Saturday, March 15, 2008

On playing music with freedom

Here is an old musician's joke: "Do you know why they call it free jazz?"

"Because that's what it pays."

Nevertheless, one of the cool aspects of this project is the inclusion of about a half-dozen tunes in the genre of free jazz. This is improvised music that is not restricted by tempo, tonality, or niceness. These pieces are a departure from the the way we normally approach our music, and they have been an interesting addition to our musical diet.

We have two new sound clips on the blog. The first clip offers some of my thoughts on free jazz, and why it fits the greater plan of the project. The second clip is a brief interview with bassist Tony Marino, our resident subversive. He shares some of his observations on free playing, particularly in his extensive experience with jazz master David Liebman. It's a short clip, but deeply insightful.

The creation of the free pieces has been an intensely satisfying part of the Psalms Without Words project, simply because the music is so honest. As we work our way through the new music, we are learning to let the music fly, without preconditions, restrictions, or unnecessary editing.

And this is how prayer is to be, as well. I've grown increasingly convinced that the primary reason why many psalms are never included in the church's liturgy is because they refuse to play it safe. They don't "clean up well." Some of them don't end well.

In a few days, we will gather on Good Friday to hear Jesus pray the opening words of Psalm 22: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" The question is harsh, but is a deeply appropriate question from the cross. The question cannot be answered quickly. Nor can it deny the considerable pain that prompts it.

Give a listen to the clips. Prepare yourself for an album that includes some of the most honest music that you may ever hear.

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