Monday, August 4, 2008

critical massage

heh. it's taken me well over a week to get around to opening up my new books at all - i'm not even talking about the composition notes/tri-axium writings here, those are quite daunting enough for me to have put them off until the end of the current braxtothon phase, as reported previously - so it was only yesterday that i actually made a start on radano, and discovered that he begins his first chapter thus:

for a stretch of time in the mid-1970s, composer-saxophonist anthony braxton stood at the center of a controversy that laid bare the inadequacies of conventional jazz criticism. demonstrating inimitable improvising skills, while simultaneously transgressing traditional aesthetic and social boundaries, braxton challenged critics to come to terms with a creative world that called into question accepted definitions of jazz and the jazz musician.

- hmm, very interesting - tell me more:

their failure to meet that challenge led to a period of confusion, contradiction and myth-making as writers praised braxton's undeniably original jazz work while obfuscating the meaning of his rarefied artistic concepts. the curious, ironic tension between accolade and mocking condescension exposed the limitations of traditonal jazz categories, categories that could not make sense of an artist who responded to the new aesthetic licenses of the postmodern epoch.

right, so - in other words, someone was onto all this bullshit some time before i got here and started making a (very localised) fuss about it. this, after all, is precisely the sort of patronising nonsense i've observed amongst the british critical fraternity, no need to mention any names since - if the truth be known - plenty of them are equally culpable.

don't get me wrong, i am not whining that someone beat me to it. no, on the contrary, it's a relief to realise others are fully aware of the problem. in that case, the next question is: does no-one else think it noteworthy that the cat was out of the bag fifteen years ago (if not before), yet none of the critics did a damn thing about it? admittedly radano's book will not have been widely read outside the u.s. (or even within it, dare i say), but still - did these guys not have any idea that people were onto them?

one needn't be surprised: the capacity for human self-deception is practically infinite, and besides, having an influential voice seems (all too often) to mean not having to listen to anyone else's. (*)

* * *

there'll be more to say on this, i'm sure. i hope also that it will lead to a bit of dialogue... this is precisely the kind of issue i'm interested in discussing here (it goes without saying that i am still happy to discuss the music! but i'll say it anyway, hint hint). as i read on, i will keep readers posted about my reading and subsequent musings... braxtothon continues shortly, and i will also be running the first of a probable short series, examining archetypes in the solo composition books.

incidentally, back on sacred cows again - it occurs to me that as well as surprising myself with my conclusions about the '76 quartets, i shall also have deviated from the "gospel according to lock", just in case any readers thought i was guilty of unquestioning approval of that particular writer ;-)



* yeah, yeah, i'm a fine one to talk... etc.

6 comments:

centrifuge said...

hmmm, tidy things up a bit while i'm here... and change a few things, like the colours of the links on the site - pink white and blue works pretty well i think, even if it does make it suddenly look like liquorice allsorts out there ;-) thing is guys (confession time) - as some will have deduced i'm a complete imbecile when it comes to using recreational tools, i get as far as point & shoot, never read manuals etc so - it's taken me until today to realise how easy it is to insert links into text without having to type one's own html {doh}

now that i have finally crossed that barrier... i shall try and make the place a bit more navigable; when mcclintic sphere originally designed the page neither he nor i knew what was coming... anyway, i was asked recently something i've been increasingly concerned about myself, namely how to get around the site and find particular articles etc - plans are afoot to link up with the discography, but in the meantime i will publish a list soon of all the braxtothon "stations" to date. keep checking in.

might buff up the playlists a bit too if i get round to it :)

centrifuge said...

incidentally, before anyone complains on anyone else's behalf - or even their own! - the strategic placement of the "cannons" post does not mean that i am specifically singling out the one issue highlighted in that post; rather that there (second half of post) is the best place to start if by some chance you've got this far without knowing that i have serious bones to pick with the anglo-american critical confraternity... it's emblematic of the casual disrespect frequently shown to braxton's music (and hence by immediate extension to himself) by many critics who "like" him

ubu xxiii½ said...

'Archetypes' might be interesting. I've a feeling Braxton might have his own name for this kind of occurrence. Of course what the man has said about the music should be compared to the listener's own experience of it; one may throw light on the other, or contradict.
Braxton's avoidance of the blues apart from 'Blues for Alice' on 1 of those Leo 'Standards' leviathans, which is bebop blues with such altered harmonies as to be hardly recognizable as blues on the 'chitlin circuit.' This may bear out what he was saying to Mike Heffley on the blues' part in the 'Southern strategy' in those interviews recently cross-referenced on the BBC 3 site.
Lock admittedly has a tendency to put unlimited credence into theories which have little foundation in fact, but 'Forces in motion' was probably the 1st of its kind, & as exposition, I've found it pretty useful.
I acquired a copy of the Radano just the other day. Will no doubt have more to say on that later.

centrifuge said...

hello u, sorry about the delay in responding to this - i typed out a full reply the other night and then lost it, was determined not to get annoyed about it and went to bed instead ;-) but it's taken me a couple of days to get back to the blog..!

yes, i am sure b. has his known name for the (very basic) archtypes i'm going to be dealing with, i'll be founding out about that sort of thing in (a lot?) more detail soon enough, and for the time being i want to get a couple of basic ideas out there before i ruin them completely with overwhelming detail..!

not sure what you're saying about the blues exactly, but then i still haven't really read the "hefflemoth" yet either..! actually i am having trouble finding time to read full stop. i know that some of the standards dates do have "blues" numbers in them (as opposed to *the blues* as such) - much to my surprise i even heard "stolen moments" recently (in a 1996 quintet that i'm still trying to find out more about)... of course that's not a straightforward blues either. he must have played "blue monk" or something similar at some point, though..?

lock... well, i've already gushed my fair share about that book, still have great respect for it and therefore for him, but qualified, i have plenty of minor arguments i could pick with him also, if the occasion ever arises..! so it's not as if i am a puppydog where he's concerned, far from it. i do think it's a great book though, a wonderful book rather (don't really care whether it's "great" or not, to be honest)

ubu xxiii said...

Yes, the blues. I still haven't read quite all the conversations with MH, but I did refer to the 'standards' section of 'Restructures' (Roscoe Mitchell & Taylor Ho Bynum would to pleased to know they'd composed standards) and apart from a few W.C.Handy pieces on that album with Stewart Gillmor which I've never heard, the only blues from the canon I spotted that might be at all down home was 'Trane's blues' on '23 standards' 1 of those rather overloaded Leo box sets. I don't think I've heard this either (to be helpful) & I'd have to rummage thru some Coltrane LPs on Prestige to remind myself which one this is.
Having said all that, on '2 in 1, 1 in 2' the 1979 duos with Max Roach, Braxton on track 2 from about 16.00 to 18.00 minutes gets down to what might be considered raunchy blues playing, except that most of it's overblown, with or without voiced playing or multiphonics, the delivery tends to be staccato & percussive, whether much tonguing is used or not.
In the pages with MH he uses the blues as an example , since the days when 'race' record labels started, of the kind of music white Americans expect African-Americans to produce.

centrifuge said...

well, "mr p.c." is a blues, as is "blue bossa" of course - the latter heavily messed with (in harmonic terms - can't remember the chords, but i used to be able to play that one on a guitar and it's all min-7s etc!) - i'm pretty sure a few of the songs on that list may be twelve-bar blues compositions; whether or not they would qualify as "down home" is another matter of course. the whole race music issue... nuff said, not that there's much a couple of white boys like you & me can usefully contribute to that argument ;-) or is there?

comp. 40p (on the abrams duets) struck me as very close to a dirty blues, albeit it's not technically that sort of composition at all - i mean in terms of flavour, feel etc. (did i already say this recently?! i intended to, not sure now if i actually did.) - the piano/vibes version by kevin norton and haewon min (2001) is very different in feel: they examine the harmonic structure and implications etc while delivering a very non-jazzy rendition of the theme.