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Music and the Creative Spirit

Tim Berne: The Subliminal Explorations of a Creative Mind

By Published: August 5, 2009
TB: I agree that there is not a lot of education that offers a complete view, but I also don't expect the government to be calling me and offering me money to do my next record. You can waste a lot of energy beating your head against that wall. I'm the kind of person that says well, "OK, I have $50, I'm going to do $50 worth of music," rather than think, "Gee, I wish I had $3,000 so I could do this big project." I try to not let these things stop me. For me, it takes a lot less effort just to go out and do shit and if I get lucky or I get a grant, fine. But I don't really seek those kinds of things. Just like I don't really seek legitimacy and I don't need it. I get it from my peers and those are the opinions that matter to me.

LP: Do you find there is more creativity and more opportunities as a result of the numerous informational mediums available today?

TB: It's a different world today and though some of these opportunities are good, it has also made it easier for people that may not be qualified, to make music. There are more people trying little tricks to get over and it's also affected the music in that you can record or use a computer to make a pop music record really cheap. Sometimes, I kind of wish there were less opportunities and people would just focus on the music and what they really believe in. People are evolving and looking for the next thing or the next way of doing things perhaps quicker than they need to. There are too many options. I mean, I don't want to f**king get into computers but you almost have to, to keep up.

LP: How much does that lack of awareness in today's creative music have to do with the industry not being able to define and market it efficiently?

TB: The best sales people are the ones who believe in what they're selling and can convey that to others. I know people who are very successful selling "difficult" music because they like it and are able to convey that to other people through their enthusiasm. The problem I have with labels is that everybody is so fucking pessimistic and they accept this whole thing of "Yeah, the industry sucks and blah, blah, blah." It's as if they'd rather accept that than try and do something about it. If you followed us around on tour, you'd see there are quite a few people that enjoy the music and they buy records, and I was one of them twenty, thirty years ago. I don't think corporate record companies are really designed to do that, but there are people within the independent companies that have that same kind of "The industry sucks!" attitude. So you just have to find ways of reaching the really hardcore people, and there are more ways than just sending them to Tower Records. There are a million other ways.

LP: The following is a quote from Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor
: "Music has to do with a lot of areas which are magical rather than logical; the great artists, rather than just getting involved with discipline, get to understand love and allow the love to take shape." How much of your music is from logic and how much from this other place that Cecil Taylor describes?

TB: The first lesson I ever had was with Julius Hemphill
Julius Hemphill
Julius Hemphill
1938 - 1995
sax, alto
, and the first thing he talked about was magic. Literally the first thing. He said, "I have been thinking a lot about magic lately," and that kind of stuck with me because so much of what we do cannot be explained. You can't analyze it and say, "Why does this happen at this particular time?" It just doesn't make any sense but you can feel it when it's happening. It's magic and that's the only way to describe it, really. That's a great statement from Cecil but on the other hand, it's not just about getting up there and blowing. There are the technical aspects, which are comparable to speaking. The greater your vocabulary the more you can say but you still have to organize it. I don't think I necessarily have a lot of technique, but I'm good at organizing ideas so I kind of compensate for that. Just as Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
wasn't the best trumpet player but as a musician, he was really advanced. He got the most out of what he had and I think if he would have needed more options, he would have found more. And to me, that's what technique is. Some people have a lot of technique because they need a certain amount to express their ideas and that's how I work. I'll get in a rut and then I'll say, "OK, I have to do something to expand." Some people do all that and then try to figure out what they are doing, but for me, it was never a separate issue. I always tried to learn these things simultaneously. Cecil is probably someone that practices quite a bit but then his music is pretty organic; you're not listening to his technique, you're listening to his music.

LP: Does music reflect its period of time and should it?

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