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Questionnaire: Jeph Jerman (2007)

November 2, 2010

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

I had two years of drum lessons when I was 13, but it was mostly trying to learn to read music, which i’ve never really been interested in. I’ve learned much more by playing with lots of different people.

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?

I’ve played drums and percussion for over thirty years, and I also will play anything I can find, conventional instruments from different cultures as well as everyday objects, from kitchen utensils to shells and stones. My relationship with these things is always the same-they are tools to make sound with. I choose soundmakers by their sound.

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

The creative impulse. I think that’s the best term for it. I can rationalise my ways of organizing sound, but these rationalisations all come after the fact of making sound, and don’t motivate me. Listening is the most important thing, and I think that most conventional musics don’t really encourage listening. They encourage thought and emotion.

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

It’s the oldest form of human music in the world. I am involved with it because I enjoy making things in the moment, more than repeating things over and over.

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

It’s a tightrope that we all walk. A friend told me once that one could only truly improvise on an instrument that one had never played before. I think there’s truth in that. It can be difficult NOT to plan, as it is one thing that mind does so well.

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?

Derek Bailey once wrote that the only way to practice improvising was to improvise, and i’d agree with that. I’ve worked with people who “rehearsed” for improvised performances and also with people who didn’t, and in my experience things seem to work better without such practice. I personally play most days, to keep my body limber and my ears open. As for trying out sounds, I sometimes will make sure something works physically before I use it, but I don’t very often work out what i’ll do with it in the context of playing with others.

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

The level of listening by each participant. I try not to evaluate or judge the music, which is often hard to do. Another thing that mind does…If I am having fun, and not thinking too much, then that’s enough for me.

8. When you are recording for a release, does the awareness of being recorded influence your playing, and in what way?

It tends to make me more conscious of what i’m playing. makes the judging harder to ignore. Recording a live performance is a little different. I record every performance I give and have gotten good at forgetting about it after i’ve turned my recorder on. This is harder when one is in the studio making a formal recording of course.


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