To Chi-pin and Kai-ya*

I was never attracted to perfection. I always felt that perfection was for the Gods while we are just humans. I found much joy in exploring the works of Handel and Haydn, which may not be as perfect compared to Bach and Mozart but have great moments of innovation and discovery. Still, in our education we are taught to work to achieve perfection.

Gary Karr told me once: “In the practice room, there is no compromise. But once you set your foot on the stage, there is already a compromise”. In the practice room we seek perfection but in real life, there is no such thing.

I remember attending a performance and being very impressed by the technical perfection. When I woke up the following morning, I could remember I had been impressed but couldn’t remember which pieces had been played.

In his Ted talk The riddle of Experience vs. Memory, Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman explains that the experience and the memory of the experience are not identical.

I had a certain feeling as I was experiencing the performance but then the memory of the performance was different than what I felt. I had the same experience once when watching a show on Broadway: everything was so perfect that I was totally absorbed for two hours. Now I mostly remember that feeling and the fact that my younger son and I had a great time. Nothing was left of the show itself. It had left no mark on me. Other performances I can clearly remember because there was something else. Something in the air.

Many times, music takes us places, brings back memories of events that have happened and are somehow associated in our mind with that particular music. Sometimes we hear a song and it reminds us of a person that used to like it many years ago.

There are pieces that I play one time only and there are pieces that I know will stay in my repertoire. One piece I will continue to perform and also teach to my students is Ode for Double Bass by Arnon Palty.

This piece I premiered last summer at the Taipei International Jazz Festival. Even though I enjoyed the performance, I felt that my performance was not perfect. Still, this piece will always carry the sweet memory of Taipei. Wherever and whenever I perform it or teach it, my memories will always come back to the wonderful people, to the warm audience and to the great fun and excitement of making music together.
* Chi-pin Hsieh and Kai-ya Chang were our hosts in Taipei. They are wonderful people, wonderful musicians and pioneers of Jazz and Jazz education in Taiwan.
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2 Responses to Perfection

  1. Arnon Palty says:

    The composition was written as an Homage from me to Michael with much love and respect, and yes, I agree, Chi Pin and Kai Ya are phenomenal!

  2. Michael G says:

    Whoa, that’s great, at last i can listen to the great collaboration!
    Though being perfectionist is the most frustrating thing that is, Aristotle said:
    “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”
    Excellence and perfection are not the same, still it seems to have the same purpose when we talk about music. There’s a chance to have a perfect music experience through excellence.

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