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#1383086 - 02/26/10 12:23 AM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: Plowboy]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
"Should I study classical music?" is the wrong question for an improviser. If you don’t dig it, it won't do anything for you.

That is exactly my point!! I think it's best you work on the music that moves you, and not be too concerned about what one "should" or shouldn't work on.

I've said this before but when I started college my school required that I do a junior recital in classical music, and they required me to do 3 hrs of classical and 1 hr of jazz as a jazz major. I left because I felt that this was ridiculous, and I am glad I did. I met people who graduated from that school years later, and while they had good chops, their jazz stuff was not happening at all.

The problem is that often times we tend to work on what we are expected to work on, instead of following whatever it is that moves you musically and build your practice according to that. Some teachers are there to help you get there, but a lot of them tend to put their students into a mold.. and you realize that after following it, the path they took you isn't the one you wanted.

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#1383250 - 02/26/10 08:59 AM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: RayE]
Arabesque Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/16/05
Posts: 553
Loc: Japan
Throughout the history of music composers have learned form their predessors. Jazz improvisation is nothing other than composing "on the fly". Of course the jazz pianist will be able to play through different scales and will have mastered standard progressions throughout keys. He or she will have an excellent ear and a rythmic sense.

I have found that the style of music I study does influence my improvisation significantly. If I am playing Chopin for any length of time I find myself incorporating some of the references into my improvisation. My improvisation then sounds like pastiche romantic ballade (actually very good at that. Alright if that's what I want -I don't. As for Bach perhaps it helps my technique a lot. But a walking bass is far simpler to improvise than a fugue, isn't it? However, the sensibility of adopting good linear piano technique as opposed to a technique based on chords is apparent in playing of masters such as Chic Corea, Keith Jarrett, and the late great Oscar Peterson and James Booker. So if it didn't hurt them and many others to be grounded in classical music I'd give the above question an affirmative.

However, with particular pianists such as Thomas "Fats" Waller, Earl Garner, and even Art Tatum their talent and technique outgrew anything in the classical domain, and Earl couldn't even read music. But they made up for it with spectacular gifts and keyboard mastery which had no patience for taught form from the beginning. They are the true creators of jazz. But there again you may hear classical motifs cleverly included in many of their best works indicating that their ear was always respectfully tuned to the classics in many instances.
_________________________
It don't mean a ting if it don't have dat swing

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#1383516 - 02/26/10 04:09 PM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: Arabesque]
Ken. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/07/08
Posts: 290
It should be noted that the old school players used classical method books, etudes etc not just for technique but also as a source of ideas for their playing. They'd often get together, play through it, and then start working things out from it and showing each other stuff.
_________________________
Monk - Ugly Beauty
Bach - Two Part Invention No.12

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#1383690 - 02/26/10 09:30 PM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: Ken.]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
Arabesque&Ken

While Jazz musicians do work on classical music as source of inspiration and ideas, my experience from talking to great players seem to indicate that was not their main source of their musical ideas. Most great players I talked to emphasized how important it is to realize that jazz is an "aural tradition", and the music is passed down mainly through imitation.

To them it meant copying, stealing ideas from other players, listening to recording and playing along with them note-by-note until they sound just like the recording. These guys can play just like their idols, because they spent years learning solos and ideas from them aurually.

In my opinion. That aural part is what is specifically missing in the traditional classical training. While playing classical pieces can help you introduce you to new sounds/chords, it's not anything like having to learn a solo note by note off records. You ears are so much more involved learning that way, and if you want to learn to improvise,and actually be able to hear whatever it is you are hearing at the moment, I don't see how else you can learn to do it.

If learning classical music alone was enough to make you a great improviser, than all good classical pianists would be good improvisers, but it doesn't work that way.. and while there are benefits classical music, as a jazz player I feel that the majority of the learning should be spent on learning the masters in my own genre first, before I expand my horizon in other types of music.

For me, the problem with classical music is that the music is learned mostly through your eyes, through scores. And a lot of players are not happy about jazz education because jazz is being taught that way too. These players actually discourage students from using fake books or other method boos for jazz, because they believe these books robs students of the ability to learn by ear.

Btw when I read about Oscar Peterson and Keith Jarrett, their training in classical music does seem rather unusual. They were able to play pieces like Chopin Nocturne by ear.. and Keith Jarrett actually played Ravel's Bolero on the spot by ear without ever playing it before.. so if anything, I think their exceptional ears helped them become who they are above anything else.. I mean how many classical piano students, or even teachers can play Ravel's Bolero on the spot by memory?

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#1383733 - 02/26/10 11:04 PM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: Arabesque]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
Originally Posted By: Arabesque
Of course the jazz pianist will be able to play through different scales and will have mastered standard progressions throughout keys. He or she will have an excellent ear and a rythmic sense.


I think you are oversimplifying what it takes to improvise, especially with rhythm. You can spend years mastering (poly)rhythms alone, and you are not going develop a very strong rhythmic sense or let alone excellent ear just working through chord progression and scales. The really hip guys nowdays are doing some complex rhythmic stuff, and many of them study/studied Indian music. Rhtyhm really is a study in itself.

Originally Posted By: Arabesque
But a walking bass is far simpler to improvise than a fugue, isn't it?


That really depends on what kind of walking bass line you are talking about. If you are talking about the kind of stuff Larry Goldings or Sam Yahel does.. playing very rhythmic bass lines, bass ostinato while RH is soloing and doing metric modulation over that, then I'd say playing walking bass line would just as difficult.. or rather they require different kind of skills/expertise to master

put it this way, try to make up a complex LH bass ostinato in 4/4 and RH is playing 3/4 or 5/4 against that. Again, the problem here, (like I mentioned before) is that classical pianists usually listen for harmonic complexity when they listen to jazz, but they might not be as aware of the rhythmic aspect of improvising.

BTW if you are talking about improvising a fugure, I have not heard anyone do it, and I'd love to hear someone actually do it smile


Edited by etcetra (02/26/10 11:22 PM)

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#1384639 - 02/28/10 09:27 AM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: etcetra]
Claude56 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/02/09
Posts: 469
[i]
Originally Posted By: etcetra


BTW if you are talking about improvising a fugure, I have not heard anyone do it, and I'd love to hear someone actually do it smile


I heard Bach would improvise fugues at the church.

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#1384715 - 02/28/10 11:08 AM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: Claude56]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
noSkillz,

That's what I heard too.. if only I could go back in time and hear it!!

I've talked about this in forum and as far as I know, I don't know anyone who can actually improvise a full fugue.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KycMwdw4C6M

I even emailed the piano player on the video clip, William Goldstein, .. he is excellent improviser, but even he says that improvising a fugure is simply just out of his reach.

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#1384724 - 02/28/10 11:15 AM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: etcetra]
Claude56 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/02/09
Posts: 469
Originally Posted By: etcetra
noSkillz,

That's what I heard too.. if only I could go back in time and hear it!!

I've talked about this in forum and as far as I know, I don't know anyone who can actually improvise a full fugue.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KycMwdw4C6M

I even emailed the piano player on the video clip, William Goldstein, .. he is excellent improviser, but even he says that improvising a fugure is simply just out of his reach.



Just to make sure, we are talking about free improvisation right, for fugues?


And I betcha, anything played by the master Bach would sound good. smile


Edited by noSkillz (02/28/10 11:16 AM)

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#1384752 - 02/28/10 11:54 AM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: Claude56]
daviel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/07
Posts: 933
Loc: Waxahachie, Texas
Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, John Lewis all had classical chops. Nothing wrong with classical chops. If one has something to say, good musical ideas to communicate, any and all technical facility and musicianship helps develop those ideas. and One should not let music classifications get in the way of being creative.
_________________________
"She loves to limbo, that much is clear. She's got the right dynamic for the New Frontier"
http://roadhouseallstars.com/

David Loving, Waxahachie, Texas

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#1384868 - 02/28/10 02:39 PM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: daviel]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
daviel,

It's not about music classification, I am talking about how the music is learned. Classical music is usually learned visually through sheet music, whereas jazz(or at least how it was learned in the past) is learned aurally through transcription.

I agree that most jazz pianists have learned good amount of classical music, but they also realize just how much they have to learn by ear. At one point it's probably more helpful to learn 20 good jazz solos off records than learning 20 new classical pieces off books.

Again, can't you get great chops working through Oscar Peterson solos,as long as you practice consistently and correctly?

noskillz,

yes I meant a improvisation of fugues completely from scratch.

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#1385109 - 02/28/10 08:52 PM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: etcetra]
daviel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/07
Posts: 933
Loc: Waxahachie, Texas
Reading music off the page is just another way to communicate ideas. You might be surprised to know there are plenty of jazz books,e.g. check out Mark Levine's excellent book. I play by ear and read, too. I always listen to classical stuff I work on. I like playing rags, too. They're all notation. All the gigs I play are all ear playing. In that culture it is never written out, well sometimes a lead sheet. But I do not like playing with charts on gigs - it's confining. What I was trying to get across to you is that good musical ideas come from lots of places. There's not a thing wrong with working through recorded solos - most all that stuff is never notated, and you must get the licks by ear. When I see transcriptions there are usually mistakes, and it's almost impossible to convey the rhythm on paper. I just find that trudging through classical pieces works for me, and I really like all the stuff I work on. Another thing, you don't want to copy the master jazz players too closely; you can develop your own sound!
_________________________
"She loves to limbo, that much is clear. She's got the right dynamic for the New Frontier"
http://roadhouseallstars.com/

David Loving, Waxahachie, Texas

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#1385287 - 03/01/10 03:54 AM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: daviel]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
"Another thing, you don't want to copy the master jazz players too closely; you can develop your own sound!"

I don't agree with that. Talking to great players made me realize just how much they imitate/studied their masters before they moved on to their own things.. and your own sound should be just a natural part of working through things

I think I wrote before how Gearld Clayton and Tamir Hendelman learned the entire "Canadiana Suite" By Oscar Peterson note-by-note.. If you listen to Gearld Clayton's playing you wouldn't say he is just a copycat, or that he doesn't have his own voice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xj34JVjir9Y

One teacher of mine shared a story about how people used to call Ray Brown "Ray Pettiford" because he copied so much stuff from Oscar Pettiford. I just see it as the part of homework you just have to do to be a good player.

anyways here's a quote by bill evans

"First of all, I never strive for identity. That's something that just has happened automatically as a result, I think, of just putting things together, tearing things apart and putting it together my own way, and somehow I guess the individual comes through eventually."

Bill Evans

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#1385989 - 03/01/10 10:00 PM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: etcetra]
1RC Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/06
Posts: 502
Loc: Alberta
I'm not the greatest classical pianist, but it's what I've been working on for the past couple of years. My intention was to explore jazz later on, perhaps after I feel more natural with the instrument. Then I was asked to join a jazz ensemble, so I took the opportunity, might as well eh?

I show up, they hand me some charts, give a count and GO. I'm a deer in headlights. By the time I figure out what that 13th chord is, the music has moved on about 5 bars and soon enough I'm lost, haha!

The next rehearsal I got to display my incompetance before a professional, touring quartet. Fifteen seconds into it their pianist is beside me asking "you're new to this?". A week later I get to pretend in front of the composer of some of the charts we're working on! Phew...

Still, it's a lot of fun and I'm slowly getting the hang of it. Getting some simple voicings down, reading the charts faster. It really is a different way of thinking than what I'm used to with classical. I think the two approaches compliment each other very well. Even if it's not in a jazz style, the improvisational mentality is a good skill to cultivate (which all too easily gets forgotten about in classical).

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#1386051 - 03/01/10 11:23 PM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: 1RC]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
1RC

I remember my first time playing in a jazz band, and I went through the exact same thing. All I can say is that you are in for a world of pain.. I mean fun in jazz. haha. Yea playing jazz has changed my life too.

My understanding about jazz mainly comes from the teachers I had over the years. While the technique/facility for classical and jazz is the same, I do feel like learning jazz requires you to develop very different skills than learning classical. I really think the more you can learn by ear the better. In fact some teachers I know tells their students to never use a real book(unless you absolutely have to) and learn every tune by ear. While I am not that hard core about it, I do think he has a point about not using lead sheets.

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#1386127 - 03/02/10 01:39 AM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: etcetra]
1RC Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/06
Posts: 502
Loc: Alberta
For ear training we have classes where we take rhythmic and melodic diction or clapback/singback. There's a lot one can do in being able to recognize intervals and rhythms by ear. I've still got a long way to go, but I like the idea of being able to easily play/notate ideas that come to mind (or anywhere else for that matter). I suspect most of what's possible comes down to a greater mastery of the basic elements.

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#1386764 - 03/02/10 06:32 PM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: 1RC]
Dave Ferris Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/07
Posts: 1732
Loc: Glendale, Ca.
To answer the original OP's question, I 'd say most definitely.

You still have to work on Jazz specific concepts of vocabulary, connecting the chords with your lines, chord voicing, comping, accompanying and the feel/swing of Jazz. All the Classical chops in the world won't help if you can't swing or grasp the concepts of a 12 bar blues or Rhythm changes.

Playing a Chopin Etude or a Bach Prelude/Fugue from the WTC will give you great facility and control on the piano but still won't teach you how to navigate the waters on tunes like "All The Things You Are" or "Cherokee".

My advice is do both, just don't spend TOO much time on the Classical so that you don't have the time to put into the Jazz.

Classical music can be a very nice release from Jazz. When I feel my brain is getting crammed with TOO many harmonic ideas, I like to take a break and work on Chopin, Bach, Debussy or Ravel. Sometimes my head gets in a space where all I want to do is work on the instrument and all these pieces I've learned over the last 30 + years.

Other times, I'm just concentrating on different voicings, lines, motifs within different scales or modes like the Diminished, Augmented , Harmonic/Melodic Minor, Phrygian, etc. etc. in all 12 keys. Basically trying to increase my own harmonic vocabulary/awareness and apply it to tunes---Jazz standards, my own originals or regular American Songbook type Standards.

When working on both styles, you just have to find that right place for yourself. I think of it has a "Delicate Balance". smile

One thing for sure, ALWAYS SOMETHING to practice.




_________________________
http://soundcloud.com/dave-ferris

2005 NY Steinway D, Yamaha CP4, CP5 (home use) , RCF TT08A, TT22A speakers

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#1387041 - 03/03/10 04:36 AM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: Dave Ferris]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2305
Loc: Sydney
I'm the same. My head is now trying to commit the feeling of the jazz swing to muscle memory. When I get tired, I play classical for release.

As I mentioned, many of the top jazzists are equally at ease with classical, Keith Jarrett being the most famous example.
And here is another.

http://www.downbeat.com/default.asp?sect=news&subsect=news_detail&nid=1495

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#1387354 - 03/03/10 02:24 PM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: custard apple]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
custard apple,

I wouldn't say that Kieth Jarrett is "at ease" with classical.. Most classical pianists don't think very highly of Keith Jarrett's classical output.

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#1387448 - 03/03/10 04:17 PM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: etcetra]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2305
Loc: Sydney
oh really ? I think Keith Jarrett gets it right 80% of the time in classical. But maybe that's not good enough for the classical approach which strives towards 100% perfection. Do you agree ?

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#1387675 - 03/03/10 10:51 PM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: custard apple]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
custard,

I've talked about keith jarrett's classical playing with people in forum, and I even had a chance to ask question about that to an accomplished concert pianist at a workshop, and my impression is that most 'serious' classical pianist don't like Keith Jarrett's classical recordings.

I guess that's what made me think classical and jazz musicians listen to music very differently..like I said before, my teachers probably have the chops to play chopin etudes but they probably can't play well enough to pass a recital at a university level. And I don't think it's realistic for jazz pianist to spend 4 months polishing a single piece like classical pianists do.

Also, jazz pianists tend to be unusual about their classical training.. I read that Oscar Peterson learned classical music mainly by ear.. Bill Evans was a prolific sight reader, but he couldn't play scales and arpeggios well for his jury in music school...etc

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#1387809 - 03/04/10 03:57 AM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: etcetra]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2305
Loc: Sydney
I think you're right etcetera, that's an interesting point you made about classical and jazz people listening to classical music differently. I also think jazz people might tend to play classical music differently, such as emphasising different beats and swinging the eighths more.
Re Bill Evans, are you saying the classical jury didn't think much of his approach ? What initially attracted me to him was his individualistic approach to scales in his improvs.

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#1387864 - 03/04/10 07:12 AM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: custard apple]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
I read Bill Evans' biography, and from what I remember he played classical piano very well.. the problem was that while he played his pieces with no problem, he struggled to play scales and arpeggios, which is required for passing the jury. So his teachers were puzzled about it. I read the book a long time ago so I might not be exactly right on the detail.. but it just shows that many of the jazz pianists didn't have the kind of "formal training" like we did, or their approach was rather unusual.

I've also read that Kenny Werner actually flunked his first year as a classical piano and swtiched school to Berklee to do jazz.

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#1387942 - 03/04/10 09:42 AM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: etcetra]
daviel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/07
Posts: 933
Loc: Waxahachie, Texas
Kenny Werner is a great player. Went to Wikipedia about Chick Corea after spouting off about his classical education, and he didn't have as much as I thought - lessons as a kid, 6 mos. at Julliard and 1 month at Columbia. But he had some. He wanted to play his own stuff [like always use a diminished chord in your tunes - insert tongue in cheek smiley here]. The thing I like about classical is that it's like reading an old book - with usually good ideas in it. At my age-advanced- I try to play things that make my brain work, just to keep it around longer. I find it helps my technique to play anything. I like reading through the old real book, etc. But I'd rather play jazz than classical.
_________________________
"She loves to limbo, that much is clear. She's got the right dynamic for the New Frontier"
http://roadhouseallstars.com/

David Loving, Waxahachie, Texas

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#1388159 - 03/04/10 03:22 PM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: daviel]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
daviel,

I didn't know that about chick. I always thought he had extensive classical training. BTW I want to clarify that there is a big difference between learning a classical piece and studying a classical piece and making it a part of your jazz vocabulary. I think people like chick and kenny did the latter, but they might not have learned an entire piece at a recital level.

In fact Kenny talks about how you can benefit by learning parts of a classical piece and not necessary finishing the entire piece. You can work on an entire section, or just couple of measures of a piece.. for him it doesn't matter & the only thing that matters if whether you have sufficiently mastered the material.

btw I was wrong about Oscar Peterson.. the DVD i saw gave me the impression that Oscar learned piano from his sister, but he actually had a teacher.


Edited by etcetra (03/04/10 03:46 PM)

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#1388666 - 03/05/10 06:40 AM Re: Jazz Improve, does playing classical help? [Re: etcetra]
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
Listen to this performance by Keith and Chick

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4i8G2USqe4

Then listen to this performance of the same piece played by Gilels and Zak.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4i8G2USqe4

I find that Keith Jarrett's, and Chick Corea's is clean, and nice, the ensemble is pretty good, etc. Nothing very dynamic about it. Nothing interesting about the interpretation. The stuff that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up when you hear either of them improvise just isn't there.
There's nothing wrong with it. It's just a little straight, and plain.


The Gilels Zak recording is, IMO on a different level entirely. Very articulate, much more dynamic range, ensemble is more together. It just sparkles from beginning to end.

I think that's what classical people** mean when they comment on Jarrett and Corea's classical playing.

Now to be fair: here's Gilels playing "Straight No Chaser." laugh


**I don't mean people who see Jarrett and Corea's name, and immediately dissmiss the recordings.



Edited by Phlebas (03/05/10 06:41 AM)

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