May 18, 2024

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Interview with Edward Simon: In general, I tend to go more with what I feel: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist and composer Edward Simon․ An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – When you improvise, you know where you’re going. It’s a matter of taking certain paths and certain directions?

Edward Simon: – There are many ways one can think of improvisation. One of the ways I like to think about it is that we have a pre-set of boundaries that we explore all the possibilities found within such boundaries and how we might be able to stretch them. A tune provides a set of boundaries to work with: a melody, a harmonic progression-or “changes” as we like to call them in jazz- and feel. The more we know the tune the stronger our anchor, and the stronger our anchor the more chances we can take. When improvising, it’s ok and useful to have a general map, with the understanding that we could veer away from it at any moment. What paths and directions you take are decisions made in the moment that result from the special circumstances of a given performance: the musicians on stage, the hall, the instrument, audience, etc…

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

ES: – This depends on the kind of performance and the material in question. Preparing for a classical music performance, or any music leaning in that direction, requires a different kind of focus from a jazz performance, or material that is mostly improvised. I would say, in both cases I like to immerse myself in the music to a point where I feel intimately connected with it, striving to reach a point where the music flows out of me naturally, always finding the balance between familiarity and a sense of discovery.

I personally maintain a formal meditation practice. This helps me to keep attuned to what is happening, gain a wider perspective on things and the cultivation of a receptive quality of mind needed for creative practice.

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

ES: – I’m ok with giving them what they want so long as it is something I too want. I have to be true to myself first. If I’m not being honest with myself then there is no sense in sharing it.

JBN: – How important is it to you to have an original approach? Can you comment on the bridge between being a musician and being a composer?

ES: – Originality is of course important. If what you have to offer is not original, then it will not have much impact in the larger scheme of things. Originality evolves from the development of and trust in your own sense of what sounds good to you. I believe composition plays a large role in developing an original sound. Composition and improvisation are intrinsically related. If you want to sound a certain way, you must create the composition which best lends itself to play a certain way.

JBN: – Do you have an idea of what it is you’re trying to say or get across? Is it an idea or is it just something that we feel?

ES: – This of course can be different for everyone. In general, I tend to go more with what I feel. I’m trying to translate a feeling through my work. However, a composition can be born from and shaped by an idea. If a work involves words, whether spoken or sung, this can make it easier to translate an idea. Ultimately though, the idea itself is not as important as what you do with it. How you convey an idea is what makes your work unique.

JBN: – What do you see for your extended future? You know what you have going on? You have life? If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

ES: – In terms of my artistic work, I intend to place more focus on my work as pianist and plan to release solo piano recordings. Currently I’m working on the next Steel House album (a collaborative trio with Scott Colley and Brian Blade).

I guess the one thing I would change about the musical world is the unfair payout system of streaming services. While it is really great that anyone with a device and an internet connection can easily access anyone’s music, I believe we need to have a more fair compensation system  given the way people consume music on devices. We need to bring about an awareness of the fact that actual peoples’ livelihoods depend on this. I envision a world where all artists, no matter their status, are paid fairly for use or consumption of their work.

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

ES: – I will continue to do what I’ve been doing most of my life which is to create, perform and produce original music, and educate others on how to do this, and make use of the tools made available today by technology to bring this message across to as many people as possible: artist and audience, we depend on each other.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Edward Simon: This Buddhist Life - Tricycle: The Buddhist Review

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