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.