I try and stay away from freejazz.org (life is far too short), but I was perusing the pages and I came across this ridiculous piece: ‘Percentage Analysis Free Improvisation/Jazz Incl. Free Jazz’. Here’s an example:
SUN RA 21% Free Improvisation 79% JazzI marvel at how neatly free improvisation stops at the 21/100 mark and jazz begins there.
Maybe I’m missing a joke here, so, if this is some kind of a conceptual art exercise, why not go further and propose a package label for each musician?
|Performance Duration 65' 00"|
|Amount Per Performance|
|Improv 48' 20"||From Jazz 25' 00"|
|Musician may be nuts.|
Jazz content may be higher than taste suggests.
The mistake, I think, is that we are thinking of idiom and tradition as something fixed. That there are stylistic traits written in stone which shape, or act more-or-less unambiguously as markers for, categories. That’s fine, if you believe that we’re studying cultural fossils, but if these are dynamic, living idioms/traditions which are, by definition, impure hybrids, then the actors (musicians, audience and, yes, theorists) themselves encapsulate these idioms/traditions. Is not the labor of a jazz musician, whatever they do, by definition, 100% pure jazz (as a hybrid form)? And is not the act of improvisation also, by extension, 100% free?