Art Lande is an institution. Here's an excerpt from his bio just in case you aren't already familiar with his remarkable career.
Grammy-nominated Art Lande is an internationally known pianist, composer, improviser, drummer and educator who has performed with a long list of the Who's Who in jazz, including Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Bobby Hutcherson, Steve Swallow, Charlie Haden, Kenny Wheeler, Sheila Jordan, Mark Isham, Paul McCandless, Jan Garbarek and many others.
His band, Rubisa Patrol, was formed in the mid 70's and worked through 1983, traveling to Europe often and recording with ECM Records.
Students of Art Lande include Eric Deutsch, Colin Stranahan, members of KneeBody, Mike Thies and just about every other great musician to come out of Colorado. Moral of the story: If you're in Colorado, take some lessons with Art Lande. Seriously.
If you've never heard Art Lande and would like a good place to start, here are my recommendations.
Art Lande and Jan Garbarek - Red Lanta
This is Art's first album on ECM. He's all of 26-years-old.
Friday the 13th: Art Lande Plays Monk - Live at Vartan Jazz
Art Lande Solo Piano
Rubisa Patrol - Rubisa Patrol
More people should know this music.
Shift in the Wind - Art Lande, Eliott Zigmund, Gary Peacock
Art Lande/Paul McCandless, Peter Barshay, Alan Hall - Shapeshifter
I also made a record with Art that was released in 2012. I love it. It's really special music. It's all free music. We play like team. I couldn't be happier with how it turned out.
And that's your introduction to Art Lande.
<Special thanks to Andrew Trim who was nice to proof-read this interview for me. Andrew is a great guitarist, composer, and friend currently living in Chicago. Check him out.>
DM: Can we talk about finding balance as a musician – being a whole person. Being a musician that really connects with all of the aspects of their life. I think a lot of musicians have a trouble with that.
AL: I think it’s important to remember that music is not about music – that it’s about life. It’s an expression. It’s a form. It’s just like a language like Portuguese is a language to talk about life. Music is just a language to talk about life. Of course, just as somebody has to learn vocabulary and how to be understood in their language, there are elements of practicing and of learning enough tools in order to be able to communicate. But then, the other part is to remember why you’re learning those things, which is to talk about the life you are living. Therefore, you must live. Connect with nature, connect with beings, connect with yourself, connect with the physical, emotional, spiritual, and the intellectual. If you read a book on philosophy and then play a piece, it’s different than if you haven’t read the book. If you go and hang out by a pond and then play a piece, it’s in there. So, when you get so insular about your art form that everything is self-referencing, then you’re out of touch somehow. In terms of connecting with other people, you should remember that most people don’t know much about music. So, you can’t play music about music. They could care less if you play a minor chord or a diminished scale; that has no meaning to them. If you play the minor chord because of some somber sense of the universe and they feel the somber sense of the universe, they don’t have to know that you’ve used a minor chord. They can just hear that sound from your life experience that’s in common with theirs.
This also applies to the relationships musicians have with each other. What we know and what we don’t know divides us. Instead of integrating us, it can separate us. That fact that somebody knows how to do cool things with their dominant chords and someone doesn’t – you should be able to play together. A lot of times, people don’t do that because it’s all about that instead of, “you touched that note because you’re trying to bring tension.” It’s simpler. It’s not about all of the technique. Somebody might know forty ways to talk about tension and another person might know ten, but that doesn’t matter so much. When it does matter, it’s a problem. Just like the listener , if the players are only playing about music, they feel “I can’t hang with that.” It’s set up to be divisive. It’s set up in a way that says, “this is a certain thing and only certain people that are in to this can get anything out of it.” I think it should be rooted in simpler principals. We should be asking, “Why do you play this slow thing? Why do you play the dissonant note” “Why do you play that kind of exciting rhythm.” It might be in 15/8. I might not even know how many beats there are, or maybe I do, but it’s not the point. We can make beats that are erratic if we are talking about the erratic nature of life as it’s lived.
It’s about realizing when technique or knowledge is used for itself or it’s used to communicate something that’s more universal. It matters most that you’re making something together in a band and that they’re trying to work with your language. Even there, you can have a lot of different so-called levels or kinds of understanding that can exist in even the same group as long as technique is not the point.
I also think that some of these art forms are divisive in a way that is just talking about style. Instead of people worrying about whether it’s folk music or rock music, or reggae, or jazz, or something like that, we can go beyond the style thing as being the most important thing and just be more direct. It’s important to be able to jump over the idea of style things and to really feel what is actually happening. I think that sometimes, whether it’s because of insecurity or people – as you’re saying – not being balanced enough to integrate it with the entirety of their life, it becomes out-of-proportion. The important thing becomes the genre or the specific knowledge that’s needed – to be in the "in" club. Then there’s an "out" club. To me, the art that really speaks is not made of that and it’s available for everyone.
Personally, [when I’m in the audience] I try to go into everything as though it’s there and it’s my opportunity to connect with it. I try to leave my prejudices at home. Instead of asking how one piece is better or worse or more refined or more important than another, I just try to enjoy how yellow looks or crookedness feels.
DM: I think that something that you are particularly good about is creating a space for community and I think a lot of that has to do with what you just said about everyone being allowed to play.
AL: Yeah. It’s an invitation. This is really essential. The arts – or whatever it can be…basketball…it can be everything – are in invitation rather than a challenge. Its not about asking, “can you deal with this.” To come to a concert and say, “Well, if you’re hip enough, you can enjoy my music.” Who needs that? It’s more to say, “I welcome you into this realm and I invite you to have your experience with it. It’s about welcoming rather than intimidation.
DM: Could you talk about the way that you think about being a teacher? I think you’re a great teacher and you have helped a lot of people become better people and musicians, myself included. So, how do you approach teaching.
AL: Well, it’s very similar in the sense that the impetus needs to come from the person who wants to learn or be exposed to something. So, I never advertise my teaching or try to get people to learn from me. It has to come from the person saying, “I would like to learn about this, are you willing to help me with this?” or “Please help introduce me to this world? or “Help me along on my path?” So, pretty much every lesson, I ask, “What would you like to do today?" or “What would be helpful for you?” I think these kinds of questions are important. “What are you interested in? What are you curious about? What are you excited about? What do you want to go deeper into? What are you ignorant about that maybe I can help you to discover?" So, it’s definitely centered on the person who wants to learn and not on the teacher. I’m not sure every teacher works like that. A lot of them teach their things that they want to teach. I think it’s really important that the student is the one who feels the energy and sets the topics and it’s the job of the teacher to keep checking in and asking, “Is this what you want to be doing?” I think it’s important to honor the wisdom in the person.
The other main thing is that I don’t have knowledge, or secrets, or something special that you don’t have. You actually have them. We’re born musical somehow. We’re born with all the knowledge. It’s just about learning to make an environment where it can be accessed and that we do it together. So, it’s not, “I know this and you don’t.” That’s not accurate. I might have a little more experience in something or remember my connection to that a little easier than you. So then to create an environment so that you can come into that – you can be invited in – so you can see it and you can experience it. That’s my job.
We can both be excited about what we can discover. I need to learn in the lesson, too. I don’t just spout my things. It’s more like, “Let’s find out something about long notes, or playing fast” Finally, we forget who’s the teacher and who’s the student. It’s more that we participate in something together. That’s to me the essence of the relationship. It needs to be alive for both people.
It’s an inquiry. I think that’s a key in performing, teaching…actually anything. It’s not an answer. When there’s an answer, then there is right and wrong. When it’s an inquiry, then it’s always a process. We’re actually living something together. This is where there is real energy. Life energy. The rest is just, again, divisive.
(PlAll these things…good, bad, right, wrong, true, false. I think this is the advantage of the arts. The arts aren’t about right and wrong. At least the playing I try to open up is not about that. Like, “When you played that note, how did that affect you?” And it may be different, how it affected you. Well, when you played it, I thought it was funny. When you played it, it made you angry. Cool, man. When you want to make me laugh and you want to feel angry, play that. E-flat. Play that note at that point. And maybe the next time, it will even have a different effect. It’s much more playful. It’s not all this black and white; it’s a lot of different colors.
(Sam Yulsman and I playing a free piece with Art on drums. Sam and I both grew up studying with Art.)
DM: What are your thoughts on being a composer? In music, what do compositions represent for you?
AL: I think there are a couple aspects. To me, the music is flowing all the time. If you start singing, other songs are coming through all the time. I don’t know who’s they are, whether they’re in your head or they're flying through the atmosphere, they’re being sent by Chopin or by a rhinoceros…I have no idea [laughs]. But if you want to go into
the stream, just as there is air flowing or thoughts or anything, there is music playing all the time and you can access it. Sometimes, we can transcribe that and we can fix it. Then it can be something we can work with later. So it’s kind of like canning for the winter. You can actually put it down…freeze it…this moment of the passing music.
It’s just a resource. For me, it’s not that important whether you do that or you don’t do that. I’m kind of neutral on that. There was a time earlier in my life where it was more important because I think I was trying to elucidate things that mattered to me. Now, everything is more or less equal - everything matters to me and in another sense nothing matters. So, to have it just fly past or to grab it for the moment and let it go, this feels appropriate to this time in my life, which is more about letting go of everything – including my own life as I get older and closer to death than I am to birth. So, it’s more about relinquishing and letting go than it is about keeping or showing, “here’s me” or “here what I hear.”
When I was younger, it did help me understand my own sense of the world, because I was trying to grasp that. There was some sense of forming…I was forming. Now I’m falling apart. At that point I was still forming. I was growing. I was still becoming something instead of not something. Also, it was an opportunity for me to create a something that was comfortable for me, because there were less places where I was comfortable. So, I would make these worlds where I could breathe well and I could express myself. My compositions were a place that I could live rather than always having to live in the worlds of other peoples’ songs and places where I was - in varying degrees – uncomfortable. It’s like building your own little “huts” or places to play. “Here’s my idea of a playhouse. It has a high ceiling and it’s this temperature.”
Also, most of my pieces are dedicated to something. A piece is also an acknowledgment. [You can] go on a walk in a certain time of year and then come home and be filled up with that and hear the song of that. You can just improvise it and let it go away like the walk goes away or you can write the poem about it or write the piece about it. In almost a devotional way, you’re saying, “I honor that.” And also, I want to share that experience without having to talk about it. I talk about it through the music or through the poem or through the painting. You can visit that with me even though you weren’t there.
DM: Something that is inspiring to me about your path is that you have been able to maintain very long musical relationships with people.
AL: These are life-long friends – someone like Bruce Williamson or Mark Miller. These are people I met forty years ago and we were young and learning together about music. [We were] finding out about music together and playing each other’s songs. [We were] finding out about relationships, marriages, divorces, and babies. I remember Mark – soon after I met him – we went to Yosemite and he had Aaron – who is now thirty-four; my older boy – on his back. We had only known each other a few months, but we went on this weekend together. Then, last Sunday, we played a gig together with Aaron who is not three months old anymore.
So, the reason that they are long musical relationships is because they’re long relationships. Because we keep producing life energy: heart, joy, challenge, truth. It’s a wellspring that never ends. It’s still fun and exciting and crazy and beautiful to be together. And when we play music, it has all that in it.
DM: Were there any important mentors that helped you form your ideas about life and music?
AL: Well, yeah…my mind just floods. In the music area, I think of my Dad who was a kind of jazz piano player. That wasn’t his profession when I was growing up, but he would play every Sunday for a couple of hours and I would lie on the couch and listen. He would play all of the standards. They went in me. I kind of liked it. I didn’t have to do anything…I would just lay there and listen and every once in a while, I could play a little bit with him.
Another man we called Uncle that wasn’t really an uncle, but a very close family friend. He was also a pianist. He hardly ever played, but he played such gorgeous chords. He was the station manager of a radio station in New York and he would bring me records – Oscar Peterson, Errol Garner, Marian McPartland. So, that was a lot of my education of hearing jazz was through the records he’d bring. Then he’d sit at the piano and he played so different than my Dad – my Dad had this really bombastic style – and he played so gentle and so naturally. He didn’t even know really what he was doing, but he a great ear and a beautiful touch somehow without much training. I would just listen to him play.
Then, my classical teacher was Joe Conn who played with the NBC symphony. He was a fantastic classical musician. He was just a friend of the family – he lived down the block. My Dad was kind of a hard guy, but Joe was so sweet and so nice. A lesson with Joe, I mean, he had so much knowledge, but he was so generous with me. I’m a bad student. I didn’t practice enough. I’m still bad at arpeggios because I don’t like practicing these hard things that aren’t fun…that aren’t so musical. I’d hardly practice the arpeggios or this one piece that I didn’t like or was too hard and he’d say, “Oh, well it’s getting better. You know, things take time.” And I would feel like a moron. Like, “I should practice more. Joe is so nice and he should be telling me I’m full of it and instead he’s saying, ‘It’s ok.’” It was just the opposite of my Dad who would yell at me. That generosity was so great and it would inspire me to practice more. He didn’t make me into some prodigy; he was more interested in how beautiful the melodies were or in bringing out different voices because they sounded nice. [With him] I played a lot of Chopin and Bach and because he was so into the beauty of it, I could enjoy the music instead of it being about whether I was any good or not. He would always say it was good even when I played bad. So, that was a very good environment.
Also, he was my friend. I could go over to his house and sit around. And when I got excited about jazz I could go over to his house and play him things that I like and he would say, “That’s great. I never learned jazz like that” or “I really liked that piece.” He was just so encouraging and good-hearted. It was about the spirit of the music and not just about getting great.
DM: Were there any other teachers – maybe as you got older – that were really helpful.
AL: There was actually a teacher before Joe. He was a little bit of a hard-ass, but he was good, too. His name was Morton Estrin. After Joe, I didn’t study at all for a long time. I took music in college, but it was more just classes about common practice harmony and stuff like that. I didn’t take private lessons again until I was twenty-five. From eighteen until twenty-five I didn’t take a lesson.
Then, I was living in San Francisco and I was driving by the San Francisco Conservatory and not even knowing why, I pulled my car over and I parked and I went in and there was this class in progress. [It was being taught by] this guy named Bill Mathieu, who later was called Allaudin Mathieu who was the arranger for Stan Kenton for years and subsequently a teacher at Mills College. [He was] really a master of harmony and someone who could teach improvisation well and had a lot of knowledge about overtones and things I didn’t really know a lot about. So, I walked into this class and people were doing this thing called, “News of the Week in Review.” A person would play a piece and they had to play it about something they had experienced in life. Like, “I had an argument with my Grandmother” or something like that and during the piece – the improvised piece - they had to say the sentence that told what it was very clearly. They had to make a commitment to what the piece was about. It was a fascinating class. It was really great. After the class ended, I meekly went up to him...maybe not totally meekly...because I was already playing with Joe Henderson and Woody Shaw and people like that. But, something hit me about the way that this guy taught and his energy and I said, “I think I could learn something from you if you’d let me” and he said, “Sure, come on.” Then I studied with him for six months every week. I mostly learned about voice leading and harmony and overtones and these were really…they completely changed my playing and my perception of music as well as informed the way I teach as well. [I remember] that when he told me about the overtone series, I got so angry. It was like, “How could I be a musician for all of the years and nobody ever told me that?” It’s like the birds and the bees of music. It’s the science of what is sound. I was so grateful to him for showing me that.
I played for him the first lesson and he said, “Well, I’ll never be able to play jazz like you - you’re an amazing jazz player – but you’re only hearing about a quarter of the music you’re playing. He said, “Play a chord” and I played a chord. Then he said, “Just sing the second highest note.” I couldn’t. Then he said, “Just sing the bottom note.” I couldn’t. I could only sing the top one. Then, he said, “Well, it’s amazing that you play what you’re playing, you don’t even hear it. Also, you’re missing out on three-quarters of the music.” And I said, “Wow, I want to hear more. That sounds exciting.” So, we worked on all these kind of ear training exercises and physical exercises. I played five-part Bach fugues and I had to sing all the parts. He helped me come more into the life…feeling my fingers on the keys and the shapes I was making and understanding the music intellectually and then relating it all to overtones. It just made it more actual. That was an explosion for me. And after six months, he said, “Well, I could teach you counter-point, but you actually understand it perfectly without me giving you all the technical things. I’ve shown you everything I know and you seem to get it, so have fun now. Bye.” So, that was my time with Allaudin.
We’ve stayed really close friends and he comes when I play concerts near where he lives in Northern California and he kisses me after the sets and tells me how wonderful it is. If I show him my chorals or something that came really out of his lessons, he just laughs and says, “These are all jokes.” He said, “You trick our ears and then you make it seem like something is happening, but you’re making jokes.” He was just playing through them and laughing the whole time and I thought that was really fun, because he basically opened up that world for me. So I’d say he was the most important teacher I’ve ever had.
Then, there are all the players I’ve played with and continue to play with that have things to teach me. The famous ones…Gary Peacock and Charlie Haden,Tom Rainey and Ralph Alessi…I’ve learned something from all of them. Even the ones that are much younger than me, like you or Amy Shelly. They teach me something whether it’s patience or simplicity. [There are] all kinds of mentors. Even when a person knows hardly anything, they might be more adept at something than you. They have more insight into energy or wildness or low notes or something [laughs]. “Yeah, man…this person really plays some low notes. So, these times of playing in bands, with great players, touring, or recording, you learn some things that you can take with you. It’s a cast of thousands, actually.
DM: Is there anything you would like to say about your time playing with some of the better-known players? Maybe what you learned from playing with that kind of player.
AL: Well, the bass players, for instance. I was thinking of both Charlie [Haden] and Gary [Peacock]. Although I’m not saying that those were the most successful collaborations. As far as successful collaborations go, I think of Bill Douglas in San Francisco, Johannes Weidenmueller, and Dwight Kilian who I played with a lot longer and went a lot deeper and further with. But, just the sense with those bassists that they were the “Lords of the Underworld” and that I had no idea what notes that they were ever going to play or even what beats they might play on – Kent McLagan is another one. So, it really forced me to be collaborative. It wasn’t good enough for me to know the song or read the chart. I had to actually be present to deal with what they were making. I had to be totally on it, listening, paying attention, being smart, and leaving space. “Ok, he did that, what am I going to do? I have no idea, so I’m just going to be silent. Now, I’m just going to hold this note and see what happens.” They forced me into present time of listening and working with what they put out there because they were so inventive…so courageous about their choices. So, that was really inspiring.
The drummers…Tom Rainey, Eddie Marshall, Alan Hall, and Zakir Hussain…Some of these people are so adept with rhythm, so really they can play anything against anything – Tony Moreno is another one. So, if they are taking eight bars or something and I don’t pay amazing attention and really keep track of what’s going on, I have absolutely no clue of where I am. [It’s surprising] how easy it is to get thrown because they’re so amazing at playing what they play and keeping form. I have to be completely focused and if not, in one second I’m completely lost.
Eddie Marshall was so kind to me when I was young. He’d play sixteen bars and I’d come in on the wrong beat and then afterwards, I’d say, “Eddie, how do you put up with me” and he’d say, “You’re doing great. Everything sounds great. Don’t worry about it” Again, that kindness…when I knew that I was barely hanging on for dear life to play with this guy.
I remember having a rehearsal here at my house with Tom Rainey and in the middle of his solo realizing I had no clue and then coming in and him getting kind of mad. I realized that if I’m going to play during his solo, I better play my entrance correctly because he’s building this whole thing based on the fact that I’m going to play my kicks in the right places. So, either I lay out and just admit that I have no chance or I really do it well. He’s building his house upon that foundation. He’s so skilled and also so dynamically and emotionally involved in what he’s playing that if I come in on the “and of one” instead of “one” that the whole solo makes no sense. It doesn’t work.
I was thinking of Chet Baker. It was not that long before he died and he wasn’t well, but just the way that he would sit by me when I soloed and listen to my solo with the same intensity that he played. No difference. That it was the music and it was the piece and that he valued my contribution at such an essence level.
Also, just how integrated he was. You know, this thing about singing through your instrument. That all through the evening, I couldn’t tell whether he was playing his trumpet or singing. I play a lot with my eyes closed and I would think, “Oh, Chet’s singing now” and it would be the trumpet. I was tricked every time. It was amazing how completely he had made the trumpet his voice so that it sounded exactly like when he sang. That was unbelievable to me. Also, I could try to track his melodies – and he’s more or less a mainstream player – but so original, so intuitive in his playing. You could never pigeonhole him. I would think, “Oh, I know what he’s going to do here. He’s going to hit a G.” He would never hit the G. I was wrong ever time and I loved being wrong every time. It meant that I hadn’t played with him enough, but it also meant that he wasn’t just formulaic. Then, when he would hit the “Ab” instead of the “G” I would say, “Oh, of course. It’s a more alive note. He’s going to play that!” But I would be wrong most of the time and I can usually intuit these things. I loved it, because it meant that he was completely in the moment. Then, what he ended up doing would be way more eloquent than what you would think he would do. That gave me tremendous respect for him as an improviser. All that. The whole thing.
The humbleness of him and Kenny Wheeler, Lee Konitz, and Ron Miles. These people are so humble. It just breaks my heart in the best of ways. To be recording with Kenny Wheeler and have him play this killer solo…this unbelievable solo… and to have him say, “Well, this take is probably ruined by a car horn or something, because this is the first thing I’ve played in this session that is worth anything and this probably won’t be usable.” Then we listened to the take and we couldn’t use it for some reason and he said, “Told you!”
These people that everybody admires and wishes they could play like and they just think they’re just so flawed that they don’t deserve to be playing at all. They can’t imagine why anyone would want to listen to them. Chet saying after the gig, “Why are the clapping? I played so badly.” Lee Konitz…same kind of thing. How completely self-effacing they are. It’s totally amazing to them that anyone would even want to play with them or listen to what they do. These things are inspiring. They help me.
Or Barr Phillips…wow. Doing a whole tour of improvised music with him and how challenging it was to play with him, because he doesn’t play like a bass player. He doesn’t hold any tones. He plays melodies the whole time. “Well, how do I play with that?” To spend those weeks trying to figure out how to intersect with that and work with that…this kind of earthquake that’s going down below you. Dave Holland is similar. These bassists that play a lot of motion...Paul Warburton. How do I stabilize in the face of this fantastic musician who’s doing something I’m not used to? How do I find balance while playing with this person? You just have to be present and keep sensing how to make it work. They’re such forces and they have such a clear way of playing. They’re kind of uncompromising…it’s just the way they play. I want to be able to make music with them, but I can’t run my old stuff. I have to find what really works with that.
And while I’m doing that process, Barr is staying at my house and then one morning, he takes Otis [Art’s son]. Otis is one or two-years old at the time. We wake up in the morning and Otis is gone with Barr and there’s a note from Barr saying, “I took Otis out for an adventure,” and he’s gone all day. I thought that was incredible. He comes home and says he says, “We had a great time.” Otis was smiling. It was amazing that he had made that bond with my son. And then Otis ends up becoming a bass player. Maybe it’s because of that day. Who knows?
DM: What are your feelings as to what we do as musicians - and in particular, as musicians who play art music – why that is something that is important to society?
AL: Well, I’m not sure that it’s important to society, actually. I just think that it seems to serve a need – no matter how small – a specific need in some people to express their being in a really direct and poetic way. People – for some of us, it’s important to have a potent and direct way to tell how life is…in action. To enact who they are and what they’re sensing in a form…whether it’s painting or poetry…and the arts are a way of doing that. [They] are languages that are… how can I say? - in some ways more specific and in some ways less specific than normal conversation. So, we need a kind of non-verbal – and I think of poetry as being non-verbal just because we’re using language as sound and using language in sometimes non-linear ways. Were we can just kind of tell the truth of our existence without having to tell it in linear language way. And then we can have these discussions in these forms, like in music or in mixed media – mixed arts and we can commune in that way. So, in that sense, for those of us who have that need and joy in doing that, it’s a way of us getting together. And then for the people who are not participating directly in that language, for them to get a chance to be a part of that through witnessing it, whether it’s reading something or going to a performance or hearing a CD or whatever. To participate in that discussion by allowing the things to play on their inner beings – emotional and some other parts of their being that aren’t purely intellectual or practical. That’s what I think the other side is…the work or commercial world of things, where things are done. You know, you do this and you get that. But these things are not about that. They’re more about, “What is it like to be alive?” and they’re not particularly goal-oriented. They’re an exchange of energy in a kind of simpler state. Kind of like animals – they’re physical and emotional…I don’t know…aesthetic or something…they’re not practical and their not “getting stuff done.” That’s how I see it. So, in that sense, it does fill a need, however again, I’m not sure it’s important, but it is essential somehow.
DM: So then, largely what’s important in society – in the relationship between the arts and society - is the connections that people are allowed to make through the process.
AL: Exactly, the present time that you can enter of, “that makes me feel like that” and to acknowledge that. If you’re doing it, you can say, “It makes me feel like that, therefore I make a loud sound.” That you’re actually, in the moment, able to respond in very primal ways in the communal arts like that. And in the private arts of painting and writing, then you can say, “I’m going to put more yellow onto this canvas – it makes me feel good when it drips and it looks like that – that’s what I feel like doing.” Or when you look at it, you feel the freedom in the expression or the joy or the pain, whatever it is that you can connect with. It’s more open ended. It’s not what your supposed to do…you’re allowed to sense it in a more personal way than, “turn that cam-shaft so that the car will run.” Which is very directly about getting a job done – you do this and that happens. But when you throw the yellow paint, one person might feel joy and another person might feel disgust and another person might feel very little at all. This open-endedness seems to be part of our essential humanity.
DM: So, then how can we continue to develop the connections that we’re able to make in society? I’m frustrated, because I’ve noticed that a lot of improvised music is still performed in bars and clubs and I think that is more representative of where we’ve been than where we are now.
AL: I agree with you, but that’s changing. That’s not where I mostly play, for instance - even internationally. I play at people’s homes, at little community centers, churches and rooms. [In] New York, more and more, there are just rooms. It’s just a room. There is nothing in it. It’s just a place where people can make things. In Santa Fe, my friend, Bruce Dunlop has a place that is called, “Gig.” It’s just a room. [Also] realize that we don’t need alcohol and all of these distractions. We don’t need commerce. Just charge $10 or $5 or whatever people can pay.
I’m doing a concert series at a church in Boulder with the Boy/Girl Band called “Deep Listening.” People can come to the church and sit and feel things through music. Just as they would go to meditate in a church for spiritual reasons.
So, I think these things are changing. It’s up to the artists and then the people who have spaces – all you need is a space, right? People just need to start asking things like, “Hey, would you like to use your furniture store in the evenings for poetry. It’s happening, actually. It’s happening more and more.
So, the creativity has to not only be in the music or the poetry or the drama, but also in answering the questions, “How do we want to present this?” And we can ask our friends and neighbors, “Hey, would it be fun for you to sponsor this or let us use your space? Then, people can see your store. You can have the fun thing of having music in your store or your house or your garage. Many kinds of spaces are being used like that. It’s moved away from being about getting away from something – going to the bar and getting drunk. Instead of it being a relief from normal life, it can function now more like a retreat like we do for mediation or spiritual awakening or joining. I think of all these as kind of churches. Places where stuff can happen and people can commune together in these very simple ways. They’re not doctrinaire, which is what I like about it. I mean, hopefully their not – I guess they are sometimes, but because it’s not about language and its so open how its interpreted, if you just make noises or play music or just say words or do movements, its not trying to convince someone, “don’t believe in this” or "believe in that." It’s a lot more open ended.