Музыкант и инструмент

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Дерек Байли о том же самом в книге Improvisation, Its Nature and Practice in Music (длинно)

There seem to be two main attitudes to the instrument among improvisors. One is that an instrument is man’s best friend, both a tool and a helper; a collaborator. The other attitude is that an instrument is unnecessary, at worst a liability, intruding between the player and his music. The division between these views is not as distinct as it might seem, but the first, the pro-instrument view, is the most widely held and is found in all areas of improvisation. With the instrument, as with other things, attitudes and practices found in ‘conventional’ forms of improvisation can be found, sometimes developed and extended, in free improvisation; but the instrument, in free playing, can assume an absolutely central position, a position to which its historic functions might be quite irrelevant. Steve Lacy: ‘The instrument — that’s the matter — the stuff — your subject.’

There is no generalized technique for playing any musical instrument. However one learns to play an instrument it is always for a specific task. The Indian player, after successful study with his master, is fitted to play Indian music. The flamenco player learns flamenco, the jazz player jazz, and so on. And in some respects the better he is at his chosen idiom the more specialized his abilities become.

The standard European instrumental education thinks of itself as being an exception to this rule. It is of course a very good example of it. It equips a musician with the ability to perform the standard European repertoire and its derivatives, and perhaps more than any other discipline it limits its adherents’ ability to perform in other musical areas.

Although some improvisors employ a high level of technical skill in their playing, to speak of ‘mastering’ the instrument in improvisation is misleading. The instrument is not just a tool but an ally. It is not only a means to an end, it is a source of material, and technique for the improvisor is often an exploitation of the natural resources of the instrument. He might develop certain aspects of the instrument that appeal to him, that seem particularly fruitful. The unorthodox technique is commonplace, its function being to serve only one man’s purpose: ‘technique for the improvisor is not an arbitrary consumption of an abstract standardized method but rather a direct attunement with the mental, spiritual and mechanical energy necessary to express a full creative impulse’ (Leo Smith) .

Probably a large part of most improvising techniques is developed to meet particular situations encountered in performance. But most practical musical situations imply other hypothetical situations, and so one technical device might be developed to cover a wide range of possibilities. An extension of technique might have certain musical implications which might in turn produce further technical implications, which might reveal further musical implications — that sort of extrapolation or rationalization is one of the many ways in which the instrument can supply the music. Almost any aspect of playing an instrument can reveal music. Virtuosity doesn’t have to be empty, however irresistible that phrase might be for the critic. The instrument’s responsiveness to its acoustic environment, how it reacts to other instruments and how it reacts to the physical aspects of performing, can vary enormously. The accidental can be exploited through the amount of control exercised over the instrument, from complete — producing exactly what the player dictates — to none at all — letting the instrument have its say. Habits — technical habits and musical habits (clichés) — are quite consciously utilized by some performers. And there is a type of creative impetus which can come from playing well technically which can’t be achieved in any other way. There also seem to be direct technical benefits from a concentration on the creative, not on the executive, side of playing.

In addition to developing a personal instrumental technique it is common amongst pro-instrument improvisors to develop, and literally to extend, their instruments. Some of these changes can be quite minimal; a loose string added to a guitar, altered mutes and mouthpieces for a trombone, the usual sort of ‘preparations’ for a piano. More radically, extension is made by amplification and electronic treatment. Although this is mainly confined to string players, many improvisors are attracted to the use of electronics and it is one of the many kinds of instrument extension to be found amongst percussion players.

Any object at all can be included in an improvising percussionist’s equipment. The usual basic stuff — drums, cymbals, wood blocks, xylophones, etcetera — is supplemented by gongs, saucepans, gunshells, handbells and all the other early-Cage paraphernalia. There are also devices used which would probably find their antecedents in the armoury of futurist composer Luigi Russolo, who used to describe his noise-makers as ‘howlers, roarers, cracklers, whistlers, rubbers, buzzers, exploders, gurglers and rustlers’.

The percussionist Frank Perry, describing his kit, writes: ‘superimposed about these [drums and cymbals] are a variety of sound sources. These comprise small bells, wood blocks, cowbells — chimes, hubcaps. The various things hanging include: knives and forks, stones, plastic spoons, sea shells, brass fittings and bamboo. Wire knitting needles, chopsticks and other strikers obviously extend these characteristics.’

Quite differently, Tony Oxley’s percussion equipment, although includ­ing many acoustic items, leans more to electronic extension. The acoustic part is: drums — eight, various sizes and textures; cymbals — fourteen, various sizes, thicknesses, weights, sounds; cowbells — five, from 6 inches to 16 inches; wood surfaces — five, wood blocks and oriental skulls; saucepans — two. The amplified section of the kit is: amplified frame containing cymbals, wires, various kitchen equipment, motor generators, springs, used with 3 contact mikes (home-made), 2 volume pedals, 1 octave splitter, 1 compressor, 1 ring modulator and oscillator, 1 amplifier and 2 speakers.

Since the heyday of the mammoth percussion kit, when they were measured in the number of hours needed to erect and dismantle them, there has been a definite tendency towards more modest constructions, and the contrast between the pro- and anti-instrument view, amongst percussion players at least, is not now so vivid.

The anti-instrument attitude might be presented as: ‘The instrument comes between the player and his music.’ ‘It doesn’t matter what sort of instrument you play, a Stradivarius or a tin drum, it’s the person behind it that counts.’ Technically, the instrument has to be defeated. The aim is to do on the instrument what you could do if you could play without an instrument. Ronnie Scott expressed this view when he said: ‘I practice to become as close to the instrument, as familiar with it, as possible. The ideal thing would be to be able to play the instrument as one would play a kazoo.’ And in conventional or traditional improvising it does usually mean the musician would like to be in such complete control that the instrument ceases to be a consideration. In free improvisation where one’s intentions do not necessarily have a prescribed aural definition, this attitude can lead to a rejection of the instrument entirely and the utilization of other sonic resources, usually accompanied by an increase in theatrical activity. More usually, though, the second attitude leads to a limiting of technique and a reduction of the instrument to its ‘essentials’. Again percussion players provide the best examples: one plays a three piece toy drum set; another plays only a military snare drum. Most of the musicians in this grouping share an almost pathological hatred of anything which might be called electronic.

Instruments very much in favor with this school are, naturally enough, those which are ethnic in origin or, at least, in appearance. These meet the requirement that the instrument should have a fixed, very limited capability and that very little instrumental skill is needed to play it. The idea is, I think, that because of the limited opportunities for technical virtuosity, a more direct expressiveness is possible. Some of these players have shown a great interest in the practices and rituals of ethnic music and particularly in what is taken to be primitive uses of the voice. So, in performance, grunts, howls, screams, groans, Tibetan humming, Tunisian chanting, Maori chirping and Mozambique stuttering are combined with the African thumb piano, Chinese temple blocks, Ghanian soft trumpet. Trinidadian steel drum, Scottish soft bagpipe, Aus­tralian bull-roarer, Ukrainian stone flute and the Canton one-legged monster to provide an aural event about as far removed from the directness and dignity of ethnic music as a thermo-nuclear explosion is from a fart.

At one time or another, most players investigate both the pro- and the anti-instrument approaches, some oscillate continuously between them and some contrive to hold both views at once, so there is no clear division into two groups of musicians. But the attitudes are quite distinct, it seems to me, and both can be heard in almost any piece of improvised music.

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