Lessons From The Trumpet of Miles Davis

I used to have an “obesity problem” with music…

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Despite considering myself to be an avid music listener my outlook on listening to an artist’s album consisted of the following:

1) Listen to each track for about 15 seconds until the middle of the chorus

2) If I didn’t like it skip it

3) If I like it for more than 20 seconds then I’ll consider it a good song and proceed to listen to it repeatedly

This was pretty much my outlook when I’d get an artist’s album. The more repetitions I make of listening to one song, the ‘greater’ the song was to me. This led to a lot of consumption of music at short amounts of time, filling my itunes library to the max.

If you were sit me down and ask me why I do this the answer maybe the same as what most people would say.“It just takes too much of my time to listen to a whole album and I just don’t really have that kind of time”.

This idea of consuming music and burning through them at an immense speed brought on a challenge in my life.

Mainly because this attitude of not wanting to spend too much time on a certain song or album, would lead me to  feel easily bored with the music I had. Even worse, this mentality started bleeding into other aspects of my life. It would affect how I watched tv shows or movies. Then I would notice it in how I eat food (like instantly taking pictures of food before consuming it and wanting the next best thing) and finally in the situations and choices I make in my life (I would choose not to sit still and get scared of moments when I’m not doing something new). My perception towards everything (though not completely) was moving towards this mentality that everything is disposable, transitional, temporary, and I slowly noticed a building of this insatiable desire to want the next thing over and over and over again.

But then came along an album called “Kind of Blue” from Miles Davis

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One draw back of this consumption not just in music but in life is as mentioned before, boredom. You consume to stop being bored, but you end up being more bored cause the thrill of that new thing is gone.

As I was getting bored with my music I started to look at Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time to get some inspiration. One album came to my attention as I was looking at the top 20. A Jazz album titled”Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis. In the description it was described quite highly as the best-selling Jazz album of all time. If one of the prominent music magazine was stating that this is the best jazz album of all time then I had to take a listen to this record. I figured I’d get a nice quick understanding of what a great jazz album is like and move on. I bought the album and proceeded to listen to it like I usually do. What transpired for the next 43 minutes blew my mind and changed my heart.

In the midst of my rapid fire consumption of music it was rare that I was able to sit still and dwell in an album for its entirety.

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Listening to this record for the first time was one of those moments for me. It arrested me in a way that stopped me from doing what I was doing and forced me to cross my hands over my chest, lay back, close my eyes, and…just…. listen. Every breath that was being blown into the trumpet and saxophone, every drum that was being hit, every bass line that was being strung, and every note slowly and softly belting from the piano of these jazz greats felt like soft wind being blown into me. It gave me this deep slow shiver down my spine.  Before I knew it I’d listened to the 43 minute album in its entirety.

What was interesting to me was that each song on it’s own could stand as a solid song yet at the same time by listening to all the songs together as one complete album it brought on a complete full message and mood that wouldn’t have otherwise been enjoyed unless I listened to the album patiently.

So What…

Freddie Freeloader…

Blue in Green…

All Blues…

Flamenco Sketches…

This album reminded me of how good it was to dwell, sit, soak, and reflect on a moment and appreciate something from start to finish.

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There is this scene in the trailer for the upcoming movie “Monument Men” with George Clooney and Matt Damon that comes to mind. The movie is about soldiers during WWII who were tasked to bring back and keep stolen art that the Nazis were going to destroy. In the trailer, Matt Damon’s character picks up a piece of artwork probably from a famous painter and asks “What is this?” to understand who the famous painter is. In response Cate Blanchet’s character responds “It’s People’s Lives”.

In our pursuit for consuming more information, more food, more possession, more trips, I often forget that I’m living a life with real people and real experiences. I exist in this planet with real people who have real hurts, real wisdom, and real joy. I am interacting with technology, art, food, and culture that involve these real people as the creators of these things. This album reminded me of that. When I’m listening to music I’m not just listening to some beat or synth sound or something to just fill my boredom. I’m listening to someone trying to create something and putting their heart and emotion in it.

This album also reminded me of that balance we all need in life. The slow and the fast. The dwelling and the efficient. I want to stand tall in the slow moments, take it in, and let myself experience, feel, and appreciate every God-given moment in this life. All for the sake of becoming a better person and in pursuit of understanding, appreciating, and loving others.

As I realize this lesson from the trumpet of Miles Davis, it reminded me of why I love music in the first place. I now have a treasure chest full of music in my iTunes library that I can now re-listen to and appreciate it in a whole different way. This time, slowly.

Like the outfit? Check out details of the outfit coming soon! 

All photos taken by my wonderful friend Daniel Hoffman

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