This is a sequel to my post earlier.
I am very happy to be hosting a counter-interview project brought to me by guitarist Andrew Lim who resides in New York for last 3 years.
Read Vol.1 here → ★
How it started.
It was a pleasant surprise and honour for such an independent thinker to interview me about life and music – although we’ve known each other for years and both strived as Jazz musicians in the same music scene, we both have different upbringings and characters. Since he has brought up this project of interviewing me, I’ve also decided to interview him and see what we get out of it – and maybe it would be a great thing to share what we feel about music and life with all. Thank you Andrew for wanting to know – because I believe in talking about things, especially about how I feel about things. Here is the counter Interview project, part 2.
ANDREW LIM + AYA SEKINE - TALKING ABOUT IT
PART 2 – Aya interviews Andrew
What seems to enhance your music/practicing/writing?
(I actually meant to ask them all in one shot, but Andrew has given me individual answers and they were interesting, so there.)
In music : When you say music I’m assuming you’re talking about the performance aspect? The things that I noticed have helped get me to be in the zone are things like making sure I practiced the physical aspect on my instrument really slowly and with intent and not leaving out all the core physicalities that go into producing a good sound on it. also I’ve found that is only half the picture, the other half is when I spent some time activating my aural faculties and making that connection with the instrument. I.e making sure I’m playing what I hear. in order to do that, i just sing melodies in my head and strive to play exactly that with no fluff.
In practicing : Being in a space where I’m not distracted and also filled with love. sometimes its hard so I’ll go listen to some music instead… does the trick always. what also helps,personally, is to have a clear intent on a really small amount of information and focusing on that. and then practicing the exact opposite after that.
In writing : playing the piano really helps the writing bit. I’ll find myself thinking a lot more about pure ideas. it’s also helpful in the way the instrument is so orchestral. something i have less access to on the guitar.
What seems to bring you down, which brings your productivity in practicing/playing/writing etc?
In music/performance : when I’m in an uncomfortable mental space. so many things cause it and I’m trying to work each aspect so they don’t bug me anymore. some sources of discomfort, when there is not enough mastery of the harmonic, melodic and rhythmic elements at hand. I know it sounds obvious but its the shaky foundation that leads to all kinds of worries and doubt. Also whenever I ignore the concept of balance in my practice routine..it’ll show up in the playing.
In practicing : the biggest impediment I’ve found is when I’m trying too fast to “get somewhere”. I’ve found over the years that anything you can’t do is made up of a multitude of little problems that you have to solve first. I get in trouble when I forget, or, fail to see the smaller issues that I need to work on first.
In writing : a judgemental mind? also, for every idea that doesn’t work, it’s only one tweak away to make it happen. I’ve learnt not to throw anything away…but rather just think of one small modification at a time.
Andrew with Chok Kerong and Soh Wen Ming “A Sleepin’ Bee”
What was the most inspiring thing that happened to you(since moving to New York)?
I don’t know if I can pare it down to any one experience. So many things have affected me here, the different pockets of musicians here, all intensely connected to what they chose to do, and as hard as life is here for a musician, everyone is kept afloat by their belief and the scene is inspiring that way. I’ve never met so many people so committed to their vision that has nothing to do with the marketplace before. Also playing gigs then realising you have Barry Harris, Jimmy Heath, Lou Donaldson, Harold Mabern, Russell Malone, Danilo Perez, Peter Bernstein right in front of you in pretty horrifying LOL. Some of them tell me nice things when I played well and some keep quiet coz I was BS-ing. But its inspiring coz you get an instant indicator… you know you need to hold yourself to a higher standard very quickly and edit out all the fluff if you are serious about this music.
What was the most discouraging thing?
When I’m making music with musicians who don’t care.
What is Jazz to you? Why are you playing Jazz?
I used to think about that all the time but don’t do it anymore. I just let it be what it wants to be in my life. when I started, it was just because the music sounded great and it was fun playing something that kinda sounded like it. Over time, as I got more into it, it just felt like I was exposed to so much truth within it that I couldn’t look at life in the same way anymore. It’s become a mediation, a means to chip away at who I am, a gift to people willing to listen…I’m still finding out as of now.
“It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” we all know this infamous Duke Ellington tune and we both love to swing as well.
What do you think is most important thing to be a Jazz musician/Jazz practitioner BESIDES ‘swing’?
To be in LOVE and to be in SERVICE to others. I started out only taking from and as I grew, I realised the importance of giving more and more. I’m not talking about just material giving here, but a giving of honesty, of spirit, of care. These things are what makes an artist. First we see, then we have to give of ourselves.
That..to me..has the most direct effect on the music.
If you never learn the melody/changes, how to deal with harmony, etc….and love people….you’ll always be a taker. You can’t give something you don’t have.
Do you think it’s possible for Singapore to have bigger Jazz scene?
I don’t know about that. If you lived truthfully and try to set an example, hopefully people can start to discern for themselves what’s up? I know what I’m striving to be and that’s only because of the many angels I’ve had who were there to show me some aspect of the truth, whether I was ready for it at that time or not. I’m hopeful …. hope is really all we got isn’t it?
Singapore may not have the big Jazz scene. What would you tell young Singaporean Jazz enthusiasts, to encourage them?
You better you listen, the more you learn. Learn to love more than yourself. That’s all I have to say…am working on all these same things…. see you at the end folks.
(Interview completed December 31st, 2013)
My after thought :
We both enjoyed answering eachothers questions. It is really good to know what we think are important – there are some similarity in our answers from different questions. We are excited about this small interview sessions, and may continue in the near future. I think next time will be a discussion, as this time it was more answering individually.
What I’ve noticed is that both of us are a big fan of ’acknowledging our levels’. I also firmly believe reality is where everything starts. Previously when we were talking about music, Andrew said ‘only way to grow is some discomfort’ which I couldn’t agree more, as I embarrass myself daily in school now (with or without people around), and this is how I’m learning with such strong conviction. I know my weaknesses and I find them daily. This is the best I felt in a long long time. We could talk for hours about how embarrassed we are at times finding our weaknesses, but finding things to practice is fun. Also we both are letting music lead our ways, not trying to make our ways. Anyway I think it is great to share these type of thoughts. It’s a blessing to have a friend who you can talk to about music so deeply.
In any case, I have played with Andrew countless time in the past, and I am really looking forward to play with him again – maybe in New York, maybe back here in Singapore! We will find out.
Thank you all for reading.