All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource


Dominic Duval: Follow Your Melody

By Published: October 4, 2010
Why is Music So Important?

AAJ: You've spoken about all the efforts taken, and all the challenges; but what makes music so special and important?

DD: I've always thought that music is one of that few arts that you can absorb and take with you when you leave a concert. The sound will stay with you without your actually owning it. If you go back in your memory, you can go back to some concerts which you've seen or conjure up your memories of a recording that you listened to and loved. Recordings and performances that are memorable will stay in your head and your ears. Other art has to be in front of you, has to be kind of in your visual sense, in your sight.

Music is one of a few arts that you can actually absorb and have it become part of your everyday life. That's why people go around whistling or singing songs which they heard on the radio: because that's the way music is best interpreted. It's good to teach somebody the essence of a particular piece and then allow the listener/musician/student to go back into their world and share their memories with their friends or students. We share this art not by having the actual physical copy of it, but by having the enjoyment produced when having witnessed or heard it in person...

AAJ: So, sharing is the key word?

DD: Yes, in a sense. I am not playing just for myself, although I am the main focus of the music. Once I've played it, once it's done then it's the property of someone else. Buying a CD of mine allows a person to own that moment in my life. A piece of my musical history. I don't know exactly what it represents, but to me it represents a physical memory of a moment in time that I am sharing with you.

AAJ: That's interesting because there's that common attitude that music and art in general is for self expression; artists make music for themselves. Such vision is especially common among artists who work in non-commercial genres.

DD: Well I think that answer can be considered partly correct. The answer that musicians make music for themselves is not such an observation, but is in response to the fact that in much music, like my own, there are times when the listeners are not there. You might travel three or four thousand,000 miles to do a concert and, for one reason or another, the audience turnout is not very good. So the only reason you are there is to play music.

Maybe the level of your performance will be greatly reduced, so it really won't be anything of importance because you are so personally discouraged. You put your heart into something, and there's no quid pro quo. Having said that, I think, in that respect, a lot of musicians kind of encapsulate themselves in this idea that it doesn't matter who is there—it should not matter if they love what I do, so I guess I play for myself mostly—as the correct answer.

But it goes further than that; we really do want be accepted. And we really do want our work to be liked. Why in the world would we spend all this time mastering something that's almost impossible to do by most standards, if that were not the case?

Improvised music, for lack of a better word, starts by the musicians standing on a stage without any music in front of them. Completely without any ideas that they've discussed, no program—that's where it starts. It's magical, the music appears, just like that. Where does it come from? What's the purpose of it? Can you answer these questions? Because that moment, whatever happens at that moment, is the real truth of a performance.

When I listen back to the double LP [Trio X, Live in Vilnius (NoBusiness Records, 2006)] it reminds me of this magic.

I remember looking down at the huge crowd that had gathered at Vilnius' Konresų Rumai. You could hear the breathing; that was a wonderful moment and the music reflected that. Trio X plays music like that all the time, mostly. I don't think we do it consistently, all the time; I wish we could. Many variables to consider. What were the playing conditions like? What kind of instruments are we playing on? All these things, I think, have to be taken in consideration.

Only then, you can judge a performance as truthful, with those elements all understood. Why am I in Vilnius playing music for people I've never met? What's the reason? I try to answer those questions sometimes. So really I'm not there just for me. We come to make music for us. All that we represent as people are in this music. Your presence falls into the larger picture. It's just one ingredient however, which makes a performance. That is the fabric we are dealing with.

I don't just play music for me. I play music for all people who are willing to listen, and decide if it has worth to them or not.

AAJ: Sounds like an answer any listener would love to hear.

DD: Well, it would be easy for me to say, "I don't give a damn about what's out there, or who is present. There may be ten people in the audience, or a thousand people. I just want play music." But that's the easy answer. I don't usually like easy answers; while they might be easy, they are not truthful.

These are just my views, though. Not all musicians necessarily share same philosophy. That's why we have all this diversity. I try to keep politics, philosophy out of it. That doesn't always work but I do try.

AAJ: It's only the music that matters.

DD: If you listen to great music (I am not talking about any particular art form), you will know it when you see it. I've seen some incredible people making music in my life. And I can tell you, the way I see it, they have a couple of things in common. For the most part, greatness is something that isn't shared, it's individual, and has to do with the artist's commitment to his own abilities.

I think that musicians who play at the level I strive to play at are trying to do just that. Once you learn how to do something then it's about applying it. It's not about the same idea any longer. Learning how to do something really is only the first plateau in a long journey.

comments powered by Disqus