I learned something about myself a few years ago: I get my best ideas when I'm listening live music.
There's something *SCIENCE-Y* about it that I can't remember, but we humans often get great ideas when we're not really trying to get them. This is why they say our best ideas come to us in the shower or when we're going to the bathroom. It's not until we finally relax and stop chasing the idea that we almost accidentally trip on a huge "AH-HA!" moment. My friend Rebecca Hass told me once that she used to keep a water-proof notebook in her shower for those moments. And that is one of the reasons we are friends.
My "ah-ha" spot isn't usually the shower, it's in the audience. When I'm starting to get really doubty, I force myself to go catch some live music. When I'm watching great musicians perform, I lose myself. I forget what the problem was in the first place and re-realize that music is amazing. I have watched myself do about a 180 degree turn in my mood after a concert (ask my husband, he could probably tell you about it... poor guy). I'll go in to a concert feeling sluggish, start listening, get progressively more lost in the music, and then leave the concert with 19 more ideas for new projects and a new-found urgency to get started. Now that I know this about myself, I've been more intentional about it when I know I need a boost.
A while ago, I was at a concert getting lost in listening,when suddenly I got and idea: I'm going to start taking videos of myself improvising on marimba and posting it online with the hashtag marimprov. Then I'll challenge others to do the same.
[Ok, half of that idea is based on how well you can sandwich the word "marimba" with "improv" together. MARIMPROV. Marimba is just one of those words that begs to be played with I.E.: Marimbae, marimbro, marimba when? marimbaby, marimbamama...]
Two weeks ago, I spent WAY too much time taking WAY too many takes to get a decent 1 minute video of myself improvising over some chords I've been playing with since I was in Paris. Then last week I posted a video of myself improvising over some interesting ii-V-I patterns that I picked up from Eric Sammut. With each of these, I used #marimprov and challenged someone else to do the same thing.
The whole idea here, is to get marimbists improvising. I don't know how it happened, but some how we live in a world where musicians often divide themselves into "improvisers" and "non-improvisers". It took me a few years to cross over from the first group to the second, but I feel like that transition is what made me fall in love with music for a second time in my life. (cue tears of musical joy) My first nomination was my friend Brian Calhoun, who does a marimba cabaret show in Boston. Check it out. He responded with a video of an improvisation over the chords from "Papa loves the mambo" and included some writing about how he'd like to start incorporating more improv into his playing. YES! The next week I challenged Eri Isomura, a local Minneapolis marimbist from 10th Wave, who responded with some free-form improv.
So, I'm gonna keep going, and see how brave I get with challengers. I've kept it to people I actually know so far, but I'm hoping to challenge some popular names in the percussion world and see if they take me up on it. If you want to do it yourself, go for it! Don't forget to use the hashtag so that the rest of us can find it! Follow #marimprov on Instagram or Facebook if you wanna see where it goes! You can also follow me @jkmarimba