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Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, guitarist/composer Jamie Bonk has graciously agreed to become a contributing editor to Jamie will be conducting a series of interviews entitled Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series. We look forward to his contributions for they are both insightful and offer a unique artist-to-artist perspective over the typical interview. We hope you enjoy them.
Other Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series:
A Conversation with Alien Chatter, May. 2004
A Conversation with Oystein Ramfjord of Amethystium, Apr. 2004
A Conversation with Rob Eberhard Young, Apr. 2004
<<-later interviews | earlier interviews->>   <<- all interviews ->>
Jamie Bonk
A Conversation with Farzad
December 2003
Violinist/composer Farzad is certainly international in both his musical and philosophical outlook. His music has been influenced by his world travels to countries ranging from his native Iran to Ecuador and Kenya and to his current residence in the United States. And as a Baha'i, Farzad has a philosophical and spiritual viewpoint that has helped him to communicate "the commonality of human emotion."

Farzad has performed with, among others, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ecuador (he was the concertmaster), Houston's Ballet, Grand Opera and Pop Orchestra companies (one time sharing the stage with Woody Herman) as well as with the Dallas Opera and the Ft. Worth Symphony. In the summer of 2002, Farzad co-headlined (with the Colombian band Millero Congo and various international singers) a six-week "Oneness Tour" produced by multi-Grammy Award winner K.C. Porter, who has worked with Ricky Martin, Carlos Santana and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs.

Farzad has put out two solo records -- From My Heart and Mirror Of Emotions -- on the Amity Records label.

If you'd like to learn more about Farzad and his music, please visit his web site.
"...I feel the need and the responsibility of contributing to the advancement and betterment of the whole world through my work."
Jamie: One of the toughest questions I get asked is, "What kind of music do you play?" I draw on a lot of different genres and yet I don't feel my music sits comfortably in one particular style. Even though I've played a fair amount of Jazz and I improvise on just about every one of my pieces, I would never call myself a Jazz musician.

The background page on your web site says that your music "falls into the arena of classical crossover or contemporary classical with elements of Mideastern folkloric (reflecting his heritage), Latin (influenced by time spent living in South America where he was the concertmaster of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ecuador), other world musics, new age and smooth jazz." Do you consider yourself a classical musician at heart?
Farzad: I guess first we have to define what being a classical musician at heart is. If being trained, playing and enjoying classical music, constitutes that one is a classical musician at heart, then I am, but if I incorporate these elements in order to create, enhance and broaden my experience, then I simply am a musician with deep passion and interest in all kinds of musical genres.
Jamie: And I can definitely hear that passion. Your piece "Why?" off of Mirror of Emotions touches me very deeply. For me, one of the beauties of instrumental music is that it can have many meanings. Does "Why?" have a specific meaning for you?
Farzad: I could not agree with you more about your comment regarding instrumental music. "Why?" is one of those pieces that I have written that speaks to one's heart at many levels. When I wrote this piece, a lot of things were happening in my personal and spiritual life, some good and some not so good. Therefore, the question I keep asking myself was: Why do we go through certain experiences and situations at certain times in our lives? As I was contemplating, I realized that life is a big question and our job is to gain insight about our world (physical and spiritual). This process could be very painful, sometimes we get hurt or we hurt others, sometimes we fail and it feels like what I call the "spiritual desert" or sometimes there is a sense of yearning. That was the driving force (emotion) behind writing this piece. "...I realized that life is a big question and our job is to gain insight about our world...."
Jamie: Beautifully said. I think many people feel a sense of the "spiritual desert" that you're talking about. And music has a way of dealing with that void -- both for the listener and the artist. When I'm working on a piece, I try to get to a place where the music feels effortless. To find the sweet spot. Some pieces come together very easily and some are a huge struggle. But it's the belief that it will work out in the end that keeps me going. Could you talk about how your sense of faith affects your music?
Farzad: I am not sure if I understand your question fully. But if I may, let me just make a point about sense of effortlessness in creative process. When I start composing, it never feels effortless, and the reason for it is, the endless possibilities that comes to one's heart and mind, but when I listen to the end result, it is effortless. I know the faith or belief (that all of us must have regardless of the nature of what we do) has a role in choosing the right ideas or choices, especially in creative process. At least that's how it is for me.
Jamie: Sorry for not making my question clearer.... but you answered it perfectly! What I was trying to say, although not too elegantly, was that I feel musicians have to learn to trust their instincts and have a sense of confidence in their abilities. I find this especially true with improvisation. If I approach an improv with a sense of trepidation, I fall flat on my face.

For me, it's important to be as fluent on my instrument and, more generally, in music as I possibly can be. Education and practice have played, and continue to play, a huge role in helping me to be as free artistically as I possibly can be. How important do you feel education and practice is to your own music making?
Farzad: In music, trying to be proficient in your instrument(s), it is like developing your vocabulary as a writer or a poet. The more you develop your vocabulary, the more you can express your emotions and ideas. We have to keep in mind, developing techniques does not replace other aspects of creating music.
Jamie: Absolutely true -- technique is just a starting point. Could you talk about how you create a piece from conception to finished master?
Farzad: This is a very intimate but legitimate question. As you know, in the creating process we have to make sure that we do not fall into the trap of repeating ourselves. I don't remember who said it, but I think it was Picasso, who said, "Imitating is OK as long as we don't imitate ourselves" or something like that. It is obvious that, all of the individuals in the creative fields (musicians, artists writers etc.) imitate or I should say learn from each other to some extent. I am sure I use some of the ideas that I have learned by listening and analyzing of compositions by great masters or other composers/entertainers of different genres in music. Hopefully, we all develop our own sound, but the tricky part is to have something new to say, stay faithful to our audience and try to expand our vision and try new things. As far as the process of composing, it is different every time, sometimes I come up with a melody and then I compose around it, other times everything comes out of harmony! Sometimes I need a catalyst for writing, this could be an event or experience that I might have gone through it years, months, days or couple hours prior to when I start writing, some other times I just write. "...we have to make sure that
we do not fall into the trap of repeating ourselves."
Jamie: I pretty much approach writing the same way -- whatever works, works!

Finding a balance between your own needs as an artist and those of the audience is, as you say, "tricky". Every composer/performer falls somewhere along the continuum between expressing his/her own wants and desires and giving the audience what it demands.

I was watching an Actors Studio episode with director Ron Howard a while back and he was talking about how he felt he shouldn't always give in to his tendency to give the audience what it wanted and to occasionally challenge them. I thought this was a very astute observation by Howard. He realized his own personality (he called himself a "pleaser") and he understood, in terms of filmmaking and his audience, some of its pitfalls. How do you view your relationship to your audience?
Farzad: As an artist, if I believe in the quality and the substance of my work, somehow I feel the need and the responsibility of contributing to the advancement and betterment of the whole world through my work. One way which this could manifest itself is by pushing the boundaries and conventionalities in people. To do this, an artist should know him or herself and make connection with the audience (people whom have put aside everything else and have come to see you). I think this would be more effective if it's done in the spirit of sharing rather than becoming a guru or a leader. When I perform or compose, I think of my audience as my equal partners and friends; I am neither above nor under them. "...I think of my audience as my equal partners and friends; I am neither above nor under them."
Jamie: I think your comment about connecting with the audience is bang on -- it's important to show them that you value their time and effort. Particularly if they came out to see you on a cold night in February!

You combine Eastern and Western elements on Mystery of Love, the album you recorded with Parisa Badiyi (vocals/dayereh) and Rahmatollah Badiyi (violin/kamancheh). Did you find it challenging to blend the styles? Do you feel you have to approach Eastern-based music "differently" than Western-based music.
Farzad: Blending the genres is one of the easiest and rewarding things for me. It comes so naturally to me, and I think it is because of two main reasons; one is my heart's desire to be exposed to different musical genres and cultures, and the other one is my beliefs in the Baha'i faith. You see, as a Baha'i, I look at this world as one country and mankind as its citizen. And growing up with this kind of outlook about the world, most definitely helps the process of mixing different genres. Regarding the way I approach different styles; as long as I relate to the music and become sensitive to its feel and the mood is trying to create and appreciate its uniqueness. It does not make a difference what the base of the music is (Eastern, Western, etc.). "Blending the genres is one of the easiest and rewarding things for me."
Jamie: For me, the violin has a passionate, fluid sound and in many ways is comparable to the human voice. The way a good string player can shape a line or phrase can be particularly "vocal" in nature. Do you feel being a violinist has any impact on the way you conceptualize music?
Farzad: The original idea for making the violin was in fact to imitate the human voice. It definitely has some influence on the way I listen and write music.
Jamie: So what are you working on now? Any upcoming performances that you'd like to talk about?
Farzad: I am working on some new ideas. Hopefully, I will be happy with them, and who knows may be I will record them too. I also am working on some material for a couple of performances in Seattle and Vancouver in Feb., and a tour, which will be from mid April to the first week of May.
Jamie: That sounds great! It's a shame though that your performance in Vancouver isn't a little earlier -- I'm heading out there for the Xmas holidays and I would have loved to have seen you play.

Thanks for doing this artist-to-artist conversation and best of luck!
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