Saturday, March 09, 2024

Very occasional quote of the day: no such thing as better

“We have only to fight as well as the men who stayed and fought at Shiloh. It is not necessary that we should fight better. There can be no such thing as better.”

- Ernest Hemingway, Men At War

That book was compiled and edited by Hemingway during WWII, and was widely read by people serving the US military then. I found the quote in my father's copy, a 1952 paperback edition, which I believe he was reading when he was in the Korean war. It was directed at people who were actually having to do that stuff. 

In drummer terms, you could say we have only to play as well as Art Blakey on Somethin' Else, or Jack Dejohnette on Live Evil. Harvey Mason on Breezin', Billy Higgins on Rejoicing, you pick.  

You're thinking oh, really, is that all?, but it is done all the time. Like the thing Hemingway is talking about, in situations less famous than the one he mentions. The rest of us get to play as good as them sometimes. We may not get as many equivalent playing opportunities, and there are other things that go into making a player, a playing career, and historical profile, but we can handle our available situations as well as they would. 

We don't get to play better than them. You're not going to outplay Blakey by doing harder stuff, by having faster singles, or by executing better. Your favorite awesome drummer isn't going to outplay him. There may be other reasons for working on those things, but to be a better artist than him is not one of them.  

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