What I have Learned from Jazz Music

Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

I have taken to listening to a playlist I found on Spotify called “Jazz Vibes.” While the word “vibes” in the title of a playlist is not always indicative of a list of popping tunes, I gave it a shot. As opposed to pure jazz, the playlist allows for not just jazz solos but also electronic instruments, singing, and occasionally a small voice over about a route on a subway. It is an interesting mix of songs, but it is extremely calming.

However, similar to classical jazz, strong instruments come together to make a piece of music which gives recognition to each musician and sound that has come together to make the song. At times one instrument may be stronger than another but the strength of each instrument does not take away from another. It is the combination of each strong instrument that gives this particular genre of music a flare, and an independent mix of creating a unique sound. There is constant variation in tempo and style. The solos add a nice touch of transition depending on the song, and the playlist has, interestingly enough, become a favorite playlist of mine while I run.

Recently, I was on a short run along a busy walkway between the beach and a road of the Rio de la Plata in Montevideo, Uruguay after a day of classes. I used this playlist to keep my pace at an enjoyable tempo. However, as the music I listen to when I run is far more indicative of my pace than anything else, listening to my jazz vibes while I ran meant my pace was not consistent at all. A cycle of sprinting, then jogging, then a depleting race pace, followed by a skip, and a bit of walking; here we begin the cycle again. Although changing paces is not frequently a goal in a runner, while vibing to my jazz, it seemed right.

Running quickly, walking, jogging. Instrument solos, quick tempos, and frequent change. Although each are very different, coming together in a jazz style run was a good fit. Throughout my years of running, I have found that a mix of music styles makes the activity activity as fun and adaptable as possible.

Jazz players have to adapt their different styles to harmonize with the people they are playing with. Each jazz player has their own style of music, a favorite tempo, and different limits to which they can play. About a year ago, I was dating a jazz musician; he was a very interesting and dedicated to jazz and music in general. He told me about how music changes depending on the place, people, and sound one creates can vary although it may be the same song and even by the same musician. It is the surroundings of the musician and the mood of the musician that changes the sound.

He was telling me about how on a record he listened to by Miles Davis, one song sounded different from the rest; he looked it up, and discovered that the particular song was recorded on a different day than the rest of the album. Anyone with untrained ears would not be able to tell the difference, and he was only able to separate this song from the rest of the album through years of experience and adaptability as a musician. It seems each musician has their own secret cycle of how their music dictates itself. Although the entire record was by the same artist, and even recorded in the same studio, the fact that it was recorded on a different day rendered that one song was different from the rest of the album.

Small parts of our surroundings impact how we present ourselves, how we adapt to our surroundings may be a cycle of finding ourselves, and maybe what “pace” is best for our lives. I like to think that this is one example of the ways in which we try to do the same things over and over, yet the small changes in our surroundings create a different way in which we present ourselves to others and how we understand things ourselves.

I have run the same routes in my career as a runner over and over. There are a few that I really enjoy, and a few that are very convenient for me to get a run in between classes. However, although I run the same few routes each time, I am never the same person when I do. My pace and mindset change depending on my mood, the music I am listening to, the weather, and the people I am with.

Listening to my Jazz Vibes playlist the other day on a route which I had never run before called for a lot of adaptability. I will find myself on the same run soon enough, but it will be different than before. I will have more knowledge about how to run on such a busy walkway. There were different runners and I will have to know the correct way to dodge and weave through the crowds of people.

Like my playlist, and my jazz, I will change. However, change will not be a negative force and from it I will gain different mindsets and create something entirely as beautiful as before, but different. Different, not better, not worse, but an activity adapted to my surroundings. Periods of adjustment, with a slow tempo, to reflect on the times of life for which a faster tempo in which a called.

Learning, as the best way of growing and adapting to our surroundings, as adjustments, may be the best lesson Jazz may teach us about ways to live. Experiences can feel repetitive, but they will never carry the same pace, the same tempo. I have learned from Jazz, from running, and from the young man who told me about Miles Davis and the ability to adapt expected of Jazz musicians, is that the smallest changes in surroundings change the presentations of ourselves to others, and maybe even how we reflect upon our own actions.

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