“Jazz” — Part 3/4: Humility as “Mastery”


“My music is the spiritual expression of who I am — my faith, my knowledge, my being…”

— John Coltrane

“Living” Jazz: Lessons of Respectful Spontaneity

My experiments with music are at once the same and vastly different than before. Previously, the music was on the page — accuracy is king; precision is the goal; expression is (roughly) defined as how you bring another’s creation to life rather than what you create as an extension of yourself.

The mental space I now attempt to hold during moments of music-making is one of openness and “ok-ness”: not trying to choke every detail of what arises (leaving room for a relaxed freshness), and not-minding when things don’t go how I had hoped (leaving room for mistakes, self-kindness, and even humor).

The basic approach of Jazz (and of early Baroque music) as I understand it provides a wonderful framework for freedom through (not within) constraints. Improvised expression comes about as a result of the pre-determined structure rather than being in spite of it.

In addition to this unique feature, it also provides an opportunity for “community spontaneity” — something like being in natural communication with others through the bouncy “just-happeningness” that can arise when we surrender to the unfolding process of who we are as conscious creator-conduits.

Being in communion with others is a beautiful place from which to live; especially when there is a lot less of each of ourselves getting in the way of being together.

So, there is “learning-music”, and then there is the sublime manner in which one “unlearns-music”: I wonder if this isn’t also a lot like becoming who we are — learning the rules of the road, then forgetting them; reading the map of the terrain, then folding it back up and walking the path.

As a semi-professional-[maybe just an enthusiastic amateur]-level classical musician — not a jazz cat — this is the attitude I ATTEMPT to maintain while music-making (and generally while living)… While it invites many opportunities to practice humility, it also gives rise to a level of “meta-humility” — being humble in the face of my own failed humility. And this very generalizable effort doesn’t stop with the music…

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