After a nightmare 26-hour bus ride with the Alsa company, I finally made it to Bordeaux, France. Fortunately, when I made it there I found plenty of time to find myself inspired by two musicians, one of whom I met a few months ago thanks to a Google search and Facebook connection. Here are two people who make music for themselves and in their own way instead of catering to an academic system or predefined musical role. Imagine for a moment a young promising saxophonist who just graduates at one of the strongest conservatories in the world and is considering his next career move. Paris is calling. Amsterdam is booming. The United States is always an exciting option. Everyone wants a teacher who studied with Jean-Marie Londeix. What does the young artist do? He figuratively sells everything he has, rents his own flat to serve as his studio, and hounds the Chopin of saxophone composers to share the workspace with him so they can build a musical partnership. It reminds me of when the man found a treasure in a field and then went to sell everything he had so he could gain access to that field and get his treasure. That´s what these two men have done: left all the other distractions for seconds so they could access their ultimate goal of creating internationally-acclaimed classical music. It brings to mind how Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington were joined together. Their combined musical approach was a greater sum than their individual efforts alone. One would finish the other´s phrase and their ultimate connection redefined the way the world appreciates jazz today. In a significant manner, that is what is happening in a small wine-dominating people-accepting community just north of the Pyrenees.
In Bordeaux I found two men who actualize the words of Goethe for my life, “Treat a man as he ought to be and he will fulfill his potential.” They live in a world where anything less than pure excellence is simply unacceptable, as they quickly and generously showed me. Once a person takes the chance to interact with others who operate on such a plain, it is hard to go back to the same old ways. It brings about the birth of a new standard and a belief that truly anything is possible.
Crossing the border by bus between Spain and France is an immediate contrast for one simple reason: plastic bags. They don´t exist in France. Not in your convenience store, not at the supermarket, and not on the side of the road either. Once you get used to the inconvenience of only buying as much food as you can carry, you start to notice how things look different. The trees appear richer with greener greens and fuller branches. The fields appear healthier as if they have a new ability to breathe. Add that with rich rolling hills and the majestic wind turbines that occasionally occupy the view along the A-10 and you have a beautiful country that shines out without needing to travel to the tourist equivalent of a Roatán or Iguazu.
The amazing thing that you learn from visiting any new country lies in the moment you begin to understand the differences between you and all the other people in the world who live in a way apart from yours. They might speak a different language. They might consider duck liver a delicacy. They might not use plastic bags, and they might even make music in a unique and excellent way. At the end of the day, you come to realize that different can work too. Different is not always wrong. You might actually learn something from different. That´s why I admire Christian Lauba and Richard Ducros as two men who made a concious decision to do something different than the others around them and dedicate their work to creating fantastic music. Every day that their music is played around the globe realizes a testament to their efforts. How can you not be inspired by that?