Gene Simmons Has It Right, And Then Some

So, Gene Simmons says Rock Is Dead: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/gene-simmons-future-of-rock

I think his points are right on target. Furthermore, I think live music isn’t too far behind. I recently ‘Left the Music Business’ and I’m not missing a thing. Naturally, I will continue to play, teach, and thoroughly enjoy music; probably more now than I have in the last fifteen years.

I don’t feel any pressure to learn or play anything specific. I don’t need to ‘Sell’ my teaching or my playing. If I get new students, great! However, it will be less likely for just any ol’ body to get or stay on my schedule. Regarding gigs, I don’t really need or want them unless they fit my new ‘Needs’; which I haven’t completely sorted yet.

Speaking of which, I was recently asked to play a cocktail hour for an event at a prestigious boarding school in my area. The event is an appreciation event for major donors. You know, rich white people. The person who called me seems to be a sweet person and has employed me previously. So, the final decision may not have been hers.

I was honored she remembered me at all.

The more I listened to what she envisioned for the event, the more I realized that I would not be able to provide her with what I, as a professional musician having played many events, some of which were a poor fit for my strengths, believed should be a Classical guitar performance.

Therefore, dear reader, I referred an acquiantance who has a Doctorate in Classical Guitar Performance because I believe that the event for major donors to a prestigious boarding school deserves my absolute best performance, even if my best is a referral of a fantastic classical musician. This man is a wonderful human being with a wife and daughter, a very moving performer, and he keeps getting bum referrals from me.

It’s embarrassing.

I requested that my acquaintance keep me posted on how the negotiations proceed and the news earlier today from Dr. Classical Guitarist was: “Unfortunately, ‘Prestigious School’ decided not to go with live music, but rather recorded music from a playlist.”

I’m guessing ‘…recorded music from a playlist.’ means MP3s from a stereo ipod into a mono speaker system. They may even go as far as an ipod dock I would imagine.  After all, these are major donors, likely alumni, who have donated thousands of dollars/hours/referrals and other valuable efforts and resources to the school because they love what it represents in their lives and the lives of others. Why should they have less than the best when their best is what they are giving to the school. The best of their lifetime efforts in many cases, I’m sure.

Why buy something if you can get it for free? Because it isn’t the same damn thing, that’s why.

-Justin

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A Commentary In Response to: A Message to the Jazz Community from The Pariah

These are some of my thoughts regarding the current state and perception of ‘Jazz’ and, in many respects, a response to this video from The Pariah:

I love ‘Jazz’. Many people love ‘Jazz’, but we don’t usually agree on what ‘Jazz’ is, if it is still here, or if it really existed before white people called it ‘Jazz’.

The kicking around ‘…like a sock in a schoolyard’ has always been happening; we’re just getting it in media outlets that reach more people; many more people. Jazz is also being ‘…joked about like a viral pet video…’, yes, but how much depth of soul is required to ‘ingest’ the bulk of Facebook posts and internet memes?

This is akin to getting upset that the poor, malnourished, overtired, stressed-from-a-broken-home child is unable to grasp algebraic theorems. If we think that the majority of content on the internet is for the enlightened, who are we fooling? Serious innovators have been treated as ‘blabbering boneheads’ in all fields of endeavorment such as music, science, visual art, written art such as poetry and prose, since the beginning of time. Why? It is because there is no shortage of the purposely ignorant.

What is the source of bullying? Confidence and enlightenment? Understanding and empathy? Of course ‘Jazz’ is an easy target; most of what is labeled ‘Jazz’ today is unsyncopated, singularly dynamic, rotationally improvised, insipid and formulaic music of forced diatonicism that inspires no one because it is used to ‘create atmosphere’ rather than demand control of the senses and visceral sensitivities of the listener. ‘Atmosphere’ to the majority is defined as ‘Music that doesn’t interrupt my enervating conversation.’ Sticks and stones may not break our bones, but they can certainly color an opinion toward purveyors of an artform.

Yes, most ‘Modern Jazz’ is not the ‘…sound of surprise’ as described by The New Yorker critic, Whitney Balliett. This description was used during a time when not only a ‘critic’ needed to possess at least some modicum of understanding of the artform being critiqued, but the writing or discussion catered to a readership of the similarly informed and educated.

The willfully ignorant and the shadow-casting segment of our society have always existed. The internet has simply ‘leveled the playing field’ to the lowest common denominator. Everyone is given voice with the new outlet of social media, blogs, (Yes, I see the irony.), and guest posting on content sites of major search engine companies. Should we complain that we are surrounded by idiots? Sure, why not? We are only standing by the open floodgate.

When I first became aware of ‘The Pariah of Jazz’, it was during the early days of the internet. It was during the time of hope for the freedom of open communication, the freedom from the expense of informational access, the freedom to create our own world of like-minded individuals that fit our utopian desire of being surrounded by an abundance of people who thought like us and lived like us. We had the ability to hand-pick our compeers from a pool of seven billion persons. We still have this ability; we just didn’t realize the enormity of the process.

Additionally, we have lost our sensitivity to many subtleties of communication and conversation. If most of our contact is via the written word (or captioned pictures/memes – consider the low level communication of pictograms for the fourth millenium BC. Are we really advancing intellectually with the passage of time?), without the sensory input of the physical presence of the person with whom we are conversing including the availability of visual clues to our conversation partner’s internal dialog via body language, speech inflection, and modulation, aren’t we missing a great deal of the connection? How then, would we remain able to connect to an artist who uses the physics of sound and the invention and innovation of presentation to communicate his or her deepest convictions of spirit?

If ten people can stand in a small space, stare at a ‘smart’ phone, and make no connection as simple as a smile and a nod to a human being with the God-given, innate ability to create, communicate, love, and uplift others; what then can we require of them?

Considering the idea that ‘…the internet is both the deliverer and destroyer…’ is, in this writer’s opinion, the basis of the internet’s neutrality. We cannot have good without evil and shades of grey throughout because this is intrinsic to the movement from a neutral state.

Regarding the idea that we have moved from ‘…digesting information’ to simply ‘…ingesting information’, I could not agree more that this is our current state. The process of digestion requires that we ‘separate the wheat from the chaff’ so to speak, whereas simply ingesting requires no such refusal of the irrelevant and unusable.

Chaos, as summarized by Edward Lorenz, is: “When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.” In other words, the current state of the internet being ‘any fool with a megaphone’ will determine our future, but it is not a reflection of our future and gives us no clue what to expect. The internet didn’t begin with an overabundance of uninformed voices.

How we move forward and defend our artform presently may require us to operate in a fashion similar to modern warfare. No longer do ‘Armies’ face each other in defined battle ‘arenas’ or ‘theatres’. Wars and battles are often fought with small groups of fewer than ten persons, most frequently with groups consisting of fewer than five fighters. Confrontation is often not direct with one’s enemy group, but rather neutralizing individuals separated from the opposing force. ‘Propaganda’ is used to ‘educate’ the civilians belonging to each side of the warring factions.

Likewise, when recent op-ed pieces in national publications were exposed by the ‘Jazz’ community and its supporters as yellow journalism, social media was used individually to communicate to small pockets of followers or members of an individual’s ‘faction’ of followers/friends.

There will always be people who want to make a difference in the world, but the majority are just along for the ride. There is nothing inherently wrong or right about either place of being, however, if one makes the choice to go along for the ride, there must also be a choice made of who is driving.

-Justin