Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Thinking Without Speaking

I was listening this morning to one of the many "jazz" groups that I regularly pay a visit to. I would not label it jazz in the classic sense, i.e. front line and rhythm section. This is AMM, a rather unclassifiable group. In one form or another they have been around since the mid sixties. The group currently is down to only two members: pianist John Tilbury and percussionist Eddie Prevost. Guitarist Keith Rowe left the band a couple of years ago for some political or personal reasons. He was a founding member, and to me is sorely missed.

Enough of that. What came to mind while listening was the nature of sound. You see, AMM is not like any other music you have ever heard. When we listen to music there is an expectation of certain devices at work: organization, method, rhythm, melody, harmony, something to follow. None of that exists with AMM. It is at times pure sound, beginning nowhere and ending nowhere. In recent years their sound has mellowed, to me become more "Feldmanesque" in its near preciousness. The now absent Rowe added an edge that is gone. But listening this morning had me thinking "what is music?" AMM music is a challenge to the listener. It is not easy. But I think my interest in AMM is the challenge. You have to listen, really listen. Not talk or maybe even not think. But most of all not talk. Clear the mind.

Now this brings me to a book my little daughter Anna read for school. The name of the book is No Talking. To summarize, a fifth grader named Dave reads a few words about how Mahatma Gandhi did not speak one day each week. Why? To clear his mind. So Dave challenges the female fifth graders to a contest where they would not speak for two days. This is very upsetting to the teachers at the school who cannot deal with this sudden silence. And most of all it upsets the principal who feels it usurps her power. But clearly the teachers are unable to think outside the box. They cannot clear their minds, or think in non-traditional ways. But Dave, through the power of thinking without speaking saves the day. Adults could learn a thing or two from this book. My hat is off to the author.

AMM thinks of music in non-traditional ways. They challenge you to go along with them.

You can find more information about them here: http://www.efi.group.shef.ac.uk/
No Talking is by Andrew Clements

No comments: