Ran Blake: From Music to Film and Back
AAJ: It will.
RB: I really hope so. I hope we can get enough funding and I hope there will be a small group that will really put aside their career for a year and really find out the glories of the ear and how one’s universe, ones vision, and also ones discipline, [how] it can all meld and you can [then] do something beautiful [even if] you may have a failure on the way.
AAJ: Its pretty intensive what you do with some of your students I’ve spoken with one of your former students who said that they had the hardest time learning some of your melodies, particularly more ethnic sounding melodies for instance like your tune Greek inspired composition about your time in Greece during the military coup in 1967 Vradiazi.
RB: Because that was an alien culture. It does take a little time to hear the melodies through the week – to mold yourself. But once you do you will have found great freedom.
AAJ: You also make your students take a personal inventory of what they like about music, you even make them make an inventory of the records and compact discs they own. What's so important about self inventory?
RB: Well I think first of all I want to know if you’ve heard the record once or twice because I didn’t like Art Ensemble from Chicago the first time I put them on, but now –they’re not my inner body—but now I have such respect for them but it doesn’t take away my love for Chris Connor. I think that inventory, if you can, its really your playing repertoire, your inventory of what you’re listening to, the ability of your ear, your timbre,[albeit] this is not a substitute for getting to your instrument and then your vision of life-those are the components [of it] really. So a cd thing, it doesn’t mean if you’re not hearing Bach or you don’t want to hear Miriam Makeba or if you don’t want to hear Abbey Lincoln-you should—but you really have to hear the ten or fifteen things that mean the most [to you], perhaps some that you’re learning the repertoire, some that will build up Matana, or [jazz guitarist] Nate Radley or [world music violinist] Claude Chalhoub. Or what was Dominique [Eade's] listening collection? And also three or four things that you get to know that you may not use, like some great Dial records of Charlie Parker, and I’m not bebop Matana but I know its great, and also the world of George Russell—because life is busy--- if you are trying to hear five hundred records and all the new things that come out--- so many things come out that I forget what's on track one or two or three—you really want to know one thing well, and for me, personally for me nothing gives me pleasure as much as the singers.
AAJ: You’re pretty legendary for seeing as much live music as possible. You even came to my solo set in Boston a few weeks ago after a full day of teaching!
RB: Well I gotta slow down a little bit because it doesn’t always help my teaching the day after, it seems as if Hankus [Netsky]can recuperate and do a very clear class; I guess I really want to be there to support people; I mean part of it’s a great pleasure and part of it’s a little duty and obligation, but in April I will say when you’re up four or five times a week it does not go into my memory and I can not practice what I preach so I am cutting down. Yes it's been a tradition.
AAJ: Where did you establish that tradition?
RB: Well I learned it in New York, and there of course you could hear [Thelonius] Monk, Ornette [Coleman]; there were clubs that had people five [or] six days. So if you wanted to go to classical--- and there goes my doorbell can I call you back when the student leaves?
AAJ: Sure Ran...
AAJ: (later—Ran asking me about my lunch) and I had salsa and beans and I’m going to make a cake today.
RB: Great! Will it be vegan?
AAJ: Yes it will be vegan god dammit yes!(laughter)
RB: well why not!(laughter)
AAJ: yes why not exactly!
RB: will you put a little lemon in it?
AAJ: I’m going to put a little orange in it, I wish you were here so that I could share it with you...
RB: Wish you could put it through the phone.. well anyway...
AAJ: So I think we’ll be able to finish this up, so we were talking about before..
RB: The department and long term memory, we [NEC] just hope that we could rather get 8 or 9 students who really want to be here..