Monday, March 17, 2008

Life after Buddy Rich

So I've been studying Buddy Rich's videos, watching them over and over, figuring out exactly what he does and paying attention to every detail. There is much more than what may seem evident at first sight.

And yesterday I saw a live band... and the drummer...

What to say. It's not that he was bad. He wasn't bad. He kept proper tempo, he seemed reasonably skilled for the difficulty of the music. But see that's the problem of becoming familiar with what really accomplished artists can do. While it's great because you become aware of the often subtle details that discriminate the good from the outstanding, the "average" stuff just doesn't cut it anymore precisely because now you can distinguish differences that to you didn't exist before.

A perfect example of this was one time when I made my mom listen to a song I liked, and all of a sudden she asked "the composer is playing the keyboards, right?".

What the... how did she know? Well, she went, since composers usually are not very accomplished players, when they play chords the attack speed of their fingers is not the same across the whole hand. As a result, you can hear individual notes sounding differently or ever so slightly out of synch when they shouldn't. The signs were there, and once you realized that, the conclusion was very likely to be true.

And... darn it... now that I am aware of that, I pick up on such things even if I don't want to. It's as if somebody came over and opened an eye you had always kept closed. You cannot close it back again. It doesn't work like that.

The good side of all this, however, is that although you set the bar higher and higher each time, you also become much more appreciative of excellent work, precisely because you realize more fully the enormous amount of skill, time and effort that goes into accomplishing it. So, while I do not listen to that CD anymore, I do listen to Claudio Arrau play Chopin instead. And, quite frankly, I'd rather skip the former and keep the latter.

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