“What the *%#* is a blog about cooking doing on the site of an improvising bassist?” one may be inclined to ask…
Well…when times were lean playing music (insert joke here) I found myself looking for other work, outside of music. I had always loved cooking, and eating, and had a small collection of cookbooks from some of the world’s “great restaurants”. I would work from them and taste my renderings of these great dishes (my family did appreciate eating food from “The French Laundry” cookbook) but it never had the “wow factor” one would expect from a top restaurant.
I needed to truly understand what was happening on the plate, and as a result, I finagled my way into some of the worlds great kitchens working as a cook. (Strangely I ended up cooking at a 3 Michelin star restaurant in England at one point).
What I quickly realized, was that when working from a cookbook, even if I followed the recipes exactly, I still tasting the food with the palate I already had. Once I began cooking with master chefs, I realized their palate was more nuanced than my own…they would taste a sauce, and call for “a touch more acid”, or a “bit more salt”…etc. I soon realized my palate was tasting this way, after a few months.
This was the realization! If you are following a formula, it’s not the formula that is the most important thing…it was how developed your palate was for the tiny nuances that made a “very good” dish turn into a “wow” dish.
Why is this important and why am I writing about this on my site for music education??
I see many similarities between these two worlds…Anyone can read a cookbook and cook a dish, but it won’t have the “life” of that same dish cooked by a master chef….the same stands for working out of a music book….this is not to say that books are not important…. (In my opinion that are incredibly important in expanding one’s knowledge of how music can work in a certain system, and to train one’s ear to hear in this system)..BUT….books do not add the nuances which are integral to music. Music is not a dead thing written on a sheet of manuscript paper…it is a map that one uses to explore a territory….but it is not the territory itself.
The territory is hearing a musician who can hear in a more subtle way (that can hear orchestrally , or have a command of timbre and color). This is the “juice” in music (in my humble opinion). I feel it can only be passed down in the “aural tradition”…to work with a teacher that hears more subtleties and who understands how tonal music wants to move…this the the “extra bit of acid, or salt” that gets added to a dish that gives it it’s life….that brings into it YOUR humanity… (your palate will never be the same as another’s….but by studying the palates of others, one begins to develop an ear (or a taste) for this, and this is what brings “YOU” into the music…Music, like food, is a relationship…but one needs to be open and aware of how this relationship is working in order to truly be open to the muse.