The Forest For The Trees

Today I realized that the way I want to experience music is the way my 12-year old self was learning and experiencing music before the idea was educated out of me.

To begin, let me say I totally value all of the musical education I have received in my life. I would not subtract any aspect of my private tuition or higher ed training.

I do wish that somehow through it all I would have retained the larger view of what it means to make music. To me the larger view is this: my job is to pay attention to how music affects me, and somehow find a way to share that with others.

I remember a specific practice session with my bandmates in 7th grade where I passionately implored them to take inspiration from a specific recording (Spacehog, if you must know) and use the techniques in our own compositions. I was so excited by what I heard, I wanted to be able to capture that feeling and share it.

I don’t remember whether my suggestions carried any weight, but today—20 years later—I had a flashback to that moment as I felt the excitement of really listening to something great (Brad Mehldau) and wanting to capture some essence of the music and share it with an audience.

Somehow in my long journey through music history, study of repertoire, and music theory (Victor Wooten says “it should be called note theory, not music theory, because it doesn’t teach you Music!”), I forgot this basic impulse.

Or maybe not forgot. On reflection, I do recall several occasions as a student that I let inspiration guide me to share charts and arrangements with others in rehearsal and performance. And certainly my capstone performances for my degrees were reflections of my own musical preferences.

But I do remember the feeling, after a few years of higher-ed music training, that I was missing out on something great that my middle-school self used to know.

Today I realized I was missing the music forest for the music theory trees.

As I said before, I have no complaint about the education I did receive, only gratitude for this awareness, and an eagerness to guide future students to the canopy for the view.