Corey Mwamba


from what you do

I have always been able to rely on my ear for making music with other people (or performing other people's music). When I talk about the "ear" I do not mean the organ that enables the reception of energy in the form of sound, but the "musical ear" which (I think) is a collection of memory and bodily attention.

When it comes to Western standard staff notation, my sight-reading is non-existent; my general reading of it is laboured, and inconsistent. It was something that used to worry me—to the point where I would not mention it at all—but as time has gone on, I've felt more relaxed about it: having learned a lot of different music gives a person a certain sense of form and motion within a piece.

But that does not mean I don't value the skill of reading; and it doesn't mean I don't practise it every so often. It just means I struggle to learn it, and there have been (many, many) times where my ear has literally pulled me out of a mess that reading has got me into. I would suggest that struggling to learn is in no way a bad thing, because learning (whether formal or informal) is a good thing. As I said in an interview a few years ago, we all have to learn from somewhere; it's what you do with that learning that matters.

That those words were not included in the interview reminded me of Charlie Parker's comments to Paul Desmond about learning; and a discussion I had with a very misguided pianist about whether John Coltrane had a critical practice. And other things said by {teachers, adults, peers, friends} about learning, being educated; showing those things. And it perhaps isn't a popular notion nowadays, but: I don't think there is anything wrong with being educated or wanting to learn.

We all have to learn from somewhere. It's what you do with that learning that matters.