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Re: The Artist's Right To Be Boring (was: Re: the best.... theworst....)


You make a lot of blanket assertions there. Fine. I have here a few of my 

It has been so long since I posted my commments on this thread that I do 
not even remember what frame of mind I was in -- probably depressed (which 
I usually am after most public performances). Yeah, that's a bad attitude 

I have been doing this stuff (looping and improvising) for well over 20 
years. I think I can say from experience (and I am entitled to my opinion 
too, I think) that I know pretty damn well when a performance went 
successfully . . . or was a failure . . . or was some odd mix of the two.

It is in the nature of improvisation to be risky -- and we either learn to 
accomodate ourselves to the possibility of failure (and the hope or 
possibility of success) and persevere under those terms and circumstances 
. . . or we do not. Myself, I choose to persevere . . . but I also choose 
to not always wear a false smile on my face while doing it.

"There is no BAD music" Well, you may just as easily say there is no GOOD 
music either. We all (in or heart of hearts) know this is nonsense. 
Otherwise, we wouldn't continually take the risks we do, try as hard as we 
do to become better, to learn, and to grow. Hell, we probably wouldn't 
even bother to play for that matter.

Far from being a plea or an attempt to secure myself from failure, I was 
simply trying to say what I believe is true. Sometimes we FAIL. Sometimes 
we are BAD. It would be healthier (I think) if we could talk about it and 
not hide from it continually.

If I perceive a given performance as being less than it could have been, 
yes it CAN help to know that some audience member or another had a 
different opinion and enjoyed it. It CAN lessen the pain a little. But 
that doesn't mean I dispose of my own experience and critical accessment 
and paste a big smile on my puss either.

I'd say, a good 90% of what I do is simply show up and play (physically 
and mentally prepared of course) but with no rehearsal, set list or agenda 
other than to create something GOOD. That is what I aim for. That is what 
I do. That is what I am about. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it's golden. 
Sometimes it's shit. Sometimes its something of a mix (gold-plated doo doo 
or poop-covered gold brick).

I'm a live-looping guitar player, but on rare occasions (the other 10% or 
less) I will go also with some "canned" loops of found noises, 
atmospheres, textures, rhythmic patterns and simple musical motifs, along 
with some notion that I will use them somhow . . . but will determine that 
"how" during performance. This could be considered some sort (or level) of 
improvisation too. You be the judge.

Less than 1% of the time I will attempt to actually play one of the 
improvised pieces from my CD. I don't know why I do this, probably a sense 
of audience expectation or something -- or maybe a false self-expectation 
more likely. But it is almost 100% guaranteed to come out as a giant 
musical turd. Nevertheless, I sometimes fool myself into thinking I can do 

I have played some significant improv gigs upon occassion where it simply 
came out all wrong. Nothing went right. Nothing I tried worked. I felt 
like a fool and an idiot and a charlatan -- and I'm pretty sure most of 
the audience felt that way too. But I'd rather die than pretend it was all 
roses and tell myself that there is no such thing as BAD art or music. I 
don't believe it for a minute.

I will say it again: Sometimes we (especially those of us who improvise) 
need to be allowed to fail.

Best regards,

Ted Killian

---- Stefan Tiedje <Stefan-Tiedje@addcom.de> wrote:
> tEd ® kiLLiAn schrieb:
> > In my experience, it is impossible to depend upon or predict success
> > when you start out with a blank slate for every performance.
> But starting out with a blank slate is the core of improvisation...
> If you put something into it to secure yourself, you failed already...
> > I fall flat on my face about as many times as I do well.
> >
> > The risk of being an abject failure is all too very real . . . and
> > the consequences painful.
> But the times it goes well are worth to risk the "failure"...
> > Even when the audience and promoter(s) themselves are very forgiving
> > it can be devastating to not live up to ones own expectations.
> Even if you "fail" out of your own perspective, because you know of your
> own, better performances, the audience will grab something, maybe just
> unconsciously an imagination of where it could have been gone if you
> didn't "fail"...
> > Many positivly disposed listeners may just figure that it's
> > "abstract" or "avant garde" or "new" and not realize that it also can
> > be truly BAD as well.
> There is no BAD music, but there could be bad attitude. I suspect
> securing yourself against "failure" is bad attitude and the result is
> eventually not music... its more like showing off skills in the
> circus... Which does help for acceptance of the audience sometimes, but
> its not really interesting...
> Either there is music, or there is not. Nothing in-between. This is true
> for any instrument, being it a laptop or a cello/sousaphone/foot
> pedal-bar...
> With known instruments its just easier to show off skills, with laptops
> it looks more abstract... But don't get me wrong, skills do help a lot
> to make music, but anything you do often enough will develop your skills
> anyway.
> In short, the attitude is more important than skills. Or for those who
> need to avoid new age: The path is important, not the destination...
> > Artists need to be accorded a "right to be awful" from time to time .
> > . . some of us more than others.
> Obviously you insist on your right to take a risk. That's an attitude
> which will lead to music. The audience will appreciate this much more
> often, than you think you did it well....
> ..........
> The good thing about looping is being able to start with a blank slate,
> and still being able to build a structure.
> The worst is the dependency on technology (if it fails).
> Stefan