Heidi and I are going to an improvisational jazz concert in Philadelphia on Sunday. We don't do the night scene much, but one of the musicians in the group is the son of a friend of mine. Unbeknownst to me, Heidi went online to sample their wares, and then took it upon herself to email the following letter to the group:
"Hello, I am planning to attend your concert in Philly this Sunday. I just listened to some of your music online, and, unfortunately, I hated it. I suppose there is something I don't understand about it. I enjoy music that has direction, and this feels like I'm wandering in a funhouse. Is there something you can explain to me to help me as I listen?"
She received a quick response:
"Hi Heidi, I think wandering in a funhouse is an interesting description. I play lots of different types of music, including compositions and songs. This group is a free improvise trio. Every performance is different, and we are listening to each other, responding every moment. For sure this is challenging music if you feel the need to 'get it.' Otherwise I would suggest letting go of what you expect from music, and letting this music kind of wash over you.
"When I am in the audience listening to a group similar to us, I'm intrigued by the spontaneous response of the musicians to each other, and the immediate creating (composing). I enjoy hearing musicians take instruments to their extremes of virtuosity and ability and the variety of sonorities and combinations of timbre. Melody and rhythm are existent more or less at any given point in the performance. Sometimes people see environments or characters and will have a whole story reveal itself in their imaginations.
"Anyway, I am not insulted that you hated it, especially on the first listen, and not live. I'm fine answering any more direct questions you might have. If you do indeed come on Sunday, please introduce yourself, and I do hope you enjoy the performance. Thanks for writing your honest reaction to our music and your sincere questions. I am curious."
Consider the power of words. Consider the power of a gentle and humble reply:
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).