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Music and the Creative Spirit

Tim Berne: The Subliminal Explorations of a Creative Mind

By Published: August 5, 2009
TB: It reflects the person and the period of time. I hadn't given it a lot of thought until you asked the question but I think it's pretty hard to avoid. I'm hoping that what I do is timeless in that you can't tell whether it's from the '80s or '90s, but who knows. There are really great musicians and that's what happens. You listen to something from Cecil Taylor from the '60s and you don't say, "Wow, that's from the '60s," unless the recorded sound tells you that. But after I get through writing for a day, I don't really think about it because I'm trying to get it out of my brain as fast as possible so I can start the next day fresh. I don't like to dwell on it because it's so hard to do. The whys just don't really matter to me.

LP: Have you checked out Ken Vandermark
Ken Vandermark
Ken Vandermark
and what's been happening in Chicago Lately?

TB: I don't really know the music that well but I know that Ken has done a lot to make things happen. He's been very helpful to me and there is no ego. He's just trying to get better and do stuff. But there is so much music going on that we know nothing about. Until I started playing with Craig Taborn
Craig Taborn
Craig Taborn
, I had no idea. The guy lives a block away from me and there's all kinds of people like that. You can't really judge what's happening by what you have access to or by what's available. There are a lot of people doing great music, but unless they can get gigs or someone writes about them, you're not going to know about them. I get to meet some of these people as I travel and hear them and I think, "Holy shit, where did this guy come from?"

LP: The internet is helping to find out about obscure musicians that are doing creative work.

TB: I have seen some of that but I have also seen things on there that have pissed me off more than the critics. Talk about misinformation! I'll stumble on things written about me and I'll think, "What the fuck is he talking about?" Or I'll say something on stage and the next thing you know it's on some e-mail list. It's almost to the point where it's just as negative because everybody kind of passes the info around as if it's fact. Making factual statements that are just wrong. You have to be careful because everybody has his or her agenda and it's just someone's opinion. It's good and it's bad and sometimes I think there is too much information.

LP: This is a quote from William Parker
William Parker
William Parker
bass, acoustic
: "They, the music historians, always seem to leave out the chapter on creative music; they don't seem to get it. I have also observed that some of those who love music least are spokespeople for it. I have always said that this music comes from love, not technique. To love music is to understand it on its highest plane. Love is the highest intellectual level we can attain. At this point there is nothing to prove

TB: I'm not sure about expecting people to understand it because I'm not sure I understand it and I do it. I mean it's a pretty weird thing to do, to get together with people and improvise in front of an audience. You know, like why do we do it? And I don't know why. It's just something that when it's going good, you get transported and that's probably what he's talking about. You get transported to this place that's kind of like being in love. It's that type of euphoria. I'm sure you can get that from other things but we happen to get it from music. And I can't really explain to people what that's like and can't simulate it in any way. I just know that when something special happens during a gig, you can see that everybody in the band is as happy as you can get. And then conversely when you have a gig where it doesn't work, or at least we don't think it did, it's the opposite, where you are totally depressed. So it means a lot to us and because it does mean a lot to us, I think it means a lot to other people that we put so much of ourselves into it. I think it's a valuable thing because I see how it touches people and how it touches me. But as far as understanding it, good luck, because I don't.

LP: How often do you get those nights when you know the music is happening?

TB: It depends because the more we do it the higher our expectations become. And also, sometimes the shows that we think are the shit, we'll hear the tape and it's not. The nights where we're really uncomfortable are sometimes the really great gigs. There is a certain tension and we are breaking into something that we haven't done and it's hard to evaluate the music that way. I have been on tours where it happened almost every night and then others where perhaps it was half of the nights. It really depends, but everybody seems to recognize when it happens almost all of the time. You can just tell. I have been on tours of twenty gigs and maybe seventeen of them felt great but there are so many variables.

LP: Has our society become more aggressive toward culture in a negative way?

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