The awesome Chris O. called me last night saying he’d wheedled a ticket for me to see an hour long presentation by Bobby McFerrin at McNally Smith College of Music today. Neat! So, I took lunch early and went up into downtown to see him. The last time I saw Bobby McFerrin, it was as the conductor of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra at the UofM; he conducted two symphonies and did a solo vocal set in between, a retelling of the Wizard of Oz, which he ended by throwing a glass of water on himself and “melting”. It was fantastic. It was as much a theatre piece as a musical one. I didn’t realize until about halfway through one of the symphonies (Beethoven’s 3rd, I think), that he was conducting without a score. I know pretty little about conducting, I only took one class on it and it’s not my thing, but I know enough to know that that’s pretty badass. He’s a really amazing musician. I wouldn’t hesitate to call him a genius. And from what I can tell, he’s an amazing person as well.
I didn’t quite know what the event was going to be, as going was such a last minute thing, but it turned out to be very informal. He’d sing a little bit, and then have a Q and A session, and often questions would lead into musical examples and another little spate of performance and then back into questions. It was really really great, very inspirational right before my show next weekend too. His ideas and approach to performance and especially improvisation resonate with me a lot. I don’t begrudge him any of his popular success, but I doubt that a lot of people who know Don’t Worry, Be Happy know about the other work he’s done, his experience with all these other kinds of genres of music or as an orchestral conductor, or the thoughtful development of his completely distinctive singing style. His thoughts on improvisation spoke to me the most because it’s inherent in what I do, but the thoughts on how he developed his style, how he uses a microphone and room tone as instruments in and of themselves, how he uses his hands and chest and breath as percussion, how he developed his technique to imply incredibly complex harmonies with just solo voice. Super, super interesting.
Sorry I’ve been so quiet here, lately! Post album release was eaten by the holidays. February is going to be a busy music making month, looks like. I’m gearing up for the Flux show in Rochester next week- can’t wait! Soon on its heels is the Spark Festival, and then I’ll be performing as part of a Spoken Word event later in the month. Yeah!