Another time I attended a TIFF premiere, that time for Fog Of War by Errol Morris. So exciting to be up close and personal with a director of such accomplishment and outstanding legacy. Predictably I asked the only question not about Robert McNamara and the Vietnam war. I said what’s it like working with Phillip Glass. His answer was awesome. He talked about how they fight and freak out at each other. I was thrilled and so was the crowd or at least it felt that way. Left me feeling like when I have problems it’s not necessarily weird or different, maybe sometimes just part of the process.
People sometimes don’t speak English well and certain people think the way to respond to that is to speak English back louder! Even more distressing when the fluent English speaker displays that behaviour in foreign countries.
Couldn’t understand time signatures when a teenager, nobody explained it efficiently despite my ability to play fast or complex. Could imitate what I put my mind to. Other kids already musically trained tried giving me the low down on time signatures. They heard whatever rhythm I played tried to explain it, they would start with 1/4 notes – what the hell they were talking about? Boom I was lost.
What does it mean to say a note is a 1/4 note? Isn’t it an entire note? Shouldn’t that be a whole note? Didn’t we just play it? Why then call it a 1/4 note? They would say there were four 1/4 notes. What does that mean? Exactly where are these four 1/4 notes and why aren’t they 100% a note never mind being 25% of a note.
Once I got to music school the idea was explained again. Finally understood; like given the key to a sports car. They meant how many beats repeat and you could even manipulate that. Pow – I was in 5, 7, 3, 9 or 4. I wrote a song later called Bhopal trying to play a blues form in 5 just because now it was possible to imagine time signatures. Made a new song from the rhythm of Train in Vain by the Clash because I loved that rhythm now could manipulate it. Pow pow pow.
Teachers have to love trying to find a way in to the mind of the student, have to have the humility to reconsider how they themselves talk about things that is if they get something special out of teaching. Otherwise they should stick to tried and true methods of yelling meaningless equations.
New year, new crop of students. We go around the room, among my questions – what’s your favourite music.
They are slowly freaking out when the teacher’s response reveals he doesn’t really know Ed Sheehan or Green Day or Harry Styles or Hosiers or Sia.
How are they going to learn anything about playing together if their trapped with someone not also amazed by their fave artists? I feel for them.