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Questionnaire: Bhob Rainey (2007)

November 2, 2010

1. Have you got any formal musical training, and what do you draw from it now?

I have played the saxophone since I was ten years old and have studied performance and composition at the graduate level.
Training, knowledge, and experience should not be avoided, nor should they be seen as a culmination of aesthetic activity. One lesson that you will always learn when you study something is that a great deal of commitment is behind the things you love. What is behind that commitment is the stuff that’s pretty hard to teach.

2. What kind of equipment/instrument do you use, and what is you relationship towards it? What do you think lies behind your choice of the equipment/instrument?

[not answered]

3. What is it that attracts you towards musical experimentation?

I am merely trying to find a music that seems truthful and useful to me. It only becomes an experiment because that process involves so much groping in the dark.

4. Why are you involved in improvisation, and how do you perceive it?

The process of improvisation bleeds into your entire life. It is an extraordinary challenge full of compromises. And it is also as everyday as a tube of toothpaste. It’s pretty hard to turn your back on that, once you’ve had a taste.

5. How do you perceive the relation between planning and spontaneity in improvisation?

Planning is a desperate attempt to cover your ass when things get rough. If you happen to spontaneously execute a plan, you’re lucky. If you engage a plan to avoid appearing weak or uninteresting, you’ll be ashamed of yourself soon enough.
I don’t worry too much about spontaneity. So many things are destroyed by humans with a desire to seem special.

6. Do you “practise” for an improvisation, and what are your general thoughts on the idea of “practising” for improvisation?
When you improvise, do you use sounds that you’ve already “tried out”, and how much room is there for actual sound experimentation?

I don’t think specific sounds are terribly critical to an improvisation. In fact, I think there is considerably too much emphasis on single sounds at the expense of overall musical ideas in improvisation. If a new sound happens to emerge during an improvisation, sure, that’s an exciting event. But I don’t beat myself up for using a sound one thousand shows in a row.
That being said, every improvisation is a practice for improvisation. Not in the effort to get it right, but in the effort to be just there.

7. How do you evaluate an improvisation? What is it, according to you, that makes one improvisation better than another?

A live improvisation is a charismatic event, regardless of the performer’s position on audience/performer hierarchies. There are times when you are just sucked in. At those points, you are in the worst position to evaluate why something is working. It’s the duds that give rise to plenty of theories and often spark the most heated debates. Sometimes, these debates can turn a dud judgment into a new obsession. So, we rely on the old medicine man magic, and we rely on the failures. We probably do best when our evaluations are as ephemeral as our improvisations.
Personally, I judge everything I do quite harshly. But, luckily, I’m pretty forgiving.

 

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