July 21, 2024

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Interview with Gordon Grdina: There are just different individuals and how they hear and experience music: Video

Interview with a bad musician, as if oudist Gordon Grdina. An interview by email in writing.

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

Gordon Grdina: – I grew up in Vancouver, BC on the west coast of Canada. I started playing piano at 7 and guitar at 9. I always loved music but got really into the blues and improvising at 12 this lead to Jazz and music from other cultures.

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

GG: – My sound developed out of my trying to emulate the music I loved. First with Stevie Ray Vaughan in my early teens which set the basis for a more heavy handed approach to the instrument. I then became extremely excited about the great jazz guitar players of the 90’s like Pat Metheny, Scofield, Abercrombie and especially Bill Frisell. That lead me to Jim Hall who I think was probably the most influential. I spent most of my university trying to sound like Bill Evans and Jim Hall. I think by trying to emulate players you find out that you can’t and then sometimes those things that make it so that you can’t are what are most you. I was also much more interested in piano players especially Keith Jarrett, Paul Bley and later Masibumi Kakuchi. All of these influences and sounds have since developed into something I think is personal.

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

GG: – Well I’ve been working a lot with right hand finger technique for the last year or so as I’ve got a solo classical guitar/oud record coming out later this year. I spent a lot of time working on poly rhythms between my thumb and fingers and also finger independence etc… my usual technique is pick and fingers so using the thumb and index finger is new and I practiced most of the regular classical guitar techniques. For rhythm when my son was young and needed me to rock him to sleep and later be in the room while he settled I would tap out poly-rhythms between different limbs. Right hand left foot, left hand right foot, switching large and small rhythm etc… a lot of 5/4 or 3 or 7 and 9 over 4 or 3. It helped to hear and develop new rhythms and ideas for composing.

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

GG: – Hmm I’m not sure how to answer this or what you’re looking for… I have a lot of different influences and they all sort of colour everything in some way? I don’t really try anything but rather imaging the musicians I’m writing for and then listen to what I think they would sound like together. I usually hear some music and then try and write that down. I then follow that forward to what should come next or what other possibility I could hear the musicians playing etc. In this way the differing influences are coming out as music and not as intellectual ideas that I’m trying to force together. I think this leads to a more natural combining or juxtaposing of influences so I don’t end up trying to prevent or push anything.

JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

GG: – Now I try and get some sleep… I also try and be alert before so that I can be aware of the music that’s being played and be a part of it. So I usually have an espresso. But for years I was off caffeine so I just put cold water on my face and would focus. When I was younger I did a lot of meditation and concentrated practice to be present and aware but not pushing or leading. This made it so I was ok being present and realizing that listening was an active state to be in. This meditation of practiced attention to listening allowed for the space to be created within so that I could hear what needed to be played.

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

GG: – All music is a combination of both of these ideas and they both inform the other there really isn’t any splitting them apart. One is not better or worse than the other. There are just different individuals and how they hear and experience music.

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

GG: – Hmm this is a loaded question because it delves into music as entertainment and music as an almost therapeutic endeavor.  I feel like this music isn’t about entertainment as much as it is about having the audience delve into a world with us and live there for a bit. That can end up being a healing, joyous or uncomfortable place depending on who you are. So I think this music asks a lot of the listener to be involved and fully focus because it is intense and complex yet on the surface much of it is physically pleasing. I’m not interested in entertainment although I do appreciate entertaining music as much as the next person but I don’t get excited or fulfilled playing music for that role. As a musician I think you make the music that you love and you create an audience for that music and then “giving the people what they want” takes on a different meaning.

JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

GG: – The studio session for this album and its follow up that we just recorded this month both only took 4 hrs each.

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

GG: – Don’t play standard tunes if it doesn’t ring true for you.  Play music that personally means a lot and others will get it.

Music and art need to be taught in schools on the same level as other subjects because its expression understanding and practice is severely lacking in the general population. If people had outlets to create and express themselves there would be a lot less pain, suffering and ill will in the world. Art makes you empathetic and is a missing component that a lot of people are searching for. Also if more people had a general understanding and love of music and art in general it would become a more important part of their everyday lives.

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

GG: – I agree with that and feel that music best expresses what could be thought of as spirit.

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

GG: – That governments would spent half as much as they do on socialized warfare as they do on socialized arts.

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

GG: – I listen to a lot of my friends albums mostly, but recently a lot of Howlin Wolf, Paul Bley, and Turkish Psychedelic.

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

GG: – Hmm I’m not sure … I think to listen and trust yourself and to try and keep optimistic.

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

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

JBN: – Please read your interview 🙂

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Gordon Grdina, Kenton Loewen, and François Houle build improvised ...

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