CHICK COREA: COMMUNICATING THROUGH THE PIANO KEYS
Stylistically, Corea has been all over the jazz map and has delved into the classical world, as well.
I never gave genres much of a thought. Music always seemed like music to me and my tastes always seemed easy to understand - even though they change as I and the world around me changes. I have always thought that creativity is self-generated. If you're not trying to be someone else, it's impossible not to be creative, even though the society around us begs us to agree with the common ways - but this is never the artist's way. The public and p.r. machines create genres. And it's a polite way of referring to music - without getting too deep.
Corea has always been fascinated by the rhythmic, as well as the melodic aspects of the piano. I never really separated those things out. I know that music is usually taught in terms of melody, harmony and rhythm. I think these are purely arbitrary categories invented to make music seem intellectual or complex. I never heard a melody that didn't have a rhythm or a harmony attached and integral to it. That said, my favorite instruments after the piano, though, are drums and marimba.
Coreas father, a jazz musician, introduced him to piano at age four. My father Armando was a warm and loving father, a genuinely beautiful guy and a very good trumpet player, arranger and band leader. Everyone loved him - even his six brothers and six sisters - my aunts and uncles. His approach to teaching me was gentle, never forceful and non-authoritarian. He loved that I was truly interested and he let me have my own way with music. He took me to his gigs and I played with his bands. Of course, the guys loved to see five or 7-year-old Chickie playing pretty well. Players that young, even if they can only play a few little things, always get encouraged and noticed by the more sociable elders. It was a great environment for me to grow up in.
Lessons from a concert pianist began when Corea was eight. His classical studies helped stimulate his interest in composing. I have absolutely no set way of composing music. I have a work ethic though, that says: keep working at it until you've got what you want.
The Massachusetts native moved to New York and briefly studied at both Columbia University and Julliard, but didnt embrace the formal, structured approach. Creating is the most natural thing any person does. There's no need to think about it - and so I like to keep it that way.
Coreas own son, Thaddeus, is a producer, engineer and composer. Daughter Liana is a skilled pianist.
With my children, I tried, and still try, to be encouraging of what they want to do - and how they choose to create. I think the worst kind of teacher is one who uses criticism - often called constructive criticism - to pound truth into the student - which, in art, is nothing but the teacher's personal opinion. Not one great artist or musician I've ever met got great through schooling. I believe that you can't teach art. But you certainly can create a friendly and encouraging environment where making art is a joy and is fun. Which are the reasons - if any are needed at all - why anyone loves to play an instrument or paint a picture.
He still views the musical horizons as limitless. Infinite choice is every person's first right, Corea says. To stay aware of that is the real challenge. I think I have a pretty good average on keeping that view when I play... Age has nothing to do with making music.
As for the greatest challenges he faces in his life as a musician, Corea says, Probably staying healthy and relatively sane through the stresses of constant travel - especially through airports. Playing delicately balanced music with 80 musicians in a symphony orchestra that I've never met before. Jumping into a free improvisation having decided to not know what I'm going to play moment to moment - in front of a live audience.
Corea savors the communal nature of making music. My observation is that life is lived by many - all of us - all together - not just me alone. Life is no fun lived alone. And neither is making music. It's social. Always has been and always will be. Nothing wrong with making music for yourself either. That's not what I'm saying. I like to play for myself - at home. But not on stage in front of people. The greatest joy is to bring pleasure to another person by creating for him something I love, too. That's my goal always. And that's my challenge. Much easier said than done. And always with constantly changing parameters.
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