Sunday, March 13, 2005

On becoming a band 

This weekend, I'm in the Bay Area. The odd weather patterns on the west coast are continuing; it has been cloudy here, while Seattle is having one of those sunny, warm(er) weekends that makes a lie of the "rains all the time" story.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at a band rehearsal for a big dance in April. For this event, I am the 'guest musician' with a 3-person band that plays together regularly in the Bay Area. I have played with two of the three musicians before, and know something of their styles. However, every configuration of musicians is a new experience. With each new grouping, the musicians involved must discover how to 'tune' their playing in such a way that they sound like an ensemble, rather then a motley - if accomplished - crew of players. While musicians sometimes joke that the definition of a band is "musicians who start together and stop together" (which is sometimes not as simple as it sounds), there's so much more that makes for a good band. Really listening to one another is obviously critical. But listening well is insufficient; responding to what the other musicians "say" with their instruments - making the music a conversation rather than several people talking at each other - that is the trick.

The doorbell just rang. It's time for another several hours of rehearsal: lots of playing, listening, and exploring. We'll sound like a band by the time we're done today. And once we've done that, we'll have to keep it up; being a band is, after all, a process... just like any relationship.