Here’s an extract from an interview with Henry Threadgill that I came across via Ambrose Akinmusire. He’s discussing how musicians (or artists in general) have a tendency to try and emulate artists from their favourite era. According to Threadgill, when we’re studying the approaches and techniques of our predecessors, we shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking that we’ll ever up end sounding like them. Our study of the greats should be a lesson in understanding ‘the history of the music’, with the ultimate aim being progression onto, what Threadgill calls, the ‘second period’. Worth a read!
‘I don’t support the idea of people wasting a lot of time learning to play what somebody else played and get that into their system, and then they can’t get it out. You need to understand what somebody else did, just to understand the history of what you’re involved in. It’s the history of anything; the history of writing, the history of engineering, the history of science. You need to understand what happened in this period, so you can understand how you move to the second period. You look at painting and frescoes and you see where perspective came in and where infinity came in. You need to understand these kinds of things in terms of progression, but if you get stuck in one of these periods by trying to execute and get misled into thinking that you’re actually creating in that style and period, I think you’re misleading yourself. I don’t really believe it’s possible to do it, to play legitimate music form another period, because music is tied into social situations too. Social, emotional reality, and psychological reality is all connected culturally to any art form, and you can’t jump back and place yourself – It’s not like some kind of time capsule where you can go back and be in that cultural moment, which underscores social, psychological, emotional reality. Yes, you can learn on the surface how these things were, but I think it’s a waste of time, a waste of a person who’s trying to become an artist’s time.’