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Interviews

Gwilym Simcock: It's All Just Music

By Published: January 4, 2010

There are lots of people crossing over between classical and jazz and it's maybe not such a unique thing as it was say ten or twenty years ago. There are the jazz purists and the classical purists who wouldn't like that kind of thing but I think it's a really valid area of music.

AAJ: Do you think these purists are becoming more marginalized?

GS: Maybe; it can be hard in England sometimes because once you get outside London and go to different places around the country people want to hear more what they know. I remember doing one gig up in the north of England a couple of years ago and I was playing my own music and the promoter came up to me at the interval and said: "I'm really enjoying it, it's fantastic, but can you throw them a lollipop?" meaning can you play something that people know and like.

Then if you go to Germany or Italy, or anywhere in mainland Europe you feel as if you can play exactly what you want to and people will accept that and sit back and appreciate that. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the English mentality, but it would be nice if people thought that way sometimes.

The general demographics of the audience are funny, depending on what country you're in. I was in Korea not long ago with Tim Garland, and about seventy percent of the audience was females between the ages of twenty and thirty, which is amazing really. Of course it's different in England; it's very much older people, and older men. Trying to get women interested and young people outside of London is a great challenge.

AAJ: Any theory as to why the Korean demographic is like that? It seems very curious.

Gwilym SimcockGS: No idea. It is very curious. It's a shame it's not like that elsewhere. In general it's hard to get young people interested in classical or jazz music, because it's so far away from the popular music of the day now that it's difficult to encourage young people to come along. Hopefully when they come to the concert they'll enjoy it but getting them through the door is a mighty struggle. I mean, here we are in Bangkok, a city of over ten million people and we can't even get four hundred people to come and see four very different bands.

it's a shame because when you have musicians creating music off each other which will never ever be that way again, a one-off performance, I think that should be something really exciting and really appealing, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to work like that. I think too often people are scared by it.

I guess you're trying to find a way of playing music without selling out which has its artistic integrity but which can appeal to as many people as possible, so you've got to have a strong thread of melody which is something people can really hang onto.

But out of the three elements of music, melody, rhythm and harmony the one that really appeals to me is harmony, but that's the thing people are least familiar with. You can have a good melody you can sing along to, a good rhythm, a good groove you can tap your foot to or clap to but you can't show any affinity or physical appreciation of harmony. But I think harmony is actually the element of music that can move you the most subconsciously.

If you take film music, say the theme tune for Jaws (1975), what makes that scary is the semi-tone, [hums theme for Jaws] but if you turn that into a tone [hums again] then it's happy. I'm fascinated by the little technicalities of changing something by a semi-tone can completely change the mood of the music, and that's something I'm always looking at with music --- the emotional side.



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