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Herbie Hancock

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Keeping the Music Alive

Posted: 10/27/11 02:50 PM ET

I made my first music video long before MTV was around, back in the early seventies when it was just a dream in some experimental videographer's heads. Then MTV came along and my video for "Rockit" won the most MTV video awards that first year (five). I'm always intrigued by new ideas and cutting edge technologies. These days we are constantly exposed to new technologies. You can make a music video on your iPhone and promote it on Twitter in about 30 seconds. That's what got me thinking about how to create a music video for the digital generation, for the kids who live their lives online and create their own media on a daily basis.

I have been lucky enough to be friends with the folks over at Canon for years and as my own interest in photography has evolved, they have consistently come out with new technologies to complement my picture taking. The Canon folks presented me with an idea to involve my fans and photographers in the creation of a new music video which I am doing for my song "Chameleon," a fan favorite. On Wednesday night, while I performed the song, we gave out Canon EOS 5D MKII cameras to the audience. The photos they took will be printed on the new Canon PIXMA PRO-1 Printer, a machine that allows both professional and budding professional photographers to print their images exactly as they envisioned them right at home. The photos will be edited and synced together to create the music video. The idea of a print-inspired "crowd-sourced" video where people collaborate instead of just being shot by one person is an exciting concept for me, and I'm hoping we can use it to engage a younger, digitally savvy audience with jazz, which is very important to me. I'm young at heart but I realize I'm not getting any younger in age.

It is crucial that jazz continually grows a new audience or it will pass away when the musicians and fans do. And this music is too important for the freedom of the human spirit to let that happen. Connecting with young people is one of the primary ways to make this work. Not only is it important to connect with my younger fans, but I also believe in connecting with younger artists. The artists I know who have had the greatest longevity and the ability to have a long-standing career are those who reach out to the younger generation and who keep reinventing themselves. Tony Bennett has been around for years, but young people know him because of his collaborations with younger artists. Madonna has reinvented herself time after time -- she always comes up with something fresh and new. My last album, The Imagine Project, was in seven different languages and included well known artists from eleven different countries. Many of those artists are well known here -- like Pink and Seal and John Legend and Dave Matthews. The younger generation knows these artists and downloads their music. My record has a message about peace through global collaboration and was a meaningful way for me, as a jazz musician, to show my work within the framework of talented artists who are popular today.

Another project that I am hoping to embark on in the near future and am currently beginning to develop is a global hip hop/rap influenced record, coupled with electronics, containing the rhymes and rhythms of people of various countries. Even though I've been in the business 50 years, it is the youth who are the future of music. That's why it is exciting for me to work with young people doing cutting edge stuff.

If I could share something with young people seeking an artistic career it would be this: Be willing to go out of your comfort zone and explore new territory. Did I think that at age 71 I would be creating a "crowd-sourced" music video with digital cameras that capture images that can be blasted around the world in minutes? No. But shaking things up and getting out of your comfort zone is what is exciting about life and mark my words, it is what will keep you young.