Thanks to Ethan Iverson's blog,Do the Math, I found this interview with Kurt Rosenwinkel that was more revealing than any interview with him I've read. To read the entire thing, go here. I've put some highlights below.
Interviewer: you must be so happy sometimes?
KR: the sweetness of a certain friction- it's bliss. those are moments of dissolution, among the few happiest of my life, if you can say "happy"; a word i have never related to. i don't think trees are happy. but i believe they feel the bliss of a certain friction.
i just want to say one thing about my relationship to these kinds of things [different scales he is discussing]. this area is on a high intellectual level, which is fine. but i just want people to know that i am not interested in these things because i enjoy contemplating them intellectually. i'm not a braniac. for me discussions like this one usually come from the need to learn how to play my own music; that my music has this stuff in it naturally and it moves me to learn about it on an intellectual and practical level. my music is not intellectual. that's my most hated comment from writers, etc. they really don't get it at all if they think that. i try to make my music as simple as it can be, always.
there are some moments in my songs that have a chord that one needs to use octave specific scales to play over. that "chord tones" only sound good in the bottom register and a completely different scale emerges at the top like a flower.
Interviewer: What "unofficial" session stands out for you as a great and deep moment in your life?
KR: i love what this question points to: that there are moments of music so profound and that can happen anywhere. there are two deeply affecting moments i would like to share. the first is when i was at a friends house and i heard a beautiful modern classical orchestral piece being played over the radio. i went into the room where it was and listened to the most incredible music i had ever heard, it went on for about 20-30 minutes. only afterwards did i realize that two radios were playing different music at the same time, and i was hearing it as one piece of pure genius.
there have been many amazing moments in private jam sessions and parties through my life, but the other time i'd like to relate i was alone playing the piano. i was playing and at a certain point i felt something take over and begin to play its own music. i stopped actively doing anything and i just watched and listened as this music was unfolding in front of my eyes. i saw spirits running back and forth across the keys, using my hands to make an impression in the material world through music. the music that came out was like a symphony. that's how i remember it. but all the while it was happening i knew i would never remember any of it because it was going by so fast and there was so much detail and what i recognized as perfect form. when it was finished i just sat there for a long time, feeling this heart-yearning mix of rapture and sadness, and what i guess would be called humility- that music of far greater power was possible when your self can dissolve and not think that it's you that makes music.
one of the ways i see music is as this comet that flies around the universe. sometimes it swoops down, other times it is nearer or farther. and on rare occasions it picks you up and takes you up and you fly with it on a journey only it knows how to make; showing you things. and we humans? only passengers, or mediums- like we are the magic pill that music takes- it digests us and we dissolve like an alka-seltzer. that is what music needs to become real, to manifest- a human dissolution pill. to feel music from the inside out and feel myself dissolve into nothingness was i think the deepest thing i have ever experienced. i can count the times this has happened on two hands in my life- being possessed like this. and i think that is very lucky.
i am certain that there is a real spirit realm. it has been the revelations and literal signs from this realm that have given my life its coherency and made clear the lessons i need to learn to move forward. there is really nothing of value in my life that hasn't come in some recognizable way from this world. so my prayers and aspirations are to the universe and the organization of forces within it. that there is a universal intelligence is a matter of experience for me, and can always be demonstrated when the meditation is true. answers come in startlingly literal ways. i know that separation is an illusion and we are all part of a net sum. analogy and visualization are the best ways to describe and apprehend esoteric reality. one thing i used to do and still do sometimes is to imagine that the vibrations of music are changing the spiritual or vibrational (same thing) reality of the space i am in. i would see a sea of pluses and minuses in the room and go about changing the minuses to pluses. negativity to positivity. i understand the role of the drummer who cleanses the space before a shamanistic ritual. it makes sense from an energetic point of view.
It was good to be able to experience being on a major label. it provided valuable windows into how it all works (and doesn't work). it was a good way to build an audience too...yes we both did eventually get dropped. i am happy to be on my own now making records. i can do what i want and i can make some money from it too, unlike being on a label. there was an adjustment period trying to figure out how to release records again, but now i think we have figured out how to do it, at least one way to do it, and i am looking forward to putting out more than one record every 2-3 years....
sometimes all i have are the goblin doors. i realized today while riding my bike that if i could make something good, music, that would be really meaningful beyond my life, that i would run my bike into an oncoming car and obliterate myself if that's what it took. i would do that for it.
i think that fact might make it difficult for me to find stability or happiness but i know it's true.
in outer space it's either lasers or free float. guidance. thrusters are so byzantine; crude. they won't ever get you where you need to go. ok maybe in a spacecraft but that's just a very crude analogy for the space travel we do as human beings. in our minds. who hasn't been afraid of the dimensions there? humanity seeks comfort but also gets used to wider circles of knowledge, little by little over eons. i feel like i have lived eons. what else would you call it when some of the lives you have lived are like postcards or dreams. sometimes i can't tell the difference between dream and memory. time seems ancient even in my own memory. just as ancient as anything. egypt. my own personal fictions. my lived life is a personal fiction. ancient egypt is just as close or far, really to my thoughts, to my dreams, to my memories. past life experiences? hell yes! even within my living brain!!
i haven't really got a fucking clue who i am. anyway, knowing is over. starting is learning. i don't want to be someone who knows.
to go from a person who doesn't know to a person who knows is a test. when you are young you are in a position of not knowing relative to everything in life. the natural orientation is towards the unknown as someone who doesn't know. in order to grow in any art form you have to adopt this position. later when you become the one who knows, relative to a younger generation, there is the risk of thinking that you know relative to your own art. orienting yourself towards your art as someone who knows will disable your ability to grow. music has no questions that we can answer. it is we who ask the questions and music which answers.