The Creative Genius of Pat Metheny
LP: You have had the opportunity to travel very extensively and also live and experience life outside the U.S. Are we closing the gap between our different cultures and what will it take to bring us closer together, or could that also cloud our differences in ways that will not necessarily appreciate our cultural differences?
PM: This is the biggest cliche in the world, but thirty some years of touring around the world has really proven this to mepeople are really much more alike everywhere than they are different. People are naturally proud of their own heritage and the things that make them unique. But, personally I am much more interested in the ways that everywhere you go, there are so many things going on that are exactly the same between people, and especially the way they listen to music. That ultimately gives me a lot of hope.
LP: Does the forward-thinking artist have a unique ability or awareness of what surrounds them and is there a responsibility with that awareness?
PM: I think a good refrigerator repairman has an awareness of things that you or I can scarcely imagine. Same with a little kid. Everyone has a sense of things going around them that they filter through their needs and desires at that point in their life. I can only speak for myself as a musician, and for me, as my awareness of musical things has increased, it has enhanced my perception of every other thing in my life. And gladly, I can say vice-versa. Somehow it all goes together.
LP: You have spoken about the positive influence music has on young children and there are more studies that have supported this analogy. What do you know about it and what is it about music that provides this life and energy?
PM: I think music occupies a unique spot in humanity. It is unlike anything else, and therefore difficult to measure. But I think somewhere in almost everyone, music is kind of a necessity. I have often thought of music as a kind of vapor that occupies that same frequency of human response as those other unquantifiables that we all seem to needlove and faith.
LP: One of the problems with documentation focusing on jazz, (such as Ken Burns's series), is that it spends most of it's time concentrating on what jazz created in the past tense and little on what the music is creating at the moment, which is the essence of this great music we call jazz. Doesn't this seem shortsighted, perhaps a lost opportunity to educate potential aspiring jazz students and educate people to what jazz is really about and what is available to them?
PM: Jazz is such an infinitely interesting topic that there would be dozens of ways to describe it in the form of a documentary film. "Lost opportunity" would be an apt description in this case.
LP: Cecil Taylor said that "Music has to do with a lot of areas which are magical rather than logical; the great artists, rather than just getting involved with discipline, get to understand love and allow the love to take shape." How much of your music is from logic and how much from this other place that Cecil Taylor describes?
PM: I love his description. The "magic" factor, the qualities that are unquantifiable are the most interesting and least discussed when it comes to jazz. But I feel that in fact, those qualities are largely intangible and there is a reason why they resist textual or verbal contexts, a reason why so much writing about jazz is so superfluous. The mystery of the process itself remains one of its great appeals.
LP: I think that composing is one of your greatest strengths but improvisation seems a critical aspect of the dynamic that brings together the relationship of your compositions and the emotional involvement of those you collaborate with together. Can you discuss your approach of bringing these aspects together?