INTERVIEW WITH MARTIN BRADFIELD
Martin, What is your background?
Well, I’m officially one of the legions of Seniors out there. I’m 66 as of Sept, 2021. I made my living as a professional Musician, a Drummer! for the past 45 years. I recently retired in June 2018, and closed my Drum Studio after 45 years of lessons, gigs, clinics, book and article writing. I was so lucky and privileged to make my living doing what I loved. You know the song, “I just want to bang on the drums all day!”. Well, I lived that dream and played with musicians on the Local, National and even, International level, and, never worked a day in my life, as the saying goes. Even now, in retirement, I play my drums practically every day and have a new found sense of freedom and creativity. I’m sure a lot of Retirees have the same realization and practice in whatever their passion is/was.
I grew up and currently live in the Pottstown, PA area. I’m happily married to an amazing and charming wife, Cathy, 2 step-kids and a beloved beagle and tabby cat. When I’m not playing my drums, studying Art History and doing lectures for MoBetter, Im riding my bike, reading and writing and listening to music… being profoundly moved by the Beatles, Chopin and Thelonious Monk and thanking the universe for such geniuses.
What are your lectures for MoBetter?
Currently I’m offering, Comparitive Art: Impulses Behind the Images. I also offer my current percussion project, Crotchet-Quaver and the Rests, which is a Bucket group/Percussion ensemble, which basically grabs people off the street, shoves a beater of some kind in their hands, and creates some unique Rhythmic magic. I’m also working on a Jazz History lecture and a History of Rhythm lecture.
Tell me more about the Comparitive Art series.
Basically, it is as advertised. I compare paintings of a similar theme, for instance, I compare the “Enigmatic Look” of the “Mona Lisa” to the equally enigmatic look of Manets classic, “Bar at the Folies Bergere” and try to reveal the Psychological and Philosophical forces behind the works. It is not as much about painting techniques as it is about the “Why” of the Art, how the Philosophic and Psychological manifested in the paintings. As I say in the lectures…” Environments, like people, produce children. Art is the issue of an environment”. As environments and concepts of reality have changed over the years, so has the Art. That is something that we talk about. In addition, and I think this makes the lecture unique, I bring along reproductions of the actual canvases that I talk about… a kind of bring the Art to the people approach, and that has proven different and memorable, I feel.
It might be unusual for a one-time professional musician to do an art Lecture, but I feel that during my professional music career that I learned as much about music through the studying of art, as through studying music. I call it “cross-training.” Sometimes you hear people say, “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture”, meant in a negative way, but I feel the Arts are inextricably connected and the source of creativity can transcend these artificial barriers.
What other Artists do you talk about?
I do a comparison of Van Gogh to Gauguin. I think that this is a high-light of the lecture, running through and comparing the philosophies and reaction to the Enlightenment philosophy to the works of the Impressionists and the Post Impressionists and their thrilling backstories. I also have a chapter on the changing views of Martyrdom and the Nude. Rubens, Goya, Picasso, Titian, Turner, Seurat and others. The lecture is actually a 2 part series and I am currently working up some other chapters.
Why are you presenting these lectures?
Great question! I think that education should be a life-time pursuit. That the passion and interest and education in any subject can only help to make you a more compassionate, understanding and evolved human being of any and all ages. I truly believe that the many ills of society can be solved, or at least alleviated by knowledge and education. The enemy of education is always fear, ignorance and prejudice, and those things have wreaked havoc and released the dogs of war throughout the ages. The Arts are, if anything, underrated in their importance. The products of an elevated sensibility like Van Gogh or Rembrandt or Bach, or the Beatles should be considered as just that: An elevation of attitudes and thinking. Considering the dictates of Artistic genius should help to define or reveal or prevent prejudices. They should make us slow to anger and eager to embrace differences and interpretations. To stop and listen to the leaves rustle through the trees and wonder how Rembrandt might paint that, or the Beatles describe that in song, might make us pause in our anger and consider alternatives. This kind of mental and emotional attitude knows no age group. That’s why I do these talks. That, and the thrill that I got learning and interpreting these things. If I can instill or broadcast those thrills to someone else… I feel it is worthwhile and important.
What has been the response, so far, to your lectures?
I have been “blown away” by the response. The audience seems genuinely interested in the subject and extremely respectful in their appreciation, anticipation and interpretation. There have been many interesting questions and comments and interaction both before and after the talks, and I felt a certain camaraderie, excitement and friendship with the audience. I suggest in my talk how Art criticism is a subjective thing, that you are as much judging yourself, what kind of person you are, what are your views and opinions etc. and I think this makes it a more personal experience for the attenders.
I have to also say how impressed I’ve been at the various facilities and the people that run them. I always try to talk with the Activities Director and get feedback and information and I’ve been very impressed not just at the professionalism all around but also the genuine caring. The “job title and description” must include the idea of “Kindness” as well.
You have played lots of gigs throughout the years. How is the Senior circuit different?
As a professional musician I have, of course, played to all ages of people. The “Senior” circuit is a more homogenous group. I have found that the “Senior” crowd is not “on the make” as a younger upwardly seeking, climbing, combative, competitive younger person might be. They seem calmer, more reflective, more willing to accept, slower to judge. The crowds I have gotten are generally smaller and more of an intimate group than a Bar or Club gig, however there is what I call the “Factor of Age” which makes these gigs unique and interesting, That and what the artist Gauguin calls being, “A Missionary in Reverse”.
Okay, I’m curious what do you mean by,” The Factor of Age” and being a “Missionary in Reverse?”
Usually when you hear the term, “Age Factor” it is meant pejoratively, or, at least, implies a suggestion of “less” than once was… a weakness. By reversing the terminology to the “Factor of Age” It changes the meaning. I might see 12 people in the audience, but I’m seeing the” factor” of all they have been through, how much they have loved and, perhaps lost, and the trials and errors and comedies and tragedies, the pathos and hubris. Everybody’s life has monumental and important decisions and multi-directions and paths not taken, and is the stuff of great drama. All of these life experiences have enlarged the crowd. I’m therefore speaking to thousands of people. More so than to a younger crowd. For a numerical example, the number 10 is not much more (or “older”) than the number 7. Yet 7 “factorial”… 7x6x5x4x3x2x1 is 5, 040. 10 factorial is 3.6 MILLION. That idea is significant and rich with meaning I feel.
By a “Missionary in Reverse” I mean traveling to far away and exotic lands and people with the idea of learning from them, rather than the more typical definition. As an example… During one of my talks I mentioned how Manet would just paint a mere squiggle of color yet your mind interpreted it as a person. I mentioned how I picked out my wife, Cathy, from a great distance, although what I actually “saw” was just a squiggle of color. A lady yelled out from the crowd, “That was Love!”
I realized that she was right, Love! … something that crowd knows something about.
Martin, Thank you for your time! I hope to see you at a lecture soon!
You’re welcome! I look forward to the next event.