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RE: zen and the fluent music

 Tangential comment...I thought it was interesting when on public TV,
Bradford Marsalis called Cecil Taylor's work self indulgent
bullshit....just goes to show how a very accomplished musician who is
very adept at jazz and improvisation can be completely indifferent to a
form of free jazz on the far end of the spectrum.  Sort of funny that he
said that on TV, that history of jazz series program that came out on
DVD and VHS.  Another example. A good friend of mine went to see Ornette
Coleman in the Bay area over 20 years ago. He said in the first 15
minutes of the show, over half of the people walked out of the venue.  I
sort of like these examples and tests of the human pallet for different
types of music. Is it inappropriate that these guys play music that does
not have this balance of the "predictably appealing" with the extreme?
Is their artistic integrity compromised? I don't think so. They just do
what they do. 


-----Original Message-----
From: Hartung, Kris 
Sent: Saturday, July 16, 2005 11:22 AM
To: 'Loopers-Delight@loopers-delight.com'
Subject: RE: zen and the fluent music

>"[Snip]... Only most musicians are hardly able to play like that and 
>claim that the public wants some ABACA... structure... probably a 
>reminder of old dance styles and polite forms... and simply a help for 
>the memory... easy composing... ?"
>Probably true, though it strikes me as odd based on how my brain works 
>with music. I actually find it easier to compose or perform 
>non-repetitive free improv, rather than music with some structure.
>Building structure based on rules seems like a lot of work!

>>maybe you got me wrong here:
a repetitive base certainly makes improvisation easier because you know
beforehand what will happen, to some degree.

Yes, I understand, and for me it is still easier to improv without this
repetitive base. Because of all the jazz theory crammed in my brain, the
framework ends up being a restriction. Hence total free improv, no
rules, no repetive base, nothing....that is easier for me.  And I
quality..."for me" here. I'm not making any claims about anyone else's
comfort level.  Give me a repeating ii-V-I progression, and I'll burn
myself out improvising over it for an hour...give me 3 hours of a blank
slate, and I can create indefinitly.

>>in Brasil and probably other "hot" cultures, also rock bands, a huge 
>>part of the performances are just in between composition and
improvisation: the musicians know the basic melody and rhythm of a song
and improvise its structure. This could hardly work without the ABA...
kind of tradition.

>>to create a composition, repetition also helps. sure its more work
than an improvisation, but try to remember a composition that never

That would be difficult indeed!  I've never played, as a cover, any of
my past truly improvised songs. Just sitting down and transcribing the
notes and movements would be so arduous that it would render it a
pointless activity for me,.

>The structure usually becomes a psychological inhibitor for me, 
>stifling creativity and freedom of expression. In fact, I feel more at 
>ease with myself as a musician and in tune with the flow of things when

>I pick up my guitar, randomly pick a note on the fret board, and start 
>playing as if I were having a conversation or telling a story to 
>someone....nothing really repeats...mostly notes... maybe an occasional

>dyad or triad to make a point, etc.  It all depends on what you want to

>say. I like that looping that sort of thing for about 2 minutes, then 
>having a conversation with myself in parallel....complementing the 
>first version of the story with a parallel version, which ends up 
>creating a whole new story.

> >yes, thats of the kind I am talking about. It seems to me that for
most musicians this is somehow "to easy" to do, so they dont see any
but its what a huge part of the TV watchers are looking for: talk shows
where they can see any kind of people improvise express spontaneously.
So why would they not be able to follow your talking?

Exactly!  I think "too easy to do" in this context is a relative term.
Because there is a difference between just sitting down and playing
random notes (like the goo goo gaa gaa of an infant) and actually
spontaneously creating a meaningful composition.  Some people don't see
the value because they and we are comparing apples and orange. Heck, if
it was just sitting down and playing random notes with no taste or
meaning, I could have done that when I was 12 years old, the year I
started playing guitar....better yet, when I was 8 years old and just
banging on the instrument for fun! :)  You may be right...if the story
is there, folks will follow it.  But sometimes it's not the story that
attacts the common listener, but the harmonic structure.  I can tell a
story that is completey atonal, and that is not appealing to everyone. I
can also tell a story that is very "pretty" and melodic. That seems to
attract a lot of people. I can see it in their faces and eyes when I
play and watch them...it's like an experiment. 

>>it becomes a lot more interesting if two or more musicians talk
together and sometimes coincide marvelously and sometimes have to deal
with clashes.

True enough.

>>As Keith Jarret is a genious in interpretation, he also filled the
operas with his free improvisations, but if somebody only plays such
impros, he has a hard time to get jobs, right?

And Keith went on a whole tour with nothing but free improv...no sheet
music or preconceptions, nothing.  He just sat down and played. I have
an interview of him describing this. Apparently, the crowds were a
little uneasy with this approach at first, but it was apparently
successful.  Another example is Chick Corea and Bobby McFerrin....they
also toured and did a lot of free improv that turned out quite well.
Now Cecil Taylor is a different story. Whereas Chick Corea and McFerrin
may appeal to the stereo-typical jazz enthusiast, Taylor is in a
different category. It is his choice. Nothing obligates us to make free
improv music that appeals to the populus.  If someone wants to appeal to
an elite crowd, so be it.

Music producers say there is no public for this. When we play for them,
they are fascinated. But they want to have granted what they buy and
sell: a song that people can remember and a demo that contains exactly
what you are going to do. The "what if you have a bad day?" thing.
(but what do they do if a talk show master has a bad day?) I think they
just did not grab it yet... once musicians give more value to their
instrumental conversation ability and the public realizes what music can
be about, producers will hire us. (not that this would be the aim of
this mail...)