What Are We Doing Up There?
In her book “How To Play Madison Square Garden”, Mindi Abair presents this breakthrough concept: If you don't understand that the audience is giving you something of value when they respond to your music, you don't truly understand what you're doing performing in front of people. Which led to a lot of soul-searching on my part, because frankly, I would get so caught up in the nuts and bolts of making the songs “come out right”, that I wasn't at all clear on what the audience was up to...oh, I liked it when they applauded, all right , and I was clear that I was supposed to communicate something to them....I remember telling one of my jazz snob friends “If a musician is a communicator, and literally no one is getting what you're putting down, why do you think you're such a great musician?”...but I still was only scratching the surface, miles from wrapping my mind around that italicized sentence. They're giving ME something of great value?
Let's re-group.....We've all seen the T-shirts that say “More of ME in the monitors”, playing on the known fact that, to beginner musicians, the idea that they can MAKE SOUNDS!!!! is so fascinating that they have no interest in what the rest of the band is doing (or how the song sounds!)....but, on the other hand, musicians further evolved must have SOME fascination with the sounds they make, or else why would they bother presenting them to other people? Where's the tipping point? Is Dunning Krueger effectinvolved? it the fault of the internet? I frequently hear that computer recording, Facebook et al have “flooded the market with amateur musicians”...usually from “professional” musicians who think “chops” are passe, leaving me to wonder in what area they ARE higher than the “amateurs”.
I used to divide musicians (or performers in general) into two classes : “Hey Look at Me” performers (Britney Spears?) and “Hey, Look what I can do” (Joe Satriani?)...now I've decided there's a third choice: “Let me tell you what's in my heart tonight” musicians, who present the audience with that rarest of complete experiences: The Great Song!!