Daniel John Plonsey

(and a couple statements about music)

Autobiographical Sketch #1 (2000)

I find my music rather than make it, as though waking from a dream. I travel through musical worlds a cautious, introverted tourist, attracted to - yet frightened by - the peculiarities of jazz, classical music, rock, and whatever else. Once having noted and admired oddity and idiosyncrasy in these forms (so self-evidently interesting), I am then often surprised by the beauty which is more ordinary, even cliched: that which any true student of music probably knows forward and back: the simplest chord changes, the smallest of syncopations, the most predictable bass line, the notion of an introduction.

While allowing myself to be led along by my own naive enthusiasm, I court accidents due to misunderstanding and imprecision. Suspecting that hard work and intense study can only make music heavy and dull, I follow up upon those ideas which are simple, absurd, and impractical. This method, practiced in a light, bumbling manner has succeeded in uncovering pleasing new possibilities and impossibilities as well.

Autobiographical Sketch #2: Those Things which are Blessing-Slash-Curses

I am cursed or blessed...

Autobiographical Sketch #3

Like many others, I've experienced a real visceral & sensual excitement at hearing certain musics from far away, my first experiences of Indian music and Balinese music especially. Hearing some previously unimagined whole Music is what I I imagine seeing a new color would be, and indeed there's often a sort of synesthesia effect: all at once the mind and body are flooded with new images as one gets the sight, sound and fragrance of a culture which is very different in some ways and very similar in others. I found these experiences much more compelling than hearing musicians who only took things one more step along, or offered only refinement - or an intellectual construct (though a few of these have been appealing).
In making my own music, I'm trying to find a way to make music with maximum emotional/intellectual/soulful content of a beauty of oneness and infinite multiplicity simultaneously. Something hopeful, wistful, celebratory, open, looking for new ways of being based on values other than "free market economy." I hear this strongly in many kinds of un-rigid folk musics (and also in some "classical" music, especially of India, and in Messiaen, Ives and Berlioz too). I would no longer use the term mystical, but it's not far from that: it's about finding the obvious values more than the hidden - in the real stuff all around and inside us.

Autobiographical Sketch #4

I think I have a sort of disability similar to dyslexia which inhibits and mangles my speech and saxophone playing. Little chunks and crumbs of a cosmic cake fall into the cracks between notes and words, and it - whatever it is - doesn't come out right, which is confusing and embarrassing to me. But. . . that is exactly how it goes, and I've made it my style to use whatever the results may be, whatever they are, I'm up for the adventure of dealing with it.

Autobiographical Sketch #5: In What Way could this Music Possibly Offer to Heal the World?

It is a rebuilt music: a music constructed of simple inexpensive materials under a melodic sheepskin. Hiding only the faint residue of patterns, the melody eases into an otherwise pattern-less glide through history. Having no truck with logic, only with permutation, and even then only on a very small scale. Sliding under the barricades, threatening no one. Without flash, without pockets. Simple thoughts: one, and another, and another, and sometimes back to the one, but usually simply onward: a little girl in a big sandbox.

Biographical Sketch #1, of Audience: Music for a Family of Hearts

For whom is this music intended? What is the proper setting and attire and context for such music-making?

The answer, in short: A situation in which a less critical audience might come upon it, by accident. An audience with no particular appetite for either irony or perfection. An audience seeking neither entertainment nor correction, but rather possessing an appreciation for simple human activity of any sort, and for the beauty of objects whose nature is neither wholly animate or inanimate: stuff which is partly "found" and partly "manufactured." An audience whose love for the divine is necessarily and even sorrowfully expressed indirectly, directed in small but intense and recurring bursts towards various intermediaries whose beauty is revealed not through a fulfillment or recognition of an Ideal, but rather from the surprising exactitude and elusiveness of the small, the slight, the incomplete and apparently misdirected, including both the subtle and garish forms. Gaining strength from mistakes and misconceptions arising from impulses shy yet noble. A sideways glancing sort of crowd. An audience perhaps too jaded to be actively searching for utopias or immortality, yet still naive or even idealistic enough to act out of a sense of right and wrong, and even duty, forsaking the possibility of everlasting joy and/or enlightenment in favor of being at least a good friend and patient listener and willing observer and occasional participant in even the most embarrassing aspects of social life - and also of miracles, recognizing them as such, no matter how small they all seem to be these days. An audience, best of all, with nowhere else to go.

Where might such an audience be found - not just as a scattering of individuals, but as a genuine community to whom this music would matter? I can only conceive of this community's existence in relatively small and isolated settings, such as in those science fiction books in which a few people have a whole planet to themselves. In such a scenario, attention might be expected to be directed inward, to the heart, rather than outward, to the extremities, while the eyes' gaze and imagination might be directed to and beyond the horizon. This is not music for the hands or feet or even genitals. It is not for the top of the head (the mystics), nor for the wings of the spirit. This is music for a family of hearts, beating imprecisely together.

See also:

and also:

Dan Plonsey