Sunday, March 8, 2015

Bill Murray's Guide to Life

I've always been a fan of Bill Murray, not just for his acting abilities, but just for the way he seems to live his life. There is a nice summary of Bill Murray's wisdom in an article about "Bill Murray Day" at the Toronto Film Festival. Go ahead, go read it.

I think you can see why I decided to put up a post about Bill Murray in my music blog. The way he lives is a good way for any artist to live. Sing whenever you like and be into it. Sure. Just be honest. That sounds a lot easier than it is, but once you get used to it (and your friends get used to it) it is amazing how well it works. Make time for your friends. Absolutely! Be spontaneous. Bill has been known to walk past someone's table in a restaurant and pointedly steal some of their fries while telling them "no-one will ever believe you!" He's done it to me. Well, no, not really. But he might have! Leave yourself open to magical moments. Great story about the saxophone player. Notice how often music plays a role in Bill's magic and spontaneity? Music is the magical dimension of life, let it work for you. Stay relaxed! I remember one time the conductor and I were just about to go onstage for a performance of the Concierto de Aranjuez and he clapped me on the back and said, "now let's just go have fun!" Good plan, even if you are a bit nervous. And lastly, yes, only you are you. Only I am me. Only Stravinsky is Stravinsky. Keep that in mind...

Speaking of spontaneous, watch how this interview goes. Yes, Bill really does go and drag one of the cameramen into the interview. And why not?

A lot, A LOT, of creativity is simply doing something a bit, or a lot, differently. Take the film of the Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense. When you are doing a film of a concert performance of a band, there's not much room to do anything really different, right? Well sure there is. Why not just put the band, and all their equipment, onstage bit by bit. Start out with David Byrne, a guitar and a boombox and have him do "Psycho-Killer" solo. Works for me. Or let Bill sing a little Bob Dylan:

Now I should just stop right here so we can all bask in the incredible sprezzatura of Bill Murray. Sprezzatura? What's that? I wrote a post on it once in which I quoted the Italian Renaissance author who wrote about it:
I have found quite a universal rule which in this matter seems to me valid above all other, and in all human affairs whether in word or deed: and that is to avoid affectation in every way possible as though it were some rough and dangerous reef; and (to pronounce a new word perhaps) to practice in all things a certain sprezzatura [nonchalance], so as to conceal all art and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.
And that is what Bill Murray is doing. He is an actor with great gifts and the greatest of these gifts is to make it look utterly simple and easy. Which, after you have done a lot of woodshedding, you can. At this blog we talk a lot about the woodshedding. But we have to remember that no-one wants to watch us work and sweat over what we do. They just want to watch us have fun at what we do. These guys look like they are having fun:


Ken Fasano said...

Bill Clinton might have said, "It's the woodshedding, stupid", had he pursued saxophone rather than politics. The great artist makes it seem simple. Eric Clapton, for example, with half a century of experience, makes playing the guitar seem effortless. Aki Takahashi playing Xenakis' Herma, one of the most difficult pieces ever written, as if she were playing a Scarlatti sonata - and her brother Yuji Takahashi playing the same piece, with the opposite effect - "be astounded at the superhuman feat I have just accomplished!"

Bryan Townsend said...

There is an interesting interview with Eric Clapton on his Sessions for Robert J. dvd where he talks about how difficult it was to reproduce some of Robert Johnson's guitar parts! But yes, Clapton usually makes everything look effortless. You just reminded me that I used to have an LP of Yuji Takahashi that I really liked. Have to see if it is on CD...