[Dixielandjazz] Re: Speaking of classics

Dan Augustine ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu
Fri Oct 15 18:31:06 PDT 2004

     Gotta say it, man, but you have been making a lot of sense ever 
since you started posting.  To my mind, what you say is right on.
     When a composer sits down at the piano and tinkles out a few 
tentative chords and melodies to with them, is that great art?  No. 
He's creating a universe of discourse, in which one of the threads is 
his idea.  If that universe of discourse (e.g., the chord-structure) 
existed already, he would merely be populating it with his 
expression, but that expression might be the best or the most 
appropriate one for that chord-structure.
     Creation takes no time.  It's instantaneous. The composer sitting 
at his piano, or the jazz soloist standing up and starting to play, 
both of them are at square one musically.  Nothing exists yet.  They 
are going to create it right now.  It may be crap, it may be OK, it 
may be good, it may be great, it may be immortal.  No one knows until 
it happens.
     An unknown number of 'great' composers over the last (say) 500 
years just write down what they tinkle out.  (Not a great image, 
sorry.)  The worst stuff Mozart tinkled out, Salieri would have 
killed to have done.
     The IDEA is what counts.  Musical ideas may tax the greatest 
computers not yet invented to come up with the almost infinite 
possible ways of expressing a mood or an idea, which are at the heart 
of music.
     And what Larry may be saying is that knowing the tune's 
chord-structure and playing linearly (i.e., composing on the spot) 
will result in a solo that (very much like those of Louis 
Armstrong's) is in no way inferior to what a composer sittig at a 
piano and thinking and playing around with a melody might compose.
     All this from a tuba-player who can't improvise.  What does he know?

>From: "LARRY'S Signs and Large Format Printing" <sign.guy at charter.net>
>To: "1-DIXIELAND JAZZ POST" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
>Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2004 17:52:19 -0500
>Bill said:
>The seductive thing about how he plays is that it's fast and complicated and
>sounds "skillful" - "Wow! That guy can PLAY!"  I'm trying to ignore that
>siren call, though.
>I'm knee deep in guys like that. Because someone got the idea that 
>it was cool and they said hey! I can teach that.  Always use the 
>KISS principal.  Don't try to keep up with the other soloist.  You 
>will always lose if you play the other guys game.  By the way I 
>really don't like bebop very much.  It's a lot like getting in a car 
>and driving very fast and forgetting where you are going.  In real 
>life they lock you up for that, in music they say WOW!
>.Remember this if nothing else.  You can teach technique but you 
>can't teach art and lots of right notes put in the wrong place is 
>Don't let those guys intimidate you.  Do what you can do well and 
>forget what the other guy did.  Think contrast.   I have heard young 
>players just fold up and not be able to do anything when a good 
>player is on the band.  Do your thing and be proud of it.  Tape 
>yourself and listen to it at least 10 times.  What would you do 
>different?  Was it in tune?  Was it what you wanted to say?  If the 
>answers are to get someone to say Wow or I did it perfect then you 
>should go study bebop, get really fast so you can tell everyone else 
>they suck. 
>There is a guy in town that can technically play circles around me 
>and he gets a lot of wows.  I went to him once on a gig and told him 
>that I didn't understand his solos very much and I was thinking that 
>maybe I wasn't as knowledgeable as I thought.  Maybe he could help 
>me to understand what he was doing.  I told him I thought it sounded 
>like a lot of notes to me. He was pretty insulted by my questions 
>and went off in a huff.  I guess if you have to ask what Picasso was 
>saying you shouldn't probably ask.  My thought is, he really didn't 
>know what he is doing except he does it really quick.  I was 
>actually trying to understand his music.  The thing is I think I 
>really know what he's doing.
>Would you say wow if an athlete got a really fast start,  ran 
>quicker than anyone else,  looked good while he did it but was 
>running in the wrong direction?  Think about it.
>My thought is that a solo should have a starting point, a middle and 
>an end much like a good book to have any meaning.  Bebop and Jazz as 
>taught in schools today is like taking the book, cutting it up into 
>individual sentences, putting them in a box and drawing out the 
>slips.  You could say that each slip was a perfect thought and 
>conveyed a meaning and was complete within its self.  But if you 
>think you can make sense of it you are better than I am or on drugs 
>like the "Bird"

**  Dan Augustine     Austin, Texas     ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu  **
**        "Luck is the residue of design."  --  Branch Rickey         **

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