what's he doing playing in a loin cloth?)
The aspects in me that are afraid to reveal the flaws in my playing, any uninteresting or boring harmonic or melodic lines, or anything else that's not "delightfully inventive and impressively executed" get very uncomfortable and reticent to step up and expose myself to humiliation, derision or, worst of all, a general collective yawn...
And it's not just the improvising itself, mind you. I've been doing that in one form or fashion for about 15 years now with the Jubilee! Community, Asheville Playback Theatre, with my wedding and event band, Current Invention, various side gigs, and on my own at home.
It's the RECORDING of it! You know, so someone can listen to the mistakes over and over and share them with tens of thousands of their closest friends on Facebook.
I know, I know, nobody cares. But telling that to the far-too-grandiose-for-his-whiskers perfecto-cat part in here has proven a good deal more challenging than my Leonine pride is inclined to admit.
Well, I'm getting loud and clear lately that it's about the music. Listening, feeling, playing and sharing. Sharing what I have to share. just as it is. right now. under-developed and not-ready-for-prime-time. warts and all.
Who knows, maybe that's what the world needs, or maybe at least what somebody needs. If so, it would be pretty nice if you're out there and seeing this. Goddess knows I hope SOMEBODY gets some value from this ridge-top leap!
So here's my flawed and imperfect encouragement to YOU to share your love and your gifts. I'm no Keith Jarrett or Bruce Hornsby or Jean Claude Killy, but those folks have already got those parts taken care of. Maybe it's time for me just to be me, and you to be you.
Okay, skis strapped on and secured. Helmet on, GoPro mounted in place and.... Recording. Ready to head downhill.... Deep breath... NOW!!!