Herbie Hancock, on attitude.

One of my Crafty contacts shared this video, hosted on Facebook, of Herbie Hancock, talking about attitude.

The clip is a treasure.  Hancock relates a story from his Miles Davis days, in which he hears himself play a chord “…that was so wrong, I thought I had just destroyed everything, and reduced that great night to rubble.”

In short, Miles, without blinking, saved the “wrong” chord with his own playing, and it took Hancock years to figure out how that had happened.  What at first seemed like pure “magic”, he eventually sorted out this way:

Here’s what happened.

I judged what I had played.

Miles didn’t.  Miles just accepted it as something new that happened.

There’s more, and the clip is worth seeing in toto, but that’s the crux.

Marvelous.  So marvelous I’m not sure it in any way diminishes the “magic” to realize how Miles did it.  (Actually, I’d argue that you can hear that, in Hancock’s humility, as he tells the story.)  And what a great reminder that any musician’s greatest tool is and always will be his ear.



Adam Neely, monster of observation.

I’ve spoken of Adam Neely before, and I keep up with his channel pretty regularly, but frankly this effort just seems like required posting.

Good lord, so many wonderful observations in there.  Clearly I’m going to have to get my hands on the Bernstein “Young People’s Concert” series, about which I’ve heard a little bit before, just for my own kids’ sake.

And this is a great illustration of how solidly Neely seems to have found his niche, too.  He seems to have started primarily as a “bass guy”, but has grown his work gradually into the advance-vanguard observationist role that nobody else does quite the same–nor as well.  Others of course have their moments of great observation, but Neely has grown essentially to live in that space, and at this point I understand implicitly that this is why I go to him in the first place. “New Horizons In Music”, indeed!

And what’s further interesting is that I realized , with this video, that this sort of content is what modern, Internet-age television can be.  I mean duh, that sort of seems obvious in hindsight, but still, a fair epiphany for someone who has seen a world go from “thirteen channels of shit on the TV to choose from (choose from…choose from…)”–to “fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on”–to the truly geometric explosion of the open Internet, in a remarkably short time.  I think this makes it both all the more notable, and all the more inevitable:  in a way, as the signal-to-noise ratio goes down further and further over time, the dreckening seems actually to leave more room for this sort of excellence;  the trick of course is often simply finding it.  (And that obtuse notion really warms this nonarchist peacenik’s heart.  🙂  )

One other point of seeing happened as well, watching this:  I think I would now feel comfortable making the case that Adam Neely is now a fully formed heir apparent to Leonard Bernstein.  Somehow, just watching each one, in the same video, the idea just jumped off the screen at me, and the more I think about it the more convinced I am.  Not only are their presentation styles remarkably similar (adjusted slightly of course for their respective moments in historical time), but they both radiate the wonderfully childlike (and humble) instructor-joy that the best instructors in any discipline do.  The irony there of course is that trying to describe and deconstruct that comparison–beyond simply observing, “just watch–you can see it if you look”–would require the same sort of skill that Neely himself has in that regard.

And I’ll not even attempt that.  🙂



Polyrhythm graphic.

There’s a programming experiment and educational resource in here somewhere, I am sure.


Pretty cool, no?  Maybe I can devise a programming experiment as a collaboration with my daughter (who’s just becoming interested in programming), with some basic utility tools like lighting up one or more of the polygons at a time (and therefore ignoring others), slowing it down, providing counts at sync-up moments–etc.  I suspect it will be worth it as an educational tool for grokking polyrhythms, and possibly other things too.  (Yes, I are a geek.)

Found via the TwitFace, as posted on Imgur, and reproduced here for bookmarking and attribution.

Bobby McFerrin, just killin’ the point.

I have long felt that just about everybody “knows” basic music theory, even if they don’t have fancy names to go with the concepts.  Some things in life just tap directly into the human hindbrain.  I try to describe it, usually along these lines:  “Look, I could sit down and play a simple sequence of chords in a room full of ‘tone-deaf noobs’ , and yet everyone in that room will know–know–if I end the sequence ‘correctly’, or if I botch it.”  Seems to make sense to me, but I still get blank stares.

Well.  Perhaps my problem is that I use too many words* to try and make that point.  Behold the glorious gift of nature that is Bobby McFerrin, who needs no words at all to demonstrate what I would argue is very nearly the same idea.

Wow.  Just–wow.  It’s almost impossible for me, as an instructor and an advocate, not to get juiced when the audience responds perfectly to each successive, unannounced note.

I’m delighted to be able to point to such a great example of the “everyone understands already” idea, but hell, part of it is just the joy of watching a true master at work.  And McFerrin is at least that.  I recall vividly the first time I got to see him live;  he had a set at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2005, which was awesome enough on its own (at that time I had some–some–idea of what he could do), but it was the usual TBF cross-pollinations that really took it beyond the planet.  When he came out and sat in with the trio of Béla Fleck, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Stanley Clarke (!!!), I figured it would be something spectacular, and it most certainly was!  But the actual high point, believe it or not, was when he guested on Alison Krauss’ set;  he said he wanted her to sing a particular tune of hers (don’t recall now what it was), and she agreed…and then Union Station (Krauss’ backing band, one of the most accomplished in the genre), clearly in on whatever this deal was, left the stage.  She seemed both giddy, to be singing with one of her heroes, and also a bit terrified, not to have her usual crew behind her, and not quite sure what was going to happen…but she took a deep breath and started singing…

And McFerrin “played” all the band’s parts, with his voice, at the same time, against Krauss’ vocal.  It was absolutely stunning;  I have never seen anything remotely like it.

So, by all means take the point from Bobby McFerrin, instead of from me.  Believe me, I don’t mind that a bit.  🙂

* No snickering, now.