Daily Concerts (Dallas Smith in Sweden #3) April 1, 2008

In the dormitory room of a People’s High School in Southern Sweden

We’re now getting into the routine of the tour, playing one or more concerts every day. (Our one day without a concert was spent in a recording studio…more about that later.) Two days ago, we received our first standing ovation. It was an afternoon concert in a beautiful new church in a very small village. We had worried that we wouldn’t get much of an audience, but it turned out that the church was almost full, of mostly elderly people. Nonetheless, they responded very positively. Because it was a church with live acoustics, and because of the nature of the audience, we chose some of the more lyrical pieces in the repertoire.

Today, we have our first afternoon school concert. The repertoire for these audiences is the rockier, more rhythmic material, for those kids whose musical experience is molded by MTV. Then we have an evening concert in the same school auditorium that is open to the community. Again, Christian worries whether we’ll have an audience. These small villages have perhaps one pizza parlor (usually run by someone from the Middle East) and a general store of some kind…otherwise, just a few houses. In other words, we have to pull people from the surrounding area, probably mostly the parents of the school kids who are curious as to what “world music” sounds like.

The Pleasure of Being In Practice

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a musician to my core. It certainly has something to do with growing up as an only child in a country place…this supported my practicing. However, in the daily life of working for Healing HealthCare Systems, the focus of my activities does not necessarily include a daily practice regimen Susan and I mutually lament this fact. And so, when I’m on tour and playing one or more concerts a day, that delicious breakthrough occurs…I don’t have to “warm up” musically…I’m still in great shape from the day before…I pick up my instruments and can start playing at a higher level than usual. I’m able to execute difficult musical lines flawlessly the first time, every time, instead of having to work up to them. The repeated realization is: Wow, if I played this much all the time, instead of only a few weeks per year, I could really improve! This is the high level of playing that I observe in musicians like my friend and teacher, Erv Monroe, flutist with the Detroit Symphony. He is playing many hours every day, either in concert, rehearsing, or teaching. Similarly, top touring jazz musicians, such as pianist Chick Corea or guitarist John McLaughlin, through their daily concertizing attain musical heights that the rest of us can only aspire to.

The musical breakthrough that I described in the paragraph above can be experienced in multiple realms. Athletically, for example, being in shape and skiing down a mountain without getting exhausted, gives a similar thrill. Probably, proficiency and regular practice in any sport will yield a similar feeling.

I am constantly striving toward the same feeling linguistically…that feeling of being able to speak Swedish fluently, without having to think or search for words. The language should flow, just like the music. Unlike the music however, linguistic fluidity seems to be aided by a glass or two of wine. It’s interesting to contemplate that when I’m completely sober, my conscious mind is inhibiting my subconscious mind, the normally passive mind that holds the foreign vocabulary. And so in drinking a little and loosening the inhibitions of the controlling conscious mind, the words can pour out. I think this is the essence of why creative artists of all types seek the inspiration of mild intoxification, since we’ve all had the experience of some of the best creativity and good feelings occurring when we’re a little “out of our minds.”

A typical “Swede”?

Having our meal last night in the dormitory of the People’s High School (Folkshögskola), we engaged a young girl with Asiatic features in conversation. Her life story briefly summarized: She was from the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, whose people are a blend of the descendents of Ghengis Khan and later Turkish invaders. Her parents were divorced. She had been brought by her father to Sweden at age 13. (She is now 19.) She didn’t say, but it is likely that her father was some kind of asylum-seeker. Sweden accepts more political refugees that any other country in the world. In Sweden, her father had gotten in trouble with the law…again, the girl didn’t elaborate…perhaps he became an alcoholic or committed a crime. The courts had removed her from her father’s custody and placed her with Swedish foster parents. The girl did not seem enamored of her foster parents, saying that she now sees them only at Christmas and other major holidays. She now lives at the high school and hopes to visit her relatives in Kyrgyzstan during the summer. She spoke perfect Swedish and functional English.

Sweden has many transplants from around the world who successfully integrate into Swedish society. Unfortunately, it is much harder for immigrants who come as adults to Sweden. In spite of the very comprehensive and generous (compared with American standards) social system, some people are unable to assimilate. This applies particularly to diverse Moslems from the Middle East. This was manifested by the discovery of death plots against the publishers of the Danish cartoons that depicted the prophet Mohammed with a bomb for a turban.

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