Category Archives: Piano


Used to drive on the left and faster than the pack but experience altered me. Now the slow lane, no guarantee but better odds for longevity. Hard to not play fast when you know how to play fast, it often impresses everyone, except maybe you. Sitting with Jonnie Bakan yesterday discussing his thesis about cafe culture and Harlem and how politics and music intersect and that other more important school he graduated from, Freddie Stone school. He directed me towards spicey books I now need to eat: Adorno, Attali, Denning. Left music school in the 80s because of how much money I owed from having a student loan and what to do with my relationship to the piano. There is no substantial audience for what I’m drawn to do, freely improvised music, might as well pack it in rethink what to do with life and then I met John Oswald. Sometimes you have imaginary ideas about someone when you meet them. He hosted a jam session of improvisers in the back room of the Cameron and invited me to come. I agreed but internally imagined he wouldn’t be up to my speed. Turns out I was the inferior one. Lucky about Blue Rodeo but luckier to befriend John. Those years I played with him every Saturday afternoon I could, often just us. Loved our molecules smashing round the space while trying to keep up, the free draft beer from Herb, Handsome Ned painting bandanas in the other room, an audience of maybe 2 people and other guest musicians. Changed my driving, golden lessons.


There’s this funny thing that happens when you play a mistake and try to fix it. Often you play the mistake over and over and over expecting to play it correctly. It isn’t a good strategy for stopping the mistake. Instead one develops the mistake instead of the correction.
Like when people are upset about their behavior and focus on what they did wrong and supply judgemental feelings. Telling themselves they are bad or wrong or guilty blah blah blah, over and over. Run the same action with the hope of new outcomes but it is also sort of predictable that if there aren’t new elements introduced to the sequence of events then probably the result is just the same sequence of events.
I got it from Casey Sokal 30 years ago and maybe he said he got it from his teacher growing up in New York. Practice at the speed that you can do it perfectly.
It makes a lot of sense. Change the experience, practice doing it correctly. That it is a different speed is not a concern. I wonder if people can apply that to other problems? Probably no way that’s possible. Nope.

chasing dorka

At the improv workshop, the teacher said his system regarded musicians as having two types of consciousness. One is attention all over the place kind. Though you are supposedly engaged in playing music, that type is thinking about how long you should solo, how much better or worse you are than other players, why doesn’t this piano have better action, the colour of the shirt of the person in the front row, what you did yesterday, what is for lunch – all over the place mind like a fly in the room going everywhere.
The second mind listens while playing, has a other experience, brings empathy. His point was that the second mind is a better musician, the one you should encourage and by virtue of reaching it the first one has less grip, disappears for a bit. Gets out of the way.
I think what he was getting at was that getting there is as simple as just listening.