Text by Steve Dalachinsky
“The question is who has access to understanding and explaining a people and to what use?” – Descartes
Byron to Shelley – “What makes you write?”
Shelley – “My inability to prevent it.”
It’s been said that Bernstein was music and Karajan made music. And to quote Johnny Depp in The Libertine, “Any experiment of interest in Life will be carried out at one’s own expense.” To both ends I add the ideas I formulated through my recent experiences in Paris:
Is there a difference between doing and being your instrument? Is there a difference between making and creating music? I answer unequivocally, YES.
While away I experienced all manner of improvised as well as structured “sound”.
In some cases what is now called “spontaneous composition” and in others just playing for playing’s sake which in its purest, and to my mind weakest, form, changes sound into noise and noise into a kind of free-for-all chaos which de-voids it of any tolerable structure thereby rendering it useless to this listener’s ears. I did however meet those who derived pleasure from IT, finding it as equally exciting and stimulating as the “real thing” since I know for a fact they have experienced every type of music imaginable. On the one hand gathering the emotions into a fervor of ecstatic frenzy or in my case headache-inducing nausea and never stimulating the three major centers needed to have a pure listening experience: the intellect, spirit and emotions. But what is the real thing? To me it is complete communion with your instrument which when used to its fullest is YOU, your voice, your language, what you speak to ME from. YOU and it become ONE. Examples: one week I heard a trio that banged and honked and bowed and plucked their ever-loving brains out with no connection to what they were doing save the act of making a racket.
The next week I heard a trio comprised of the same instruments where all the components were there and the making became creating. Problem was the two veterans in the group were completely at one with their instruments whereas the newcomer, who, don’t get me wrong, played really great, was still very conscious of himself and his new limb and thereby was still doing it, trying it out, rather than absorbing and having it be a part of him.
The third week I saw another trio that was so organically in tune that at their apex they were at times indistinguishable from each other, and their instruments had become complete extensions of their bodies and psyches, resulting in opposition and synchronicity at the same time, a very gestural music, not for gesture’s sake but what has now become part of a natural process. In other words they had achieved what Shelley predicated and were unable to do anything else but create. BE. But again I ask, what is the REAL THING? Being natural rather than acting natural? The climber, the dancer, the fighter all twisted together? Do I have the right to judge? Do I have the right to say what’s BAD because I KNOW WHAT’S GOOD? Yes. We all do if we believe in the THING 100%.
Speaking of believing, the final example was a musician who after his gig, in an audience Q&A, was asked what he heard and what colors he saw when he played. His answer was that he didn’t want to burst anyone’s bubble but that while he played he was trying not to think about the laundry that needed doing or the supper he would eat after the gig. This showed in his playing. He seemed so damned conscious of every stroke he made, but to my mind due to this self-consciousness did only that: made, neither creating or being the world he set out to BE.
And on that note I’ll report some doings that have occurred and will occur since last we spoke. January 7th and 8th The Winter Jazz Fest in Greenwich Village kicked off its 7th year with a great lineup that included close to 60 bands in 5 venues. Some of the participants were Charles Gayle, Matana Roberts, Nels Cline, Talibam, J.D. Allen with Butch Morris (there’s a new film out about him), Vernon Reid, Jen Shyu and Anat Cohen. As always it was a resounding success.
Tony Malaby played his heart out throughout January at the Stone as did Angie Sanchez who co-curated the month with him. Jemeel Moondoc’s Jus Grew Orchestra did a Monday night residency all January at the University of the Streets.
In February The Tullyscope at Alice Tully Hall presented Feldman’s Rothko Chapel as part of its eclectic program which continues through March. Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson curate the Stone all February presenting such folk as Fred Frith, Anne Carson, Hal Wilner and Geri Allen (who I also caught in Paris as part of the Sons d’Hiver Fest mentioned in my last report.) Patti Smith did a week of sold-out shows in Paris, none which I could get tickets to. Tom Surgal and Lyn Colbertson curate the Stone in March. Among the many greats will be Joe McPhee, Ken Vandermark, Dave Burrell, the Magic Markers, Chris Corsano, Thurston Moore, Dave Liebman and Eugene Chadbourne. Also in March the New York City Opera will present a week of short operas by John Zorn, Morton Feldman and Arnold Schoenberg along with an entire night celebrating Zorn on March 30th.
I left Paris after many snowstorms and a day before De Gaulle was shut down, returned to New York a few days before the 6th worse blizzard in its history. WKCR, bless their souls, was having their annual Bach festival so there wasn’t much need to go out in that crazy weather. Flew back and forth a second time to find that artistic standards and politics are pretty much the same on both sides of the globe and discovered as Shelley so succinctly intoned that “this world must fade in…frost” and that “remembrance and repentance are not free from the music…..” So come “…feel the blood run through the veins…” and “hear thy chosen own.”