Six years ago I was asked to play at a benefit for Japan following the earthquake and tsunami and later asked if I would accompany Margaret Atwood reading a poem. I’ve been to a zillion open stages and many poets have asked me to accompany them. I don’t think it works well, I don’t like poetry readings in general if I miss one word or phrase I’ve lost the whole thread. So I said sure I’d be glad to.
We walked down the dark aisle out of sight of the audience, up to waiting chairs before being announced. She pulled out a small pocket mirror and checked make up or did her lipstick, I forget which. It was a unique moment. Later on stage it was easy to play with her. She’s a pro. I was pleased with myself for not bugging her about The Blind Assassin, Alias Grace or The Robber Bride. I had questions I really wanted to ask but so many other people kept gushing around her I thought better for confidence she not know the piano player also is a crazy fan.
Jian Ghomeshi was there. I don’t think he liked me and I never liked him either. Had an imaginary electric buzzer in my hand waiting but he never shook it. Adrienne Clarkson wore a very cool delicately made batique jacket or dress, very folk art. Michael Ondaatje was there too. He liked my film for the song Separated, made me feel like I had made the right job choice in life.
Student: I’m going to see Star Wars tomorrow, #8 return of the Jedi, I haven’t seen this but I know everything about Star Wars.
Teacher: You know Akira Kurosawa?
Student: What is that?
Teacher: That is the guy whose film Star Wars is based on.
Student: Star Wars isn’t based on another film.
Teacher: Yes it is, its called The Hidden Fortress. It was made in the 1950s, black and white.
Student: I think you mean the light sabre fights because those are based on something from Japan.
Teacher: Yes like that movie.
Student: I don’t think you’re right.
Student: I’ve been watching it since I was 8, I think I would know.
Teacher: What do you think of the music in Star Wars like when they are in a bar and there is a band playing.
Student: I think it is realistic.
Teacher: Based on what?
Student: Based on what music in the future would sound like.
Teacher: But we’ve never been to the future.
Student: Yes I know but I still think that is what it would sound like.
Teacher: What else do you know about the future?
Student: That we all die.
Teacher: Now we agree on something.
Student: What is that?
Teacher: We all die.
Student: Right, but first I’ll make a band and we’ll tour the world and I’ll make a lot of money and buy a house and help my parents.
Teacher: That shouldn’t be a problem.
Student: I’ve been working on this dream a long time.
Teacher: Good luck.
Student: Don’t need it.
Teacher: Why is that?
Student: I don’t believe in luck.
Teacher: What do you believe in?
Student: My dreams I believe in those.
Teacher: And if they don’t work out?
Student: Maybe I’ll be a teacher like you.
In the improvising world you work at listening (which changes what passes for thought). The extent to which you continue thinking is proportional to what is accomplished musically. That probably a big part of the draw for those who can’t stop, relief from ping pong of ordinary thinking. When is the bus going to arrive, what’s the forecast, what kind of wallpaper should we get, I need a new shirt, what’s for dinner. And anyone can get that by just tuning into experiencing all sound unfolding with the same attention they might give when meditation leaders tell people to just concentrate on their breath, in and out and let the thoughts just come and go like the current of a river. The attention of not being off in a fantasy but experiencing now-ness.