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Chapter 8
When I practice, it’s very important to define a beginning, still keeping it
open, but deciding how to begin, how to start the story. And then I just
try things out, playing with other sound sources. When I rehearse, at the
beginning, I really don’t want to organise things too much. I just want
to mix freely and then, after the first or second try, I listen back to the
recording and say “This part was good”, and then I ask myself why... I
record just for myself, just to see what’s working and what’s not working.
It’s often more about working on specific details of mixing than the relation
of sound sources... it can be better, it can be worse, but it’s really more to
do with getting deeper into technical details - how to play certain sounds,
or if I have certain sound sources, how to abstract them if I want, or seeing
how much I have to keep it concrete... there is always this balance between
playing and listening back.
For Majkowski, in addition to finding details for exploration in his solo playing, recording
enabled him to reflect on his timing, placing notes carefully in relation to one-another
and describing how, working with specific musical materials:
Some days it’s a bit too slow, some days it’s a bit too fast, and then you
realise “OK, so I can’t play it too fast, I can’t play it too slow”. [If it’s too
slow] it kind of stops... If it’s too fast, it doesn’t give you space to experience
it... it loses its finesse, it loses its subtlety, it loses its intimacy.
As opposed to creating recordings of themselves, many others, and especially those
connected to jazz, emphasised the importance of practising by ‘doing’ and always playing
‘in the music’ (in other words, not practising abstract technical exercises), and Rudi
Mahall, Tobias Delius and Els Vandeweyer all dedicated part (or all) of their practise
routines to improvising along to records, primarily of the jazz ‘masters’.
For Delius, from the beginning, and in addition to his uninspiring school clarinet
I started playing... and basically what I was doing was just playing all day...
with the records, or just playing around actually, just trying to make the
thing sound and stuff. I didn’t really have a routine. I had various teachers
over the years and I always had a hard time, still now. Every now and
again I promise myself, “Now get yourself disciplined and go through this
every day”, and it’s not my thing really somehow. I enjoy playing by myself,
practising, but it’s to somehow get yourself to where you’re starting to sweat,
starting to do it... I’ve always wondered what’s wrong with me, because I’d
see other musicians like going through this thing every day... just making
sure that they have this half hour where they do their basic stuff. Somehow
See p. 148.