There is a quality in a musician that is more important to me than either skill or professionalism and this is a childlike love for the unknown… an openness to the discovery of something new.
I view a performance, whether it be on stage or in the studio as a moment of its own.
This particular shared moment has never happened before and will never happen again. It is ours to create and enjoy together.
So when putting together an ensemble of performers for that moment I am mindful that each will carry a responsibility as a life giver. One doubting Thomas or a ship chained to an anchor (“That’s not how we play it”) will ruin the flow of energy, creative ideas, stillness, joy, the unexpected and ultimately the shared moment with the listener.
The moment is too precious to waste.
If the moment is slipping away I will act quickly… and begin to strip back the live arrangement… turning to each performer and either ‘waving down the volume’… or asking each one to ‘sit this one out’.
Sometimes it takes drastic measures to rediscover the moment. Recommencing from a quiet place… just me and my guitar… I will reach out to the audience… hoping it will accept my contrition and my renewed invitation to join us.
Usually this kind of shock therapy awakens the musicians to the present… and they each begin to build… with some sensibility, upon the freshly laid foundations.
I sometimes feel like a vine dresser… always cutting back the vine… creating space in the music.
Did you know that to make cheap table wine the vine dresser hardly prunes the vines at all but to make quality wine the pruning is severe? The grapes closer to the vine are deemed to have much more energy… which means a greater sugar intensity or pungency. Without the pruning this energy is diluted amongst all the other grapes bunched on the vine.
The great wines are made from vines that, to the unenlightened, appear to be under producing.
This sounds very new age… but love must flow from the musician, artist, story teller and so on… to the audience… with the intent of developing an interactive relationship… and (yeah more new age talk)… so that energy flows to and fro.
An audience ‘who’ feels included will become like the Fifth Beatle… adding the intangible elements that satisfy the deep desires of each performing musician.
Over the years many a skilled musician has idled up to me, with his eye on his counterpart in my ensemble to say “why don’t you call me next time you’re doing this”. In his mind I am settling for second best. He is also hustling for work. I get that. But he isn’t hearing what I am hearing.
I do believe that this childlike joy can be nurtured in a ‘severely professional minded musician’. But it does require a miracle.
A kind of raising from the Dead.