teacher: I’m usually wrong about what’s going to happen next and I like that.
teacher: Keep the assumptions in check.
student: Which assumptions?
teacher: When someone takes the stage one gets a sense that they might be this way or that way and many times these assumptions are wrong. That’s the best part of an open stage. No – I take that back – the best part is when I think someone is something I’ve seen a million times before but they turn out to be so original I’m destroyed.
student: I think it’s about entertainment.
teacher: So does Nancy White.
student: Who’s that?
teacher: You would have to be up on my most recent Facebook posts to understand.
student: I’m not on Facebook.
student: So you don’t think performing is entertainment?
teacher: Entertainment is part of it but the artists I like the most aren’t primarily entertainment.
student: What are they?
student: What’s that mean?
teacher: They’re not entertainers. They take the stage and pretty soon we’re not in Kansas anymore.
teacher: You should go play your songs in front of people.
teacher: It’s ike an invisible part of writing , doing it in front of people reveals something else about the song. Go do it at an open stage.
student: But I’m scared
teacher: What are you scared of?
student: Stage fright
teacher: The audience is probably just 3 people and they’re trying to watch a baseball game while you sing your serious little song.
student: I still get nervous.
teacher: About what?
student: I might forget my words.
teacher: Then put your words on a music stand.
student: I might forget the chords.
teacher: uh huh.
student: You don’t understand.
teacher: Think you might look stupid?
student: Yes that’s it exactly.
teacher: It’s a convention of people looking stupid…and not looking stupid – that’s exactly why you should play it. Nobody is so uncool as to be seen at an open stage thus it the COOLEST place to get your shit together.
student: Do you play them?
teacher: My favourite place.
teacher: I’m usually wrong about what’s going to happen next. I like that.
student: Why do I get nervous?
teacher: The more you actually “fail” the quicker you figure it out. Looking foolish isn’t something anyone wants to do but why not look foolish in front of nobody rather than later if you get that big bro from Breakfast Television?
Imagine people coming back to life and playing a concert – tonight. John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Tony Williams does an opening fill and June Tyson is sings. Imagine the attention you would give that whole experience? Imagine giving that sort of attention to walking down the street and listening to the traffic, conversation bits or insects and birds? That’s the present from John Cage, that’s the compelling contribution he made to the idea of what is music; remembering to be amazed by sound and experience the music of sound events like a concert of super importance unfolding before you in real time…because it is.
The mind can’t handle sustaining that sort of attention very long without wondering about a coffee or the phone bill or the person who took the seat on the subway before you but that’s what’s impressive about the greatest musicians, they seem to go a long time surfing that wave of being present in their listening and playing and not cave to distraction.
But so what – June Tyson is more interesting reflecting about working and improvising with Sun Ra.