Randy Granger

Randy Granger
In the Chihuahuan Desert near the Organ Mountains, New Mexico

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Milking the music Muse. And a video too...

I heard an inspiring interview this week with a master Cello player, Bernard Greenhouse, who is 92 and still practices hours every day and plays concerts. It wasn’t his age that was inspiring but his passion for music and something he said about the rare ability to communicate emotionally through music and if the players feel it on their skin then the audience will too. He was a founding member of the Beaux Arts Trio who just played their final concert at Tanglewood this weekend wrapping up a successful 53 year run. Rehearsing in a lonely thing to do sometimes. It is amazing how 4 hours can just whiz by when I’m working on music or “wood shedding” as we musicians call it.

The real joy of course is when I get to perform for people. That exchange is incredible. There is an art to playing expressively. I’ve been working on a workshop I’m presenting at the Oklahoma Flute Festival in October on just that subject. Sure there are techniques but ultimately the musician has to feel something before they can translate that. I love the mystery of music. The way a passage of music in a movie or a singer at a funeral can immediately touch us so deeply is….well something I don’t want to deconstruct. Many flute players talk about playing from the heart. Being a professional musician means playing from the heart while you are keeping the audience engaged, entertained and hopefully in their seats for 90 minutes. My approach has always been to work up a set that is paced in tempo, energy, familiar, brand new and length of songs. When you think about it I play some pretty relaxing music and run the risk of making my audience doze off or start doing yoga poses. So far they seem to stay awake and usually say things like, “I could listen to your music all day.” That’s when I mention the CD’s for sale. Ha ha.

An interesting thing about the Hang is that there are really only about 7 or 8 notes including octaves (the same note just higher) and you wouldn’t think it would be very expressive. That was one thing that drew me to the Hang. The challenge of playing it emotively expressively was something I wanted to try. An interviewer asked me recently how long it took to learn the Hang. I paused and said, “Oh, I’m still learning.” Like Bernard Greenhouse I’m still working to get as much expressiveness out of my instruments and myself as possible. I think that is why we want people to listen to us, really listen. A lifetime of practice, passion and being completely open to inspiration and feeling things thoroughly all distilled into a four minute song. Whew! Here is a link to the interview I mentioned with Bernard Greenhouse: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=93844925 It’s only about six minutes.

Ok, this is my attempt to be expressive on the Hang. The song is “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. I love this song and melody and am trying to use both my HangHang more. Let me know what you think. Daniel, a hang player from Florida, called the video Grunge Hang. That’s too funny.