Just a nice, positive and thoughtful piece of writing from Dave Douglas’s blog about the “dedication, perseverance and honesty” which go into creating an individual voice. He should know….
I’m looking forward to Cheltenham on May 3rd. According to his schedule it’s the only UK date.
“I was sitting in a café yesterday and a recording of Chet Baker came on. Man, I love the way he played! I always have. And I thought to myself: I play the same instrument, but I don’t sound anything like Chet. I don’t think I could if I tried. Not for lack of practice–it’s just not who I am.
A musician has to work hard to sound like anything at all. Just to get a decent sound out of a horn is, to be honest, several years’ work, even for the most naturally gifted players. I could be wrong, but I’d venture that goes for any instrument–acoustic, electric, or electronic.
If a person is going to work that hard to play music, at some point he or she has to choose what to work on. Decisions are made about that practice material, especially in the most intense years of work, when the so-called rudiments have been dealt with. (I say so-called rudiments because every professional musician I know, save one, still practices the basics every day). It’s a formative time, and a player finds a unique path based on those choices.
But no matter what musicians work on, they are still endowed with their own body and with their own life experience. Whether they aspire to sheer originality or to carbon copying kind of doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, they are going to sound like themselves–part of playing music is facing up to that reality. Not that it’s a limitation; there are always infinitely deeper layers to be discovered. But everything one works on, no matter how rote, no matter how repetitive, no matter how creative and transgressive, is ultimately going to be a reflection of oneself. Musicians simply have to work to get better.
Whether or not a musician chooses to strive for an original voice, they are going to remain who they are as long as they continue to work with dedication, perseverance, and honesty.
The paradox is that if you can only sound like yourself, then there’s no way you can be anything but original.”