June 12, 2024


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Interview with Josh Sinton: My insistence that my life is not bifurcated into intellect and soul: Video

Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Josh Sinton. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Josh Sinton: – I grew up in the southern half of New Jersey which is actually a gigantic forest called the Pine Barrens. Like the name implies, it’s a fairly remote region.

There were no artistic outlets where I grew up, so it’s fair to say that I was brutally bored. But my college professor father owned a voluminous record collection and my older brothers were avid fans of their particular musics (rock, heavy metal, punk, new wave). It was the 70’s so I had plenty of time to listen to the same records over and over again. My curiosity has never ceased.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

JS: – How? It got better. Truer. Closer to what it was in my head. Through brute repetition (of long tones, of songs, of exercises, of the sounds around me) I learned more and more what sounds were available to me on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet. And in turn, I found which ones matched what I might be hearing. It was very much like a years-long versions of what Evan Parker called the “biofeedback mechanism” of playing.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

JS: – I like to play along with hip hop MC’s and see if I can I imitate their flow. After watching Ice T’s “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap,” I became obsessed with hiphop MC’s. I had always been fascinated with the DJ and how they worked, but I had neglected all the work done by the rappers. Lately, I’ve been trying to play along with Kendrick Lamar’s lines on “To Pimp a Butterfly.” I’m not very good at it, but it’s been a great way to limber up.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

JS: – I prefer the harmonies that are the truest expressions of the artist using them. That is, they are part and parcel of a good musicians rhythmic sense, linear sense, timbral sense and formal sense. Ran Blake’s harmonies work perfectly for the tempos he uses as well as his particular touch on the piano while Eliane Radigue’s harmonies work better for her pieces. And Pepper Adams could only express the harmonies he uses by using the particular sound and rhythmic expression he developed.

As a teenager, I decided that music would express every possible aspect of my life: the good, the ugly, the interesting, the boring, all of it. As such, I’ve spent time studying the counterpoint of Bach and Josquin as well as the blocks of sound that Pharoah Sanders and Adrian Belew would use. While I run the risk of being a dilettante, I try to make up for it by working more carefully, more slowly and more consciously. Particularly in regards to the goals I’ve set for a specific piece or pieces.

Put yet another way: what is most compelling about Nina Simone? The harmonies she would sing? Or the sound she used to express them?

JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

JS: – My life is a set of disparate events. Why on earth would ever avoid using that? If you’re talking about unwanted influences, that’s simply a matter of focus and patience. Play something. Play it again. Return to it the next day. And the next. Find the thing that is trying to express itself.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

JS: – I have spent all of my life and will spend the rest of it fighting for my insistence that my life is not bifurcated into intellect and soul. Into mind and body. These things coexist at all times. I get excited about ideas and my emotional life has a terrifying rationality and logic that I must embrace in order to survive. The balance is what is already there. Things go out of balance when I stop perceiving my life as a unity.

JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

JS: – I want people to like what I do. I have no idea if they’ll like what I do. I grew up an unpopular person, so I’ve grown used to going my own way. At times I’m joined by others along this way and other times it feels like it’s just me. I try to remain thankful for both the moments of company as well as the moments of solitude.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

JS: – When we stop insisting that jazz is hundreds of songs written primarily in America, primarily by white people, primarily in the first half of the 20th century, then some young people will become interested. Look, this music is instrumental music, rarely sung music. Most people want words in their music. In addition, not knowing what happens from moment to moment is a feature of the music, not a bug. Most people want predictability in their music and they want to apprehend it upon the first listen. By those metrics alone, well over half of humanity is not going to be interested in jazz and creative music. And that’s ok. For the humans that do enjoy it, musicians would do well to grow up and realize that not only do we not have to play old music or music that reminds us of old music, but that the conservative tradition in jazz didn’t always dominate like it does today. When I first started learning about jazz in the 1980’s, it was a big tent with lots of different approaches. That isn’t the case today. At least not in my experience. Until we let young people be themselves, experiment the way they want to experiment and show them that creative music can offer them a rich, encouraging environment for self-expression, we will keep losing their ears.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

JS: – I am not Thomas Merton or Meister Eckhart or Laozi or Hazrat Inayat Khan, so I can not speak well or clearly in regard to the spirit(s) that are part of me. But I do believe I speak compellingly on this matter when using the medium of organized sound. So my records and concerts would be a better place from which to hear my thoughts on this.

I’ve never understood the questions posed about “the meaning of life.” I would love dearly to understand these questions just a little bit.

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

JS: – But I am changing it! Every day when I wake up and make music, I am changing my musical world and making it what I want it to be. Again, my albums and concerts are a better guide to my thinking regarding this.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

JS: – Edgard Varese’s “Deserts,” “Hyperprism” and “Ameriques.” Nate Wooley’s “The Complete Syllables Music.” Coltrane’s “Both Directions at Once.” Dolphy’s “The Complete Last Recordings.” Autechre “NTS.” De La Soul “Buhloone Mindstate.” Josh Modney “Engage.” Morphine’s “Cure for Pain.” Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly.”

JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

JS: – Depends on the piece. Some pieces are about my emotional life (my anger, my happiness, etc.), others are about the formal mechanisms of the music itself. If I accomplish only one thing artistically at the end of my life, I hope it’s a demonstration of my original intent to express the whole of my life as it was lived via the medium of sound.

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

JS: – I just don’t believe in time travel anymore. Sorry. I’m always curious how good artists express notions of time travel, but I can’t look at that imaginary notion too closely or I see all the seams in the idea begin to tear.

JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

JS: – Do you play music?

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. No, I am jazz critic, journalist …

JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

JS: – Pridefully, idiotically, prosaically …

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Картинки по запросу Josh Sinton

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