Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Authors Notes:Conversations with Elmo Sessions.I was astonished one day to find an album at the Jazz Record Mart by Elmo Sessions.
It was on a label called RUBBLE and the album was called Playing in Place -- and it was just Elmo playing out in the street and on a couple of tracks he had some flute players and a drummer. There were no songs titles mentioned and the liner notes consisted only of what appeared to be an interview excerpted from the TIMES in which Elmo seemed to dodge a series of questions about his approach to music. It was evidently taken on the street, where the album was recorded.
Times: Do you disdain your audience?
ES: Not at all. I love and am fascinated by people- I am one.
Times: But that they cannot understand you or what you are playing? Does that not matter to them and to you?
ES: Whether we understand one another is beside the point. The understanding you're talking about is a journalist's understanding- where there are always more words available than you can use and are often sprayed on a subject the way one paints walls or puts out a out a fire - as if words could somehow cover the music itself. This is the mistake that puts writers between people and music, the idea that music can be described in words. THAT kind certainty is for scientists not trumpet players, but it does keep the music out of the clubs and off the radio.
Times: But do you really think anybody really listens to this stuff or is entertained by it?
ES: I'm not entertaining anybody or their notions. Music is a kind of code. It communicates in a secret way, but it is not bizarre. It is natural. People passing by are touched if I play well and they inhale it. It is more valuable to them than if they were being entertained. An entertainer fulfills expectations. And entertainers are paid very well. I play to the audience with a logic that is new- it may not "make sense" at first but it ultimately requires the consciousness of the person it reaches.
Why aren't you asking the man standing there waiting to cross the street why he does what he does? Because it is of so little importance perhaps? Or, because you know that he has no answer himself and that he is merely doing what he does in order that he is paid. So that his children aren't taken from him or his house repossessed? Is it any different for me? I have no answer either. Besides all of this is taken too seriously. How does this or ANYTHING really MATTER?
Times: All things matter, don't they? Don't you believe in GOD, for instance?
ES: My opinion is but mine and can mean little in a real way to you or to those you sent you!
TIMES: Who "SENT" me?
ES: That's what I said. Are you worried about something? "god" is a dangerous word. "god" is a word that ignorantpeople often use to describe what they cannot possibly begin to even rudimentally contact or understand. For me GOD is the key to all wonder but for most people it is a substitute for the same thing. The word lodges in the synapse and diverts a person’s sense of the miraculous into a file for dead letters, dead ends and dead beats. "god" is a word that short circuits the sensors. "god" is a psychological stop sign. And deprived of sensuality, experience and challenge, people are actually bored to death. Literally. Boredom is the leading cause of death, man. I play because I have this to do.
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