Music’s Advocate
Monday, March 8, 2010 at 10:27AM
Trey Gunn

I had the wonderful pleasure of advocating for Music week ago. It caught me by surprise how direct it was, and how clear my role was.

It was over the course of three different coaching sessions with three different people. I could hear what the music was demanding, and I voiced that. These folks were, each, working on completely different kinds of things.

When you are working -- practicing, pushing forward -- some idea, or practice, it can happen that you get swallowed up by the process. Or even get side-swiped by your own thoughts about the process, and things can either grind to a halt, or they can simply spin round and round, no longer moving forward.

And here were we working on something, and suddenly I could hear that the music was making it’s own demands. It was asking to be taken seriously of it’s own right. It began to say “Please drop all of your personal processes for the time being and just take care of putting me into form so I can be heard in the way I should.” Or something like that.

My role was to be its advocate in that moment. Voicing, sometimes very specifically, what it was demanding. Which usually meant, “Please set aside some time and put me into form. Don’t worry about right or wrong, just decide how it is going to go for now. Don’t even worry about your capacities to deliver me onstage or on a recording. Just put me into form.” Or something like that.

This reminds me of my friend, and occasional, collaborator Joe Mendelson. Joe has small, but super significant, perspective on the role of a record producer: they are the audience’s advocate. Meaning the musician comes to a recording, or a performance, with all these ideas of what they want to do. What they want to make. In the process they can often lose contact with the audience. This can typically happen in the recording process where there is no present audience, and they start working finer and finer into the details.

The producer as the audience’s advocate isn’t as simple as it sounds. It doesn’t mean holding up the audience’s prejudices and expectations to the musician and saying something like “Look Joe Satriani, I realize you want to do this new kind of experimental, droning, music thing, but….where are the frigging guitar solos? Nobody wants to buy a Satriani recording and not hear a blistering guitar solo.” It isn’t quite like that….but, it doesn’t throw that out the window either. It seems to be playing the role of sitting with the music as a member of the audience, while being engaged in the creative process.  A difficult spot, actually. And one that musicians, often, can’t do very well for themselves.

So we have a role for the audience’s advocate and the music’s advocate. Is everything covered, now?




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