Playing piano in our postmodern age

It’s a little tricky to pin down exactly what the term “postmodern” means, but there’s a general agreement that we live in a postmodern era. In music, I think of it like this:

Things get more modern and more modern and there’s this innovation and that new technique and everything is pushed farther and farther to the extremes until…

It can’t go any further.

You can’t get any more musically abstract than Varése. You can’t get more raucous than punk rock. You can’t get more gentle than Satie. You can’t get more pop than Michael Jackson. You can’t play piano faster than Art Tatum. You can’t smash your equipment more than The Who. You can’t get more outrageous than the rock group KISS. You can’t swing more than the Basie band. You can’t get more funky than Prince.

When it seems like every musical element we can think of has been pushed to its limit, we’ve arrived in a postmodern age. This is where “anything goes.” Mix and match. Blend. Re-imagine. Innovate in a highly personal way.

Do you like Bach and Kanye West? Arrange 10 of his songs to sound like Bach Inventions. You’ll go viral. (Hurry, or I might do this myself!)

Do you play analog synth but love 1920s jazz? Great! Make your own version of Muskrat Ramble played with your favorite synth sounds. You can emulate some of the brass and clarinet sounds of early jazz but also add some non-traditional synthy sounds as well.

Do you love Gershwin and folk music? Combine them!

Do you like jazz and hip hop? Go for it!

Classical music over a hip hop beat? I predict that this would go viral as well. (Again, hurry up or I might get to this first!!!)

While yes, you can find examples of these kinds of musical fusion in any era, it’s become predominant in our modern culture. When “modern” ceases to mean “more of…,” it’s really the only way to go. And what an opportunity for us as artists!

More and more pianists, from all over the planet, are discovering the joys of piano improv. Here are some free lessons for you to enjoy. Have fun!

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