Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Free jazz comes from theory? I don't know. Coleman certainly has some theories (he calls his system of organising musical material "harmolodics"; I know nothing about it, but the blending speaks of a desire to arrive at some sort of urmusic--something that deals with all the musical elements in a more cohesive way, dissolving the traditional hierarchies), but a lot of people say they're bullshit.

It came about naturally, I guess: a number of musicians were interested in bypassing the standard set-up to get to the heart of expressivity and interplay...something like that (consider the socio-political factors involved: the civil rights movement, Black Power, the rise of individualism).

I certainly don't see free jazz as a specifically cerebral music, any more than I see abstract expressionism as a cerebral art.


  1. I would've thought free jazz came about as part of a move to ESCAPE existing standards, theory, practise, a way of liberating some of what was distinctive about jazz from them. Doesn't seem like it'd be fair to say the situation/crisis that it arose from was an intellectual affair first or foremost. The new theorising that comes along w/it be it Sun Ra's space soteriology or harmolodics or church of John Coltrane or whatever seems like a rehousing, a new network in which it can exist (which is a common story, like Cardew&similar guys w/formal backgrounds). Pretty sure there was never a coherent strategy at play and that there was plenty of internal dissent, so whether or not settling into these new things and, yeah, creating the sort of recognisable idiom Al's talking about was always part of the plan seems up for grabs. How long can a revolution go on anyway?

  2. just to maybe clarify something:

    Yeah, what i meant was free jazz existing as a response to previous theories, in that there is no real theory to it. Although sometimes there is, isn't there? (sort of anyway)

    just briefly, on expression:

    I find the work of Mark Rothko quite affecting, emotionally and (vaguely) in terms of theory. I've talked about that before on here a little.

    I also find the music of Nina Simone and Lightning Bolt to be some of the most expressive of all time, that is: that i've heard.

    But free jazz oftens leaves me very cold. Perhaps this is because I've for so long, and so actively, absorbed these standard systems in music that I'm trying to force a sense of control or purpose or something (I don't know what) onto the free jazz I hear.