Watching the video below started me thinking about how music practice, especially when done with others, is a powerful means of communion, in several senses of that word. We have to practice alone in a room, yes, but it’s vital to embrace and seek out playing with others, too. The sooner the better, and as much as possible.
A couple weeks ago I finally got together with some neighbors for some informal music-making around the dinner table, and, as usual, it was fun. This kind of playing is, at the moment, my most important type of practice, because I need to work on loosening up, enjoying the moment, not worrying too much about “right” notes, and just listening and responding with my instruments. One of the other players was a young neighbor who had just started playing guitar. For her, getting the mechanics down was more important.
Tonight I’m going to go play in a community band, with a bunch of people I’ve never met, and I’m excited. I don’t know what to expect, but it will be very different from playing around the dinner table. There will be a director. There will be sheet music. And there will most likely be laughter (I’ll be in the trumpet section, after all).
Practice in a room alone is important, and necessary if you want to get good quickly. But don’t neglect making music with others. Don’t wait until you’re “good enough,” because that can be a trap. As musicians, we’re always striving to get better and with that mindset, “good enough” might never happen. Maybe I’m projecting. At any rate, in social music-making situations, good is irrelevant. Participating is what’s most important.
Social bonding is perhaps music’s most powerful gift, and it’s why music is so important in most spiritual practices around the world. Here is a short talk by French cinematographer Vincent Moon about his projects going around the world filming musicians, from the famous to the unknown. We need these images of informal music-making to balance our usual media view of what music is.
At the end of the talk, Moon introduces Naná Vasconcelos, a Brazilian Latin jazz percussionist, vocalist and berimbau player, most notable for his works with Pat Metheny, Don Cherry, Egberto Gismonti, and Gato Barbieri.
Vasconcleos takes you on a musical journey starting at 14:25