in the details

Aug 16, 08 • No Comments

My wife thinks that I would’ve made a darn good lawyer — but, with due respect, I have to disagree.
First of all, my “attention to detail” is excruciatingly good. Unfortunately, my observance of the aforementioned attended details is generally at war with my sense of spontaneity. In my world, details should rarely be paramount – what’s important is the idea, hopefully the “big” idea. Details should be for lawyers, assistants, and interns. I’m supposed to be left to dream up new ideas.

Right – sure. When I released “Vjola”, I somehow imagined that having recorded these semi-improvised pieces was good enough, and that someday, if someone wanted to perform this music, I’d hire an arranger — but when that day came, there was no budget, and so I diligently wrote out the music myself, even though that was not at all my intention. Why can’t people learn my music by ear, like these guys?

Over the last decade, I’ve had to write out tons of pieces of music by ear – folk pieces, contemporary pieces, ragas, many things. Some of it is really enjoyable, and some of it is awful. Sometimes I feel that until I’ve written out all of the cheesiest tunes in the human consciousness, I’m bound not to see the pearly Gates.. While all of it is an interesting learning experience in terms of texture and melody, a bell consistently rings in my ear as I churn out the meatpies — “WHY?” “Why must I write this stuff out — whatever it is — note for note? Why would you want to repeat anything exactly the same way? What about interpretive freedom?” And yet, as that bell tolls it quandary, I diligently type out the stuff 100% as it is on the record. As they say in Russia “the eyes do wander, but the hands act”. When it comes to making sheet-music, I’m extremely detail oriented, having learned the hard way how much time a badly created set of music can waste in rehearsal. As much as I’d like to break the chain and free myself of details in performance, it’s impossible — they descend on me like vultures and begin their gleeful rape. “Sharp!” “Flat!” “Louder, we can’t hear you in the back!” “Softer, you’re burying the accordion!” or, in more classical settings, “Down bow, Down!”. Argh.

I used to be a rebel. I still am. But increasingly, knowing “the right thing” and ignoring it comes with greater guilt. It’s not like getting kicked out of “chamber music” class in high school for improvising on Brahms — it’s like risking your livelyhood and health insurance.

I suspect I know how things work — as we grow older, we realize that we’re setting an example for our kids, and we don’t want them to have the same shortcomings that we’ve been trying to hide. We try to do the right thing, make a good face — meanwhile, kids try to break everything in their sight, then put it back together again.

To an extent, we follow their example — we regularly break our toys, destroy our buildings and redraw borders. We never do things the same way, and even when we try our best, we miss. Generally, that’s progress.

What am I really saying? Clearly — details, like rules, were meant to be broken.
And, I need sleep.

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LJOVA (Lev Zhurbin) - film composer, arranger, violist | music for film, Ljova and the Kontraband, and other projects

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