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Why Is Music Important? by B.A. Johnson

Describe your musical composition process.

Composition, for me, usually begins with a melody line – about 80% of the time. Other times, it begins with a completely random sound, or series of rhythmic noises – like a breaking semi, or hearing a train in the near distance. Other times, still, it’s a bass line or rhythmic figure that I’ll then work with until I can articulate the sound I’m hearing.

From that point, I’ll either begin searching for a sequence of upper register chords on the bass guitar. Or, I’ll begin working with a keyboard. My process is very organic and a lot like painting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve attempted to write one piece of music, only to see an entirely different piece of music into fruition! Again, its all about expression and tone. I’m a tone freak!

Music allows me to articulate my environment beyond words! I’m not attempting to suggest a feeling to another person as much as I’m attempting to speak to something deep within myself.

How does music affect your culture and immediate environment?

My teenage daughter and I were laughing about a commercial, and she mentioned that the first stanza of the WHO’s “Teenage Wasteland” would have been a ‘perfect’ way to capture the mood the commercial was failing to present! She was absolutely correct from my perspective!! Music continues to be the medium through which my family and I communicate ideas to one another. My children are very secure in their ideas (and imaginations) as a result of being life-long, avid music listeners! Humorously, both my children tilt their heads when they’re listening deeply – to sounds, conversation, as well as to music. I do that.

What would you be, if not a professional musician?

A music critic, or a music teacher in Academia! (Laughter) Actually, I’ve not thought a lot about it. I believe that musician is something you are… not something you do. I’ve met a lot of musicians who are in a life-struggle to do music and it is painful to watch! It’s like watching someone do loving…

Describe your practice regimen. Also, what technical aspects of your paying are you currently working on?

I practice playing “Hattie Belle” and my 6-string fretless almost every day. After running through scales, modes and arpeggios, I play through solos and pieces of music I’ve learned. At this time, I’m running “Donna Lee”, “Spain”, and Gary Willis’ “Speak” regularly. I also think its important to spend time just playing the instruments. Often I’ll play to drum sequences and “dance it out”! I’ve never been sorry that I rolled tape while sketching in that way!

Technically, I’m really working with my plucking hand approach in hopes of incorporating more of that articulation Matt Garrison and a few others are able to execute so profoundly! As in all things I attempt, it’ll have my stamp on it… and it certainly will never be a direct copy of anyone’s technique. Music allows me to work with my hands in a way that becomes my self-expression more and more.

What does music, and being a musician, mean to you – at the deepest level of your being?

More than a great deal! Beyond my faith, and my relationship with my wife and children (through which music and my personal musical concept has been invaluable) music is the immediate “next need” in my ability to cope with the world and all the potential negatives that constitute that idea.

How important is it to understand the Language of music?

Absolutely necessary – as much as possible! That is not to say that a person should become a “theory geek” to articulate their ideas. No. But, in working with music on a deeply intrinsic level, we can understand music beyond words. Having said that, I have personally found benefit in hearing music and understanding somewhat its composition from a technical standpoint. For me, life is a “sound quest”! The first time I heard the Beatle’s “Here Comes The Sun” I had to learn why that E7 chord affected me so deeply! Placement! Viola! That chord, and the subsequent G6 / Dadd9 / G6 / Dadd9 / A7 passage made me want to make those sounds! I was 5-years old and I remember it vividly!

Was I destined to become a musician? Or, does music speak that deeply to all children?

I love watching young children respond to music. Any music! I never want to lose that feeling of awe that I remember having while listening to the constantly present radio, or my parents’ record player. All revolutions are plotted to music, and that’s how important music is!

How do you collect the series of seemingly random influences and articulate them through music?

Listening. Listening always happens first. Like many musicians, I listening as deeply as I can to everything I can. From there, it becomes about “making that sound”, or articulating that vibe…

Can music ever truly become commercial? Why, or why not?

I don’t believe so. Music can be used to label a commercial movement. But, sooner or later, the music will change and the movement will be left – particularly negative movements against humanity. Sooner, or later, pop music will change its mind about everything it’s become over the past decade. We evolve, and music evolves with us.

Who do you feel would have great answers to these questions?

Let’s find out…!!

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