Nina Simone on her personal theory of musical excellence

todayOctober 29, 2023 4

share close

(Credits: Far Out / Alamy)


As one of the greatest singers of all time, Nina Simone was a beautifully resolute performer and an artist of undeniable grandeur. Despite her undisputed brilliance, her life and career trajectory could have been markedly different were it not for the pervasive prejudice she faced. Thankfully, for the betterment of society, she transformed the injustices she endured and shed light on these issues with a remarkable blend of grace and courage, effecting change through her exceptional artistry.

In her early foray into the world of music, Simone aspired to venture into the classical realm that had deeply moved her since childhood. Sadly, when she sought admission to the renowned Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, her dreams of pursuing a classical path were shattered due to racial discrimination. As her daughter, Lisa Celeste ‘Simone’ Stroud, would aptly remark: “Can you imagine putting in five hours of practising every day for five to seven years and you get to your audition, and they reject you, and it’s not because you weren’t good enough but because of how you look?”

Simone took a principled stance from a young age, including refusing to perform at a church if her parents were relegated to sit at the back. Remarkably, however, she channelled all these challenges into her impassioned soul and fearlessly confronted societal injustices. Notably, when James Baldwin felt that the civil rights movement was losing momentum, he found a steadfast ally in Simone, recognising her unwavering commitment to the cause.

Her passion for inciting change and musical innovation were two ventures that were fearlessly intertwined. As she once said of the role of an artist: “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice — but I choose to reflect the times and the situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty. At this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved.” 

When it comes to defining the beauty of music, it’s no surprise, therefore, that Simone’s insight is filled with delectable knowledge. In 1984, at Ronnie Scott’s in London, she explained her take on musical excellence and the appeal of jazz and classical music: The structure. The cleanliness. The tone. The nuances. The implications. The silences. The dynamics all have to do with sound and music. It’s as close to God as I know. The cleanliness of classical music; not all of it, some of it’s too cold.

Bach was a master,she added. Many jazz masters knew what they were doing. Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, who is still with us, he’s a great master. Miles Davis is a master. Duke Ellington was unquestionably one. Art Blakey is one. I wish to God I could play with him. One of the greatest pianists in the world is Oscar Peterson.

Simone’s unparalleled mastery allowed her to see the music industry for what it truly was, a feat few others have achieved. She stands as a genuine hero, and her legacy steadfastly upholds this truth. As Nick Cave once wrote: “The great Nina Simone was a living grievance machine — her race, her gender, her misused talents (she wanted to be a classical pianist) — and this rage infused all her work, and is what makes it so multi-layered.

He continued: Even her most beautiful love songs, which I count as some of the most incandescent works of art ever recorded, were marinated in a sense of resentment and contempt for the workings of the world. It is this exhilarating collision of opposing forces — love and scorn — that makes Nina Simone’s existential and political protestations so compelling.”

Source link

Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

Rate it

Electro Music Newsletter

Don't miss a beat

Sign up for the latest electronic news and special deals


By signing up, you understand and agree that your data will be collected and used subject to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.