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Interview with New Age Pianst Jim Gibson

Interview with New Age Pianst Jim Gibson

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Published by Edward Weiss
I asked Jim 5 questions I wish I had the answers to when starting to play and compose for piano.
I asked Jim 5 questions I wish I had the answers to when starting to play and compose for piano.

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Published by: Edward Weiss on Feb 01, 2010
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04/28/2015

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An Article on New Age Piano Playing by Pianist/Composer Edward Weiss

Interview with New Age Pianist Jim Gibson
By Edward Weiss

Published by Quiescence Music

Interview with New Age Pianist Jim Gibson
Jim Gibson is a solo pianist currently living in Atlanta, GA. Jim's music has been available in the solo piano CD market for about ten years, with new solo piano recordings added every year. But he's spent decades as an active professional pianist. Jim’s website http://hickorycovemusic.com Edward: How Did You Get Started Playing New Age Piano? Jim: I My mother was a piano teacher, so I just grew up playing...had a job playing for a small church in the country near my hometown (Columbus, GA) during high school, and just "fell into" playing with a dance band while I was in college. I majored in English, got an MA in English, but was playing jobs all the while, and eventually left teaching just to be a full-time commercial pianist (in Atlanta). I've been doing that since the early '70s--playing all kinds of social and commercial piano jobs...some with bands, some with small combos, many just piano. I got interested in New Age music when I first heard George Winston, Michael Jones and others. I was intrigued because the style was so different from the jazz-orientation that I have been part of for so long. In jazz, the culture is often the "I'm hipper than you because I can play more abstractly, more complexity, more 'outside'....and the new-age approach seemed exactly the opposite. It stressed calmness, quiet, peacefulness...and that has an appeal to me. I have evolved in playing jobs to now including a lot of my own "instant improvisations" mixed in with the standards and cover tunes that I play. For example, I played a wedding announcement party in a huge home in Atlanta last night...and while I mostly played songs these folks would know--mostly old standards and love songs---I mixed in quite a bit of my own instant stuff, which I'm sure would be classified as 'new age.' It's quiet, flowing, and fits the mood....so while I’m not primarily a 'new age' player, it's become more and more a part of my playing. Also, the older I get, the more I seem to appreciate quiet and calm music. Edward: What Inspires You and Informs Your Music? Jim: As For my cover CDs, I'm inspired by the song I'm working on, and am attempting to come up with a fresh approach that falls within my established niche---which is quiet and melodic renditions. For original stuff, I like to try to draw inspiration from nature, which sounds

like a cliché but isn't. I'm lucky enough to have a little cabin in the North Georgia hills, and several times I've taken my keyboard (and computer) out onto the porch and just sat there, watching the trees, listening to the wind...and tried to come up with some musical representation. My best instance was actually from looking at photographs.....I was asked by Pearl Dexter, the publisher of "Tea: A Magazine" to come up with music for a DVD she was producing that featured her very nice photos of tea plantations in various countries. So, I set the computer to show the pictures as a slide show, watched them over and over, and then more or less played along... making up melodies as the pictures appeared. I then worked with the 4 or 5 themes to put together 2 long (i.e. 12 minutes each) compositions that go with the photos very well. In fact, I'm reworking those recordings....dividing them into shorter segments...and will put them on a new CD later this year...possibly it will be called "The Landscape of Tea" or maybe "The Serenity of Tea." It's a work in progress, but it was definitely inspired by Pearl's photos, the idea of Asian music and the notion of tea as a serene and calming drink. Edward: What Is Your Method for Composing a Piano Piece? Jim: It's the same method that I've used with my 15 CDs of "cover" songs....which is that I just sit down at the piano and start playing. If I'm working on a unique arrangement of a recognized song--say "I'm in the Mood for Love," then I'll fool with ideas, try to listen to the song for melodic hints that I can expand upon for an introduction....or I'll just noodle around with the song until something interesting happens. (Of course, usually, nothing interesting happens, but sometimes it does.) For my latest CD, "Tapestry" which IS decidedly New Age, and which is all my own stuff, I developed the habit of coming into my home studio in the evening, after supper (in fact, after the dishes are done!), turning the lights down fairly low, and just playing....sometimes I actually propped a photo of a certain scene--3 are on the 'Tapestry' page of my website---and just looked "into" the picture and tried to play a feeling from it. I've not done this too many times before, but it seems to work....and as a melody, or rhythm begins to develop, I'll just fool with it until I like it. If it's going somewhere, I'll record it, come back a few days later and see whether I still like it....and if I do, I may work with it some more. I almost never write these melodies down at all. I've been playing a long time, and can make up music by the yard...most of it (of course) not very good....but I'm always looking for the needle in the musical haystack, and if I play enough, I'll get some good stuff. I think that it is impossible (for me,

at least) to just sit down at the keyboard and turn on the creative switch. I also notice, and this is an absolute constant with me, that after I've been playing steadily for maybe an hour and a half or 2 hours, that my creativity will kick itself into a better zone....I don't know if the finger-brain connection needs to be awakened, or exercised, or just what happens....but IF I can make myself play for at least an hour before I get down to 'creating,' I usually find that the creating goes easier....and I play better, too. Edward: Do you Get Blocked Creatively and if so, How do You Get Past It? Jim: Sometimes I sit down to work on something...either a song of my own, or an arrangement for one of the cover CDs....and nothing will happen. I believe that there are ups and downs in one's creative output, and there are days when I just can't seem to get past clichés....so I just quit and come back another day. I've also had many instances where I've planned to record a particular song, and can never make anything 'creative' or 'good' happen with it.....so in those cases, I'll just move on to another song. I think, actually, that you can't just give in to the notion of being creatively blocked. You need to work at playing music and getting through it to the creative zone that we all crave....for me, it comes with playing/practicing. I don't know a lot of Bach, but somehow playing several 2-part inventions over an over seems to awaken my brain. I've heard choral composers (official academic musicians) say the same thing about Bach. Edward: What Advice Would You Give to Aspiring New Age Pianists? Jim: As I mentioned earlier, my mother was a piano teacher, and when I 'outgrew' her in my high-school years, I moved to another teacher. But, in high school I didn't do much practice, so my parents ended the lessons (which, as a parent now, I fully understand!). I took a few quarters of piano in college, but mostly veered off into self-taught jazz....and I've done pretty well with that approach. However, I really wish that I'd done more real organized piano lessons from real, knowledgeable teachers. I'm happy that I went to college in something else...I like being broadly educated, but I think there is no substitute for working at your craft....the more you know, the more you can draw on. I think it's sort of like a writer and his vocabulary, or a painter, and her palate of colors...the more you have stored in your head, the more you can use when you sit down to compose.....And, I think you do pull from all your musical knowledge, background, experience, and technique.

I also think that it is VITAL to listen to a lot of music...not just the genre that is your favorite, but many kinds. And...to listen to the best people out there.....for my tastes, Philip Aaberg is such a fine player that I listen to his CDs often. George Winston, too. There are a lot of truly excellent new age pianists...but I also listen to lots of jazz players...especially when I find solo piano recordings.....Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and many many more have much to offer to us all. Finally, I think it's important to learn songs...classical, or popular...or even classic old hymns. Take 'Amazing Grace' for instance---here's a simple melody that has been around for about 160 years, I think...and is still touching people and going strong. That melody (and the words, of course) have substance....lasting substance....the kind of thing that is missing in much contemporary praise music. Now, praise music has a function and a place, but little of it, I think, will last for decades the way "Amazing Grace" has lasted....and so it's useful to study, learn, memorize, and try to understand these classics that have been with us for decades or generations.....that's the kind of substance that we should be aiming for, I think. And....as a professional musician for 40 years, I can tell you that many pros have lost the love of music that drew us all into the profession...too much struggle, too much compromise makes a lot of people become jaded. I think that what we all MUST do is keep the music fresh, to explore new areas, to put ourselves in new and different musical situations....to remember to have fun, to enjoy and to share. It's not a contest to see who can play (or write) the most notes....that's for the jazzers.....but for the rest of us, it's about making music, sharing music and getting better as we go along!
Warmest wishes, Edward Weiss Quiescence Music

Learn The Art of New Age Piano! Join pianist/composer Edward Weiss online as he gives you the tools and techniques you need to create your own beautiful New Age piano music! Visit http://www.quiescencemusic.com/#offer now to learn more and to join!

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