23 thoughts on “Derrida w/ Ornette Coleman

  1. That’s not a bad idea. One could go w/ either that one or the more-recently released Live @ Paris set. Both are very good. Hosting a conversation online about jazz, though, is even more difficult than one about literature.

  2. Well, we could talk about the concept of jazz (its contemporaneity, potentialities, etc)! Or not. But Christian Scott has done some nice things lately… both at the level of music and at the level of the concept (antagonizing directly the hegemony of Wynton).

  3. it was a pleasant surprise seeing Christian Scott on the late-night shows. I haven’t seen what he says about the hegemony of Wynton M., but I have to wonder about that. I mean, sure, W. M. is the most prominent face of jazz for, say, the typical non-jazz-listening but jazz-sympathetic PBS-watcher. But I don’t see his hegemonic presence in the jazz community itself. Granted, Scott is knee-deep in that community, and probably has better insight on how this plays out. But as a jazz listener, I’m not sure where the hegemony is.

    I will confess, further, that I’m not that interested in discussing jazz as a concept — unless this is done by way and in the context of a specific piece or movement of music itself. This is the only way, or at least one of the safer ways, of not fetishizing an already super-fetishized artform. The problem with the context-specific discussion is that it very easily becomes an insider-discourse (i.e., where music theory and terminology supreme), or introspective emoting. I tend to not write that much about jazz because I often err toward the latter.

    That said, I have been sitting on a post about improvisational music in general. I’ll see if I can get it posted soon.

  4. I’m agreed with everything that you say. To be a bit dialectical, though, I wonder if it’s not necessary precisely to take on the way in which jazz is fetishized in order to de-fetishize it. In other words, to free up, by way of “jazz”, something that could open up improvisational music in a way that is better than just saying that jazz is done and what matters is improvisational music.

    Here’s the Scott quote i had in mind:

    “The problem is that jazz has turned into an academic thing. And what people don’t realize is that it was done on purpose, because there’s a horrible structure in jazz right now. Fuck it, you can write this, I’m going to say it. At the top of the hierarchical structure are people like Wynton Marsalis. Now, on a personal level, I love him—I can call him up right now, and we’ll talk about basketball—but the fact of the matter is that we disagree on some very fundamental levels.

    “He got to this place where he’s at the top of the pile, and then he decided he was going to tell everyone else in the country what to listen to and how to play jazz. Let’s think about that. Let’s say it’s kung fu, or whatever. We have the highest master, who is all the way at the top of this pile—he studied all this stuff, everything there is to study. If he then tells everyone else just to study two forms of fighting, when he knows eight, that’s going to mean everyone else coming up under him will not be able to take him down because they haven’t amassed the knowledge he has. They don’t have that wealth of knowledge.

    “So the problem with jazz musicians now is they’re trying to figure out: ‘Why do I still sound like John Coltrane? Or why do I still sound like Charlie Parker?’ It’s because when you were 10 years old some asshole told you to only listen to Parker and Coltrane and nothing else. So you only studied that, while the asshole who told you to do it was listening to Sonny Stitt, and he was listening to Sonny Rollins, and all this Stanley Turrentine, Gary Bartz and all this shit! And you let him tell you only to listen to these two people. This is why you can’t compete with him. You’ve been bamboozled. He tricked you into buying into his system so you would never be able to take him down.”

  5. It looks like he is referring more to the student- / amateur-level of player here, so he may very well have a point. I confess that I don’t really have a voice or ear in this world, but I would not be surprised if the sentiment he expresses is pretty spot-on. God knows we saw this preached by Ken Burns in his mini-series.

    I suspect the fetishization will occur when a mode of expression is no longer, for lack of a better term, natural. That is to say, when it no longer flows from & into the community that birthed the expression in the first place. Take “old-school hip hop” as an example. I think you see something very similar happening here, as well. Its now appreciated “as an art-form,” particularly because it is not and never was a particularly lucrative one. This, of course, is just another form of cultural gentrification. (As the Roots said, “when we perform, it’s just coffee shop chicks and white dudes.”) The means of resisting this is more difficult, and could very well be approached through the dialectical thinking you suggest. Do you have a hypothetical concrete example of how that might play out?

  6. I don’t mean to imply, btw, when I talk about the “community that birthed the expression in the first place,” that the African-American musical community has a certain present ownership claim to jazz.

  7. “It’s like that, y’all, and it sounds so nice. Hip hop–-you the love of my life.”

    I’m one of those white dudes. This is a great discussion.

    (but it was Common on that verse)

  8. I suppose that my own personal history/involvement with jazz makes me more inclined to identify with what Scott’s doing. (Hmm… can he count as my example?)

    While i wouldn’t deny what you’re calling cultural gentrification, and while i do affirm the connection between music and people, i still think it’s tricky to define the community out of and into which the music flows. Many of these musical communities are pretty hybridized. Not sure where I’m going with this, just flagging that i think a narrative of a lost (and often natal) community in which people and music were organic is part and parcel of the cultural gentrification, rather than something that could resist it. (Like fundamentalisms and secularism, perhaps.)

    This, for me anyway, is raising some really interesting questions.

  9. Tricky, indeed! And probably, as you say, not particularly helpful. You articulate what was largely unspoken & unthought by me at the time — i.e., the notion that a “natal community” has moved behind/left behind a certain musical form is itself largely a notion facilitated by (if not necessarily wholly created by) the processes of fetishization. What I meant to identify in my previous comment was less the fact that musical forms are no longer relevant in x-community, but that it becomes “common knowledge” that musical forms are no longer relevant in x-community. This, in a sense, is why I’m so much more intent on looking at specific albums or dates as moments of this music happening; versus a conceptualization of these moments in terms of a grander scheme. (I tend toward the same thing w/ respect to literature. My love of sentences even sometimes cause me completely to disregard plot even.)

    Of course I recognize that I never wholly get away from conceptualization. The fact that I’m writing this right now would betray such a thought. But I also do not think we get all that far simply by “owning up” to this fact. In fact, I get very frustrated by the idea that if only we’re honest about our shortcomings they might thus become redeemed. “At least we know we’re sinners. That’s what sets us apart.” Etc. This isn’t to suggest you’re doing that. I’m just thinking off the cuff, and perhaps losing the plot myself.

    Perhaps this last comment is more fit for a full-length post, but it seems to me that the value of Scott’s presentation is that he identifies something that makes jazz an especially fertile musical terrain: that the tradition of jazz itself is betrayed by a certain untoward fealty to the tradition’s masters. I.e., you may think you’re playing jazz when you can totally nail Parker’s solo on Ko-ko (quite a feat, admittedly), and perhaps in a way (to be fair) you are, but the “playing” of jazz is organic and expansive — nailing that solo once or twice, mastering it even, isn’t enough. The tradition of jazz requires that you do something else with it — and maybe something else entirely. As testified especially through Barry Harris’ renowned improvisational theory & courses, there is a method to the madness of improvisation — and much of this madness begins & incorporates emulation, but it does not (not even for the lesser-rank player) remain on that plane.

    The resistance to gentrification, as such, is not a foregone conclusion — it (the resistance) doesn’t happen on its own, it requires individuals and collectives to make it happen — and when it does happen, it come from within the very processes of that which is all-too-readily gentrified.

  10. The interview was originally published in the French magazine Les Inrockuptibles, and if anybody’s interested, their website does not only have the original version but also published the text (in French, obviously) which Derrida performed, or rather tried to perform, during a gig by Coleman at La Villette, presumably on the same day the interview was conducted. Apparently, the performance did not go down to well with the audience who heckled him constantly and eventually drove him off-stage (so probably no audio available, I’m afraid).

Comments are closed.