Friday, June 9, 2017

The Dangers of Hero Worship- The Search for My Sound.

Greetings from the soon to be 90th season of the Interlochen Arts Camp!

  The great thing about having a blog like this is that when I have a thought, I can quantify it not only to myself but share it with others who might be helped by it. I had such a thought today.

  Sooooooo yeah, this one is pretty much all about me.

  I tend to listen to things repeatedly to an almost obnoxious level. If I like something, I'll just binge listen. Recently, one such recording has been a recording of Christopher Creviston performing Corelli's Sonata da Camera Opus 5 on soprano saxophone. Here it is-

  Today as I listened I caught myself in the thought 'Man, I wish I sounded like Creviston on soprano.' . Now, on the surface that might sound harmless and for a young student I have no huge problem with it. However, for someone with years of playing under their belt and a music

Is that still where I am?

Do I have such little confidence that my sound is going to please people that I STILL covet the sound of those further down the path?

  You see, for years I idolized guys like Allen Rippe, James Houlik, and Donald Sinta. Everything about my sound concept was shaped on....not developing MY sound...but developing into a version of THEIR sound. Oh I did a darned good job at it. This came with big problems down the road.

  Here's the first problem- I'm not any of those guys and to get a sound which mimicked theirs, I have had to over voice and manipulate my oral cavity in some fairly unnatural ways. This has created a lot of tension in my playing and has had an adverse effect on several aspects of my technique to the point where I'm having to unlearn a lot of things before I can move to the next level.
   Second- I've tried so hard to sound like my heroes that I cannot shape my sound to match others very well. This is especially true on tenor. Early this year I sat in with my grad school's wind orchestra on tenor. I could NOT blend with the rest of the section, try as I might. This is something that will cost me jobs. Musicians must have the flexibility to blend in sections; regardless of genre.

  Ok, back to today's thought. As I was pondering hero worship and how it played out, I observed that all of the current big name professors in the sax world have pretty darned unique sounds and though they share some basic concepts with their mentors, they sound very much like themselves. Tim McAllister sounds like Tim McAllister even though he studied with Don Sinta for a long time; same for Allen Rippe and Chris Creviston. Stephen Page and Otis Murphy sound like themselves even though each spent time with Rousseau. Here's the difference. Where I said "I want to sound like THIS guy!", they said "I want this guy to help me sound like a better me!"

  So, what to do? Well, I will hear saxophones this summer due to where I am. When the Prism Quartet performs 150 yards from your bed, you go, period. However, I think that as far as chosen, active, make-me-better listening, I am going to listen to master's of other instruments. I'm sure Perlman, Heifitz, Rampal, and others can teach me plenty.

   Meanwhile, I'll go back to learning to sound like me and be the best ME I can be.

1 comment:

  1. I've had an opposite problem... not caring enough to assimilate the playing of the greats to the degree that I sound good, but kind of characterless in my playing. For a jobber who prizes being a musical chameleon, it's not really a hindrance, but on the artistic side, it's something I'm definitely working on. On the average, your approach and mine probably combine to make one hell of a player! LOL