Tuesday, October 30, 2007

spammers: word verification on comments

Why spammers should target, in particular, ‘the worst gigs of my life’ is beyond me, but since they are, I am (temporarily) putting word verification back on.

My sincerest apologies,


Monday, October 29, 2007

lessons learned and have yet to learn

Playing half a dozen gigs ain’t gonna kill me, but curating and co-organizing two-thirds of an event is really taking a lot of time and effort. The cautionary tales from AF and MP are echoing in my head (you don’t have to remind me). This blog has suffered from this administrative load, but, to remind myself that I still do musical things, here’s a short list of things I’m learning at the moment.

lessons learned

it’s okay to start in the same place (a lesson learned from listening, watching and following George E. Lewis)
The start point for an improvisation can be as significant or as arbitrary as you want. It is, after all, the journey (what you make of the situation) that we’re really interested in.

it’s okay to repeat yourself (from Keith Tippett and Julie Tippetts)
Let’s face it: even if you did exactly the same thing the context is going to be different. (That’s the reason trying to get the same effect as last night is going to end in disappointment.)

what i’m just discovering

sometimes the simplest interactive strategies are the most effective (from Cecil Taylor and Tony Oxley)
They are some of the hardest things to understand and the easiest to hear.

what i’d like to learn

take your time (from John Butcher)
It should be a privilege to experience the performance; why rush it?

something i’ve been trying to learn for over ten years

you don’t fill the spaces (from Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith… and Pauline Oliveros… and Morton Feldman… and Luciano Berio… and Miles Davis… and Noh… and Alfred Hitchcock)
I feel no closer to this than ten years ago: I have this terrible habit of filling up spaces.

Monday, October 15, 2007



Bob Ostertag’s new record is out. From the page:

In March of 2006, I put all my recordings to which I owned the rights… up for free download…. w00t is my first release to skip the CD-for-sale stage and go directly to free Internet download…. Please download, copy, send to your friends, remix, mutilate, and mash-up. And please support this attempt to build free culture by sending a link for w00t to your friends. w00t consists of a 50-minute sound collage…. w00t is a free, internet-only release. w00t was composed entirely from fragments of music from… computer games….

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

clouds of garbage cans

I’ve heard that another teacher of improvisation finds that new students in their class play ‘chaotically,’ and that their lessons initially proceed by pulling back from that cacophony. It may be that this teacher (who, I think it’s fair to say, comes from a more composerly background) has different tastes / sensibilities / politics than I, but I have the opposite problem with new students: I seem to be spending a great deal of time pushing towards noise, encouraging the class to produce (to use that Braxtonian term again) “clouds of garbage cans”.
Maybe a better way to put it would be that I try and stop them from stopping themselves; I try to get them to exercise less a priori ‘tastefulness’. Many students come with a tendency to preempt the musical play (if that makes any sense). If a musician comes from a certain tradition (jazz, rock, country & western, circus music, whatever), I want to be able to hear that—I don’t want, nor feel the need for, their histories to be suppressed. And if the result is apparently cacophony, chaos or turbulence, well, I figure that’s at least an interesting place to be, and an interesting condition to interact with.
Citing Robert L. Douglas, George E. Lewis writes that

…Eurocentric music training… does not equip its students to hear music with multidominant rhythmic and melodic elements as anything but “noise,” “frenzy” or perhaps “chaos”.
George E. Lewis (2000), ‘Too Many Notes: Computers,
Complexity and Culture in Voyager’, Leonardo Music Journal (vol. 10), p. 34.
Recently, MLM commented on the similarity of approach—a heterogeneous sound world—in both the free jazz of The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959), and the Art Ensemble’s rendering (or appropriation) of Monteverdi’s ‘The Lament of Arianna’ on Les Stances A Sophie (1970). Listening to these, I can imagine a critic, intoxicated on the ideals of unity, coherence and integration, complain that the tuning of the voices are not aligned, the rhythms are not locked together; both Coleman’s group and the AEC are just not together.
Well, maybe, but beyond those losses—loss of unity, coherence and integration—what do we gain that may be of value? Both those (pre- and after-) harmolodics sound worlds are deliberately heterogeneous ones, or, maybe more accurately, practices in which difference, dissent and contradiction are not silenced (deliberately). Perhaps the (West European Concert Music) composerly approach leads to a kind of composition-as-censorship. In contrast, the AACM’s composer-performer approach, say, is one of of composition-as-facilitator, or the N.Y. Downtown’s composition-as-play.

Anyway, as a belated celebration of improvising guitar’s first anniversary, I’ll throw up that first quote:
What happens is what happens; is what you have created; is what you have to work with. What matters is to listen, to watch, to add to what is happening rather that subtract from it—and avoid the reflex of trying to make it into somthing you think it ought to be, rather than letting it become what it can be.
Anthony Frost and Ralph Yarrow (1990), Improvisation in Drama (London: MacMillan), pp. 2-3

an (unanswered) question

Is this analogous to the old debate in algorighmic composition which, to caricature it, revolves around two approaches to generative processes: start with some arbitrary noise, rich with possibilities, and systematically filter out the undesirable elements, vs. start with processes that ‘intelligently’ generate complexity?
The results, sound or reception wise, may be surprisingly similar, but the discourses embedded in these—the rhetoric that supports them—are maybe analogous to the debate I’m talking about.

And incidentally…

Isn’t The Shape of Jazz to Come a fantastic record title? What formidable ego could stand under that moniker? Is it tongue in cheek? Simultaneously humbling in front of the artform (yes, jazz is something worthy of a future), egomaniac (and this is its future) and pompous (Jazz-as-Art), it borders on the apocalyptic (who knows, maybe Darius Brubeck is right; maybe that was the moment jazz died ;-)

Monday, October 01, 2007

charging for free music?

Just a quick question: would you still pay for a CD if the music was free to give away (e.g. covered by a Creative Commons Sampling License)?Sampling Plus iconWould the opportunity to show (financial) appreciation for the musicians’ labor, and to own a beautifully packaged (limited-edition) artifact, be enough to offset the fact that the audio content might be available at no charge (and you can copy and distribute it yourself)? Either way, I’m about to start a little experiment.

Normal blogging will resume shortly… and this time I mean it ;-)