Friday, September 2, 2011

A Musical Fork in the Road

I was reminiscing about some points in my life where music took a change, and I remembered one that is particularly striking:

In 1992, I went to the Hoomei (Throat Singing) symposium in Tuva. I was enchanted by the event (which you can read about in detail in one of my early Musical Adventures stories) and soon returned to the US with a clear image of myself introducing throat singing to the American people.

Later that year, the Tuvans came to California, and were part of the Rose Bowl Parade, and I was there as part of that festivity. Over the next several years, there was a flurry of activity surrounding throat singing, as performers came through the US. I has the great fortune of housing some of them at my home in Colorado during such visits.

I became particularly attached to Kongar-Ool Ondar. As I mentioned, he was not forthcoming with his instruction about throat singing, but I did figure out most of the fundamentals on my own by studying what I observed him do, and what I heard on the recordings, that constantly played at my house.

Kongar-Ool teamed up with Bela Fleck for a tour and a recording. I had the pleasure of hosting Kongar-Ool at my home during that tour, and met Bela Fleck and his band.

I had heard a little of Bela Fleck's first recording, but wasn't as impressed with it as I later was when I listened to it again. I traded the CD for something else. But I knew of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, an unusual jazz quartet featuring a banjo and an electric drum machine and so forth.

As I watched Bela and the band, I was immediately aware of all I had overlooked in dismissing his first recording. They were brilliant, innovative and diverse. They pulled from every musical style, and created the most unique sounds I had ever heard. Kongar-Ool just added to the exotic mix. It was wonderful.

The next day, I took Kongar-Ool down to the tour bus to head off with the Flecktones for the next few cities. I had a couple hours to spend with Kongar-Ool on the bus, as the Flecktones were very late getting up that morning. He gave me some pictures, and we talked about life and spirit in my broken Russian. The Flecktones started to come out, and I started to say 'goodbye' to Kongar-Ool. He stopped me and said 'until our next meeting.'

I got off the bus and passed Bela in the parking lot.

The next day, I started following a different path. I renewed my interest in jazz, and returned to my roots in that musical form, but everything we did had the influence I had gotten from the Flecktones of blending and fusing everything we could grasp. The throat singing went by the wayside, except for moments here and there, when I would try it in my car, and give up, since I had lost the skill.

Through the next few CDs we put out, the band became more and more influenced by the world music I was hearing in my head.

About two months ago, I suddenly renewed my interest in throat singing, and have been working on the techniques again, this time with much more success than I have ever had before. The few technical questions I have had have been answered by information available on the internet. The practice is developing.

So, the thing I learn about paths is that you can veer from one to the other, but ultimately, all our paths become the same.

I can only imagine where my next recordings and performances will take me, and I am curious to find out. It just seems that every musical influence I have had seems to reappear at some point.

Maybe it was my ego. My goal of being the one to introduce throat singing to the world was an ego-based goal. Now that it is working its way naturally, organically and in a non-ego way back into my awareness, I see that it is another vehicle of expression, and it will somehow be a part of my musical palette, the way it was supposed to be.

Discount nothing.

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