[Dixielandjazz] re. Jazz Barbarism
Wed, 26 Jun 2002 12:06:47 -0500
I found the exerpt from Dr. Wilson's piece interesting, although I don't
know about your statement that he was one of the 20th Century's foremost
conservative philosphers. I'm a devout political conservative and fairly
well-read, and he's a new one on me. It seems to me he is stretching the
"barbarism" of jazz beyond the elastic limit (to use an engineer's term). Of
course, this exerpt is without its context, but I feel he had a theory and
bent and exaggerated points to support it.
Anyway, it was refreshingly
interesting to see something intellectually stimulating amidst the often
boring strings that proliferate on the DJML. (I've been away several days
and am struggling through 225 emails, most from the DJML.)
It will also be interesting to see what commentary it generates on the list.
Always enjoy your posts. Keep up the good work.
to which I replied (at boring length, so locate your delete key):
on 6/25/02 11:36 PM, Bill Horton at email@example.com wrote:
> I'm a devout political conservative and fairly
> well-read, and he's a new one on me.
Glad to hear it, Bill--both that you are a devout political conservative
(there are all too few of us!) and that Wilson is new to you; he is fairly
new to me, too, in that I've only in the last year become aware of him. His
book, (begital) Ideas Have Consequences, has been mentioned in so many
conservative articles lately that I decided to read it, only to discover
that in the entire Chicago metropolitan library system there was only one
copy, that no librarian ever ordered even that copy: it was a presentation.
The book is now available in paperback from Amazon, and I have a copy on
order. It is relatively short, but quite dense, the sort of seminal book
one needs to reconsult frequently.
What I cannot understand is why in all my 73 years of study, an LLB, an MA,
a PhD, no one ever mentioned this book! Do you think it might be because
academics, Left-leaning to a man (and especially to a woman!) might have
hated Wilson on sight? Theodore Dalrymple, pseudonym of the English MD who
wrote (begital) The View From the Bottom, mentions Wilson in his essays;
every fundamental idea in Robert Bork's (begital) Slouching Towards Gomorrah
is lifted almost bodily Wilson.
Wilson's thesis is that when during the 14th Century the Battle of
Universals was won for the Nominalists by William of Occam, a gigantic
mistake began to perpetuate itself, leading to the near disappearance in
modern times of the Idea of the Real, to the rise Materialism, of
Egalitarianism, of unfettered freedom as a universal good and of all
authority as a universal evil. Wilson argues for the Scholastic belief
that Ideas existing in the mind are Real; that materials existing outside
the mind are merely appearances, which we have gradually come to regard as
real, getting it precisely backward from the truth.
This fundamental mistake has consequences resulting in widespread confusion.
Egalitariaanism, the idea that all men are born equal (aside from "before
the law") is so preposterous as to be laughable--if only our social programs
were not for the most part based on that very Left-Liberal assumption!
Musicians, who of all creatures should know better, often succumb without
thought to the "all men equal" dogma before, it would seem, reflecting that
a struggling clarinetist with no left thumb is at a grave disadvantage. Not
to speak of a struggling logician with no brains.
Freedom is always now defined as "freedom from," never as "freedom toward,"
since Jean Jacques Rousseau emoted that "Men are born free and everywhere
are in chains!"--perhaps the most idiotic of all widely admired statements,
since no one has ever been able to point out a single person born "free."
But structure, order, heirarchy, all regarded as "chains" by Jean Jacques,
are precisely what make life livable, music listenable, discourse
pleasureable, knowledge conveyable. And all these things are impossible
without a First Idea that is Real, not merely nominal, not just a name.
Not much commentary from the list--just dismissals. I, too, think that,
regarding jazz, Wilson got it wrong because he could not see or hear the
traditional structure that binds jazz players together. He saw jazz,
especially the solos, as centrifugal, a force to tear apart, not to bind.
Had he understood the ensemble--to my mind, the very soul of OKOM--I think
he would have been on better ground. His remarks, however, are valid in
identifying a tendency now illustrated by rock and especially hip-hop: the
frenzy of the "barbarian" (non-knowledgable) rebel, the view that increased
freedom is always good, that control is always bad--that individualism is
always good, heirarchy always bad...etc.
Then there is the most pernicious doctrine of all: that truth is relative,
that all opinion is equally valuable--a doctrine arising from egalitarianism
and from freedom-worship that has all but destroyed the liberal arts in
University curricula. The idea that experince and study do not lead to
valuable expertise, but just the reverse, to stultification, to senility, to
the ultimate sin of "not having a clue, Dude!" And to the idea the value
of anything, a song, a poem, a player, is to be determined by majority vote.
To value judgements like "Bob Dylan is greater than Beethoven" because he
has more fans.
"Who are you to say that this poem is better than that one? That this
musician is a better player than that one?" The obvious reply, that I am
one who has studied the matter for many years, who brings great experience
and quite a bit of knowledge is now shrugged off by the barbarian who has
never studied the matter beyond the assertion, "Well, I think...", who
brings no experience and very little knowledge, and whose opinion is
asserted to be "just as good as yours. QED."
Bork has a memorable statement: that freedom is always a space between
walls. We may argue over how far apart the walls should be; but a space
without walls is nothing, not even a space. (Just a Cecil Taylor? Just
bulls..t in Ab?) Every player of OKOM knows this instinctively, for it is
traditions that give our music its form, and we glory in them.
Sorry to have run on so long; but Ideas Have Consequences is such a--such a
consequential--book for conservatives that I just had to explain it a bit. I
hope the musical relevance is clear: No, Eminem is NOT good; he is BAD; he
is a bad musician and (this is important) because he encourages bad courses
of action, he is also a bad PERSON: we must not shrink from the truth merely
becaause the truth sounds uncharitable. For the answer to "Who are you to
call him bad?" see third paragraph up. And "one man's music is another
man's noise" won't cut it; not unless you are willing to defend a charge of
aggravated battery on the ground that one's man's battery is another man's
shutting up at last,