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Background Gigs, Small Fonts, and Incestuous Quotes

Background Gigs, Small Fonts, and Incestuous Quotes
Mr. P.C. By

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Dear Mr. P.C.:

When we're playing a "background music" gig and the crowd is so loud there's no way they can hear us, and we can't even hear ourselves, does it matter what we play?

—Invisible Dan


Dear Dan:

Jazz is all about responding, in the moment, to the sounds around you, right? To do otherwise is dishonest and untrue to the art form. So of course it matters what you play; you need to play the music of not being able to hear yourself, music of frustration, rage and—above all—inaudibility.

Liberated from burdens like intonation, note selection, tone quality and time, you can focus instead on creating music that fully deserves not to be heard.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

What happens when you show up for a gig in front of a big crowd, and the leader hands you a chart with fonts so small you can barely read it. Can you refuse to play?

—Squints McGee


Dear Squints:

The size of the font indicates how loud you're supposed to play; it's graphic notation—very post-modern. A tiny font tells you to play so quietly you can barely be heard, just as the notes can barely be seen.

People think that older jazz musicians play louder because they're losing their hearing, but it's actually because they're wearing reading glasses.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

You know how when people are soloing they'll quote some part of a different song that fits over the same chord changes? Well, I'm wondering if it's okay to quote a song over itself. Is that okay, or is it like incest?

—Tommy G., Atlanta


Dear Tommy:

Most people would call that playing "the melody." Obviously "the melody" can be in quotes, while incest is just an improper noun, relatively speaking.

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