E3Q has practiced two times since school is out. In and of itself that is remarkable. Mark has written a sweet chord sequence in C phrygian, and so I've been playing around ("fooling around") with the Phrygian. I love it - I think it's my current favorite mode. I have also been toying around with another progression that I wrote, and thinking about how to use the modes to write a Prelude for the Lullaby Project (recording soon!). At the same time, my friend Maria and I have been picking repertoire to play for a concert this summer, and I thought of the Cassado Solo Suite, which I have neither played or thought of in 13 years. Today I decided to play all the C modes (Major, dorian, phrygian, lydian, mixolydian...) to warm up, before reading through the Cassado to see what was what. And, low and behold, how does the Cassado start? First declamation, D dorian. Repeat that in C mixolydian, then c lydian. And so forth. The whole thing is modal. And I heard them, and was able to recognize them by ear and also by pattern for the first time. I didn't really know that before: I probably knew that he piece was modal in some way, but I didn't really KNOW it. Mind completely blown.
What sort of freaks me out is that apparently my ear knew, and nudged my sub-conscience ("remember the Cassado?"), but it wasn't until I actually played the piece that I realized how exactly the Cassado fits all the other things I am currently working through.
The things us classical instrumentalists hear from our teachers, "always practice with thought","don't just fool around but have intent" are certainly words of wisdom. I know that growing up, "fooling around" on the cello, and "playing without thinking" were somewhat synonymous. Now I am really questioning that. In fact, when I "fool around" with the modes or any other set of of parameters, I am thinking very hard and certainly, have just as much intent, if not more, than when I read music or practice music written down by somebody. I think "fooling around with intent" should be highly encouraged in instrumental learning! I really would love to see some brain imaging done on improvisers brain compared to a brain reading music...The two processes are incredibly different.