Thursday, March 22, 2012

Academic Flashback

Do normal people get the urge to write philosophical/musicological commentary on social issues? Just curious.

Because I've been thinking a lot recently about a few things. Like...
Jazz as popular music
The role of jazz in the institution
The creativity of individuals ("finding your own voice")
The evolution of jazz
Jazz as historical music
The role of art in popular music (or, the role of art towards the public)

Mainly, today it struck me that the institutionalization of jazz (i.e., how we now treat it in the classroom like we treat classical music: as something to be studied and taught in an academic manner) might have begun the stifling of jazz as popular music. And because we have this "institutionalized" view of jazz, perhaps we're not as open to the way in which it is evolving in the modern world. This could be wildly off the mark. But it's just a thought.
And on a related note, I don't feel that students of jazz have been able to be sufficiently creative because of the way they are introduced into a rigid system that says "this is jazz." They aren't encouraged to find their own voice (but teachers don't realize this, I think). They're encouraged to mimic other voices (transcription, transcription, transcription). Not that that's bad. And I don't think the intent is to stifle. But after being told to mimic exactly what "the greats" have done, students fall into the trap of idolizing their favorite artists and aren't focused on becoming individual artists themselves.
However, maybe that is just my excuse for not becoming obsessed with certain artists like other people do. Or for being lazy about transcription. I don't know.

But the question, I think, is what are we supposed to do with jazz? Where is it going? Where are WE going as jazz musicians? Are we learning things that are relevant to our careers as musicians...?

Also, where is the meeting point for intellectual music and pop culture? What is the role of innovators like Philip Glass in popular music? Is there room for art, real art, in popular music? Can the general public be expected to listen to someone like Aaron Parks and like it? Should they? Or do we over-intellectualized music nerds want to think we're doing something "special" by making something that is highly inaccessible? Is there value in making something in such a narrowly understood niche? Should good art be accessible, categorically? Oh, the questions of modern culture!
(I took a philosophy class on aesthetics. You'd think I would have concrete opinions about things like this.)

Anyways. I blame a lot of these thoughts on Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding,who are trying to do fantastic but also popular things with jazz. And I think this is incredibly interesting. Whether or not they are successful... I suppose that remains to be seen.

Hm. All these ideas and questions are bouncing around in my head... I suppose I'll have to keep thinking and exploring.  Who knew the I-need-to-write-a-paper urge would follow me around after I quit real school.

1 comment:

  1. The question of whether jazz as academic music skews the opinion of the general public is interesting. However, the thought that the institutionalization of jazz led to jazz's exodus from the popular sphere is largely anachronistic. Jazz was pushed out of popular music by R&B, Rock and Roll, and a move toward bebop (which at the time was analogous to classical music's move to 12-tone). That all happened in the 50's. Meanwhile, jazz was not widely accepted in academic music departments for a decade or more. Berklee was revolutionary for its academic approach to popular music (including jazz).

    All that said, in the current system most Americans are introduced to jazz via scholastics, though more commonly as an extracurricular "fun" music in middle and high schools.

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