Thinking about thinking back on the year that was and thinking ahead to the year to be, I received an email this morning from someone who quoted a post I had made on a short-lived blog I had on Live Journal several years ago. It read:
Beginning to study jazz piano reminds me of when I began to paint (or try) abstract paintings. It was hard. I knew before I went to art school that I wanted to do abstraction, but my studies in school were all based on learning, using color, to create form, mass and space from objects placed before us, as students. The focus was on color, using it in ways that we choose, in ways that would create an object in actual space—the space part being as important as the object. What I wanted to do was to use the same understanding of the elements without the external references.
People often think abstraction is easy: no image, no thought. But it is very difficult. No image; no references, nothing to fall back on. Just what’s on the canvas. Just the paint itself. When there is something out there, an image to represent, it’s more about the image, even if it is distorted, rearranged, inverted. It’s still a familiar image. There is often nothing familiar about an abstract painting. Except, perhaps, the history that brought it to fruition and, perhaps, emotions it generates. But then, everyone’s emotions are different. There isn’t one “proper” reaction to “no image.”
With jazz I’m having to learn scales again, just like I’m beginning music lessons for the first time. Then there is the basic “rules” of how harmonies work in a jazz piece. Then there is the “putting it together” part. I’m used to reading two lines of music at once, the bass and treble clefs. Here I am given just one line, the melody, and the rest is up to me. It’s definitely opening up some new brain cells. After my first lesson, I thought I could come home a play some jazz pieces. That was mistake number one. I might have some understanding now of what the elements are that make up a piece of jazz music, but I have a lot to learn, AND REMEMBER, before I have any fluency in the process. Interesting.
Interesting to me now because I have recently been studying jazz piano again. This time, with a book a friend gave me several years ago. Just the book, the piano and me. For all the years in between that post and now, I’ve been resisting making the effort it takes to learn the basics, but currently it feels exhilarating, just studying theory, learning scales, chords, progressions. The basics. So. . . looking forward. . .