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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's hard to say because I live in New York and that's not really America. New York is like everything at once. And it depends what you mean by culture because opera gets a lot of money here in New York and there is a wide range of what the arts are. There are the arts that are generally accepted by middle-class America or white America or upper-class America or the government grants people receive, and then there are the arts that are marginal to a lot of other people. If anything, the interest is waning I suppose. I think it's really hard to tell if people are really excited about orchestras and art because it's just something that's there and is always supported. I wonder if people are really that excited or if they have planned to go out a certain amount of time to see culture. It's part of being in a certain class of people, but as far as people being excited about art because it's art, there's not a whole lot of that in America. There are a lot of other distractions and so many other things you can do where you don't have to go out or make an effort and I think that has an effect. It's a little different in Europe. You do gigs in Italy and a lot of people come because its art, a cultural event and they think it's important.

LP: Where does your inspiration come from?

TB: Inspiration can come from anywhere. I could be on a subway and hear some weird sound and get an idea or I could see a shitty movie and get something from it or just by having an interesting conversation. It comes from almost anything except listening to music. I almost have to avoid listening to music when I'm writing for some reason. For me, inspiration is wanting to do it. It's not like I sit around and all of a sudden there is an idea and I write it down. It's really work. Sometimes it's easy but most of the time it's a conscious effort and I have to try to be inspired.

LP: Do you have a philosophy that you try to impart on young students or musicians?

TB: Everyone does everything differently and you have to recognize that or it just gets too competitive and then you'll get discouraged. And it's so easy to get caught up in what everybody else is doing in music school and find yourself practicing for nine hours because somebody else is, but it just doesn't work that way. Some people can practice an hour and it can be a hell of an hour and then some can practice for nine hours and it's a waste of time. You have to find your own way to work and also try not to bite off more than you can chew at one time. It can get pretty overwhelming and lead to frustration.

LP: You play with a number of musicians. How much does that affect your own creative process?

TB: I play with different people to feed myself ideas or when I think I'm getting stale. I do it to give myself a kick in the ass and force myself to move forward. I play with a keyboard player now, which is new for me and I did it to give myself a challenge, which it did. Therefore, I get a lot of my ideas from playing with different people, so it's important.

LP: Does it help to play with people with different musical backgrounds?

TB: The bigger the vocabulary the better, but they still have to know what to do with it and the chemistry is also important. They don't necessarily have to want to play the same things but the willingness to cooperate is important. I'm not that interested in playing with people that just want to get off on playing a good solo and then walk off the stage when they're done. I like people who get involved and put themselves into it and there is a personal connection that I look for too as we may also have to sit on a train together for twelve hours. So there is a lot more to touring than just getting up and playing.

LP: Where would you say you come from musically?

TB: I have no idea, but rhythm is important to me just from the music I listen to. But I honestly don't know and I don't have a style as I've really never been that kind of player. There are people who hear all kinds of influences that are not there but that's fine to me in a way.

LP: Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
said that music has more to do with feel. How much of your music come from feel versus logic?

TB: It's about feel and logic but a lot of other stuff. His music may have been about feel but it's more than that when we're playing. But certainly that's an important component but sound is pretty important too.

LP: Do you feel pressure when you are soloing in front of an audience and you're in that moment?

TB: I don't know if pressure is the right word but you put pressure on yourself to come up with something interesting. It depends on how it's going. If the audience is there and there is a lot of trust and the band has been playing a lot, then you are pretty relaxed, but there are other times when you cannot get anything to happen and you are tense. It just depends but I wouldn't say it's pressure.

LP: Do women and men create differently?

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