Exclamation points aside, there is nothing really shocking going on with my tenuous grasp on vibrating air molecules. Tonight I get to play another set with my “fuchsprellen” project. That alone is good news. If it is nothing else it is my way of saying that “music” is like “wine” or “food” in that the noun covers such a huge swath of material and experience that it becomes almost meaningless. Do I like “music”? Sure, except when I am hating it, or ambivalent about it, or using a lot of mental energy to filter out some sonic wallpaper. Do I like “Jazz”? Uh, yeah, except that I find most of what passes for Jazz to be repulsive, or worse, boring. And that isn’t just me… I think that model describes most people. I might reflect on it more because I like engaging in the performance of music.
I tend to categorize music by its level of organization. In general, the greater the number of independent voices in a piece of music, the greater the level of organization. On the maximum end of the organizational-axis: A symphony orchestra must work like a machine in order to produce a coherent “music”. That requires a hierarchy of control from the composer, through the conductor, via music notation, backed up by a high degree of training by the individual musicians. In between is a spectrum that merges varying elements of structure and freedom, though I feel that a Motown hit single requires no less perfect execution than Bach, or Mahler, or Ives for that matter. On the minimal end we might find Cecil Taylor on a solo piano excursion… his own composer, his own conductor, his own orchestra, and existing in a universe of his own abilities. Depending on your personal sensibilities you might see the first as a militaristic display of goose-stepping emotional dominance, and the latter as a solipsistic dancer in a field of flowers. You might not.
I have a greater affinity for the latter end of the spectrum, the freedom to create on the spot, and explore, and discover the music world anew with each performance. That is not to say that I dismiss organization in music, or that I don’t want organization in free music. The best free music has strong organization without strong preconception, open to surprise and invention. In free music the surprise is a transitional element, like a fortune in a fortune cookie, but you build the fortune and the cookie in plain view, on the spot. The analogies are all around us: The Novel vs. Free Verse; Shakespeare vs. Improv Comedy; and so on.
Speaking of… I read the recent NYTimes piece on Jerry Seinfeld, and while it is not groundbreaking, I was struck by one passage in particular:
When he can’t tinker, he grows anxious. “If I don’t do a set in two weeks, I feel it,” he said. “I read an article a few years ago that said when you practice a sport a lot, you literally become a broadband: the nerve pathway in your brain contains a lot more information. As soon as you stop practicing, the pathway begins shrinking back down. Reading that changed my life. I used to wonder, Why am I doing these sets, getting on a stage? Don’t I know how to do this already? The answer is no. You must keep doing it. The broadband starts to narrow the moment you stop.”
And it made reading that massive and bloated piece of NYT celebrity fellatio worth the effort (for once). Actually, fellatio is a bad analogy because the NYT piece goes on for eight pages and much of it is trivial and boring. Maybe a romance novel for NYC social voyeurs…
Once you get that pathway opened up it becomes necessary to feed and nurture it. When that pathway begins to close it can be akin to withdrawal… you want to, need to, feed your habit. You can make that bad feeling go away, and in most cases nobody gets their TV stolen and the chances of accidental OD are virtually nil. Yet another reason I prefer music to drugs.
So the plan for this evening is to engage in some “Lancer de Renard“, or maybe to”Lancer le Renard” and see where it lands. There is a three-word directive behind this project: “Listen and Play”, and if it were a word graphic it would have LISTEN in 60 point type, and Play in lower case 8 point italics, well below. I’ll be sure to report back, and there will be some audio links forthcoming.