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Practice Makes Imperfect, The Pursuit of Nothingness, Challenging the Originalists

Practice Makes Imperfect, The Pursuit of Nothingness, Challenging the Originalists
Mr. P.C. By

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Dear Mr. P.C.:

What I don't get is rehearsals. When you rehearse before a gig, you have no idea what will actually go wrong. If people were to rehearse after their gigs, they'd know exactly what to work on. What am I missing?

—Practice Isn't Making Perfect


Dear PIMP:

Here's my question: How do you know that the problems from the concert could be accurately recreated afterwards in a rehearsal environment? In fact, how do you know that it wasn't the act of performing in front of people that caused the problems?

In a sense, performing ruins your ability to have a real rehearsal—one unskewed by all the stress and confusion that come with playing for an audience. That's why the best way to optimize your rehearsals is to stop performing altogether. Fortunately, at today's pay, it's a surprisingly affordable alternative!

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I just played a chart that ends with a fade-out on a vamp. The instructions say "fade to nothing." But even if we completely stop playing we're still there, and so are our instruments. What should we do?

—Visible Man


Dear Visible:

The arranger is apparently a devotee of Descartes and his dictum, "I think therefore I am." Other arrangers will tell you where and how to stop a tune, but this arranger is telling you that for the tune to end your thinking needs to stop, since only then can you truly be nothing.

How can you stop your thoughts? In a sense he's asking you and your bandmates to practice collective meditation. But instead of "mindfulness"—a current meditation fad—he's telling you to pursue "mindlessness."

What does that mean for this chart? Quit reacting to what others around you are playing. Stop concerning yourself with your own intonation, phrasing, and time. Liberate yourself from the constraints of taste and propriety. Above all stop caring about the music itself, knowing that only through absolute mindlessness can your fade-out be complete.

Dear Mr. P.C.:

I was playing a new chart on a big band gig. The chart started with a latin feel, then it went to a swing feel, and then the instructions said "Original Feel." I tried to come up with the most original feel I could, which turned out to be sort of a modified Watusi, and the bandleader got mad at me. What did I do wrong?

—Confused in Chicago


Dear Confused:

Obviously you misinterpreted the instructions. They weren't asking you to come up with your own original feel; you were supposed to play the Original Feel—the very first one.

Different religious beliefs come into play here: Was it some sort of primitive rhythm created by Adam and Eve? Something that emerged, rhythmically, from the Primordial Goo? Pulsations of the universe itself?

These are questions as old as mankind itself, far above my pay grade. But I can tell you one thing with certainty: No known belief system has the Watusi—much less a "modified Watusi"—as its soundtrack for the dawn of mankind.

Have a question for Mr. P.C.? Ask him.

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