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Freedom's just another word....

All this talk of free improv has been spinning about in my head.  The idea
of completely eschewing the basics of western (or any other) musical
tradition (you know, those really tedious things like rhythm, melody, &
scales) seems rather counterproductive if you want an audience.  & here I'm
certainly not advocating pandering to the audience.  Instead you're giving
the audience a foothold to help guide them into a musical world that quite
often is rather foreign and challenging to them.  There are just not that
many folks who can be plopped down in the middle of some particularly
twisted improv & feel immediately comfortable.
An example of the sort of thing I'm talking about would be Art Ensemble of
Chicago's "Charley M"--starts off as a really smooth jazzy number, goes 
this crazy place without ever getting lost, comes out intact on the other
side.  I personally like this approach (quite common in free jazz, not so
common in stuff that leaves jazz aside)--otherwise it's almost necessary
that the audience be as well versed in the form as the performers
Now, I'm not saying there aren't exceptions.  Certainly, as an artist
develops something of a rep/following, she may be able to start from a more
remote outpost without losing the bulk of her audience.  And sometimes the
artist can pull off pushing the audience into the deep end sans water 
This happened to me (as audience member) when I saw AMM--I had no idea who
they were even, but I was absolutely blown away by them.

Of course, this is all just the opinion of an outsider looking in.  I 
listen to/play pop (in its many variations), but as an audience
member/occaasional participant in  the, umm, wilder side of things, I have
experienced some fairly amazing stuff.  But at other times I feel like I'm
trying to learn quantum physics by staring at equations.  It can be quite a
frustrating experience.