I thank Yaron Herman for his time and Christophe Deghelt whose support and help has made this beautiful interview possible. A final thank to Michele Guerrini for the linguistic support as translator.
Paola Parri: Yaron. You are very young but the impression a person gets listening to you is of a great performer, totally aware of the instrument and, moreover, able to communicate, with honesty and deepness an intimate part of your soul.
How did music come into your life? When did you decide to choose music as your way of life?
Yaron Herman: I guess music was somehow always present in my life, but in somewhat of a different way than one would usually imagine. I didn’t grow up in a musical family, except for my father who used to play a little drums when he was a kid, but nothing really serious. I was always listening to music, like on MTV, pop and rock groups and even techno and electronic music like trance for a while. I was only turned on to jazz when I decided to start studying piano around the age of 16 after I was forced to stop my “career” as a basketball player (my initial dream). At that time I met my one and only real teacher, Opher Brayer who changed my life and opened the door to an infinite world of music and personal evolution.
Music was a way for me to finally express all the things I felt and didn’t yet know I had inside me and grow as a human being.
P.P.: Many say that music is a gift that gives results only when it is transformed into a choice. In my opinion, this thought means that playing an instrument needs total devotion and an uninterrupted research that must be carried out with precision and obsession. Do you share this vision? How do you live your experience as musician and composer? What does it give to your life and what does it steal to you?
Y.H.: Oh, absolutly, I think whatever you do you have to do with passion and all your being and even more so, music. If you really want to touch any kind of profound reality, I am trying to avoid using the word truth, but its something in that vain. Something that comes out of you, but yet is extremely objective and is universal. To achieve it you have to be crazy!
It demands all your energy, all the time for an entire life, thats the beauty of it, devoting yourself to this kind of black magic and just hope to touche those rare moments of extasy, thats what we are looking for and working so hard for. Obviously there is a price you pay, the work, traveling, endless thinking and exploring takes most of my time, but I, for some reason always felt I was late (like the rabbit from alice in wonderland maybe), so I better use my time wisely because time doesnt wait. J My teacher used to say that creating an healthy obsession to music and the work was an essential part of success.
P.P.: You have studied with Opher Brayer, creator of a teaching method based not exclusively on music but on philosophy, maths, and psychology. Could you please show us the principles and the positive aspects of this kind of approach?
Y.H.: It’s hard to explain but I’ll try. Mr Brayer has developed a system which mixes, on the musical side the teaching of J.Schillinger, the mathematician and composer, using numbers instead of notes, to visualize and develope a mathematic strategy for the creation of new musical structures. Notably, through, manipulations and different forms of combinations. It’s highly useful for improvisors, who often tend to have an intuitive approach to jazz, which is important, BUT, intuition is limited and limitation goes against freedom which is the ultimate goal of any improvising musician. Mr Brayer also believes that it is not enough to be an excellent technician and to be able to play in many styles but that a true artist must develope other aspects in his own personality in order to be able to communicate real human depth and a personal voice. (I’m intentionally avoiding the word style). For that, the teacher must adapt to the students needs and rhy them, finding solutions to whatever may be blocking or witholding the student from his true possibilities.
We all have blocks, issues, fear, lazyness, influences, one must learn to know them, identify them, understand where they come from and then be able to control them, slowly at first and then destroy systematically whatever is disturbing one’s growth and evolution. That is the more psychological part of the teaching, which, for me makes it different from any other musical teaching. Revealing the students real potential, and giving him tools to grow as a human being is more important than music.
P.P.: In your experience as pianist, what has prevailed? Discipline, anarchy, inspiration?
Y.H.: One can’t have inspiration without discipline. Anarchy is too unstable to be of any use on the long run, but can be fun sometimes, in very small and doses.
P.P.: Are you still studying?
Y.H: I feel like a beginner everyday I wake up. There is so great music and musicians out there. So much to learn and so much to do. Its endless.
P.P.: Why did you choose jazz as your favourite musical language to express yourself?
Y.H: It’s because of the freedom it has and the fact that you are asked to find your own voice and invent your own world and musical language. Its really real time compostition and that doesnt exsist in any other musical style. At least not in such a complex and rich way.
P.P.: In your works one of the most important elements is variety both when you decide to add something personal to standards or other artists’ compositions, both in your own creations (I am referring to the sounds and the rhythmic variety of “Muse”). Contamination has a crucial role in your work and this makes me think to Bach, whose compositions were rich of heterogeneous musical elements, despite of the strong rules of polyphony and counterpoint. Variety, contamination, innovation: How much do you feel close to the composers of the past? Which are the elements of western classical music that makes part of your artistic attitude? Where do you think the roots of your music are?
Y.H.: I feel very close to classical music. I find a lot of inspiration in studying classical works and analizing their compositional process. Classical composers like Bach, Bartok, Shostakovich and Messiaen had and have influenced the way I think about music. The classical tradition and repertoire are so immense and overwhelming that one can always draw inspiration from it, especially if you are an improvisor/composer.
P.P.: You have elaborated a new theory about improvisation called “Real Time Composition”. Could improvisation be theorized, organized ? Do you have some suggestions for whom that is interested into this musical code?
Y.H.: Improvisation is theorized , for years we are seeing more and more books about how to improvise. Anyone can do it. The main problem for a lot of musicians is purely psychological, especially classicaly trained musicians. Anybody can study, and with practice offcours, master the technical aspects, scales, chords, modes, structures etc, the hard parts often, letting go. Stopping to judge ourselves for every mistake or try to be perfect all the time. That is the main problem, controling that little voice in your head how is constantly telling you, “you are awful”, “this doesn’t sound good”, “lets just go and waste time of facebook”. J
P.P.: Dealing with composition, do you have a favourite method? For the creation of a new piece do you usually start from a melodic idea or from a rhythmic cell?
Y.H.: Every composition is a different world and demands a different approach. I like to write away from the piano, like in the case of almost the whole album “Muse” (including the string arrangements). I just have a basic melody or idea I hear in my head and start playing around with it. After a while , more and more ideas and possibilities arise and then it’s just a question of choosing a direction in which the song should go and organizing the structure. For me, that is the most difficult thing, focusing on one idea and comitting to it since I hear so many options that can work.
P.P.: I had the pleasure to be at your concert in Catania and I noticed that you have a real physical approach to the piano, you seemed to become part of the instrument itself… you needed to get inside the instrument. What is the role of physicality in your way of playing music? And what about emotion, subjectivity, rationality?
Y.H.: I can only say that improvisation is a full contact sport. How can you imagine the body can stay still while the emotional depth and all that goes inside your head is so intense. Something has to move or you can really die. I think a lot of people would love to move and sing along when they play, but afraid of seeming foolish or be judged by others who consider it badly. The reason I chose to be essentially an improvisor is because it such a total experience. The intellect, emotion and body all pushing themselves IN THE MOMENT, which amplifies the intensity. It can’t be rational, but it can be logical.
P.P.: Your piano solo LP “Variations” is a box full of original musical ideas based on preexisting themes. You manage to transform a musical genre with classical roots, Variation, in a deep form of expression. It is obvious to think to Glenn Gould’work “Goldbergh Variations”: an interpretation that is an underground reworking but evident.
It looks as if piano solo has a particolar expressive ability, a comunicative code that is different from your compositions for trio. What is your thought about all this?
Y.H.: I feel very differently when I’m at the piano alone. I’m facing myself and have to deal with what I know and don’t know. In a piano solo, you can’t hide behind a drummer or a bass player, you can’t lie. I love that freedom and its risks. I am also a great fan of Keith Jarrett’s solo work and have always wondered if anyone in our lifetime would try and challange his capacities in totally improvised concerts. Its actually funny because I one went to one of his solo concerts in Paris in which he stopped playing because people were coughing and said to the audience: “ you know, no one does this except me”!! , at that moment I understood he was right but I didn’t want it to be true for the future, so I have a lot of work ahead of me. J
P.P.: You just finished to record your new LP “Follow The White Rabbit”, with a new trio composed of Chris Tordini and Tommy Crane. What is the musical idea behind the LP? Will it be a different sound from “Muse”?
Y.H.: The musical idea is based more around my compositions, there isn’t a concept like a tribute to Metallica or something. We tried to record this record in the same way we play live. I think it’s possibly the record that represents what I do in a trio context in the most honest way. All the songs were composed during a few weeks earlier this year, when I was in a very particular and sensitive phase. Most of them came out naturally and felt immediatly good. I really feel it’s my most personal trio album and I hope you will agree with me.
http://www.pianosolo.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/logo-pianosolo1.png00Billhttp://www.pianosolo.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/logo-pianosolo1.pngBill2010-09-10 13:30:122010-09-10 13:30:12INTERVIEW- YARON HERMAN