This page has moved to a new address.

Guest Post: Art in Life is Art

The Sensible Flutist: Guest Post: Art in Life is Art

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Guest Post: Art in Life is Art

I love music for many reasons, and one of those reasons is the ability for it to inspire relationships.  Relationships among notes, among performers who may be strangers, and relationships among friends.  There are also relationships between the music and the performer.  By living your life, you provide a lens of interpretation that can have a dramatic effect on your music.

I want to talk about my awakening of this belief and how I've applied my life experiences to a specific piece of music.  And then I'll respond to one of Alexis' earlier postings on life experiences affecting performance. 

I need to take you to a spring day in Washington, where I was in a tiny room in an old building for a saxophone lesson.  I had practiced the Karg-Elert Caprice 'X. Cubana' and had just finished playing through the piece.

"Where's the passion?"  My professor, Bob Miller, looked at me with a discerning eye.  I asked,  "What are you talking about?  Do you want more vibrato?"  [Full-disclosure: I was a freshman at this time.]  My professor laughed, or maybe it was closer to a chuckle.  "When I'm playing passionate music, I think of my wife."

He begins to play the etude, but with a soul and feeling that doesn't sound as robotic and MIDI-fied as my rendition.   After a few lines of music, Bob turns to me.  "Playing music is like holding a pretty girl's hand."  And that's when it became one of those defining moments in my musical understanding.

See, in the especially troubling time of adjusting to college life, I hadn't thought about what I was trying to communicate through my music.  I was playing rote and inconsistent because my own thoughts were transitory.  Bob Miller had told me many times that music comes from your head, out of your horn, and back into your head.  It took me a few years to figure out what he was actually saying to me.

You see, I had not thought about art in the sense of a delivery system.  Music provides a tangible format to connect ideas through emotions and experiences we've had in our lives.  In effect, your life experience becomes the engine to the work's vessel.

And this whole concept of creating art as creating a vessel might visually resemble the circle of head-horn-head.  Within this vessel, you provide a means of emotional contextualization for the person experiencing this art.  So Bob wasn't necessarily talking about music ending up in the performer's head, but anyone who happens to be opening up themselves to hear the vessel in the sound is the end result of the circle.

Playing music like holding a pretty girl's hand means to have an intention to believe fully in the act that you're doing.  Our life experiences become powerful tools to invest belief in the music we create as well as the experiences we share with other people.  Sometimes that experience is shared with a particular pretty girl.

Whenever I play 'Cubana' these days, I think of my wonderful girlfriend and I on the streets of Barcelona and all of the smells.  Never before had I been to a country that smelled like Spain did; two parts perfume and flowers to one part food.  Images of the Placa d'Espanya and particularly the awesome Gaudi cathedral come into mind.  With a title like 'Cubana', I'm safe to assume that Karg-Elert wasn't thinking of Barcelona, but the association is so strong with me that it fills my mind whenever I play that piece.  For me, that experience becomes the piece whenever I hear it.


Now I'll respond to Alexis' post about enriching your art with your life.  Music takes many forms and shapes, and the uniqueness in which we express these forms is what makes our music making beautiful.  Beautiful in this case can mean haunting, exuberant, mystical, crushing, sublime, or any other adjective that could describe the mixture of emotions that we experience as humans.

It's the same concept that great novels employ: give enough detail to the reader to get a general sense contextualization, but leave the larger details up to the reader to fill in.  That ambiguity is powerful for making people connect and believe in the art.  But it starts with a seed based off an idea that the artist had in mind when creating.  As a performer, you're bound to the notes and inherent form of the piece, but you can provide the water that makes the seed of the music bloom to your idea of a plant.

This active enriching requires an awareness of your life and emotions.  The more you open your life to your contextualization of music, the more your music resonates with the experiences you want to share. You've taken the first step towards understanding.  Live your life and enjoy your music and both will be strengthened.


Jeff Tecca is a saxophonist who studied at Pacific Lutheran University and received a Bachelors of Music in Composition in 2010.  He currently writes for chamber ensembles and K-12 wind bands.  Jeff also plays guitar and bass in his pop band, Paraloco.  He runs a blog about his music at, his band's blog at, and can be reached by email at and on twitter at @jtecc.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home