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Playing Together: Four Levels of Improvisation and Two Axes of Appreciation
191
the band TUB was generally considered authentic, whereas other musicians who dabbled
in pop and rock music in order to make money, or get famous, were often criticised for
being ‘fake’.20
These concepts were not limited to Improvised Music, and Christian Lillinger described
all ‘honest’ music as ‘good’ music,21 Rudi Mahall asserted that the Beatles were just as
honest as any good improviser,22 and Clayton Thomas drew comparisons between the
“fundamental” sounds of John Coltrane and rapper Nas.23 Most musicians and listeners
concurred that the trained listener could sense such honesty “immediately”, and, in
such cases, as one listener put it:
One note already says everything. And you can hear from the first note if
it’s OK, or if it’s not. That’s all you need.
The same listener continued, accepting the empirical difficulty of the concept:
When it has a strong idea... behind it... then it exists, and it’s very potent.
And it might happen that someone who has a very vast education in music...
might produce that music that vanishes into thin air... and that is worth
nothing in the end. If you might use that term ‘being worth something.’ [...]
[It’s about] strength or connection to what is life, or honesty. [...] There are
lots of nice words to describe a [character of moral integrity], and... you can
apply them all, [but] in the end, it’s simply “Is it there or is it not there?”
He compared this unquantifiable power to that of martial arts,24 and other musicians
and listeners also made analogies to conversation, Matthias Müller describing “strong”
musicians as those who made convincing, original and interesting “arguments”,25 and
Klaus Kürvers elaborating that:
As a musician you notice if somebody’s really present with their whole
being in their sound, just as you notice when you speak with somebody if
what they say is what they’re really thinking, or if they’re thinking about
20
Christian Lillinger, for example, described musicians who he paraphrased, sarcastically, as saying,
“I always wanted to play grooves, and then at some point I’m 50 and in the art scene, [and] then I’ll
make a groove record”. See footnote, p. 128, for more on TUB.
21
Describing two of his favourite musicians, he added, “They have always stayed true. Totally. They
make their music and they believe in it.”
22
For Mahall, the Beatles played with “all their heart”, adding that “that’s what original music is,
when you give everything.”
23
Thomas described how, “I think in the end it’s just [that] you can tell that the person who’s playing
doesn’t have an ulterior motives. [...] I don’t want to hear someone play [like] someone else. I don’t want
to hear you play someone else’s music. [...] I like it when I feel like I’m hearing someone be themselves.
And if that’s like Nas, because Nas is a fucking great MC... it’s like ‘Yeah!’. I don’t want him to scat at
me or fucking improvise some... abstraction, I want to hear him fucking rock.”
24
He described, “In martial arts you call it ‘the finger that points to the moon.’ I had this teacher...
and he said, ‘Well, the finger that points to the moon goes like this’. He held my arm, and he says ‘Move
the arm.’ [mimes the immovable arm]. And he said ‘You cannot move it, right? I’m too strong for you.’
I said ‘Yes.’ He said ‘Point to your nose’ - [whistles] and he’s [floored]! [...] That’s a phenomenon!”
25
See pp. 163, 187 and 197 for further analogies to conversation and theatre.
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