Sunday, November 3, 2013

James Armstrong

Name:   James Armstrong

What do you do?  
I’m a composer / pianist, and teacher in public schools.

Where can we find your work?  
On my website and in Bay Area venues.

What inspires you to create and how do you keep motivated when things get tough?
Extended periods of practice are energizing.   I’ve learned to focus despite irregular performance schedules.

What do you think is more important content/finished product or technique/process?  
I’m constantly working on rhythmic and harmonic processes.  However, I don’t separate form from content. 

Who are some people who influence and/or inspire you?
Andrew Hill was a dear friend; I continue practice his scores, and recorded his composition ‘New Monastery’ in July.  Thelonious Monk is a huge influence.  I also study orchestral music by Béla Bartók and Ferruccio Busoni.    

If you could be any fictional character who would you be?
The ronin Kuwabatake Sanjuro from ‘Yojimbo’, the Akira Kurosawa film.   He could handle any situation !

When do you get your best ideas?
It seems that the best ideas evolve out of extended periods of study.  

What materials/tools do you use most to create your work?
An old Kawai upright piano and a partial drum set for working out technical problems.

Are you self taught or formally educated? How do you think that has influenced or affected your work?
I’m largely self-taught as a musician; my identity as a performer evolved out of my own research.    However, I did have several fine piano coaches.  Work in ensembles was also instructive.  

What would your creative work taste like?
Sweet and sour; dissonant and percussive at times, with tonal references.

When you are not creating what do you like to do?
Tend to family. My daughter always keeps me busy.

How did you learn to access your creative talents and gain the confidence to put it out there for everyone to experience?
Consistent practice and study.   Learning never stops. 

What advice would you give others just beginning their creative adventures?  Stay with the Muse.   Learn the history, and then do something that’s meaningful to you. 

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