Off The Cuff!


Today I will mostly be writing in the spirit of Thelonius Monk who said, ‘There is no wrong note, it has to do with how you resolve it’. My plan: to keep typing whatever comes into my head until I have finished my bottle of beer.

Yeah, when you listen to Monk play you kind of see what he means.

In this age of targeted marketing, with its seamless soundtrack of endless over-dubs and auto-tuned vocals, how refreshing to hear and see someone flying by the seat of his pants! And returning to William Blake’s idea that without contraries there is no progression, surely here is an example of discord enhancing our appreciation of harmony.

Why have we become so risk-averse? I vividly remember the leader of a blues harmonica course telling us that we were only ever a semitone away from musical safety. In other words, improvise like your life depends on it and trust your instincts. How else are you going to get good at escaping from music’s, or life’s inevitable impasses? Those who only play by the book tend to get most lost when things don’t go to plan – which is often.

I once had an argument with a roomful of musos who reckoned Jimi Hendrix was over-rated. Yes, I had to admit, the guy played bum notes … but look how high he could fly! Maybe there’s a connection … what do you think?

The theme opens up like a kaleidoscope and my bottle is nearly empty. Without mistakes, no true creativity. Maybe it’s time to cut ourselves some slack and learn to play again. My two-and-three-quarter-year-old grand-daughter began our game today with, ‘I’m a baby penguin … ‘

You’re never too old to visit Antarctica! It’s surprisingly easy to find. Just turn left at Non Sequitur …

Image result for baby penguin


Image: Critter Babies

18 thoughts on “Off The Cuff!

  1. Very amusing post! Seriously though, I believe the current music industry does not allow for the creativity of Thelonius Monk or Jimi Hendrix. I think it is (sadly) a canned formula that each new pop star is expected to hawk. I would not buy any of it in a million years. Bring back the risk takers!

  2. I didn’t realise Thelonius had a similar philosophy to Eric Morcambe. He said that he played all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order.
    They couldn’t have been real musos if they don’t appreciate the genius of Hendrix. Nobody comes close. His imagination and skill was unbelievable.
    Creativity comes out of the imagination with the belief to go for it and what the hell.

    1. Haha, here’s to Eric, a genius in a very different direction! I’m sure creativity is a subject I’ll be returning to. Just been listening to an AI expert on Desert Island Discs who suggested dreaming is the brain playing back the real world so we can learn from a wider range of situations. Sounds plausible …

    1. That’s a great way of putting it. And Jimi played rhythm and lead guitar simultaneously – maybe the language equivalent would be telling a story while also exploring the associations of particular moments … generally employing different levels and voices at the same time. Hey, you got me thinking …

  3. One of my junk art ladies commented, correctly, I think, “It’s all improvisation”. Mistakes are how we figure out what to do. Education these days has forgotten that, which is why everyone seems to be so cautious and contained.
    As Neil Gaiman famously said in his commencement address: “And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.” (K)

    1. Thanks for that. Trial and error is, as you say, now largely neglected considering it was so important in the 50s, 60s and 70s. One writer I heard of used to splash ink on to the paper to remind herself to be a bit wild and untidy in her writing.

  4. Such a funny post with a serious message.. Trying to find something unusual is the thing today. We have to keep looking through jungles of unworthy songs before we get to one song that can make us hum for days. The good-ol-days of different songs, I miss them even though I am in my 20s. Songs from before I was born, make more sense than the copied ones of today.
    The baby penguin though… When are you taking off to Antarctica? 😛

  5. I think there’s a creative spirit missing today. So much in the culture is cut and dried – superficially polished but inwardly dead. I’m taking the first ice-breaker south! 😉

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