Miles, man, play what ain’t there.
Jeremy told me recently:
"You make me sound much funnier than I am."
It was in reference to a 2013 interview I did with him about Science that recently resurfaced and has been making its way around the web. You just never know.
You will find it more enlightening than an E.L. James novel and possibly less so than
A Brief History of Time.
This compliment from Mr. Long meant a great deal, because it is a goal of mine. A partial goal anyway.
In the same way that fiction writers make up stories in order to get to the truth, and musicians leave out notes in order to get to the best ones, and photographers leave out parts of an image in order to draw attention to the most important part...
...I like to frame my conversations and happenings with people, when I write about them later, in such a way that
the most interesting and unique bits of both trivial and epic elements are squeezed together,
and the rest is dumped behind, and what you have left is a version that is the truth plus or minus a little, but with the spirit intact, the best parts bumped up in the mix, some surprising portions elevated to important status, and...
...the rest left out. I love journalists and journalism, but I ain't one.
Miles Davis said this:
Don't play what's there, play what's not there.
One of my worst and most enduring traits is extrapolating ideas from quotes I like that aren't necessarily intended to work in the way I'm making them work. But Miles dug his own groove, as do I. He'd think I was a nerd. He'd be right. But he'd learn to dig me.
What's the obvious thing you think of in answering a question? Any question. What's the obvious answer. It's called
gut instinct, or common sense,
or what Jung might call the collective unconscious, where we share archetypes of certain ideas that get kicked around without really thinking about it, but here's the thing, if it's the first thing you're thinking of, then...
...it's probably the
thing everybody else is thinking of too. So if you've got a 12-note chromatic scale in front of you to play and you've got an instrument, you got, I don't know, how many different directions you can go with those twelve notes?
You got an almost-infinite variety, so how do we end up with so much music that sounds the same? That sounds so identical to one another?
We get used to playing the same notes, and looking at the same notes, or more importantly,
paying attention to the notes other people are playing around us, and those are the ones we keep going back to. The ones that pop up the fastest and first. They're familiar. They make sense. They sound good.
Somebody like Miles or Charlie come along, bopping and sliding and peckin around for some different notes, some other ways of finding the pretty ones that don't seem to be quite right there. But here's the thing: they are there.
They are. There. They're just not the obvious ones.
Like I said. Great life lesson. Look for the things that ain't obvious. The people that may not be the loudest. The word that may not be the first to leap to mind. The way of approaching an idea or challenge that is a few steps removed from the way everyone else seems to be looking at it.
Common sense can be a good thing. Shortcuts can be a good thing. Finding efficient ways of doing things can be a good thing.
That's all fine.
But when you want to bring something original, something beautiful and different into the world, whether it's a composition or an idea or a painting or whatever, and whether it's on a massive epic level or a little tiny trivial level,
you gotta be willing to ask yourself:
What can I leave out?
What seems to not be there, but is there, and is getting ignored or underutilized? (that applies to people, perhaps more than anything else)
He learned the rules, he learned the notes, and then he found different ways of playing them.
Anyone could have. Anyone can. Principle's the same for anything.
Find what's not there. Or doesn't seem to be there.
Miles, he was something.
You can be too.
And Jeremy was half right. Yeah, I hope I can help people bring out and highlight the best parts of themselves.
But he's also pretty funny.
I just leave it out when he's not.