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"Imagination is more important than knowledge" regarding performance

Clifford-D

Senior Member
Messages
17,045
The gig is no place for therapy, anything to do with learning and "how does that go", is simply not prepared. Whatever it is, remembering or technical difficulty
If you have to really think, you're not prepared.
I'm busting my own chops here since I've been unprepared and suffered embarrassment from it. These days when I play out I'm prepared. However being prepared is only part of the reason for this thread. I'd like to talk about imagination.
Being prepared has nothing to do with imagination. Imagination happens when analytical processes have winded down and we enter a sort of meditative place that doen't need need words. Just a good ear for good stuff, imagination,,

So what about memorized parts? Is there imagination going on or is it a more analytical paint by numbers approach. Instead of playing exact parts you could be more interitive. Some thing jazz players favor.but both kinds of players. Coexist out there in the wild world.
Last night I went to the blues jam and observed how many people only played memorized licks. Licks I've heard for years now. Sorry but there is no imagination going on wtf?


So
What do you think, is Albert correct? Is imagination more important than knowledge?
 

huw

Member
Messages
1,378
I'd say that the answer is often that the performance is more important than either.

Will a fresh idea performed badly move a listener more than a well delivered cliche? There isn't a cut & dried answer, and there's a big grey area in the middle, but I would guess that the latter would come out on top more often than not.

I've always listened to a lot of classical music, so I know that different performances of exactly the same notes can have different emotional effects on me as a listener. There's no "originality" there, all the notes are in the score, but the delivery is all in the hands of the performers.

That might seem removed from your blues jam example, but to me there is a link. The most important thing to me, whatever style of music, will always be "do I beleive this performance?" Now originality may come into that - some licks may be so cliche to seem insincere - but not so as to trump the overall sincerity of the delivery.
 

dewey decibel

Member
Messages
10,852
Well I'm not sure what kind of response you're looking for but I'll just pick out somethings that jump out at me.

The gig is no place for therapy, anything to do with learning and "how does that go", is simply not prepared. Whatever it is, remembering or technical difficulty
If you have to really think, you're not prepared.
I'm busting my own chops here since I've been unprepared and suffered embarrassment from it. These days when I play out I'm prepared.

Well if I waited till I was totally prepared for everything I'd never play out. You really can't prepare for everything, especially the kinds of musical situations I enjoy playing in. In fact sometimes that's the whole point.


However being prepared is only part of the reason for this thread. I'd like to talk about imagination.
Being prepared has nothing to do with imagination. Imagination happens when analytical processes have winded down and we enter a sort of meditative place that doen't need need words. Just a good ear for good stuff, imagination,,
You sure about that? I guess we'd have to define what you mean by being prepared. If I get a call for a jazz gig chances are I might be told a couple of the tunes in advance, might even get some charts or a quick rehearsal, but beyond that all my preparation comes from all the time I've already put in practicing, transcribing and gigging.

What I didn't mention are things like theory. For me, learning music is all about vocabulary. I feel like if this is part of your preparation it will aid in developing your imagination. But if your prep is all about learning scales, chord subs, etc (especially away from the actual music) it's going to rob you of your imagination. It's something I think many on this board are guilty of.

Learn tunes, learn solos, play with others, that should be your prep. Theory will follow.


So what about memorized parts? Is there imagination going on or is it a more analytical paint by numbers approach. Instead of playing exact parts you could be more interitive. Some thing jazz players favor.but both kinds of players. Coexist out there in the wild world.
Last night I went to the blues jam and observed how many people only played memorized licks. Licks I've heard for years now. Sorry but there is no imagination going on wtf?
Sorry, don't know what interitive means. I've spent the last couple years in an original soul & funk group, lots of rhythm guitar. Played some of those songs way too many times. Are there times I just played, sort of got through it? Sure. But as much as I could I'd try and play each song as if I'd never done so before, and many times I'd find new ways to do it, little things to put in here or there, lean on this part, hold back on this one, that sort of thing. Extremely subtle stuff, but when the other guys in the rhythm section catch on it can be a really fun thing.

I remember when I started playing jazz I began to think of myself as a DJ. A modern DJ takes samples of things that already exist and reconfigures them to make something new. In jazz I was learning new licks and enjoying finding ways to fit them over the chord changes. Maybe that's the kind of thing that you're against, I don't know. My point being, you're juxtaposing things, putting them in different contexts to make something new. Sure there's tons of jazz players out there playing the same old cliched licks over the same changes (same as blues players or any other genre), but that's the game. It's up to the player how far they want to take it.
 

JonR

Member
Messages
15,529
If you have to really think, you're not prepared.
Right.

But you can exaggerate the importance of preparation. A gig is not a grade exam! People just want to be entertained; they're not scrutinising your solos for incorrect usage of melodic minor modes... ;) (Or, if they are, I suggest you either avoid those kind of gigs, or just play solid blues scale all night, loudly, and give them threatening looks... :D)

It's quite likely - given your years of playing experience - you're already more than enough prepared for anything. Time to relax and let that intuition have free rein - the knowledge is all in your head (subconscious) you just need to stop thinking and let it out. Like Miles said: "do not fear wrong notes; there are none."
(OK, all together now: "well, he obviously never came to any of my gigs..." :D)

I'm busting my own chops here since I've been unprepared and suffered embarrassment from it.
But unless you actually showed your embarrassment - wincing, going red, whatever - you can bet hardly anyone (if anyone) would have noticed.
There's no such thing as a wrong note that can't be easily escaped from and made to sound "right" - which is kind of what Miles meant, IMO. ("The right note is always a half-step away", as another jazz saying goes.)

Being prepared has nothing to do with imagination.
It does, but in the sense of years of experience: "preparation" you did way back, maybe without even realising it.
Imagination happens when analytical processes have winded down and we enter a sort of meditative place that doen't need need words. Just a good ear for good stuff, imagination
Yes, but the imagination is fed by experience. You can't have intuition without prior knowledge. It just feels like intuition or imagination because it comes from your subconscious - the knowledge that has previously been fed into it.
A beginner has no imagination for improvisation - or, if they do, it's a very fuzzy and out of focus imagination. (They'll have probably heard enough music to know what sounds right and wrong, but have no training in how to achieve the right sounds.)
The more experienced you are at playing as well as listening, the bigger your subconscious library of sounds and techniques. You've forgotten how much you really know (we all do).
Playing "from the heart" simply means allowing the subconscious to bypass the conscious: trusting what your fingers know.
So what about memorized parts? Is there imagination going on or is it a more analytical paint by numbers approach. Instead of playing exact parts you could be more interitive. Some thing jazz players favor.but both kinds of players. Coexist out there in the wild world.
Last night I went to the blues jam and observed how many people only played memorized licks. Licks I've heard for years now. Sorry but there is no imagination going on wtf?
Memorised licks are a crutch. Nothing wrong with them as such, but yes a lot of people rely on them too much, when really - if they had a bit more confidence in their intuition - they don't need them. They're too afraid of mistakes: too afraid of falling over if the crutch is taken away, whereas in fact their "legs" are both perfectly good.
To stretch the metaphor, they've been using the crutch so long they've forgotten they actually know how to walk; putting one leg in front of the other - and balancing to move forward - doesn't take much if any conscious thought.

Even so, very good jazz players often used prepared licks - but (to stretch the metaphor to breaking point...) less like a crutch and more like stilts or a vaulting pole: ie as an inspiration, a kick to another level.
 

Hotspur

Member
Messages
375
Here's the thing:

You work on your imagination in part by improving your knowledge and skill.

If somebody uses "imagination is more important than knowledge" as an excuse not to learn, then their imagination is not likely to be very interesting.
 
Messages
17,931
Nudity is a good thing when it comes to fingers. Don't clothe 'em; let them run naked and free, up and down your fretboard in wild abandon!
Clothed fingers are a clothed mind.

:banana
 

ivers

Member
Messages
4,262
For me it's a matter of working on knowing my ****, and be connected to what I
actually like on a musical level, and not just playing something because it's a fun
challenge in terms of skill.

When I learn new stuff and acquire knowledge, it's usually because it captures
my imagination. Like for instance I always admired flamenco and thought it
would be 'cool' to know it. But it was only when I first really responded to it
musically that I got the momentum to do serious attempts at learning some of it.
 

splatt

david torn / splattercell
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
26,450
thinking isn't a disease, nor a virus that wipes out musical imagination.
of course, what you do with it
--- how, when & why you weight it, gauge it, etc ----
is up to you.

musical imagination isn't developed nor does it arrive in some kind of "order";
perspective & desire water that ephemeral garden,
developing knowledge & work help design, extend & re-design it,
as endlessly as attentiveness & the circumstances of life allow.

nothing is separate, i think;
these kindsa vain attempts @ "overview" tend to show every possible complication within music-making,
while seeming to deny music-making's unerring, inherently childlike simplicity.
 

russ6100

Member
Messages
4,574
thinking isn't a disease, nor a virus that wipes out musical imagination.
of course, what you do with it
--- how, when & why you weight it, gauge it, etc ----
is up to you.
Absolutely! The whole "thinking while you're playing is death" thing has become cliché. Tackling higher forms of mathematics might be problematic, but the use of your brain and harnessing imagination / intuition aren't mutually exclusive.
 

russ6100

Member
Messages
4,574
...But unless you actually showed your embarrassment - wincing, going red, whatever - you can bet hardly anyone (if anyone) would have noticed...
Try this sometime:

As soon as you hit the stage, begin with the wincing, going red, even tremors for good measure and continue throughout the performance, never once letting up. This will serve as a quite elegant smoke-screen, masking any mistakes you make that would have otherwise been telegraphed by the tell-tale nervous behavior. :aok
 

time2kill

Member
Messages
2,719
Try this sometime:

As soon as you hit the stage, begin with the wincing, going red, even tremors for good measure and continue throughout the performance, never once letting up. This will serve as a quite elegant smoke-screen, masking any mistakes you make that would have otherwise been telegraphed by the tell-tale nervous behavior. :aok
That's funny. Start at the bottom. Nowhere to go but up.

Imagination vs. Knowledge? I don't think you can have one without the other.
 

JonR

Member
Messages
15,529
Try this sometime:

As soon as you hit the stage, begin with the wincing, going red, even tremors for good measure and continue throughout the performance, never once letting up. This will serve as a quite elegant smoke-screen, masking any mistakes you make that would have otherwise been telegraphed by the tell-tale nervous behavior. :aok
I'm thinking some heavy drug and alcohol consumption beforehand could produce the required effect...
(whaddya mean, don't I do that anyway???:drink:messedup:drown:thud
 

kingsleyd

Frikkin genyus
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
8,096
thinking isn't a disease, nor a virus that wipes out musical imagination.
of course, what you do with it
--- how, when & why you weight it, gauge it, etc ----
is up to you.

musical imagination isn't developed nor does it arrive in some kind of "order";
perspective & desire water that ephemeral garden,
developing knowledge & work help design, extend & re-design it,
as endlessly as attentiveness & the circumstances of life allow.

nothing is separate, i think;
these kindsa vain attempts @ "overview" tend to show every possible complication within music-making,
while seeming to deny music-making's unerring, inherently childlike simplicity.
Funny, I opened this thread thinking, "I hope dt drops a few pearls of wisdom here!"

Thanks. :beer
 

Clifford-D

Senior Member
Messages
17,045
"Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world and all there ever will be to know and understand"

Very cool Al, but you're spacing and bogarting the joint.
lol
 

Seraphine

Member
Messages
3,600
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
"

Hamlet: Act 1 Scene 5
 

JonR

Member
Messages
15,529
thinking isn't a disease, nor a virus that wipes out musical imagination.
Not necessarily.
The problem is the belief that one has to maintain conscious control at all times: a lack of confidence in one's imagination.
I agree there is no natural split between the two: they should work in tandem, constructively.

A possible analogy is a rider and a horse, negotiating tricky terrain. Do you seek to control the animal according to your own judgement about the best way to go? Or do you allow the animal to pick its own way (seeing as it's the one with its feet on the ground...;))?
The sensible course is surely a mix of the two: you know where you want to get to in the end; but the step-by-step detail can be delegated to the horse. You can trust it to know what it knows better than you do.

Of course, with the brain, there is not even that two-beast distinction; it's a single organ. But it does operate on more than one level - and "musical thinking" is a multi-level process. As conscious thinkers, the common mistake is to seek to make everything conscious and deliberate.
But - IMO - given enough musical experience, the "deliberate" part only needs to be a sketchy overview (like the horseman's goal). When improvising, you don't have to think about (or prepare) every single note you're playing. If asked afterwards (shown a transcription of what you just did), you could probably explain every note, but you don't need to think it out beforehand.

As Miles said (he was full of great aphorisms): "I'll play it first and tell you what it is later."
 






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