anecdote 21 – TRADING HEARTS AND MINDS

foodforthesoul anecdotes
 
anecdote 21 – TRADING HEARTS AND MINDS
 
Julia is a music student at a prestigious Music Conservatory. It has been her dream to be a concert flutist, so she works hard two hours everyday practicing, unlike her classmates who do the minimum required of one hour a day. She practices on the flute instead of joining her music classmates for a movie. They tease her for being too serious and not having fun anymore. She is not bothered. Only her dream keeps her going.

 

Jeremy, her best friend, is not a music student. He is taking Fine Arts. However, having a good ear, he has learned on his own how to play the flute. He is a jazz enthusiast and plays the flute with songs in his computer for hours until he has mastered many songs. At first, he copies the flute improvisations. But later on, he starts experimenting with his own improvisations. That is the jazz culture – ad lib, off the shoulder, just let yourself come out, use your heart, not your mind.

 

Julia’s classical culture at the conservatory is very different. There is only strict discipline. One never improvises. One simply reads and follows notes. It is like a beacon leading one to a beautiful garden. The notes guide her. Sure, she emotes the music she plays, as implied in the score. She can pick that up instantaneously. But she is not allowed to improvise. This is the classical culture – discipline, notes, blind obedience, use your mind, not your heart.

 

Julia and Jeremy are best friends but they never play flute together because they come from two contrasting seemingly-irreconcilable cultures. They share campus life but not music. They cannot play together. Sometimes they quarrel. Music-wise they live in different worlds. There is a deep chasm between them. But only in music. They are always the best of friends.

 

JULIA
You see. It’s the way you pucker your lips. The sound is different. The timber of the note comes out different from the way you pucker your lips and the angle of the mouthpiece to your lips.

 

Julia demonstrates briefly her technical point with her flute to produce different timbers of the same note.

 

JULIA
You understand what I am trying to say?

 

JEREMY
Yeah, yeah, whatever. I don’t care about timber. I just play and concentrate on the next chord, the next arpeggio.

 

JULIA
Oh, so you know a bit about arpeggios. That’s a classical term.

 

JEREMY
You sound snobbish. Jazz musicians know about arpeggios. We are not naïve. It’s simply playing the notes of a chord up and down. That’s nothing.

 

JULIA
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be a snob. I just thought Italian music terms are exclusively for classical.

 

JEREMY
Now you know. But you know what your problem is?

 

JULIA
What?

 

JEREMY
You are buried in your musical score. You are like an ostrich burying itself in the ground. You cant’ express your own thing. You express another person’s thing. You can’t play without a score.

 

JULIA
And you can’t play with a score, right? What’s wrong with another person’s thing. Can you compose like Chopin. Can you be better than the great composers?

 

JEREMY
I don’t have to be better than a great composer. I have my thing. It may be less better than Chopin’s but it is mine.

 

JULIA
Don’t say ‘less better’. Say ‘worse’.

 

JEREMY
Not the same thing, Julia. ‘Less better’ is better. It’s me playing, not Chopin. It is me. Okay, it’s my turn to demonstrate. Give me an arpeggio in E flat minor.

 

JULIA
Well, we’re not yet there. I can give you an arpeggio in C or D diminished.

 

JEREMY
That’s what I mean. You are so concentrated learning the thing of others, you do not have the skill to make your own thing. Let me show you.

 

Jeremy demonstrates the arpeggio in E flat minor. Julia watches the fingering, trying to learn it, but it is too complex for her to follow instantly.

 

JEREMY
Now, let’s add another arpeggio in D flat and we instantly have a song without any scores.

 

Jeremy moves rhythmically from E flat minor to D flat and begins to play a ‘song’.

 

JULIA
Where did you get that song? That’s a nice one.

 

JEREMY
I just played it for the first time just now. You see, in jazz it’s a matter of chords and their arpeggios, the flow from one to the other that makes a tune. You simply choose your notes instantly as the chords change. It’s like walking on a fence and keeping your balance.

 

JULIA
Really. Wow, that’s great. I want to learn that. But no, sorry, my teacher won’t let me. We are not allowed to improvise. The teacher says it will destroy our discipline. For us, the chords are dictated by the score, period.

 

JEREMY
So you see, jazz flutists have more freedom than classical flutists.

 

JULIA
You’re the one sounding like a snob this time. It’s not a matter of freedom. It’s the quality of the song.

 

Their voices start to go on high pitch, arguing on technical terms the other knows nothing about.

 

JULIA
How about some ice cream at the canteen?

 

JEREMY
Good idea. Let’s.

 

They pack their flutes into their cases, and walk together in silence.

 

JULIA
I think we should never talk about music again. Let’s just do anything else. It’s not fun anymore when we argue.

 

JEREMY
Well, let’s do this. Let’s argue with our flutes, not with words. You play for me and I play for you.

 

JULIA
That would be fun.

 

And so things get better between the two flutists. They spend sunsets at the empty football field, away from the crowds, and one plays, then the other. Their music echoes across the campus. From afar, they hear the applause and they bow. The contrast of their music is amazingly beautiful, complex German measured precision versus Brazilian wanton disharmony.

 

They start to draw a crowd. Every sunset, a group of students would hang around without coming near, so that the flutists do not feel so conscious. They simply applaud from afar. The sunset concerts become regular. But they always play solo, one after the other. After the last quarrel, they have never argued anymore. The just play and play, until one day, notes once more shift into words spontaneously.

 

JEREMY
We’re doing it wrong. Why do we stick to each other’s world? Isn’t music one world?

 

JULIA
Yeah, you’re right. Maybe we should try to blend our contradicting worlds.

 

JEREMY
How? I don’t know. Maybe there are too many contradictions.

 

JULIA
Of course not. Okay, let’s do it this way. You tell me what you are doing well that I can’t do, and vice versa. Then we teach each other. I teach you classical discipline. You teach me jazz improvisation. What do you think?

 

JEREMY
I was actually thinking of that when you were playing. How come your notes and rhythm are so precise? And now I am beginning to know the importance of timber. It does make a lot of difference. I mean, the quality and the projection.

 

JULIA
Easy. I practice two hours everyday. Do you?

 

JEREMY
Of course not. I play when I want to, when I feel like, when I am in the mood.

 

JULIA
See, you depend on your mood. I depend on the score sheet. Is there a way we can teach each other?

 

JEREMY
Sure. You teach me how to read notes. You teach me precision in timing.

 

JULIA
And you teach me chord progressions so I can write my own songs. Give me five, brother.

 

The slap of their hands is so hard, echoing across the football field. They laugh so loud that their audience laughs with them. Jeremy beckons their audience to come nearer. They come, about a dozen of them, forming a circle around the two.

 

JULIA
Ladies and gentlemen, I am Julia. This is Jeremy. We are here to try to stop playing solo and start playing together.

 

JEREMY
Hmm. I don’t know. It will take a lot of sessions before we can do that. And our audience may get bored when we are teaching each other rather than playing for them.

 

TEENAGE GIRL 1
Same thing. Either way, it’s music, right?

 

JEREMY
I suppose so.

 

TEENAGE GIRL 2
So play play play. Don’t mind us. Just think we are not here.

 

JULIA
No. We have to know you are there, because we no longer play for each other. We also play for you.

 

There is a round of applause. Jeremy plays Bluesette solo, a complex jazz standard. Julia plays Bach’s Bourree in E minor solo only because it influenced Paul McCartney to write the song Blackbird. Then they start teaching each other. After awhile, the crowd would disperse. Julia and Jeremy would stay until it was dark. Julia would teach Jeremy how to read notes using a flashlight. Jeremy would teach chord progressions for simple jazz standards.

 

That becomes their routine in the daily sunset concerts. They play one to three songs each solo. The crowd would disperse and they have their lessons. It is the exchange of the classical mind and the jazz heart. Sometimes they have bananas for dinner because the canteen is closed.

 

For the first time, they try to play a classical duet together. Jeremy is fast picking up notes. For the first time, they also try to play a jazz piece together where one flute is ‘conversing’ with the other. They get a good round of applause. The crowd is becoming bigger. One day, the security guard comes over. Everyone is silent. He does not stop the concert. He wants to listen. So every night, students and guards come together for the concert.

 

Little do Jeremy and Julia know, that in marrying two different worlds into one, they would one day reach fame and fortune. The Conservatory sponsors their concert in a jam-packed auditorium. The Conservatory in fact sets up a new division on jazz music, where Jeremy is the first professor. Then they burn their first CD, then the next and the next, until their names echo in the concert halls – ‘Jeremy and Julia’. They limit their sunset concerts to Fridays, the only day the school permitted such a gathering of thousands. They had a stage and microphones, and others came in with their portable keyboards, electronic drums, guitars, and singers. It is a big affair but they never charge a cent. Several times, the TV stations would come and cover them live, giving them a car each as a gift for not charging a cent. The ‘Jeremy and Julia’ legacy becomes forever.

 

hearts and minds
left brain and right brain
yin and yang
light and shadows
that is how the universe glows

 

you need light and shadows to see
one complements the other
engineer and architect build houses together
you can merge charlie parker with chopin
but only if you know how

 

eastwind
Bernie Lopez

 

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APPENDIX – HEALING MINISTRY’S COMPLETE LIBRARY
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http://www.sisterraquel.com/2010/04/archive00-entire-ministry-library/
 
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