Clarke Reid - July 25th, 2010
Beauty in Simplicity
Whenever I sit down at a piano to play by myself just for fun, I find myself drawn to simple, beautiful melodies and harmonies over and over again. While I listen to and like a lot of different styles of music, the music that I continue to return to is characterized by beautiful simplicity. Simplicity can sometimes be bland and uncreative. But at its best, simplicity is brutally, sometimes uncomfortably honest and emotional. It is stripped of all excess. Simplicity can also serve as a vehicle for deeper musical exploration. For example, simple instrumentation (i.e. just one or two instruments) allows the performer and the audience to experience more fully the delicate nuances of the sound of the instrument(s).
Side theme – Breaking barriers between performer and audience
Simplicity is also a powerful method for involving audiences in music. In my life, music has always been an extension of social interactions and relationships and often vice versa. I’ve come to know music as a very powerful way of relating to people – musicians and non-musicians alike. I’ve also found that often one of the most difficult aspects of being a successful musician is conveying ideas you feel strongly about effectively to other people. Simplicity is sometimes (although certainly not always) useful for presenting ideas to other people in a way they can digest.
My set and the jam:
Firstly, considering the side theme, I encourage everyone to participate directly at any time, during the set or the jam. If you feel like playing or singing or contributing something at any time, please do. You could also, for example, decide to stop playing and leave the ‘stage’ during a piece if you don’t want to play anymore.
Music can be simple in a variety of ways. For my set, I will focus mostly on melodic and harmonic simplicity because these are things I find particularly powerful and rewarding, and often difficult (especially because for a long time as a music student, I was pushed constantly to be more complicated). Here are some examples of beauty in simplicity that have been influential to me:
Bad Plus (Aphex Twin) – Flim http://students.washington.edu/ckreid/Racer/the%20bad%20plus%20-%20flim.mp3
Brad Mehldau – Live in Tokyo Intro http://students.washington.edu/ckreid/Racer/Brad%20Mehldau%20-%20Intro.mp3
Oh, Freedom (weird recording, sorry – it’s the best I have) http://students.washington.edu/ckreid/Racer/Pharoahe%20Monch%20-%20Intro.mp3
Smashing Pumpkins – Landslide http://students.washington.edu/ckreid/Racer/ Smashing%20Pumpkins%20-%20Landslide.mp3
D’Angelo – Devil’s Pie http://students.washington.edu/ckreid/Racer/ D%27Angelo%20-%20Devil%27s%20Pie.mp3
Hugh Masekela – Nomali http://students.washington.edu/ckreid/Racer/Hugh%20Masekela%20-%20nomali.mp3
Miles Davis – Silent Way http://students.washington.edu/ckreid/Racer/ Miles%20Davis%20-%20In%20A%20Silent%20Way- It%27s%20About%20That%20Time.mp3
My set will start with a few short pieces by myself (some including singing, something I’ve just recently been experimenting with) and finish with some pieces that involve everyone present.
My set will present one understanding of simplicity but for the jam I expect everyone to have their own interpretation. However, I hope everyone will really take the axiom “less is more” to heart. This doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be fast or dense playing, just that when in doubt, keep it simple. I also encourage everyone to explore creative, musical ways to involve the audience, literally or more indirectly.
Lastly, I highly encourage everyone to bring or invite inquisitive “non-musician” friends that haven’t been to Racer before. – AND – come prepared with a short poem and short melodic phrase you’ve written.