Friday, May 30, 2014

Ivan Ilić Part Three

MF:  You have to stop being obsessive about improvement at some point, or else your thing can never go out into the world. 

II:  Exactly.  Yeah.  But on the other hand, it’s difficult - because you know that that obsessive quality is what makes something more refined and ultimately better than it was before.  So how do you stop? I think the only way to know is to have people around you that you trust, so you can ask them, and get a feel for whether something is good enough.  I certainly have had experience with this recently with my writing. With for example the liner notes of the CD, I wanted to explain the connections between the composers [Scriabin, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Scott Wollschleger].  And I felt very strongly about that.  But it’s one thing to talk about it, like in an interview, or with a friend over coffee or a glass of wine, and it’s another thing to write it.  When you write something down the expectation of the logical argument is much higher, and things have to really tie together.  Otherwise, you’re in trouble.

So that was a lot of work.  It was kind of like practicing the piano, actually.  I was just improving sentences by one word at a time.  And it’s so much work, but it does get better.

MF:  You’re a really good writer, you should write a book someday.

II:  Well, I have to find a subject!

MF:  You have so many interests and they all somehow all interconnect. Like you were saying, you see these patterns and connections.

II:  There was a book that I was expecting to be really interesting, by a guy who was a really, really talented chess prodigy.  And then he quit because he was just completely burnt out.  And then he became really expert at some other thing.  I think it was Tai Chi – competitive Tai Chi, or something like that.  And the premise of the book was that he was going to explain how to get really good at something.  And the idea of that really excited me, because I was studying my own learning method. And to me, the book was kind of a disappointment. 

So I was thinking that if there were some way I could write, explaining how to improve at anything – in other words if there was some kind of a method that would be universally applicable, then that would be useful.  And I think that if I was to write a book, I would want it to be useful for other people.  I wouldn’t want it to just be an opportunity for me to talk about something I'm interested in.  I mean I’d like it to be helpful.  I think those are the books that are the most powerful. 

MF:  I’d love to know more about that.  So you’re working on developing this method?

II:  Yeah, I’ve been working on it almost daily, when I’m not traveling.  Very carefully.  And I’ve talked to two people I trust about it in great detail.  And these are people that are older than me, computer programmers, so they’re obsessed with learning and that kind of thing. I’ve gotten some really good feedback.  But again, it’s kind of like the whole thing with writing.  When you have it in your head, certain things seem logical and easy to understand, but then when you have to put it into words for someone else, sometimes you can get tripped up.  So, that’s very interesting as well. 

MF:  Early on you were known as a French music specialist?

II:  I’d recorded for EMI by the time I was ten and I was playing the Chopin etudes, you know, in the womb! It just becomes really boring. And I didn’t even think about what the consequences would be.  I was interested in French music for a while, and then I was interested in other things.  And luckily I wasn’t thinking too carefully about how to position myself in terms of a market or something.  I was just going from one thing to the other.  And I think that’s healthy.  

MF: Tell me about your DVD project.

II: About a year and a half ago I was invited by a well-known visual artist in Paris to go to Geneva and do a workshop with young visual art students.  The way that we worked together was that I asked the students to make promotional videos for me.  And I wasn’t expecting to use the promotional videos. I just wanted to see what they would come up with, with their visual arts backgrounds.

And so I spent the first day introducing them to Morton Feldman’s music which, you know, none of them had ever heard of before.  And it was a really interesting experience because the videos they made reflected many of the things that I’d said, but then they’d kind of digested it and then regurgitated it back at me.  And I was really surprised by that, about how effective it can be. 

And I would say that probably the most important thing about that whole experience was how interesting it is to work with people who are not part of your field.  In other words, where you have to explain things using a vocabulary that is simple enough so that you’re not using technical jargon, which you would use if you were speaking to young musicians, for example.  But on the other hand, you can't just use, you know, two-syllable words. I mean you actually have to go into detail and explain what’s really going on.  So I think that’s very similar to what happens if you are speaking a language in which you aren’t fluent yet.  You want to communicate your ideas and do justice to them, but you don’t quite have the vocabulary you need.  

And I think that’s probably one of the most important things a human being can do - is to put yourself in that situation where you’re a little bit uncomfortable, but you have something really important to you that you want to say.  And to try to communicate it with whatever basic tools you have. And sometimes the enthusiasm with which you communicate is even more important than what you’re saying.  Which is, you know, another lesson in life.

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