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If you like Quincy Jones story, you might also like:
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Quincy Jones also appears in the video:
Crossroads of My Life

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Quincy Jones in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Pursuing a Career in Music

Related Links:
Quincy Jones Music
A Passion for Jazz

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Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
Profile of Quincy Jones Biography of Quincy Jones Interview with Quincy Jones Quincy Jones Photo Gallery

Quincy Jones Interview (page: 9 / 9)

Music Impresario

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  Quincy Jones

What advice would you give to a young person who wants to be a musician?

Quincy Jones Interview Photo
Quincy Jones: That's a question that puzzles me a lot because it's so different today. My son's Quincy the third -- he calls himself QV3 -- and he's done very well, because he's a very hard worker and very talented. He is a hip-hop producer. He's produces Ice Cube, and L.L. Cool J, and the Lynch Mob. He did Fresh Prince, and the Menace II Society scores. It frightens me because today is such a strange time to be in the music business, everything is different.

The instruments are different. The experience of jam sessions, the experience of bands playing together, looking in each other's eyes and transmitting thoughts with unspoken words -- which is an incredible experience -- is not happening anymore. Most big producers now stay in a little room. Take Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, or Baby Face and L.A. Reid, or whoever. They have drum machines, and mini synthesizers that you can sequence to do anything you want, and there's hardly any contact with the outside world, except maybe two producers and a singer. You may do one live date with strings, or bass. It's just so different.

The converse side of what I see in a lot of young musicians who just want to be very famous and very rich, very quick -- was a goal that we didn't understand at all in those days, because our idols were not symbolic of that. It was Charlie Parker and people that almost died in poverty, and drugs, and they didn't have that. They didn't think of opulence or that kind of living, jet planes and limousines, and all those things. Today that's a running thing. It's a huge business now, where very young people make enormous amounts of money, and have to deal with an almost super-human position, trying to absorb that kind of adulation and recognition and fame, and adoration and money. It's a very abnormal situation, and they're trying to make it normal, 'cause it's not normal, so we have a lot of casualties as a result of that.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

It's a very difficult thing. I kid a lot about it, but I'm serious when I say that the music business should get together and start a University of Success, so they can see that there are patterns, and this is not the first person to ever be successful. I think young people need to learn a lot, because I've seen thousands come and go so quickly and in such a tragic way. They come up, they burn out, and have to live with some very unpleasant memories.

Quincy Jones Interview Photo
On the positive side, there's probably more opportunities now than ever. We're going through a technological revolution that will be changing civilization, from a communications standpoint. The way people will receive information, through PCs, through fiber optics, through all the converging technology -- it's going to be quite sensational.

We still have to remember, everything starts with two things, a song or a story. That drives everything. That's the people with the blank page, no matter what platform it's put on. That's where we have to start. The outlets are enormous today, on a global level. It used to take four years for a record that was released in the United States to come out in Europe. It's almost simultaneous now. Sometimes it will come out internationally before it comes out domestically.

The throw of communications is so powerful, that communications alone have changed the course of our world. From Tiananmen Square to the Berlin Wall to South Africa. They weren't governmental agencies that changed it. It was records and television and movies that changed that.

What makes music so rewarding? So...

Quincy Jones: Seductive?

So far, I haven't found any experience that is more pleasurable than trying to -- it takes you three, two nights to sit down at the blank page of score paper and then try to imagine and hear that orchestra sound in your head and put what you think is going to sound like you think it sounds on that paper for each instrument. And, finally having the orchestra there, and when you do the down beat -- to hear that sound -- there's no experience in the world like that.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

Still to this day I feel like I'm 12 years old when I bring my hand down to the orchestra.

I guess what's so strong about it is that -- outside of you growing as an arranger, or a composer, or an orchestrator -- it's the idea that when you conduct a symphony orchestra, 110 people plus the conductor are thinking about exactly the same thing, at exactly the same time, down to the microscopic proportions -- the 32nd and 64th notes. That's a lot of energy because minds aren't trailing off, thinking about the news, or what's on the stock market or anything today, or what you have to get for groceries, or what's for dinner. It's exactly on what that thought is, the thought of the composer, whoever composed it, and the orchestrator, and performing it, reproducing it. It's a very powerful experience. It's a very rewarding, enriching experience, and it hits you in your soul. It goes through the ear, but it hits the soul. You can't touch it, you can't taste it, you can't smell it, you can't see it, and it's just so powerful for the soul.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

What does it take to do what Quincy Jones has done?

Quincy Jones Interview Photo
Quincy Jones: Obsession. Humility. Everybody I know that really does their thing -- and I have a lot of friends that are like that -- when I see the ones that really do it, they're junkies, they really are. I mean their thing takes them over. It really does. There is some kind of subconscious attraction to everything, even things you're not even aware of that you're interested in. My biggest problem in the world is going into a bookstore because everything -- every subject from psychology to history to cuisine -- everything in there I'm interested in. I love technology, biographies, history. Somehow all of those things reinforce each other.

I studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris; she introduced me to Stravinsky, who she was like a mentor to, and I called him a genius. She said it was a stupid word, and if it has to be applied it should be applied to somebody that has achieved the highest level of involving sensation, feeling, believing, attachment and knowledge. All those things have to be pulled together. Stravinsky used to say the most important part of an artist's responsibility is to be a great observer.

If it's in human nature, or nature, or just to pay attention to see what it's all about because I think African music is so powerful and probably governs the rhythm of every music in the world is because it's taken straight from nature, you know. You know that the birds did not imitate flutes. It's the reverse. And thunder didn't imitate the drums. It was the reverse. And so, the elements of nature, what it comes from, that's the most powerful force there is. It's like a melody. You can study orchestration, you can study harmony and theory and everything else, but melodies come straight from God. There's really no technique for melodies, really. I guess there's something about music that's always fascinated me and I apply what the essence of what that's about in everything I do, whether we do film or magazines or whatever it is. You can't touch it, you can't taste it, you can't smell it, you can't see it. You just feel it and it hangs in the air. It owns -- it dominates -- every time period. String quartets had its own time period and nobody can ever change it, because it's hanging up there in heaven some place.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

We use a 440 to tune up the A, and I hear that the pulse of the universe is 454, that's pretty close. So that A has something to do with much more than just a note. It has got something to do with the natural rhythm of life.

There are people who would say that Quincy Jones is a genius.

Quincy Jones: Or crazy. Thank you.

This was something.

I enjoyed it, too. God bless you.

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This page last revised on Aug 26, 2015 19:12 EDT
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