terça-feira, dezembro 27, 2011

Sam Rivers (25 Set.1923 – 26 Dez. 2011)

Mais um dia triste.
Depois de Paul Motion e Bob Brookmeyer é Sam Rivers que se vai embora.
Um músico ENORME e um mestre nunca devidamente valorizado.
Vi-o em 1977 no festival de Chateauvallon (França), um concerto que foi incrivelmente importante para mim, na altura.
Fica aqui o bootleg desse concerto como forma de celebrar a música originalíssima de Rivers.
Sam Rivers-saxes tenor e soprano, flauta, piano
Dave Holland-contrabaixo
Oliver Johnson- bateria
(Festival de Musique Ouverte de Châteauvallon/1977)

segunda-feira, outubro 24, 2011

Surdez e atenção (ou falta dela...)

Com certeza muitos conhecerão este teste . Não? então é de experimentar fazê-lo. O resultado é surpreendente.
Um equivalente auditivo do teste é apresentado neste estudo onde se estabelece o conceito de "surdez de desatenção" (tradução minha de "inattentional deafness”) determinado pela sobrecarga numa tarefa visual.
Este estudo poderá dar um contributo para uma melhor compreensão do efeito da leitura musical (partitura/cifra) no contexto de improvisação.

"Se alguma coisa eu fiz ao longo da minha carreira foi dar atenção a cada nota e cada palavra que eu canto. Eu respeito a canção. Se não consigo projectar isto para o ouvinte, então falhei..
Frank Sinatra

"Um homem que consiga guiar com segurança enquanto beija uma linda rapariga não está a dar ao beijo a atenção que ele merece."
Albert Einstein

domingo, outubro 02, 2011

The Long String Instrument

The Long String Instrument

Em 1981 Ellen Fullman iniciou o projecto "Long String Instrument", uma instalação de dúzias de arames de cerca de 15 metros de comprimento friccionados com os dedos revestidos de resina.
Ellen gravou  este instrumento fora do comum colaborando com figuras como Pauline Oliveros, o coreógrafo Deborah Hay, Kronos Quartet, Keiji Haino e Francis-Marie Uitti.
Em 2000 foi-lhe atribuído o prestigiado prémio DAAD para uma residência artística em Berlim.
A sua música foi apresentada nos eventos The American Century; Art and Culture, 1950-2000 no Whitney Museum, tocando em festivais na Europa, Japão e América do Norte tais como Instal, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, Other Minds, o Walker Art Center e Donaueschinger Musiktage.
O seu CD "Ort", com o músico berlinense  Jörg Hiller, foi selecionado como um dos top-50 gravações de 2004 pela  The Wire .Deu conferências e escreveu artigos sobre o seu trabalho na  Songlines Series, Mills College, MusikTexte (Cologne 2002), e MusicWorks (Toronto 2003).
A sua colaboração com o percussionista Sean Meehan no Instal 2006 foi a peça mais baixada do site do Festival e  foi editada pela Cut (Suiça).
Em 2007 recebeu o convite  para uma residência de 5 meses no Japão  Japan/U.S. Friendship Commission/NEA Fellowship .
Fullman  é actualmente Artista residente no Headlands Center for the Arts, onde instalou o seu instrumento no que foi o antigo espaço do ginásio.

Trailer Empty Building from françois boetschi - NU Films on Vimeo.

Mais sobre a  artista:   www.ellenfullman.com

The Bird speaks

Dois meses depois do último post, aqui fica a entrevista de Paul desmond a Charlie Parker. Dois dos grandes saxofonistas altos da história do Jazz. Onde (entre muitas outras coisas) se prova que o Parker também estudou o Klóse.

Noise: the Political Economy of Music

"Noise : The political economy of Music" de Jacques Attali.
Depois de um início destes antevê-se um livro que deixará a sua marca.
Vale a pena transcrever o início. Brilhante!

"For twenty-five centuries, Western knowledge has tried to look upon the world.
It has failed to understand that the world is not for the beholding. It is for hearing.
It is not legible, but audible.
Our science has always desired to monitor, measure, abstract, and castrate
meaning, forgetting that life is full of noise and that death alone is silent: work
noise, noise of man, and noise of beast. Noise bought, sold, or prohibited.
Nothing essential happens in the absence of noise.
Today, our sight has dimmed; it no longer sees our future, having constructed
a present made of abstraction, nonsense, and silence. Now we must learn to
judge a society more by its sounds, by its art, and by its festivals, than by its
statistics. By listening to noise, we can better understand where the folly of men
and their calculations is leading us, and what hopes it is still possible to have.
In these opening pages, I would like to summarize the essential themes of this
book. The supporting argument will follow.
Among sounds, music as an autonomous production is a recent invention.
Even as late as the eighteenth century, it was effectively submerged within a
larger totality. Ambiguous and fragile, ostensibly secondary and of minor importance,
it has invaded our world and daily life. Today, it is unavoidable, as
if, in a world now devoid of meaning, a background noise were increasingly
necessary to give people a sense of security. And today, wherever there is
music, there is money. Looking only at the numbers, in certain countries more
money is spent on music than on reading, drinking, or keeping clean.

Music, an immaterial pleasure turned commodity, now heralds a society of the sign, of the immaterial up for sale, of the social relation unified in money.
It heralds, for it is prophetic. It has always been in its essence a herald of
times to come. Thus, as we shall see, if it is true that the political organization
of the twentieth century is rooted in the political thought of the nineteenth, the
latter is almost entirely present in embryonic fonn in the music of the eighteenth
In the last twenty years, music has undergone yet another transformation.
This mutation forecasts a change in social relations. Already, material production
has been supplanted by the exchange of signs. Show business, the star system,
and the hit parade signal a profound institutional and cultural colonization.
Music makes mutations audible. It obliges us to invent categories and new dynamics to regenerate social theory, which today has become crystallized, entrapped,moribund.
Music, as a mirror of society, calls this truism to our attention: society is
much more than economistic categories, Marxist or otherwise, would have us
Music is more than an object of study: it is a way of perceiving the world.
A tool of understanding. Today, no theorizing accomplished through language
or mathematics can suffice any longer; it is incapable of accounting for what is
essential in time-the qualitative and the fluid, threats and violence. In the face
of the growing ambiguity of the signs being used and exchanged, the most wellestablished concepts are crumbling and every theory is wavering. The available
representations of the economy, trapped within frameworks erected in the seventeenth century or, at latest, toward 1850, can neither predict, describe, nor even express what awaits us.
It is thus necessary to imagine radically new theoretical forms, in order to
speak to new realities. Music, the organization of noise, is one such form. It reflects
the manufacture of society; it constitutes the audible waveband of the vibrations
and signs that make up society. An instrument of understanding, it prompts us to decipher a sound fonn of knowledge.
My intention here is thus not only to theorize about music, but to theorize
through music. The result will be unusual and unacceptable conclusions about
music and society, the past and the future. That is perhaps why music is so rarely
listened to and why-as with every facet of social life for which the rules are
breaking down (sexuality, the family, politics)-it is censored, people refuse to
draw conclusions from it.
In the chapters that follow, music will be presented as originating in ritual
murder, of which it is a simulacrum, a minor form of sacrifice heralding change.
We will see that in that capacity it was an attribute of religious and political
power, that it signified order, but also that it prefigured subversion. Then, after
entering into commodity exchange, it participated in the growth and creation of
capital and the spectacle. Fetishized as a commodity, music is illustrative of the
evolution of our entire society: de ritualize a social form, repress an activity of
the body, specialize its practice, sell it as a spectacle, generalize its consumption,
then see to it that it is stockpiled until it loses its meaning. Today, music
heralds-regardless of what the property mode of capital will be-the establishment
of a society of repetition in which nothing will happen anymore. But at the
same time, it heralds the emergence of a formidable subversion, one leading to
a radically new organization never yet theorized, of which self-management is
but a distant echo.
In this respect, music is not innocent: unquantifiable and unproductive, a pure
sign that is now for sale, it provides a rough sketch of the society under construction,a society in which the informal is mass produced and consumed, in which difference is artificially recreated in the multiplication of semi-identical objects.
No organized society can exist without structuring differences at its core. No
market economy can develop without erasing those differences in mass production.
The self-destruction of capitalism lies in this contradiction, in the fact that
music leads a deafening life: an instrument of differentiation, it has become a
locus of repetition. It itself becomes undifferentiated, goes anonymous in the
commodity, and hides behind the mask of stardom. It makes audible what is essential in the contradictions of the developed societies: an anxiety-ridden quest
for lost difference, following a logic from which difference is banished.
Art bears the mark of its time. Does that mean that it is a clear image? A strategy
for understanding? An instrument of struggle? In the codes that structure
noise and its mutations we glimpse a new theoretical practice and reading: establishing relations between the history of people and the dynamics of the economy on the one hand, and the history of the ordering of noise in codes on the other;predicting the evolution of one by the forms of the other; combining economics and aesthetics; demonstrating that music is prophetic and that social organization echoes it.
This book is not an attempt at a multidisciplinary study, but rather a call to
theoretical indiscipline, with an ear to sound matter as the herald of society. The
risk of wandering off into poetics may appear great, since music has an essential
metaphorical dimension: "For a genuine poet, metaphor is not a rhetorical
figure but a vicarious image that he actually beholds in place of a concept." 1
Yet music is a credible metaphor of the real. It is neither an autonomous activity
nor an automatic indicator of the economic infrastructure. It is a herald,
for change is inscribed in noise faster than it transforms society. Undoubtedly,
music is a play of mirrors in which every activity is reflected, defined, recorded,
and distorted. If we look at one mirror, we see only an image of another. But
at times a complex mirror game yields a vision that is rich, because unexpected
and prophetic. At times it yields nothing but the swirl of the void.
Mozart and Bach reflect the bourgeoisie's dream of harmony better than and
prior to the whole of nineteenth-century political theory. There is in the operas
of Cherubini a revolutionary zeal rarely attained in political debate. Janis Joplin,
Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix say more about the liberatory dream of the
1960s than any theory of crisis. The standardized products of today's variety
shows, hit parades, and show business are pathetic and prophetic caricatures of
future forms of the repressive channeling of desire.
The cardinal importance of music in announcing a vision of the world is
nothing new. For Marx, music is the "mirror of reality"; for Nietzsche, the
"expression oftruth";2 for Freud, a "text to decipher." It is all of that, for it
is one of the sites where mutations first arise and where science is secreted: "If
you close your eyes, you lose the power of abstraction" (Michel Serres). It is
all of that, even if it is only a detour on the way to addressing man about the
works of man, to hearing and making audible his alienation, to sensing the unacceptable immensity of his future silence and the wide expanse of his fallowed
creativity. Listening to music is listening to all noise, realizing that its appropriation
and control is a reflection of power, that it is essentially political

quarta-feira, junho 01, 2011

sábado, maio 28, 2011

Kempff vs.Horowitz

Não espreite os resultados antes de votar!

Improvisação e narrativa

Para além de um dos mais interessantes e criativos pianistas da nova geração, Vijay Iyer é um estudioso da performance improvisada. Alguns dos seus temas preferidos são a colaboração na improvisação,a temporalidade, a corporização da experiência musical ou a narrativa na improvisação.
Muito interessantes (para quem gosta destes assuntos) os seus artigos "Improvisation,Temporality and Embodied Experience." Journal of Consciousness Studies 11 (2004) ou "Sangha: Collaborative Improvisations on Community." (2006) Critical Studies in Improvisation / Études critiques en improvisation 1(3).

Achei especialmente interessante o seu artigo (2004) "Exploding the Narrative in Jazz Improvisation" (The New Jazz Studies, ed. Columbia University Press)onde, partindo de uma conversa entre Coltrane e os seus colegas durante a gravação do tema "Giant Steps" no disco "The Heavyweight Champion", Vijay elabora sobre a narrativa no solo improvisado, sobre verdade/mentira e sobre outras questões éticas e culturais presentes no solo improvisado.
A conversa foi transcrita por Vijay Iyer e Steve Coleman.
A tradução do original é do autor deste blog.

"Durante a gravação de Giant Steps ocorre um momento revelador e de descomprometido á-vontade entre os músicos presentes no estúdio.
Enquanto ensaiavam o tema especialmente difícil com que foram inesperadamente confrontados, ouve-se Coltrane dizer aos seus esforçados colegas:
I don’t think I’m gonna improve this, you know . . . I ain’t goin be sayin nothin, (I goin do) tryin just, makin the changes, I ain’t goin be, tellin no story. . . Like . . . tellin them black stories.”
Entre um murmúrio indistinto de assentimento dos outros membros da banda, um deles diz:
Shoot. Really, you make the changes, that’ll tell ’em a story.” Surpreendido por esta ideia, Coltrane responde: “You think the changes’re the story!”
Sobrepondo-se á sua voz outro membro da banda diz: “ that’ll change all the stories ” . Rindo-se Coltrane responde: “I don’t want to tell no lies (on ’em).”
Todo o grupo ri e o 2º colega acrescenta :“(The) changes themselves is some kind of story (man I’m tellin you).”
Estes poucos segundos de troca de palavras poderiam alimentar um simpósio: esta conversa antífonal, em vários registos, rica de elementos culturais sugere uma definição de como as histórias musicais podem ser contadas.
Making the changes”—ou seja, negociar o labirinto harmónico que constitui a estrutura harmónica do tema - constitui apenas uma faceta da construção em tempo real de um texto improvisado neste idioma (jazz). Uma lista de outros ingredientes convencionais da linguagem incluem a produção de um "momentum" rítmico contínuo ("swing"), a projecção de um timbre instrumental rico e pessoal, a construção de fraseado melódico original bem como a estruturação destas frases num todo convincente.
Da preocupação em não estar contando a história certa (" I ain’t goin be, tellin no story") é fácil supor que Coltrane estaria a pensar nestes parâmetros, tentando criar um solo "coerente", o arco narrativo de que Gunther Schuller fala . Contudo a sua referência ás preocupações de relacionamento cultural (“tellin’ them black stories”) a natureza académica (étude-like) daquela complexa estrutura harmónica inclusivamente projectando-se para além da sua noção de coerência de composição.

Com estas palavras Coltrane parece querer produzir um statement musical em que a comunidade possa ouvir refletida toda a sua própria multiplicidade narrativa. Com efeito, a sua incessante procura desse ideal está documentada ao longo de dúzias de takes. Para além disso, a sua é uma busca pela veracidade: “I don’t want to tell no lies on ’em.” Poderiamos refletir sobre que notas, acordes e ritmos são "a verdade" e poderemos ser tentados a interpretar o riso que esse comentário provocou como uma manifestação de quanto absurda é esta ideia.
Mas , de facto, esta ideia é de uso corrente entre músicos e a explosão de riso talvez tenha um significado de concordância.

Há poucas semanas atrás ouvi um colega músico criticar um outro elemnto da banda por "mentir" em palco. De acordo com esse meu colega o músico estava a tocar o que ele julgava que o leader gostaria de ouvir em vez de produzir um solo genuinamente pessoal. Para Coltrane "mentir" musicalmente poderia querer dizer tocar de um modo excessivamente consciente, premeditado ou construido de uma forma que soasse a falso aos seus ouvidos.

Este comentário sugere que Coltrane esforçava-se por criar uma representação autêntica da sua comunidade ao contar a sua história com toda a veracidade possível.

Esta busca de veracidade tem uma larga implicação com a política de autenticidade e o seu papel da narrativa na música negra. Há uma clara relação entre "contar a sua história" e "ser verdadeiro" (“ ")
O meu interesse nesta conversa entre Coltrane e os seus colegas (aquando da gravação de "Giant Steps") centra-se especialmente na observação de um dos seu sidemen
Really, you make the changes, that’ll tell ’em a story” ("a sério, se tocares a progressão harmónica estás a contar-lhes uma história")

Talvez o colega de Trane queira posicionar a narrativa que o seu leader procura não só ao nível do imperativo filosófico colocado "na música" mas também no acto de realizar a progressão harmónica momento-a-momento.

O facto de Coltrane se esforçar por manter o seu equilíbrio musical perante esta difícil progressão é eloquente e rica de significado simbólico.
Aquilo que nos é dado ouvir resulta de muito esforço, tempo e trabalho (com todas as resonâncias que esta palavra possa ter).

Esta noção altera efectivamente o ponto de vista. Implica uma alteração de uma enfase assente numa noção top-down de coerência narrativa para uma visão bottom-up da narrativa que emerge de pequenos actos laboriosos dos quais se alimenta a actividade musical.

E realçando estes factos e os rigores que eles pressupõe esse comentário pode ser entendido como uma celebração de um atletismo musical presente na performance musical negra(ou talvez a celebração dos valores performativos presente num atletismo musical negro)

Um improvisador está envolvido numa forma de actividade física altamente disciplinada da qual só ouvimos o resultado sónico.
Se admitirmos este facto, seremos levados a considerar as implicações narrativas deste trabalho físico como música. Certamente a disciplina deste processo corporalizado nos contará "uma qualquer espécie de história"
Vijay Iyer

domingo, abril 24, 2011

A Improvisação na música turca

Cinuçen Tanrıkorur foi um mestre do oud e um dos grandes compositores clássicos turcos, musicólogo e crítico musical para além de professor da Universidade de Selçuk .
Foi o criador de um novo modo, o Makam Şedd-i sabâ, que está representado numa suite clássica em 6 andamentos.
Este é o seu workshop sobre Improvisação (TAKSIM) na música turca no New England Conservatory em Bostonem 1994.


Especialmente aos jovens que ainda não perceberam o que mudou em Portugal com o 25 de Abril de 74, aconselho vivamente este filme. É provavel que muitos não o vão ver. Não se vai ver este filme para nos divertirmos. Não há pipocas, não há música e é todo a preto e branco. Ás vezes só temos mesmo uma tela negra á nossa frente. Mas aquelas vozes e aquelas fotos contam sem artifícios o que foi viver naquele Portugal de então e passar 10, 15, 20 (24 anos num dos casos) na cadeia sob um regime de tortura só porque imaginavam um país diferente. Todos nós, de direita, de esquerda ou doutro lado qualquer temos muito a agradecer a estas pessoas.

Os 3 desejos

A Baronesa Pannonica de Koenigswarter ficou para a história do Jazz como a grande mecenas de alguns dos mais importantes músicos e Jazz da era a que se convencionou chamar Be Bop. Theloniuos Monk e Charlie Parker foram alguns dos seus protegés, este último tendo mesmo falecido em sua casa. Para além disso tinha por hábito perguntar aos músicos com quem convivia - e registar num caderninho - quais seriam os seus 3 maiores desejos na vida.

Retirado do seu livro "Three Wishes" aqui ficam alguns dos desejos dos músicos :

Os 3 desejos de Sonny Rollins:
1. ‘Dinheiro’
2. ‘Ser .’ capaz de fazer no instrumento tudo o que quero'
3. ‘Ter uma maior afinidade com a Natureza.’

Charlie Rouse (saxofonista de Monk):
1. ‘Ser um excelente músico.’
2. ‘Ter um clube de onde programaria muito bom jazz’
3. ‘Que a América reconhecesse o Jazz como uma forma artística’

Sonny Clark (pianista):
1. ‘Dinheiro’
2. ‘Todas as gajas do mundo.’
3. ‘todos os Steinways.’

Thelonious Monk:
1. ‘ter sucesso musical.’
2. ‘Ter uma família feliz.’
3. ‘Ter uma amiga doida como tu!’

Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley:
1. ‘Que a discriminação racial fosse erradicada da Terra fosse em relação a que raça fosse.’
2. ‘Que o Jazz fosse apoiado como uma forma artística de modo a que a música não fosse distorcida pelas dificuldades económica de quem cria música.’
3. ‘Saúde e uma feliz vida em conjunto com a minha mulher.'

Miles Davis:
1. , 2. e 3. ‘Ser branco!’

The Orrin Keepnews Collection

Produtor de alguns dos mais importantes discos da história do Jazz Orrin Keepnews e as estórias por detrás destes discos. Para quem gosta muito destas coisas...

Art Pepper -notes from a jazz survivor

Nica's Dream - o sonho da Baronesa

Como complemento (não menos interessante) o excelente documentário "Storyville - the jazz baroness" conta a vida, sonhos e desilusões da mais famosa mecenas do Jazz e dos seus músicos, a Baronesa Pannonica Rothschild de Koenigswarter, conhecida no millieu do Jazz da altura como Nica.

"Straight no chaser" de Clint Eastwood

O extraordinário documentário de Clint Eastwood em versão integral. Uma hora e meia de puro prazer.

sábado, abril 23, 2011

Concurso público para o cargo de Músico-Saxofonista no Município de Arapongas (Brazil)

Conheça o teste apresentado há menos de um ano aos candidatos a Saxofonista em Arapongas.

Exatus Pr 2010 Prefeitura de Arapongas Pr Musico Saxofone Prova

quarta-feira, abril 20, 2011

O que torna a Música expressiva ? Faça o teste

A Psicologia da Música é uma área em expansão . As formas como nos manifestamos musicalmente ou como a Música nos afecta têm merecido uma cada vez maior atenção por parte da Ciência . Uma das áreas abordadas relaciona-se com a Expressão musical. Cientistas tentam determinar quais os elementos responsáveis pela expressão musical numa dada performance.
Nesse sentido o Dr.Daniel Levitin, director do laboratório de Percepção musical da Universidade de McGill elaborou um teste que pode ser feito aqui.

Encontrará o artigo completo aqui .

Gangsta Rap goes to College

Promovendo um muito saudável diálogo entre estilos, a sala 36 da Universidade de Ciências Aplicadas e Artes de Lucerna alberga os cursos de Jazz, Teoria Musical e Gangsta Rap .

Não me tendo informado da estrutura deste último curso poderei sempre imaginar que dele possam fazer parte cadeiras teorico-práticas como Assalto á Mão Armada I, II e II, seminário de Gestão de Gangs ou as disciplinas (fundamentalmente práticas) de Canos Cerrados (cadeira semestral) e Técnicas de Introdução de Substâncias Ilícitas em Estabelecimento Prisional (semestre par) e bem como a disciplina (anual) de Estética (dividida nos módulos "Fio de Ouro", "Cachucho" e "Técnicas Avançadas de Tatuagem"
O recital de fim de curso, para o qual os estabelecimentos prisionais de Lucerna costumam colaborar autorizando a saída precária dos alunos finalistas, costuma ser muito concorrido. Nunca faltam os gangs rivais apoiando acaloradamente os seus membros a exame.
Um eficaz sistema de emergência médica permite manter o número de baixas dentro de limites aceitáveis para um evento do género.

20.000 visitas...

O "Oh Não! mais um blog sobre jazz!!" chegou ás 20.000 visitas .

Parabéns a ele!

Bora beber uma mine. Paga o bloger...

Greg Osby

Uma entrevista de bastidores datada de Maio de 2003 em que, para além de pianistas e boquilhas, Osby fala do seu processo de estudo e desenvolvimento de linha melódica. (sorry...não tive tempo para traduzir...)

ET: You were born in St. Louis. How did you come to play saxophone?
GO: Well, you know (in) the junior high school band, 7th grade, 12 years old; there was a choice of playing trombone or clarinet. And of course I jumped to the clarinet because it looked more interesting. And one year later, this is 1972 actually, I got my hands on a saxophone and immediately fell in love with that because it was applicable to more contemporary situations. But I stuck with the clarinet as well because of the challenges. So I was doubling. And a year later I got a flute. So, by the time I was 13 I was playing saxophone, flute and clarinet. So, I took to it very rapidly because I enjoyed it so much. And after two years from the beginning, I was good enough to play with some the local bands. I was playing in Blues band, pop bands and soul bands, and R&B. Because you know in the 70′s, they didn’t have synthesizers so they had to have a horn section. So, I learned to play in the soul bands, and to play in a section. It was really good. It was important.
ET: Do you come out of a musical family?
GO: No, no musicians at all. It was just a stroke of fate, and I’m really happy that it happened that way. Because I would stand out and it was unique and music posed a whole set of challenges, and it gave me something to work on and to work towards.
ET: You mentioned that you played with local R&B bands and such. What brought you to jazz?
GO: Well, I guess while I was playing in those bands, it was frustrating for me. Although we did take solos it was usually over one chord like a groove or some vamp. And even though I didn’t know much about the higher properties of music, I knew that there was a lot more that could be done. There was a lot more potential. So, a friend of mine, he gave me a Charlie Parker record and I had never heard anybody play like that. I never heard saxophone played so intricately and with so much complexity. So, I got my hands on every Charlie Parker record I could. And then Cannonball Adderley and Sonny Stitt followed. You know, technicians. Players of my instrument. So that started it. Because I said; “Wow! I didn’t know that this was possible.” And then I studied on my own and I questioned a lot of the older players around St. Louis. I asked a lot of questions. Not formal study, but badgering them. Actually, following them and being a pest. And when you you’re young you have to be shameless and full of will. You can’t be shy. And you can’t be afraid of rejection and you can’t be afraid to expose the fact that you don’t know something. Wherever the information lies, you have to go for it. From players in your peer group, or players who have been playing a little longer, or older players. So, I just jumped in headfirst.
ET: Who were some of the older players in the St. Louis area?
GO: People like Willie Aikins, and Freddy Washington, and E. O’Harra Spearman, these were local players in St. Louis, though. People really don’t know them, but they were very inspirational to me, because I was able to see at a young age, players on that level, of that caliber, on a professional level. They were actually very generous with the information (they gave me). They told me exactly what I needed to study, and what I need to approach and do. So, it was good. I was informed properly at an impressionable age.
ET: You studied at the famous Howard University and Berklee College of Music. Could you tell us what were the greatest “highlights” of what you got out of these institutions?
GO: Well, interestingly enough, while I was there (Howard Univ.) I was very resistant to what was being taught. The fundamentals that were being presented were primarily Western European choral writing, counterpoint and things like that. I was resistant because I didn’t see the value in that. I couldn’t see how that could be applicable to any kind of contemporary situation. I called it “powdered wig” music.
[Outburst of laughter]
[Terri Lynne Carrington: “Powdered wig” music?]
Yeah, I said; “I can’t make any money playing this. I’m not going to play in any orchestras playing saxophone.” So, then I became very impatient after my second year and visited the Berklee College of Music. I had some friends studying there. And after sitting in on a couple of ensembles there, those teachers wrote letters of recommendation about me to the Directors of Admissions. So, I got a scholarship to go there. So, I transferred from Washington, D.C. to Boston. There was a higher caliber of players, there were more players and it was much more intense because it wasn’t a university, but a music conservatory. So, it was great. Now, in retrospect to look back at the things I learned initially, the choral writing, figured bass, and all that· now, that encompasses a great deal of how I approach music. Dealing with form and structures.
ET: Now that you found a medium where you actually can apply it, it makes sense.
GO: Yeah. So, it’s all relative. There’s really no such thing as disposable information for me. Some things you may not see the purpose for or value in, but there are various ways you can incorporate that information into your craft.
ET: You display a phenomenal technical ability on your instrument. Do you have a certain type of philosophy about how you approach the saxophone on the technical aspects?
GO: Well, during my formative years, the years I was in college, I endeavored to try to develop a technique that was unique, that was exclusive to me, that was readily identifiable. When people heard it, they would know that it was me. This was as a young player. I really had no business thinking that, but that is what I wanted to do. I knew I would be up against legions of saxophone players, all going for the same gigs, and I said; “What can I do?” So, as opposed to be exclusively studying Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins and other established players of my instrument, I also studied a great deal of piano players. It almost superceded my study of saxophone. I transcribed a lot of Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Herbie Hancock, Herbie Nichols, um… Nat Cole, Fats Waller, Teddy Edwards, Phineas Newborn, Errol Garner, like really technical… Jaki Byard, those kind of players.
ET: It’s funny that you mention that, because that’s my impression when I hear you play. To me it sounds like you’re trying to play piano. I mean, I can hear the influence.
GO: That’s right on the head. I’m trying to play polyphonic technique on a monophonic instrument, like a two-handed duality kind of thing. A pianist can play in different directions, they can “comp” with themselves, and they can do different kind of things because they have two hands and ten fingers. So, I’m playing a simulation of that. You know, jumping registers and doing real technical kind of things and larger groups, and smaller intervals and smaller clusters· so, that’s exactly what it is. I would take a 4-bar, or 8-bar or 16-bar phrase from Bud Powell, so to speak· transcribe that. Sometimes the whole solo but more likely, exactly what
I wanted which would be a great run, or a great passage. And I would put that on the top line of some manuscript paper and consequently, I would transpose it into all twelve keys. So, as opposed to working on that line in one key, I would work it in all keys. So, I would work on that until I have it under my fingers, for a week or two. Then I would that take same line and start altering accidentals, changing rhythms, changing the stress points and accents, and stuff. So, that by the time I had modified it after a month or two or so, it no longer sounded like the original line. It sounded more like a Greg Osby line. So, therefore I could retain it a lot more readily on the bandstand or in a jam session because it sounds like something that I made up, but its origins came from somebody who really knew what they were doing.
ET: So, you were really going through the process of getting the most out of the material that you were picking up.
GO: Sure. It’s an evolution, it’s like theme and variations and it taught me how to modify things and think quickly on the spot. Say, for instance, you’re on a tour and you’re playing the same songs in the same sequence every night. You have to figure out different approaches.
ET: Right.
GO: So, by doing that, if you have four variants of the same line, I have four different ways of doing it. I can change rhythms and delete things, add things, and stagger things, you know, it’s endless. So, it really baffles me when I hear younger players say; “I don’t know to practice.”, “I don’t know what to study.” You know, there is a great deal to be done with smaller fragments of information. You can just change rhythms, you can add accidentals, and you can delete things but you have to have an imagination and just say to yourself “What if?”
ET: Along the way, did you have any saxophone instructors that were most memorable to you, or had the biggest influence on you?
GO: When I was playing in these funk bands in high school; we were playing exclusively by ear. We would learn Earth, Wind and Fire songs, Tower of Power, you know, we played them from records, we were playing by ear. So there was no written music. So I developed a great ear, so that I can hear things and play it back. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, we had this turntable that was really temperamental. The turntable was a belt-driven turntable. It was affected by humidity, and heat. If it was too hot, it would run fast, if it was to cold it would run slow, so the key was always different. So, if the tune was in “C”, we would invariably play that tune in “B” or “C#”. If it was “F”, it was “F#” or “E”. So we’d always played tunes in the most difficult keys, with the most sharps and flats. We didn’t now. We didn’t know any better, we just thought that all tunes were in “C#”, and “F#”. So, that gave me a great deal of facility in these really difficult keys. I developed a great deal of fearlessness, when I saw key signatures, because I didn’t know any better. And I also learned to play saxophone in a very unorthodox way, because I didn’t have formal instruction until I got to college. I was fingering things really uniquely and unorthodox, it was quite interesting. So when I did get to Howard University, there was classical instruction, you know, all the saxophone majors had to study classical. And I was really resistant because I really didn’t like the sound of that French school of classical saxophone. I didn’t like the discipline, you know, they tried to make me play a small mouthpiece with a really soft reed and all that. I just didn’t like it. So, I was reluctant but I did it anyway just for the grade. But in retrospect, he helped me out a lot. There were keys on the saxophone I didn’t even know what they were for. I played all my “Bb’s” with two fingers and a side key. I didn’t even use the “bis” key at all, or even “one-to-one”. So, I had the most difficult fingering for real easy things. When I learned other options, I had a lot of alternate fingerings and that’s what I do now. I have alternate fingerings for different keys, different passages, different tempos and stuff, which allowed me a greater flexibility than some players who had only one way of doing things.
ET: What advice would you give a young saxophonist today, according to the instrument and to playing music in general?
GO: Well, first of all, I’d encourage any player, young or old, to try to maximize what they are working with. “Play the hand you are dealt.” A lot of players have this illusion that if they buy an Otto Link mouthpiece, they are going to sound like Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Dexter Gordon or whomever. Not only has that been done to death, there is no guarantee that you will succeed. These players were dealing with a very personalized physiology; their oral cavity, chest cavity, lung capacity, bone structure, those issues factors into how they sounded.
ET: It all pays a role.
GO: Right. So, the thing is to really examine how you play, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and capitalize on the strengths and to develop and hone the weaknesses. So, you have to be honest. If your technique is faulty or if your tone is weak, or you don’t have any endurance, you can work on these things. It’s pointless to drill yourself in areas where you excel. If you can play your scales flawlessly, and play your arpeggios great, there’s no point on doing that everyday. What you need to do is work on the stuff that is weak. If your high register is thin, you need to work on your long tones. If in your low register you have to honk out notes, you need a softer reed. A lot of people won’t do that. They’re playing the setup that their idol played, not realizing that Cannonball was a really big guy, and Charlie Parker had a lot of power, you know that kind of thing. You have to deal with your sound, and polish it. The sound that I’m playing with is basically the sound that I’ve always had. It might be stronger now, and more centered and focused, but it’s basically the same sound. I never endeavored to sound like Sonny Stitt.
ET: There’s a certain “Kernel” to your sound that’s always you, because it is you. It’s your jaw, your teeth…
GO: It’s like your speaking voice you can’t change it. You can’t really change it. So the best thing to do is, you try to enunciate and try to have as much focus and proper musical diction as possible. It comes from dealing with articulation, you know, tonguing exercises, and good reading, good posture, good attack, not to be sloppy and not developing lazy and bad habits. My saxophone teacher· I’m happy now, at that time I was really angry at him. He used to hit our hands with a ruler. Gary Thomas, and me we were at college at the same time, so we had the same teacher and he was into the “sticky fingers” technique, where your fingers don’t leave the keys too much. That’s the Charlie Parker technique. He used to say, “Don’t flap your fingers”, “Don’t show people what fingerings you’re playing”, “Don’t use excessive body movement”, you know, focus. My other teacher at Berklee, Andy McGhee, he would talk about; “Play to the exit sign”, “Don’t play to the people in the first row, play to the people in the back row. Throw your sound back there.” I want to give the simulation that, if you’re a smaller framed cat, like me· if somebody hears me on tape, they should think that you weigh 300 pounds. He wanted your sound to be wide, and fat, and broad and distinct… projecting. You don’t want it to come out of the bell and let it drop to the floor, you want to throw it like a ventriloquist. To the back. So, those types of things, you get a visual picture and· it was some very helpful information. He never told me what to do and what not to do. He said, just follow your instincts and just be honest. If you know that you need work on in a certain area, you have to do the work.
ET: No one else is going to do it for you.
GO: The results are directly reflective of the work.
ET: Who was your instructor at Howard?
GO: At Howard, his name was Reginald Jackson. He was a renowned classical cat on alto. He made the alto sound like…it didn’t even sound like an alto anymore.
ET: More like a cello probably.
GO: Yeah, it was a Buffet and he had half-moon cork in the low Bb and B keys and when he played he just had so much control. He could whisper a low Bb and come from complete silence. I just marveled at his control. However, he could never improvise, he couldn’t sight-read jazz rhythms, -syncopation. He used multiphonics and played tricky fingerings. He was from the French school. He studied in France. So, I listened to him and extracted from that experience what I could. But I never wanted to pursue that as a lifestyle. But there are still remnants of those studies still in my playing. The control. Even though, I don’t fancy myself as a practitioner or die-hard fan of classical saxophone.
ET: I noticed also when I hear you play; I hear a lot of classical saxophone technique, as far as the control is concerned. I had wondered if you had seriously spent any time doing that.
GO: That may be by default. I never really paid attention, even when I was studying.
ET: That’s why I didn’t assume. It could happen without having to deal with…
GO: Sure, because I would just cram for the lesson an hour before. [Outburst of laughter] I had a whole week to study the stuff, and I tried to shed an hour before, because I hated it. So, it’s just by default.
ET: So hey, that about wraps it up. It’s been a great pleasure talking with you and you’ve shared a lot of great information. Many thanks to you Mr. Greg Osby.
Greg Osby is one of the most innovative voices of the saxophone and of jazz today. You can visit Greg at www.gregosby.com. You’ll find MP3 and MIDI files to download, photos, more interviews and more.

sexta-feira, março 25, 2011

The Mel Lewis tapes

Um ano da sua morte, o baterista Mel Lewis foi convidado por Loren Schonberg da rádio WKCR radio de Nova York para uma série de entrevistas acerca das figuras relevantes na história da bateria de Jazz.
Durante 20 anos essas entrevistas estiveram acessíveis apenas a um número restrito de pessoas e em ... cassette. Por altura do 50º aniversário do PAS Drum Set Committee John Riley e Loren Schoenberg doaram essas entrevistas de forma a serem digitalizadas e publicadas no site do PAS.
Um documento riquíssimo sobre a história da bateria, sobre a evolução da forma de tocar o instrumento e sobre o Jazz em geral.


segunda-feira, março 07, 2011

Boletim Informativo do Hot Clube #3 Setembro de 75

O Jazz nacional nos idos de 1975.
Naquele ano o Festival da Figueira da Foz foi um acontecimento e teve um enorme impacto no futuro de alguns dos nosso "jazzmen".
O Boletim Informativo do Hot Club dava conta dos grupos que lá tocaram.
As bios, fotos e algumas declarações de princípios desses músicos num documento que, a começar pelo grafismo (?) da capa, reflete a época que se vivia.
Entre muitas outras coisas gosto especialmente da crítica ao disco "Drum Ode" de David Liebman onde o repórter aconselha a usá-lo como música ambiente.... 

domingo, março 06, 2011

L'improvisation, la seconde vie du hasard

A improvisação, é, nesta primeira década do milénio, não só uma prática infiltrada em toda a actividade humana (artística ou não).
Cada vez é maior o interesse que o seu estudo suscita mas a improvisação revela-se isso sim, uma forma privilegiada de pensamento.
Um trabalho do programa "Nouveaux Chemins de la Connaissance" (France Culture) sobre este assunto (que ainda não ouvi ao momento deste post) mas que valerá certamente ter em conta.
"L'improvisation, la seconde vie du hasard" com Clément Canonne,e o pianista Karol Beffa

5 emissões cujos links aqui se postam

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , e 5

terça-feira, março 01, 2011

"Um Toque de Jazz" - The End

Com a emissão nº 1042 terminou "Um Toque de Jazz", um dos mais interessantes e regulares programas dedicados ao Jazz na Rádio portuguesa, no ar desde 1993.
Manuel Jorge Veloso (MJV), crítico, programador e um dos mais empenhados divulgadores de Jazz no nosso país foi o seu criador. Para mim, grande parte do interesse de "Um Toque de Jazz" residia na atenção dada para ao Jazz contemporâneo especialmente ao Jazz produzido na Europa. Sem uma visão estilística compartimentada e com conhecimentos musicais muito acima da média dos encontrados em criticos de Jazz (da sua ou mesmo da mais recente geração de críticos) MJV deu-nos, com um "Toque de Jazz", muitas e boas horas de audição do melhor Jazz actual.
Manuel Jorge Veloso mantem o site "O sítio do Jazz"


As entrevistas com Wayne Shorter não só ajudam a compreender um pouco melhor a sua música como são momentos de partilha de uma sabedoria rara, profunda sobre a Vida.
Shorter é um Jedi. E nunca perturba o silêncio sem que valha, realmente, a pena.
Uma série de entrevistas:

sexta-feira, fevereiro 18, 2011

Detido falso músico

A Polícia Judiciária (PJ) anunciou, esta quarta-feira, a detenção de um falso músico. A prática ilícita decorria, pelo menos, desde 2006, nos palcos das regiões da Grande Lisboa e Algarve, e centrava-se em auditórios municipais, clubes de jazz, casamentos e festas particulares, diz a PJ em comunicado.

A detenção ocorreu, após «oito buscas domiciliárias e não domiciliárias, designadamente, a quatro bares com música ao vivo». Durante as diligências, a PJ apreendeu um «vasto acervo documental relacionado com a prática criminosa» tais como Real Books, playalongs e muitas partituras avulsas.

O falso músico atraia algumas dezenas de ouvintes aos seus espectáculos. De acordo com comunicado da PJ, tratavam-se, maioritariamente, de pessoas com idade avançada, a maioria dos quais com graves deficiências auditivas, mas também um largo número de jovens convencidos de que estariam a assistir a um concerto de vanguarda.

O detido está indiciado pela prática dos crimes de usurpação de funções, falsificação de documentos (cartão da GDA) e burla. Foi presente a interrogatório judicial e ficou com a medida de coacção de termo de identidade e residência. Fica ainda proibido de se deslocar aos clubes, bares e palcos e a «quaisquer locais onde se exerça actividade musical», de contactar fornecedores de material musical e de exercer qualquer actividade relacionada com a música.

Inspirado nesta notícia

quinta-feira, fevereiro 17, 2011

Stan Getz 4tet featuring Roy Haynes

Roy Haynes ! Moderno há 70 anos.... (parece um anúncio, não parece ? mas é mesmo verdade !)
Steve Swallow ...de contrabaixo e bigode!
Vintage Jazz Deluxe Mint condition!

quarta-feira, fevereiro 09, 2011

Sofia Gubaidulina: "A improvisação era um sonho íntimo"

Jornal Público
09.02.2011 Entrevista de Cristina Fernandes

A compositora fotografada por Miguel Manso

Vê a arte como aproximação ao Absoluto e, como nem tudo é possível fixar numa partitura, defende a espontaneidade do intérprete. Figura maior da composição contemporânea, Sofia Gubaidulina, que em 2011 completa 80 anos, está pela primeira vez em Portugal e diz sentir-se fisicamente mal quando ouve música ligeira (mesmo quando é boa).

Quando o violinista Gidon Kremer estreou em 1981 o Concerto Offertorium, de Sofia Gubaidulina, o mundo ocidental ficou deslumbrado com a criatividade e a espiritualidade da música compositora russa, que havia de se afirmar nas décadas seguintes como uma figura maior da criação contemporânea. Com a progressiva abertura do regime soviético na década de 1980 e a mudança para a Alemanha da compositora em 1991, fomos descobrindo pouco a pouco uma obra fascinante e sempre variada, onde se cruzam heranças eslavas, tártaras, judaicas e ortodoxas russas, a influência da música electrónica e das técnicas de improvisação, instrumentações fora do comum ou a paixão por Bach e Webern.

"A vida reduz o homem a tantas peças que não conheço outra missão mais séria do que ajudar através da música a reconstituir a sua integridade espiritual." Esta é uma das frases recorrentes de Sofia Gubaidulina, que vê a arte como forma de aproximação ao Absoluto. A compositora cumpre 80 anos em 2011 e encontra-se pela primeira vez em Portugal no âmbito de um ciclo A Hora da Alma, programado pelo CCB, com direcção artística do pianista Filipe Pinto-Ribeiro. No dia 5 ouviu-se uma memorável interpretação do Cântico do Sol de S. Francisco de Assis pelo Coro da Rádio da Letónia e pelo violoncelista David Geringas, e hoje, às 21h, o Ensemble Schostakovich apresenta um programa com obras de Webern (Seis Bagatelas op. 9) e Schostakovich (Quinteto com Piano op. 57) e obras de câmara de Sofia Gubaidulina como Reflections on the theme B.A.C.H., Dancer on a tightrope e À Beira do Abismo (com a compositora tocando aquafone). No sábado, a compositora conversou com o P2 - contando com a colaboração de Svetlana Poliakova como intérprete, já que preferiu expressar-se em russo - sobre o seu percurso, a sua obra e a sua maneira de ver a música e o mundo. Com uma grande generosidade, relembrou memórias de infância e a sua preocupação com uma humanidade que perdeu a capacidade de concentração em formas de arte mais profundas, preferindo a fugacidade superficial do entretenimento.

Que recordações musicais guarda da sua infância?
A primeira impressão e a mais forte não foi um concerto ou um evento, mas a vinda para casa de um piano de cauda. O facto de ser um piano de cauda e não vertical foi muito importante, pois assim podia ter acesso não só ao teclado, mas também às cordas. Essa aproximação ao instrumento constituía um momento de grande teatralidade. Não era apenas um novo instrumento que chegava a casa, era também todo o ambiente do concerto. Na altura eu tinha cinco anos e a minha irmã oito, ela já estudava piano e assim podíamos fazer música em conjunto. A minha irmã accionava os pedais e eu fazia sons com as cordas. A maior excitação foi a possibilidade da própria criação, poder ser eu própria a criar um quadro musical. Isto permaneceu toda a vida.

A criação foi sempre para si mais importante do que a interpretação?
O primeiro impulso foi este. Depois é difícil dizer o que foi mais importante, pois tanto a criação como a interpretação sempre estiveram presentes. Entrei numa escola de música especial [em Kazan] e fui incentivada a ser a melhor pianista possível. Mas tinha sempre um sonho escondido, um sonho íntimo, que era o da improvisação. Entretanto tive a possibilidade de entrar na classe de um compositor profissional e prossegui a formação como compositora no Conservatório de Moscovo.

Em 1975 fundou o Ensemble Astreya dedicado à improvisação em instrumentos tradicionais. Qual a importância da música não erudita na sua formação como compositora?
Ao contrário do que muitas pessoas pensam, eu não cresci no campo, mas sim numa cidade industrial, com uma vida musical formatada. As impressões que tinha da música tradicional na época tinham mais a ver com o canto do que com os instrumentos. A possibilidade de tocar e de improvisar em instrumentos não convencionais e da tradição popular só apareceu mais tarde, por ocasião da criação do grupo Astreya. Fazer música em instrumentos não convencionais foi uma tendência dos anos 80 mais ligada à improvisação do que a possíveis apresentações em concerto. As pessoas encontravam-se informalmente para tentar sentir o som e a mesma tendência ocorria em vários pontos da Europa. Verifiquei, por exemplo, que os jovens em Oslo também tinham esta prática: músicos que se juntavam para tocar o que não sabiam tocar e assim experimentar o som.Era uma forma mais livre de abordagem da criação, sem estar condicionada pelas convenções da aprendizagem formal?
Sim, mas esse gosto tem também outra explicação. Era uma reacção contra a industrialização. Se pensarmos numa orquestra e no ambiente clássico de produção musical, esta funciona como uma fábrica, é uma instituição que exige muitos meios, muito profissionalismo e cujo resultado tem de ser apresentado com grande qualidade. No entanto, é muito importante para o ser humano não esquecer que as primeiras manifestações musicais não tinham esse objectivo. O que se fazia era explorar a sonoridade e a sua natureza. A experiência do Ensemble Astreya e de outros grupos tinha a ver com a descoberta do som em si, afastando-se da forma como este era apresentado no dia-a-dia.

De que forma incorpora a improvisação nas suas obras escritas?
Nas minhas obras é muito importante o papel do intérprete e constato que muitos intérpretes têm um enorme potencial criativo. É quase um crime não deixar vir isso à superfície. Às vezes, aquilo que um intérprete consegue fazer na improvisação livre provoca sonoridades muito mais ricas do que aquelas que se podem escrever. Coloca-se aqui a questão da cultura oral e da cultura escrita. Nem tudo é passível de ser fixado na partitura. Em muitas obras procuro reanimar a espontaneidade do intérprete.

A escrita restringe a criatividade e a espontaneidade?
Quando alguém deu a notícia a um sábio egípcio sobre o aparecimento da escrita, ele respondeu: "Mas que pena, a humanidade vai começar a perder a memória." Não podemos negar os enormes benefícios trazidos pela escrita ao desenvolvimento cultural, mas também não podemos esquecer que, adquirindo a escrita, estamos a perder algo como a espontaneidade da cultura oral e a capacidade de memorização. Na cultura actual, alguém que vai fazer uma comunicação normalmente prepara-a por escrito e lê, perdendo-se o momento da comunicação espontânea. Quando a pessoa tem coragem de virar as costas à escrita e começar a comunicar oralmente, nasce um clima completamente diferente de entrega da parte de quem dá e de quem recebe. Mas também sei que a maior parte das obras da história da música ocidental nunca poderiam surgir da cultura oral. A Nona Sinfonia de Beethoven não podia aparecer sem cultura escrita. O que quero sublinhar é a importância de recuperar a experiência da pré-existência da cultura escrita.

As duas componentes estão presentes na sua obra...
É muito importante que o instrumentista que está a interpretar a parte escrita de uma das minhas obras de repente tenha a possibilidade de se destacar e começar a fazer a sua interpretação. Usei este método em algumas peças, por exemplo nos 10 Prelúdios para Violoncelo solo. Em nove peças o violoncelista toca exactamente o que está escrito, na décima tem uma melodia escrita e entre parêntesis momentos destinados à improvisação. O objectivo inicial desta obra não era o palco, mas sim a experimentação. No entanto, ela acabou por ser interpretada e gravada muitas vezes. Nalguns casos há resultados tão fantásticos que eu própria não os conseguiria escrever numa partitura. Contudo, também usa métodos muito rigorosos na sua escrita, como a proporção de ouro e a série de Fibonacci [série matemática, em que a um número é adicionado o que lhe é imediatamente anterior - 1,1,2,3,5,8, até ao infinito].
O uso da série de Fibonacci é muito tortuoso, exige muito tempo. Como sou muito espontânea, trata-se de uma regra que imponho a mim própria, mas o processo é demorado e difícil. Às vezes dá bons resultados, outras não funciona, outras não há tempo, é algo que continua a ser uma experiência.

Que música da Europa Ocidental chegava à URSS antes da Perestroika?
Boulez, Stockhausen... os mais importantes chegavam sempre, normalmente através de convidados do Ocidente que partilhavam partituras e discos. Por exemplo, o director da editora Philips, que se tornou depois um grande amigo, trazia-me frequentemente gravações não só de música clássica, mas também de músicas do mundo, como a de Java.

Como era criar num regime que tentava impor directrizes aos compositores, sobretudo para alguém que dá tanta importância à componente espiritual da música?
Era um desespero. Muitas vezes os intérpretes estavam já com a obra na mão e preparados para a interpretar e saía a proibição. Todavia, por estranho que pareça, neste período sentia-se uma enorme vontade de trabalhar. Não havia passividade, mas muita produtividade. Era também uma forma de protesto.

Porque escolheu a Alemanha para se instalar quando deixou a Rússia em 1991?
A Rússia foi vencida na Guerra Fria. Em 1991 fez-se um balanço e a perda nessa guerra era algo equivalente à Alemanha ter perdido a II Guerra Mundial. A Alemanha ficou em ruínas depois de 1945 e a Rússia sofreu a mesma coisa, mas na Guerra Fria. Na década de 1990 a Rússia foi deixada à mercê de destruição e do saque e o nível moral desceu ao mais baixo. Mas não é essa a razão da minha saída. Mais importante foi a possibilidade de poder viver num ambiente de aldeia e não de uma grande cidade industrial. A vida nos grandes centros industriais levou a uma grande nostalgia da árvore que está ao lado. Recebi as mais importantes prendas para quem precisa de criar: o silêncio, a aproximação à natureza e a completa ausência de industrialização à volta. Será que não era possível atingir o mesmo na Rússia? Tentei várias vezes, mas a criminalidade era muito grande, não era uma opção segura. Vir para o Ocidente abriu-me horizontes e a possibilidade do encontro com intérpretes. Permitiu-me outra orientação no mundo, aceitar convites, viver a minha obra interpretada e depois voltar ao silêncio de casa.

A sua paixão por Bach e Webern é bem conhecida, assim como por experiências musicais que vêm de outras culturas. Mas quais são as tendências musicais de que não gosta ou que recusa?
Em geral o mundo da música ligeira, pois esta tornou-se muito agressiva. Quando me encontro num ambiente de relaxamento e surge música pop, sinto-me mal fisicamente, nem sei explicar bem porquê. Gosto de algumas obras de Piazolla, que Gidon Kremer interpreta muito bem, mas quando vou aos seus concertos dedicados a este compositor sinto-me alegre a ouvir a primeira peça, calma na segunda e a partir da terceira a vida começa a ficar mal... E estamos a falar de boa música ligeira. É precisamente a música ligeira que domina os hábitos musicais da maior parte da população, a música erudita é ouvida por um grupo restrito e a música contemporânea por um subgrupo ainda mais restrito.

Como vê esta situação?
Há dois pólos de compreensão humana que são a concentração e a desconcentração e que guiam não só o mundo artístico, mas também a sociedade em geral. A tendência da desconcentração é cada vez mais financiada e isso é perigoso. O ser humano está a perder cada vez mais união com algo de mais absoluto, com a sua essência. É importante apoiar a tendência para a concentração em algo de mais profundo, nomeadamente na música e arte. Há que salvaguardar a capacidade de concentração do ser humano, mas será que isso ainda é possível na sociedade contemporânea? Na minha opinião é algo talvez mais importante do que toda a vida económica, mas na verdade grande parte das pessoas não sente que precisa disso, não se quer concentrar, não sente necessidade de algo mais.

Esse algo mais tem a ver com a espiritualidade, com a religião, tão importante na sua obra?
A minha perspectiva da religião tem a ver com "re-ligio" (no sentido de religar), é a reunião de um laço, a recomposição da integridade espiritual através da música. O ouvinte que se concentra nessa experiência encontrará também esse elo. Mesmo no caso de um compositor não crente, quando ele sente a necessidade de compor uma forma e toma em consideração esse acto de religar, está a aproximar-se de um critério de espiritualidade, quer o reconheça ou não.

Ao contrário de outros compositores que usam formas originárias do ritual religioso como a Missa, a Paixão, as Vésperas, etc., no seu caso essas referências são incorporadas em composições livres...
Uso as referências aos rituais como metáforas. O que tento fazer é reconstituir o impulso para a sensação religiosa, como por exemplo no Concerto para Violino Offertorium. Não preciso da integração concreta, o que é importante não é a tradição, mas sim o impulso donde partiu essa tradição.

Costuma dar aulas de composição? Como vê a transmissão do acto da criação artística?

Só dei aulas uma vez. Era um menino de 12 anos, a mãe pediu-me para lhe dar orientação para ser compositor. O menino queria criar e ofereceu-me muitas descobertas e partilhas. Quando andava pela rua, ouvia tudo como sons, mas logo que chegava a casa fechava a porta e tudo acabava. Pedia-lhe para escrever o que estava a ouvir, mas o resultado não era interessante. Descobriu-se gradualmente que o talento que tinha não era suficiente para guardar aquilo que ouvia e conseguir pô-lo no papel. Fiquei com muita pena deste rapaz, não insisti que continuasse como compositor, disse-lhe que seria mais proveitoso para ele seguir uma carreira de intérprete. A partir daí sempre recusei propostas para ensinar.

terça-feira, fevereiro 08, 2011

Downbeat versão digital

Agora que a crise nos aperta o cinto, a bolsa e mais uma série de coisas muito desagradáveis de serem apertadas há que evitar despesas.
Ler a á borla aqui

quinta-feira, fevereiro 03, 2011

terça-feira, janeiro 18, 2011

Soprano Talk

O saxofonista Sam Newsome mantem um blog especialmente dedicado ao seu instumento : o saxofone soprano.
Óptima notícia. Bora vasculhar.


Mensagem recente colocada num Google-group sobre Jazz:

"Great Jazz Opportunity
My name is Ndugood. I am a wealthy Nigerian prince who loves the jazz of music.
I am seeking your help to move $200,000,000 from my checking account
here in Nigeria to the United States. I too love the jazz of music
and am planning to flee to America to open many jazz clubs at which I would like you to perform.
You will receive $42,000 a night, plus a meal.
My new "Tribal Village Vanguard" clubs will be of great success and you will become rich like the rest of American jazz musicians.
I have already applied for building exemptions to allow thatched stages and the spearing of live animals. But I desperately need your help.

My tribe, the Swindlisi, a peaceful jazz-loving people, has been horribly oppressed by the ruling military junta, which despises the jazz of music.
My father, an exiled king and booking agent, was recently imprisoned under the Draconian "three gigs - you're out" law, and now I must flee my beloved country with all of my improbable wealth - But I need help in moving it.

I have so much money that it will not fit in the allotted two checked bags and one carry-on. I am therefore want to transfer the money through your ATM system (The Nigerian ATM system cannot exchange international currencies; it only converts "antelope to money").
So please to just provide me with your full name and address, social security number, bank account and PIN numbers, and you will become incredibly (literally) rich from playing many jazz gigs.

Note: normal Nigerian Musician's Union rules apply: three hour performances, two 15 minute breaks allowed, musicians to provide their own mosquito nets, one open fire per bandstand, one free meal plus anything you kill).

Act now.
The first ten musicians to respond will receive a free copy of the Nigeria's Greatest Jazz Hits CD, by our beloved 'Disoriented'
Gillespie Band, which contains the hits:

> >The Night Has A Thousand Flies
> >Goodbye Shrunken Head
> >Here's That Rainy Season
> >Just Tribesmen (Lovers No More)
> >Take the 'A' Trail
> >When I Fall In Quicksand
> >Half-Nelson Mandella
> >Blue Monkey
> >Leopard Skins and Moonbeams
> >Blue Mombossa
> >Almost Like Being In Lagos
> >Sunny Side of the Goatpath
> >I Didn't Know What Century It Was

Thank you for your many help.
Your inordinately wealthy Nigerian brother...
Prince Ndugood

domingo, janeiro 16, 2011

What Are We Doing, and Why Do We Do It?

Tinha prometido compensar o facto de o meu post anterior não abordar o Jazz nem nehuma outra questão musical.
Espero que o texto que reproduzo a seguir, da autoria de Jim Mcneely e apresentado no Simpósio Internacional de compositores de Jazz na Universidade de South Florida em 2008, cumpra o prometido.
Jim Mcneely é um dos mais importantes arranjadores e compositores de Jazz actuais e um dos meus preferidos e trabalhou repetidas vezes em Portugal com a Orquestra de Jazz de Matosinhos.
A esta comunicação/reflexão sobre o trabalho do compositor Jim decidiu chamar "O que fazemos e porque o fazemos".
Para quem gosta destas coisas....
(Retirado do seu site)

"Thank you, Chuck Owen, for inviting me to be a part of this terrific event. I look out and recognize a good number of you. It’s good to see both faces that I know and faces that are new to me. We’ve all come together for these three days, driven by our love of jazz and our love of composing. We’re here to talk, to listen, and to hear music; to let our colleagues know what we’re doing, and to find out what they are up to. We’re here to learn, and to be inspired.

I would guess that most of us have beginnings as performers, playing in groups ranging in size from duos to big bands. We know that performing has a social aspect: you work together to achieve a group sound; you hang out after the gig; you travel together on the road. Composition, on the other hand, is typically a solitary activity; it’s easy for all of us to get holed up in our individual studios, in our individual heads, with our pencils and erasers, with our keyboards and computers. And I dare say that this has always been one of the big attractions for me about composition. It’s 2 am, I’m alone in my music room, there’s paper all over the place; the ideas are flowing, I’ve found a little countermelody that is so unbelievably slick; I’ve got my little universe where I am God, and this note will be a Bb, I don’t care what the rules say; and I smell the eraser, and I’m in the zone, and that glass of whatever that I poured 3 hours ago remains untouched because I’m so into this piece! I’m completely one with my inner geek, I’ve hit that point where the little fire in my gut has been lit, and I say, “Damn, I can’t wait to hear this! This is gonna be great”; and there’s no one else there, and I don’t have to talk to anybody!

Paradise! But before I start to sound I live like the Unibomber—I do have a wife and three kids, and we’re all normal enough—let me also say that it is important for composers to get together and talk to one another, whether in individual settings of teacher/student or mentor/protégé, or a workshop (such as the one I direct at BMI in New York), or a salon, or informal “hangs”. We discover how others may have solved problems that we grapple with; we can get inspired to try some new direction; we might discover new music to listen to, or to analyze, that might open new doors for us; and sometimes, articulating your own point of view to someone else simply helps to clarify it in your own mind. So with this symposium we have the mother of all “hangs” for jazz composers!

Many Questions, a Few Answers

In preparing these remarks I started to articulate questions that I might try to answer. I found that certain questions led to more questions, and sometimes the answers are hard to nail down.

What is jazz composition? Is it composing jazz, or jazzing (jassing) the compositional process?

In its early days, “jazz” was a verb; it was primarily a process applied to existing forms of music. You played a song/rag/blues and you jassed it, with improvisation and a new kind of rhythmic feel. So maybe as jazz composers we’re jassing more established compositional technique? Or, maybe we are composing frameworks that allow jazz to happen?

Jazz is largely improvised, right? How do you compose improvisation? Is that even what we do when we compose jazz? What is composition, anyway? And what’s the difference between composition and improvisation? Between composition and arranging?

When I was in music school at the University of Illinois back in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, one of the never-ending debates that raged was whether improvisation and composition were the same, or two facets of the same process, or different processes; or was one better than the other, or more legitimate? No one really won this debate, of course; a proponent of any one viewpoint simply proceeded as if he or she were correct, and dismissed the others. One of the wiser souls I encountered back then was the ethnomusicologist Bruno Nettl. He proposed that, instead of arguing about the relative merits of composition and improvisation, we regard a piece of music as a model. This model contains certain elements that are created ahead of time, and other elements that are created during the performance. When you think about it, every piece of music has a balance between the two. An Indian raga, a Brahms symphony, and a jazz performance of “I’ve Got Rhythm” all have certain pre-determined elements that must be there in order for the result to be called that particular piece, and not something else. Other elements are determined in performance, by the performer. With the Brahms symphony, almost every element was determined years ago by Brahms himself; the spontaneous elements may be the conductor’s choice of tempo, or the length of a fermata, or an issue of balance; with “I’ve Got Rhythm”, certain of Gershwin’s original elements must be there. But the jazz esthetic allows for most of the musical details to be created in the act of performance.

And arrangement vs. composition. The processes exhibit many similarities, yet are quite different. An arrangement is a process applied to an existing song; the song is the main character of the drama; the piece is all about the song. A composition may or may not have a recognizable song. Characters might be a melody, a phrase, a player in the ensemble, or a texture. A character might be developed beyond recognition; may enter into conflict with another character; may well die before the piece ends. An arrangement is a portrait of a character; a composition is the dramatic development of one or more characters. Still, the line between the two can be very vague, especially in the hands of a master. Billy Strayhorn’s arrangement of “Artistry in Rhythm”, or Gil Evans’ arrangement of Kurt Weill’s “The Barbara Song”; Bob Brookmeyer’s “My Funny Valentine”, or Bill Holman’s “Just Friends”; these all straddle the line. The song to be arranged has become the main character of the drama; all are tremendous pieces of music.

As jazz composers, are we therefore creating pre-determined structures that contain points-of-departure for improvisation? Does this, by itself, mean that a piece could be called a “jazz composition”? And what makes a piece a “jazz composition” anyway?

We’d most likely not call Brahms’ Symphony #2 a jazz piece. Why not? And what about “I’ve Got Rhythm”? Or “Dolphin Dance”? Is jazz composition simply music that is written by jazz musicians? Or played by jazz musicians? When Sonny Rollins played “I’m an Old Cowhand”, did it become a jazz composition? Is “Lush Life” a jazz composition? If you play it note-for-note just as Billy Strayhorn wrote it–verse and chorus–and don’t improvise a single note, is it still a jazz composition? Is a piece’s jazz nature determined more by the perfomance than any intrinsic quality? Is Thad Jones’ “Don’t Get Sassy” jazz as played by the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra? As played by a horrible junior high school band? Or if it were to ever be played by Marilyn Manson?

And all of this leads us both forward to and back to that most fundamental question: “What is Jazz?” No, I’m not going there today!

So, what is it that we all do that makes us jazz composers? I would propose several things. We generally—although not always—employ rhythmic language developed through jazz performance. This applies not only to “swing”, but to melodic phrasing, accents and articulation. We generally—although not always—use drums and bass in the way that they function in a jazz group: laying down a rhythmic and harmonic foundation over which everything else happens. We generally allow room in our music for improvisation—mostly by individuals, sometimes by groups. We consider the balance between the pre-composed and improvised to be a central issue of what we write. Finally, we write music that sounds like we have listened to jazz, and have played jazz, and heard a jazz piece at one time and said, “I want to write like that!” That’s very vague and personal, I know, but the boundaries between what is jazz and “non-jazz” are vague and personal. And, frankly, the more we venture beyond those boundaries, the stronger we are when we return to the jazz center.

We also speculate. Stravinsky said that one of the main jobs of a composer is speculation. We ask “What if?” and follow our instincts searching for an answer. I think that this is important, especially in an era in which many people seem to be asking “May I?” or “Is it in the tradition to…?” I’m certainly not advocating weirdness or rebellion for its own sake. But jazz, like any art form, is fluid, and it grows and enriches itself through the efforts of speculators, both performing and composing, whose inner voices demand that they try a different path. Sometimes that speculation leads you outside of other people’s boundaries, where you go at your own risk. It takes courage to follow your speculation. Sometimes the speculation takes you down a dead end road, sometimes it succeeds. But the alternative is stagnation.

My Own History

I started my own speculations around the age of 15. I suppose my first big question was “What if I wrote a big band arrangement?” I was in my second year at Notre Dame High School for Boys, just outside of Chicago. I’d chosen that particular school because they had a “stage band”. The director was a priest named George Wiskirchen, and he is one of the main reasons that I stand up here today. He was a Basie fanatic; he’d gotten to know Frank Wess, and was able to get a few charts from the Basie book into our library. I must have indicated my desire to write an arrangement to my father; he bought me a copy of the Russ Garcia book. I devoured it! Then I found the lead sheet to an Ernie Wilkens blues, and decided that I’d arrange it for the school band. Fr. George was very encouraging about the whole endeavor. I finished the arrangement, copied out the parts and brought it in to a rehearsal. They started to play it. Wow, those sax voicings sounded great! Russ was right, you don’t have to put the root at the bottom. Hmm, it’s hard to hear the melody in the tutti. Maybe I screwed up. Hmm, that shout chorus with those slick eighth-notes-inside-quarter-note-triplets never seems to come together. In listening to the rehearsal I realized that some of the chart sounded good, and some of it didn’t. I resolved to continue doing the good stuff, and to find different approaches to the parts that didn’t work. This is essentially the process that has driven me to this day. Put it on paper, listen honestly; pat yourself on the back for the good stuff, fix or get rid of the bad; then go on to the next piece.

I remember that at some point in my late teens DownBeat would print reproductions of pencil big band scores in the middle of the magazine. I don’t remember whose charts they were, but I remember that the ledger lines excited me. And they looked like a lot of work went into them. That excited me, too. I was such a geek, that while my school friends were checking out other kinds of centerfolds, my big turn-on was the ledger lines in a lead trombone part!

So I wrote a lot more for my high school band. By my senior year, my best friend Nick Talarico and I were writing marching band shows. Wiskirchen had a 6-line template that we would use; we’d write the arrangements, then he would copy out the parts. I used to play saxophone, and one time he wanted a chorus of “She’s Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage”, segueing into Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things”, with me squawking away on soprano sax. You don’t just call up Alfred Music and buy that kind of stuff off the shelf! This was also my first experience of writing to a deadline. Little did I know how twisted and neurotic my relationship to the deadline would become later in my life. It was during my senior year that I also heard Thad Jones/Mel Lewis on Daddy-O Daylie’s radio show. I realize now that a little flame had been lit inside me.

In 1967 I entered the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, because they had a great big band, led by John Garvey. I was pretty intimidated about writing for them at first. There was a grad student there named Jim Knapp who was composing and arranging music that, for me, remains some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever heard. Jim is still quite active in Seattle; he’d thankfully left the U. of I. in the early ‘70’s. I finally got my courage together to write for the band. In addition, I was a composition major, and wrote a lot of chamber music combining contemporary classical and jazz elements. I also took seminars in Persian classical music and African music with Bruno Nettl. I started learning about how jazz wasn’t the only music to included improvisation, and that there were other ways to generate improvisation besides playing on chord changes. All in all, those were very ear-opening years!

Moving to New York in 1975, I was pursuing a career as a pianist. I wasn’t writing for large ensembles, but I was writing tunes for quartets and quintets, and made a couple of recordings featuring mostly my own music. I figured that I’d spent a number of years as a student, playing in big bands, and now wanted to concentrate on smaller groups. But I always felt that Thad and Mel was the best big band, with the hippest writing, and an important role for the piano. So when Mel asked me to join the band in 1978 I jumped at the chance.

I didn’t immediately start to write for the band. While Thad was there, I was intimidated; here I was playing great music written by him, and Bob Brookmeyer, and who was I to try to jump into that pool? But after Thad left in early 1979, I once again got my courage up and wrote an absolutely dreadful chart for Mel’s band. I was pretty discouraged, but Brookmeyer, who had come in as the band’s musical director, was very encouraging—he pointed out a couple of sections that worked pretty well, and said that I should write another one.

I did, and it was okay. In fact the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra recently recorded it for their most recent CD. The third piece I wrote for Mel, “Blue Note”, worked pretty well, and Mel’s band recorded it in 1986.

It was around this time that my long, fruitful relationship with the big band scene in Europe began. It started with UMO in Helsinki; in ’87 I began a seven-year stint with the WDR Big Band in Cologne. That band was my real workshop group, and I learned an incredible amount from them. I’ve also worked with the great Stockholm Jazz Orchestra, the Metropole Orchestra in Holland, and spent five years as chief conductor of the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra. Currently I am artist-in-residence with the HR Big Band in Frankfurt. These are all great ensembles; most of them have been around for 40+ years, have a number of terrific players, and have been a great resource for Americans like myself, Maria Schneider, Bob Brookmeyer, John Clayton, Bill Holman and many others. You simply cannot talk about the current state of the modern big band without including these groups, and I wish that the American jazz press would wake up to that fact.

By about 1993 I was a minor celebrity around Stockholm and within the listening area of the WDR in northwest Germany, but hardly known as a writer in the US. When I started to write arrangements for the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, I began to get a reputation on this side of the Atlantic. In 1996 I’d rejoined the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, and they asked me to write an album for them. The resulting CD was called “Lickety Split”. It helped both the band and me. By this time I was writing a lot. I remember in 1998 I was in the middle of two projects: a George Gershwin retrospective for the Danish Radio, and a Chick Corea concert with the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band. In one month I wrote 270 pages of big band score. It was an exciting, exhausting, exhilarating time. Someone later asked me, “What did you do when you got stuck?” I thought about it and realized that I never got stuck; I simply didn’t have time! Composition and arranging are essentially decision-making processes. We can get stuck when we have the luxury to put off making a decision. If the deadline is imminent, we make a decision, living with its consequences, and move on.

The Process

Much of the music I write begins with a question. Sometimes it’s about a musical detail: “What if a unison “E” grew into a chromatic explosion?” “What if I constructed lines in which each successive interval was a half-step larger or smaller?” “What if a song repeats over and over, getting more chromatic and intense each time?” More, though, it begins with an image: “What if a big band started to melt in the middle of a line?” “How would a tenor player react if he felt lost in the middle of a solo?” “What if Mel Lewis came back?” “What would it sound like if a band fell down a flight of stairs?” “What would loud sandpaper sound like?” If not a question, there might be a one- or two-word description of the piece: “moving rondo”, “burn”, “exhaustion”, “exuberance”, “chewy”, “ahhhhhh”, “glow”, “vulnerable”, “help me”.

The speculation is the first step in what I call the “high level”, conceptual issues. If I am writing for a specific group I keep them in mind. Each group with whom I work a lot has its strengths and weaknesses; time feel and timbre; lead trumpet sound and collection of soloists. If I’m not familiar with the sound of the group I write for, I create one in my head. It’s better to connect the piece to some kind of “virtual” ensemble, rather than none at all.

I decide how long the piece will be, if only in a general sense. I decide on the “surface sound” of the music—this is more or less “what a dog hears”—high, low, loud, soft, rough, smooth, dense, open, screechy, woofy. I also decide on issues like the harmonic palette, and timbral palette (open brass, flutes and mutes). I decide on who will play solos, and where they will occur in the piece. For larger pieces I make a time line to indicate the length of the piece, and indicate certain events along the line. I also decide on the general shape of the piece. I will admit that much of what I have written conforms to the ideal defined by Ray Wright in “Inside the Score”—that a piece usually peaks at somewhere around 80-something % through the piece. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

At the same time I start to work with the “low” level issues: specific musical ideas. These might be a motive; a vamp; four bars of a progression; a three-note group, a chord voicing; or anything else that might occur to me. Sometimes I walk into my studio, thinking about the sandwich that I just ate, or the conversation I just had with my wife; anything but music. Then I sit at the piano, put my hands on the keys and hear what comes out. I try to hear the result with the same un-connected ears that the other six billion people on earth have, not my own ears.

At this point there is a list of “don’ts” I refer to:

• Don’t judge your idea as good or bad. It is neutral; a gift. Write it down. • Don’t start by telling yourself that you are going to write the greatest piece of your career. This is one of the best and quickest ways to kill the music. • Don’t worry about who might be playing this idea. If there is an instrumental or ensemble sound associated with it, great. If not, great. Either way, you’ve got something happening.

• Don’t worry about whether this idea will fit into the piece. It either will or it won’t. Right now you need to see how to develop the idea, and see where it leads you. • Don’t worry about where this idea will fit into the piece. As you work with it, you may find where it goes. If you don’t, put it aside. • Don’t think that every idea must be put into the piece. • Don’t take your original ideas at face value. Work with them. I think if them as physical objects, like pieces of clay. They can be stretched, cut up and recombined, rolled into different shapes, flattened, thinned, and replicated. Imagine being a kid playing in a sandbox. If, after all of that, you decide to go with your original idea, at least you do it knowing what some of the other possibilities are. • Don’t get wrapped up trying to obey all the rules. If a rule doesn’t serve you anymore, make up a new rule.

I start to work with my ideas, and develop them. Make some melodic lines; extend progressions; transpose vamps. Whatever I can think of. I never say “no” to a possible variation or development or re-working of an idea. I just write it down. My goal is to create enough material so that I can throw most of it away. What remains is something that I absolutely believe in. It’s not perfect, not “amazing”. But I believe it.

As the low level starts to develop, the high level starts to get more defined. Details of the form and shape begin to emerge. One of my big concerns is to take my time getting to the first solo. When you are young and starting out, it is a laborious process just to score the “head” of the arrangement. So, BAM, next thing is a tenor solo; after the painstaking task of writing voicings and making orchestrational decisions, it’s such a relief to just write some slashes! But I believe that the first solo should start only when the music is ready for it. As writers we are exercising a lot of control over all elements of a piece, and with the first solo we relax some of that control. Wait until the time is right. It might occur before there’s any written music; it might not occur until five minutes into the piece. But make sure that the time is right.

At this point I also begin to think of myself as a kind of playwright. I’m creating characters, and thinking about how they might develop through the course of the piece. Besides the many jazz and classical composers who have inspired me, I would also have to pay tribute to writers like William Shakespeare, August Strindberg and Tennessee Williams. So many of Williams’s plays are set in the south—“Orpheus Descending”, for example. You can feel the humidity dripping off the willow trees. The men drink a lot and don’t work much, and the women, at the primes of their lives, have resigned themselves to their lot. Halfway through the first act enters Val, “The Young Stud”, from some far-off place. Said stud upsets the balance that has been agreed upon by the local folks; the women shoot him surreptitious glances and have vapors, and the men start looking for their shotguns. The resulting tension and resolution drives the rest of the play. When tickets to a Broadway play hover around $100 a head, you don’t pay that kind of money to see people sitting around a table having a pleasant conversation about the weather. Give us conflict! And so it may go in music. Let the piece go on for a while, then introduce a new, unexpected character into the mix, and see what happens!

So as the high level becomes more defined, and the low level develops, I’m usually ready to start sketching, which is where I make most of my decisions about voicings and orchestration. I still use pencil and paper. I’ve tried “real composing” on the computer, but feel that it gets in the way. I end up looking at a picture of the music. Pencil and paper are physical, tactile substances that give me more of a feeling of being connected. Besides, for me it’s more fun to erase than to hit “delete”.

Technology and Computers

I use Finale for writing my scores now, mostly for the incredible convenience of editing, archiving, and sending via e-mail. But I still have some reservations about it. As with any tool, we have a tendency to adapt our behavior in order to use the tool more easily. With pencil and paper, we can draw almost any shape imaginable. Yet certain shapes are still difficult on the computer. With pencil and paper, all of us older folks learned how to make a good drum part, with relative ease. Those of you who know me, know that I could spend the next half hour kvetching about the drum parts I see in students using Finale or Sibelius. One of the problems is that we use these programs to tell the players what is easiest to say via the software, and not what really needs to be said in the score or in the part.

There’s also a bigger issue, and I’d like to share with you an excerpt from an article I read on the plane flying down here. It’s from the latest Atlantic Monthly, in an article by Nicholas Carr entitled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

“Sometime in 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche bought a typewriter—a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball, to be precise. His vision was failing, and keeping his eyes focused on a page had become exhausting and painful, often bringing on crushing headaches. He had been forced to curtail his writing, and he feared that he would soon have to give it up. The typewriter rescued him, at least for a time. Once he had mastered touch-typing, he was able to write with his eyes closed, using only the tips of his fingers. Words could once again flow from his mind to the page.

But the machine had a subtler effect on his work. One of Nietzsche’s friends, a composer, noticed a change in the style of his writing. His already terse prose had become even tighter, more telegraphic. ‘Perhaps you will through this instrument even take to a new idiom,’ the friend wrote in a letter, noting that, in his own work, his ‘”thoughts” in music and language often depend on the quality of pen and paper.’

‘You are right,’ Nietzsche replied, ’our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.’ Under the sway of the machine, writes the German media scholar Friedrich A. Kittler, Nietzche’s prose ‘changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style.’”

And I’m sure that Nietzche wasn’t the first person to notice that the new technology fostered a difference, not only in his output, but also in his thinking. This is, in itself, not necessarily a bad thing. But therein lies a problem. A tool may make certain things easier; make us more productive; give us greater insight and flexibility. On the other hand, that same tool, especially if not used properly, can hinder us from expressing well many of those creative things we might do better without the tool, and ultimately limit us. A chain saw, when used properly, can be a useful, powerful tool. In untrained hands, however, it can cause horrible damage. In other words: if you, as a professional composer, are going to use Finale or Sibelius, learn how to use the program, and learn it well. Look at the user manual. Seek help from more experienced users. Apply the same standards to software as you would to your musical instrument. It is your musical instrument! Would you show up at a gig not knowing how to finger an F#? It’s simply not enough to say, “Gee, this trumpet doesn’t let me do that!”

Another computer-related problem is that we now have the ability to play back, and play back, and play back, ad infinitum. You can make the flutes sound as loud as you’d like, and you can make that fourth trumpet player play his double high “G” at pianississimo. Trombones can play without taking a breath, and everyone is perfectly in tune. Better yet, all of your intricate interlocking rhythms are performed with no problem at all. The problem is that some inexperienced composers are convinced that this is the way their music must sound at the first read-through. Worse, a few get really angry when real humans can’t play the music as precisely and perfectly balanced as their computer. We all must learn how to get through that first read- through. You may have a piece that you have lived with for months, and played back over and over on the computer. But the human players see only dots on a page. It’s going to take them time to assimilate all of the information on the paper, and if it is notated poorly or unclearly, all the worse.

What Are We Doing, and Why Do We Do It?

So, here we are—all jazz composers. Why do we do it? I’m sure that each of us has our own reasons. But music is a universal human phenomenon. Every culture has music to accompany religious rites and secular ceremonies. And many cultures have an “art music”: music that may have had utilitarian origins but is now performed for a listening audience. People want to hear music. They are drawn to it. And contrary to the attitudes of many school boards and politicians, music is an important, alternative way in which humans communicate and connect. And music needs composers. Performing musicians need someone to give them at least that “point-of-departure”, if not an entire score. Ever since the days of Jelly Roll Morton, jazz musicians have realized that the more players there are in a band, the more important it is for someone to organize the music and the players’ roles in that music. Sometimes we function as the ones who say, “Hey, guys! Here’s a melody for you to play together!” Or, “Hey, I’ve got an idea! First the clarinet plays a solo, then there’s a two-bar drum break!” And so forth. Jelly Roll seemed to have the idea that music was better if it was interesting; if it had dramatic twists and turns. What a concept! “Without breaks you don’t have good jazz”, he said. And so on through Benny Carter, Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, up to today.

We composers play a crucial role in human musical culture; and as jazz composers we play a crucial role in the most important musical form to have emerged in the 20th century. At a minimum we help entertain listeners, giving them an artistic pause in their daily lives. And we give performing musicians “something to play”, so that they can sound good. We may even give them a little employment. But at our best, we challenge listeners to put aside their preconceptions, and offer them a chance to enter our world and hear something that they haven’t heard before. We inspire listeners to feel something that they haven’t felt before. At our best we challenge performers to stretch; to reach a little deeper for something they haven’t done before, and inspire them to a higher level of performance. I firmly believe that to compose music, and to do it well–jazz or otherwise–is a most noble profession.

We are all blessed to be musicians. We spend a great deal of our time doing something that we love, and that many other people would love to do, but can’t. We earn the bulk of our living from activities that many people consider a hobby, or something they’d love to do once they’ve retired. On the other hand, sometimes I wonder about the larger social contexts of our lives. It is one thing to get “in the zone” as a composer; it is something else to hide one’s head in the sand and avoid living the rest of one’s life. Bob Brookmeyer once said to me, “Society doesn’t owe you a living just because you have musical talent.” So it’s not enough to just write music. You need to think about the larger context: responsibilities to your family, to building your career. Remember, Bach was a musical genius who continues to inspire today. Bach also always made sure he had a gig, and a good one at that. He had a lot of mouths to feed! There is also a multitude of ways to get involved in the many other aspects of life: charitable, political, social, artistic, and so on. It’s not enough to simply write a tune, call it “George Bush Is An Idiot”, and think that you’ve done your job. Writing a dynamite big band piece, in itself, will probably not bring peace to the Mideast, justice to Darfur, or reverse global warming. But it could get some people thinking; might start an argument; and might even spur the composer to take some further action to help the cause. It may take some time, but music can make a difference. We can make a difference (“Yes, we can!”)

In Closing

We have a lot of music on tap for the next three days. I’m looking forward to the evening concerts, of course; but I’m really looking forward to hearing what all of you have brought to this event. I’m hoping to be surprised, challenged, soothed, and inspired. And by the end of Saturday I trust that we will all be fueled and fired up to go back to our own studios and take it to the next step. In the words of Billy Strayhorn: “Ever Onwards and Upwards!”

Thank you!
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