Jimmy Winokur
Ideas & Quotations

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All my teachers did was give me a lot of things a didn’t need to know. 
I learned music – and everyone should learn music – by listening
Otherwise you’re standing there in the middle of the band,
knowing everything but not able to play.” 

Kenny Davern



The artist and the mother are vehicles, not originators. 
They don't create the new life, they only bear it. 
This is why birth is such a humbling experience. 
The new mom weeps in awe at the little miracle in her arms. 
She knows it came out of her but not from her, through her but not of her.
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: 
Break Through the Blocks & in Your Inner Creative Battles

Music is not something you can use words to describe.  
Music is either in the air and you find it, 
or it is in the air and you don’t find it, -- 
 -- you just don’t try hard enough.
You can be educated to play the piano, 
you can be educated about chords, 
you can be educated about scales, 
you can be educated about everything there is to do with music, 
and you are still zero, 
until you let go of what holds you back...
And all of us could possibly not be held back, 
but most of us don’t let it happen.  
My job, in my opinion, is to let it out, 
and I don’t believe that there are any rules.  
There are no rules. 
So, you need to …ask my left hand what do I do best….
Music cannot be expressed, or delivered in words.  
Keith Jarrett
All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. 
Great works are often born on a street corner or in a restaurant's revolving door.           
Albert Camus
thanks to Charles McKibben
Today I'm out wandering, turning my skull
into a cup for others to drink wine from.
In this town somewhere there sits a calm, intelligent man,
who doesn't know what he's about to do!” 
"I am your own way of looking at things," she said. 
"When you allow me to live with you, 
every glance at the world around you will be a sort of salvation” 
William Stafford



Music never dies in terrible times.  To the contrary, it flourishes.  
At those times, the essence of what music can provide really comes through.  
The music that gives strength to deal with the atrocities of the day, 
a song that can articulate our pain, the dance that plays out our longing, 
the poetry that restores for us a moment of tranquility or incites us to riot -- 
that's what becomes important.
Ultimately, musicians of the world must come to realize the potential of their calling.  
Like the shamans, we may serve as healers, metaphysicians, inciters, exciters, 
spiritual guides and sources of inspiration.
If the ,musician is illumined from within, he becomes the lamp that lights other lamps.  
Then he is serving as a vehicle for the healing sound of the ocean 
of sound to wash over our planet and its people, healing what ails us.  
Such music is really important.  
Kenny Werner, Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within



I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my better-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low, 
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead ,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!
Elizabeth Bishop
from Sonnet





Listen, listen; this sound brings me back to my true self.
Thich Nhat Hanh 

Music is the mirror of our deepest longing.  
When you hear violence in someone else's music, 
you are hearing that musician's best effort to work out the longing to belong, 
even if it may not be the effort you would exert, 
or any belonging you might identify with.  
Underneath the harshness is the struggle for wholeness....
The hardest thing is to realize that 
the terrible darkness in music is your own darkness exposed....
W. A. Mathieu, Consonance and Dissonance, 
from The Musical Life: 
Reflections on What it is and How to Live It


The composer Stravinsky  had written a new piece
with a difficult  violin passage. 
After it had been in  rehearsal for several  weeks,
the  solo  violinist came to Stravinsky
and said he was sorry, he had tried his best,
the passage was too difficult, no violinist could play  it. 
Stravinsky said,  " I understand that.  
What I  am  after is  the sound of someone  trying  to play it.

Thomas Powers

In my music, I'm trying to play the truth of what I am.  
The reason it's difficult is because I'm changing all the time."
Charles Mingus



Music seems to have an almost willful, evasive quality,
defying simple explanation,
 so that the more we find out, the more there is to know,
leaving its power and mystery intact, however much we may dig and delve.
There may be no simple answer [to this this paradox], or end in sight,
but the ride is nonetheless a thrilling one....

Sting , commenting on 
Daniel J. Levitin, 
The World in Six Songs (2008)

There is, in fact, no such thing as a “note” in music.  A note is an abstract symbol representing a tone, 
which is an actual sound.   You can play thousands of so-called B’s or C’s and they will all be different.
 Nothing can be standardized.  Each vibratory event is unique.
Stephen Nachmanovitch, in Free Play (1990)

Lovers have come and gone, but only my gentle mistress stays.
She is beautiful and gentle.
She is a swinger.
She has grace.
To hear her speak, you cant believe your ears.
She is ten thousand years old.
She is as modern as tomorrow, a brand new woman every day.
Music is my mistress, and she plays second fiddle to no one.

Duke Ellington

If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician.  I often think in music.
I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. ...  I get most joy in life out of music.

Albert Einstein.


You gotta be in the sun to feel the sun - and that's the way it is with music.

Sidney Bechet


Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.

Elvis Costello



Keith Jarrett, 
Liner Notes to Spirits 1 & 2, 
(ECM 1333/34, 1986):
There is a fine line between using technique and making music. 
We must be open to the spaces (silence) in order to fill them just right. 
We must see the spaces, inhabit them, live them. 
Then the next note, the next move, becomes apparent because it is needed. 
Until it is apparent, nothing should be played. 
Until it is known, nothing should be anticipated. 
Until the whole appears, nothing should be criticized. 
Until you are participating in this, you cannot hear. 
Until you hear, you cannot play.
Until you listen, you cannot make music. 
Music is a part of life. It is not a separate, controlled event 
where a musician presents something to a passive audience. 
It is in the blood. A musician should be able to reveal this. 
Music should not remind us of the control we seem to have over our lives. 
It should remind us of the necessity of surrender, 
the capacity in man for understanding the reason for this surrender, 
the conditions that are necessary for it, the Being necessary for it


I cannot say what I think is right about music; 
I only know the "rightness" of it.  
I know it when I hear it. 
There is a release, a flowing out, a fullness to it 
that is not the same as richness or musicality. 
I can talk about it in this way because 
I do not feel that I ”created‘ this music 
as much as I allowed it to ”emerge.‘ 
It is this emergence that is inexplicable 
and incapable of being made solid, 
and I feel (or felt) as though 
not only do you never step in the same river twice, 
but you are never the same when stepping in the river. 


Do not fear mistakes.  There are none.
Miles Davis

I'll play it first and tell you what it is later

Miles Davis



Try to imagine the very first musician. He was not playing for an audience,
or a market, or working on his next recording, or touring with his show, or working on his image.  He was playing out of his need, out of his need for the music.

    Every year the number of musicians who remember why they play music in the first place grows smaller…”

It is the individual voice, present to itself, that needs to be heard. 
We need to hear the process of a musician working on himself.

We don't need to hear who is more clever with synthesizers.  
Our cleverness has created the world we live in, which in many 
ways we're sorry about.

We hear jazz musicians dabbling in world music and
American Indian music, Minimalists filling as many sheets of paper
as they can before they run out of "idea," industry reps
dressed as players, players dressed as movie stars, indeed
becoming movie stars-----, black musicians without soul and
countless "studio" musicians reading newspapers in the
control rooms (and getting paid handsomely for it, you might say
being paid for their patience). 

We hear all this, but where is that voice, that individual primal need? 
Where is Miles?  Where is the music?


Keith Jarrett, Categories Aplenty, But Where's The Music?,
New York Times (1992).  

This excerpt is from what became
a controversial rant
by pianist Jarrett, written upon the death of Miles Davis in 1992 -
a moment some considered a point of dark transition
in the development of modern jazz.   (1992).




















A shaman typically needs three things: 
power songs to summon his spirit allies, 
spirit allies to guide him to the world tree, and 
a drum to ride there on.  ... 
[In possession trance,] the spirits ride the drumbeat down 
into the body of the trance dancer.  
Scholars connect the West African possession cultures with 
the ancient Neolithic mother goddess culture
 that nine thousand years ago stretched from eastern Europe 
into what is now the Sahara desert.  
When the slave trade began in the seventeenth century, 
this technique of possession trance 
was carried to the new world....  
In America, where the drums were prohibited for many generations, 
this legacy of possession trance dance rhythm 
was shorn of its spiritual dimension becoming instead 
jazz, blues, rhythm and blues and rock and roll.
Micky Hart (of the Grateful Dead), 
Planet Drum, A Celebration of Percussion and Rhythm.



These comments by Micky Hart excited me because
I have heard and read of great beings who have said many times
that all search for sense pleasures is really the search for God. 
Even the conqueror in war -- what is he looking for? 
No matter how much of the world he rules in his life,
he will have to surrender it when he dies.

So what is he really after?  Although he doesn't realize it,
he is seeking oneness with the self in all things. 
When a musician superficially craves security in the level of his playing,
what is he really after?  It is said that one drop of ecstasy tasted from the self,
the God inside us, renders all other pursuits insignificant. 
At that point, the seeker has found everything he has sought. 
Every song is either praise or an entreatment
for more connection with the beloved.


    As enslaved peoples are separated from their religion, the lyrics of the song change. 

The cry is for sense pleasures:  more sex, money, alcohol.  ...
Desire for "my God" is supplanted by the desire for "my man." 
Mankind's vision decays, entangled by the search for
temporary relief from its subjugation to false gods. 

But the cry is still there, even if man no longer knows for what. 
It is the yearning for unity, for oneness as experienced in the mother's womb,
attuned to the rhythm of her heartbeat. 
The muffled song can still be heard
from the God within "seeking to behold himself"
and man's yearning to behold himself," and
man's yearning to be one with him. 

Later the blues, drained of all meaning, decays into a twelve bar crossword puzzle to be "re-harmonized" in theory class.  Finally, jazz visionaries revive it as an Indian Tala and ascend on its numeric highway.

Kenny Werner, Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within


"Ayers tucks the violin under his chin, 
blocks out the roar of traffic and leaves the known world. 
He scratches around a bit, chasing after ideas 
that aren't quite coming together, but then, as always, 
he finds a passage that works like a drug 
and the music pushes him free of all distraction. 
Eyes closed, head tilted to the heavens, he's gone."
Steve Lopez, writing his column in The Soloist




I love this record for the same reason a lot of critics and even his fans don't like it: 
You have to spend time with it.  Think about it:  If  Kind of Blue [the Miles Davis classic]
had come out today, nobody would have given a shit.  I hear Nicholas taking his time, developing his ideas and 
not being afraid.  There's missed notes on some of these tracks.  I love hearing that type of stuff.  
You don't hear that on any of his earlier records.  Why?  

Because when you start making records and your name gets out there, the pressure to play as perfectly as possible 
can get  in the way....   This record represents him taking his time....  I prefer it now because he's not trying to prove anything. 
It's what I call a state of being lived in, where you come into yourself -- he's focusing on developing his ideas 
in a more organic, non-forced way....

Jeremy Pelt, on fellow-trumpeter Nicholas Payton's  The Crimson Touch;
commenting in "Opening Chorus:  Before and After",  Jazz Times, October 2008.




Make your own kind of music,
Mama Cass
My creed for art in general is that it should enrich the soul; 
it should teach spirituality by showing a person a portion of himself 
that he would not discover otherwise . . . 
a part of yourself you never knew existed.
Bill Evans
One good thing 
about music, 
when it hits you, 
you feel no pain.
Bob Marley 

The real art of conducting consists in transitions.

Gustav Mahler



All music is folk music. 
I ain't never heard a horse sing a song.
Louis Armstrong

Music expresses that which cannot be said 
and on which it is impossible to be silent.
Victor Hugo 








I've always been a musician -- I've spent 50 years practicing music....  
Only in the last five years have I tried to develop writing discipline....  
At first I fully anticipated being able to  say what I mean, 
to so fill the arteries with word blood as to sense the pulse of the heart.  Or something.  
Perfect clarity does occur in music  -- one learns to compose or perform all of what the moment carries, 
even to spill some foam, so to speak.  
But I never feel that words completely say what aches to be said....
Language is metaphor and simile, and the operative word is like, spoken or implied.  
Words approach experience roundabout, pecking and jabbing at it from every side 
until eventually a blow draws blood, then a vital cut, then experience flows red.  
It is like that, and like that, till we zero in on meaning impossible to articulate directly.  ...
Words that are beautifully right can bring you so close to the edge that 
all you have to do is make a little jump -- plink! -- like a finch off a wire.

Music is entirely specific: what you hear is what you get.  
Language is rich and various and inexact.  
You have to keep saying what is, a thousand ways, until someone jumps.
W. A. Mathieu, The Musical Life: Reflections on What it is and How to Live It

I would say that music is the easiest means in which to express, 
but since words are my talent, 
I must try to express clumsily in words 
what the pure music would have done better.
William Faulkner


Music is the art of the prophets
 and the gift of God.
Martin Luther


Music fills the infinite between two souls.
Rabindranath Tagore 
Music in the soul 
 can be heard by the universe.
Lao Tzu
Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul
 for the education of its virtue.
Music is a moral law. 
It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, 
flight to the imagination, 
and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.
Music is not something you can use words to describe.  
Music is either in the air and you find it, 
or it is in the air and you don’t find it, -- 
 -- you just don’t try hard enough.
You can be educated to play the piano, 
you can be educated about chords, 
you can be educated about scales, 
you can be educated about everything there is to do with music, 
and you are still zero, 
until you let go of what holds you back...
And all of us could possibly not be held back, 
but most of us don’t let it happen.  
My job, in my opinion, is to let it out, 
and I don’t believe that there are any rules.  
There are no rules. 
So, you need to …ask my left hand what do I do best….
Music cannot be expressed, or delivered in words.