Friday, March 17, 2006

harrison on chamber music on jazz

An interesting, if a bit long and possibly over-convoluted, article by Joel Harrison on jazz and chamber music.

"There is only one line I might draw, and it's an awfully uncontentious one. Chamber music implies art music. And jazz is art music. CMA should advocate for small ensemble music made by marginalized people that is provocative, sophisticated, and enlightening—music that is not being fed by consumer society.

"Still we have to remember that pop culture and folk idioms will always be a part of our best composer's and performer's vocabularies. Today's composers borrow from everywhere to create something new. Composer Alvin Singleton includes references to James Brown while Daniel Roumain uses a DJ, but that doesn't mean they are composing pop music, it simply means their ears are attuned to what's happening in the modern world. Jazz, too, has always had a healthy, active dialogue with pop music. Charlie Parker reinvented Tin Pan alley tunes in much the same way that Bartòk dissected Hungarian folk music. Brad Meldau has made it a point to include radical re-imaginings of pop composers Björk and Radiohead in his latest work."

In conclusion, he finds an unexpected, hunger-based bond between the two forms:

"Jazz is not doing well. The jazz education economy may be thriving—plenty of people are getting jobs in universities teaching jazz—but there are almost no substantial jazz clubs or venues left in America. Of course the major cities all have a club or two, but if one were to attempt to actually survive by playing these places starvation would settle in quickly. Small clubs are dead, and records don't sell. Grant opportunities are far fewer than for classical composition and performance. Where there is any money at all it is either abroad or in subscription series in concert hall and theaters. Sounds like chamber music to me."

Harrison is coming to Brussels next week with his star-studded "Harrison on Harrison" project. I'm kind of bummed that I'm going to have to miss it.

I've read a few of Harrison's contributions to message boards 10 or so years ago. He came across as a Wyntonian firebrand back then, he seems to have broadened his view since then, but the lin "I found myself taking the question personally and had to fight back my anger" discretely suggests that he has yet to mellow.