When somebody progresses to the level of a composition artist, who can improvise and play, it takes massive amounts of study. And joy. And sometimes, bravely, they change genres into something they own. And when you are Chris Abrahams, at over three-score-years old, you have a good idea how to describe your practice and enlightened approach.
To a lot of people. Because they ask.
From progressive jazz-oriented trio The Necks, limiting his time on stage to that which will surpass many piano player's toast and egg breakfast count, "There's an expressive dimension in the actual physicality of playing, that I think is separate to the sound that you make," he says.
"I think there's a haptic element that is aesthetisised when you play a musical instrument. It's not just an analogue between one's brain and the sound that comes out. There is a complex relationship that I've built up."
In concert experience Turns and Phrases at Ainslie Arts Centre, with ARIA-nominated Zela Margossian and local-based Millie Watson sharing the program, the event promises to showcase piano music on worldwide Piano Day.
"There will be largely elements of improvisation," Abrahams says of his solo performance. Due to last approximately 45 minutes, "It will be based around things that you could call composed. That represent what I do as a solo pianist."
It's what he calls a non-verbal space, that is more real than you think. Full of light and colour. As he talks about his mind and heart creating a space each audience member will be experiencing as they bunker in and appreciate the magic, "It is a complex relationship that I've built up, having played the piano all my life," he says.
"And that in itself is a very expressive dimension and shouldn't be thought of as just a means to an end. It's actually part of it."
For audiences, though he will tread a fine line at the beginning between what will come, and expectation of what is to proceed that, "The way I make music is to have had things unfold in more or less real time. I'm not sure if it's real time. I'd have to ask the neuroscientist. You know, how much, how many nanoseconds prior to doing something does one decide to do that."
Thrilling to listen to, watch, and wonderful to deliberate over - "I guess I don't know any other way of doing it."
"I mean, for the purposes of this I spontaneously want to be deciding the kind of changing of the music as I do it. I guess that's the essence of what I do. I get a very different result, to, you know, like if I had had a performance plan, and had to hit certain points at certain times."
Which leaves an entire universe of options for him to explore, and deliver. Something new each time the jazz idea of free form takes shape into a new dimension.
"I sort of go between a textural and melodic kind of approach. You know, I tend to reach certain areas that intrigue me, which are depending on the instrument, the acoustics in the room, the way I'm feeling at the time, and I can just stay in areas for a while."
Despite being a radical thinker, "I don't discount other ways of doing it. I'm not anti-composition, or premeditated composition."
It is just that his way of doing things is full of potential, and something that defines Abrahams.
"My music has been, you know, I think it's basically evolved, more or less in itself. I don't think it was a question that becoming good at something else has enabled me to have more confidence in playing music."
Known for his intelligence, the music is not didactic. Even if his thought processes have dwelled on them for a long time, even before sitting down at his stool.
"I don't want to go to the outer limit of what I'm capable of, physically. I want to remain relaxed whilst playing the piano. I find that playing music ... there's a prestidigitation there. There is a sort of magical act, so to speak, whereby it might look like you're really hammering the piano, but in fact, you're not playing very hard ... these illusions that you can create whilst playing I think are also part of my performances."
Like a trumpeter playing a muted solo in a packed theatre, and it feels as if nobody has been listening but you, there is always space for the emotion to take shape.
"I guess I want my music to be able to move people in a certain way. I want to express emotion through it. And that emotion is expressed in a kind of abstract way."
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