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“Art communicates something eternal.” Can you escape music? Different, yet the same: Evgeny Kissin and Michael Jackson

April 22, 2010

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Both are musicians. Both can move an audience to screams, tears and until the people working the concert venues threaten to just go home and leave audience and performer to their own devices…they seemingly couldn’t be any more different from each other- but the making of a genius seems to be same.

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder how similar yet different those two are.

Both have the amazing ability to turn on and off their stage presence at the push of a button, it’s incredible to watch. (watching MJ’s “This Is It” was quite interesting- “want stage presence? Let me turn it on, but don’t bug me now, right now I am watching my dancers and musicians.”

Watching both of them in concert was quite something, that some people would describe as almost “religious” experience, spiritual- but in either case not from this dense physical earth.

When Kissin flew past me in a concert hall in Amsterdam (which sold tickets for seats ON the stage behind Kissin, knowing every single seat would be sold out), I wondered, gee, I hope he doesn’t trip. Though Kissin professes to love to play for an audience, you almost want to make sure he’s alright before he takes that seat at the concert grand. As anybody who ever played music for an audience knows- there’s something that happens to you in the seconds before you play, sing or dance that very first note.

I often wonder about “The Sound Of God” and every once in a while a certain piece of music, a musician or dancer will make clear that we just tap into something- call it the collective consciousness, divinity served straight up without watering it down, the direct line up, up and up.

Brahms, Chopin and Kissin playing them are such translation of the Sound Of God, if you will.

Michael Jackson reminds me of the same. And hearing the ecstatic screams makes you wonder. What were music and dance originally? Rituals, they were used in rituals by shamans, high priests etc. – the direct line up.

Or, as MJ likes to say: “Get the point? Good! Let’s dance!”

I’m sure Mr. Jackson would agree with Mr. Colbert on delivering such a riveting performance when it comes to communicating upward.

Sometimes the risks being taken when busting a move is well worth it…

So what are music and dance? An open channel to upstairs, several flights up. It’s communication, both up and down. You could even say, as above so below. An artist reaches up while creating the music, recreating it again in a performance- while at the same an artist communicates up, he communicates with his audiences as well- and when you’re gifted like Michael Jackson and Evgeny Kissin, the audience has the opportunity to come along for the ride up, an invitation to come along.

Listening to interviews both with MJ and Kissin I noticed how they sometimes spoke exactly about the same thing, even experiencing the same.

Both seem to have issues calming down after a concert, both mention the adrenaline running through their veins, making it difficult to fall asleep. Both speak about having lost weight after each concert. Both give to their audience almost more than is inside of them.

Both give all that’s in them in the moment, both simply cannot escape the music that’s inside of them, day and night.

MJ: “You go from one continent to another, you’re sleepy, the time zones are different, you can’t sleep after the show, the adrenaline is up here. I go through hell touring…But seriously, there is a good part of touring, it’s the fans. The fans are the reason why I do the tours. It’s very important to give them the best show we can give them.”

Kissin seems to have similar take:

“I give a lot. In fact, I give everything I have at that particular moment during my concerts. And so I need some time to sort of refill myself. I often have problems falling asleep afterwards. Why? Do I keep hearing the music that I played a few hours earlier? No, not necessarily. Do I keep thinking about it? No.

During my concerts my adrenaline boils to such a high temperature that it takes a while for it to cool down. Also, after my concerts when I put on my trousers I realize each time that I lost weight.

Sometimes I’m being asked if I ever want to escape from music. And my answer is no. I simply won’t find it possible. Even if I don’t touch the piano for several weeks in a row- that doesn’t mean that I’m escaping from music. Music is always in me and will always remain there. This is the way I am. “

Michael Jackson also describes never being able to escape the music, living in a world where he cannot just close his eyes and stop creating:

“I told you I’m on stage. … I love it. I told you, I sleep with bright lights on. I can’t sleep unless I’m lit up. … I don’t remember not being on stage. … I love it, when I shut my eyes, I just feel so warm, I can see the audience, I can see the performance, I create.

Interviewer: “So you just live in an imaginary world?”

MJ: “Yes, I love that.” (gosh, wished the interviewer would have picked up on that and dug deeper on his creative process, visualization by which he then manifests…)


Michael Jackson also has described the process of writing music in a different form- channeling it.

MJ: How do I write a song? If I sat down here at the piano and played some chords and said, I’m gonna write the best song I’ve ever written- nothing happens.

Something thing in the heavens has to say, look, this is the time that this is gonna be laid on you and this is when I want you to have it. Now I remember when I was writing Billie Jean, I was in my car riding down Ventura Boulevard. All I said to myself beforehand was: I wanna write a song with a great bass hook, you know. And I just let it go, really. And then, several days later, *starts singing*

Interviewer: “Where did that come from?”

MJ: From above.

Interviewer: “You were singing the bass line. Sing that again- and than what happens? How did you get the other instrumentation and composition? How did it work?

MJ (grins): See the thing is…Artists seem to get in the way of the music. Get out of the way of the music. Don’t write the music. Let the music write itself.

Interviewer: “And the dance as well?”

MJ: Same thing.

Interviewer: What’s going through your mind when you’re dancing?”

MJ: NOT THINKING! Thinking is the biggest mistake a dancer can make. You have to FEEL. You become the bass, you become the strings…”

It’s exactly that ability and the willingness to feel every emotion there is that artists like Michael Jackson use in their creative process. For some reason people admire the outcome- the art, yet the idea of how he describes emotion seems unsettling to some. This April some previously unseen footage finally became available.


MJ was asked about about particular feelings- and this is where it get’s interesting. He is describing a view that was very popular in late 18th/mid 19th century, the era of Chopin, Brahms, Schumann and the like- Romanticism. (not to be confused with cheesy Hallmark Cards…)
A time that Kissin should be very familiar with- because if someone knows how to express Chopin- it’s Evgeny Kissin. The sentiments are so very similar- 19th century, classic pianist, pop music- doesn’t matter. They are one and the same.

MJ: “I think some melancholy is good. For the position I’m in, as an entertainer, to know how to go there, and to feel that. That pain, from the past or whatever it is. And to put it into a performance, I think it’s important.
Be honest. To be honest, to be an honest performer. Give it all up, whatever is in there.

That’s quite an interesting thought- first he visualizes the audience and a particular desired outcome (“song with great bass hook”, and then tries not to think about it as not to stand in his own way. And when the song comes, all the pretty notes were useless if it wasn’t for the emotion that gave them meaning.

So, is art, is music something eternal and we are just grasping it in the moment, giving it a temporary shape down here? And what if it is?
Are we just picking up the same thing over and over essentially, does all art exist eternally and an artist just grabs the snapshot in that moment?
And art being an eternal expression, aren’t we just the same, so if we are eternal ourselves?
Michael Jackson sure seemed to hope so, admiring a replica of an Egyptian sarcophagus… “I would like to live forever!”

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