Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Making music with what you have left

Have you ever heard this story about Itzhak Perlman? To summarize, he broke a string on his violin during a performance and - rather than get up and find another violin (an arduous task due to the fact that he has braces on his legs and uses crutches) - he played on making adjustments with the remaining 3 strings. In the end, he said "You know, sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left."

According to snopes, the story is not true. When I heard that - I was disappointed.

But the message rang true once again when I heard Brushy One String.


  1. Now, this hits close to home. Right on.

    One of my all-time favorite Lomax recordings is of a street percussionist, from the Black Appalachia collection, from the '30s.

    In fact, I just found it:

    Theopolis Stokes, one of the finest percussionists of his day, playing on pots and pans on the sidewalk for change.

    It's like plants always will sprout up no matter how much people try to pave over the ground. Music just happens.

    1. And about Brushy One String:

      This is fantastic, and a reminder that musicians are best served by keeping their means of musical production as simple as possible, because the simpler the technology the greater the inventiveness of the musician. Listen to him: no technology to speak of (in the sense we use it in the US) but tons of inventiveness. It's like it's 98% human, 2% technology. Our mainstream here is processed beyond recognition.

      It's important that at the beginning and periodically throughout the performance, he declares himself by name. This is totally characteristic of the Black Diaspora, though not universal. You get similar declarations in the great Calypsonians, in jazz (with increasing subtlety over time), and of course in Hip Hop. The point is to declare oneself to oneself, one's community, and to the white powerstructure, and then drop some unassailable genius on people that makes it impossible to argue that the musician is a lesser person than anyone else.

      Great find.


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