All too often, we study art in a vacuum. Louis Armstrong played minor 3rds on major chords, Seurat painted using only dots, James Joyce wrote extended metaphors… but why? As I researched the career of English naturalist painter, John Constable, and his contemporaries, I came across many detailed descriptions of his brush work, color choices, and accolades, but one big question remained:
Why were European artists living in the height of the Industrial Revolution painting scenes like these?
On this cherished day in late September, I got on my bike and hit the road with nothing but my camera, a couple of sandwiches, and a bottle of water. Since moving to Amsterdam a few weeks prior, I couldn’t wait to escape the city to see the beautiful Dutch countryside.
Do you ever feel small? Itty bitty?
That’s ok, build a tower. wear a crown. make a name.
Bigger the universe, bigger the fame.
The world is filled with an incomprehensible number of beautiful people, processes, and things. Beauty is everywhere. I don’t mean beauty in the magazine cover kind of way but in a broader sense appreciating how something appears, behaves, or sounds. I’m talking about pristine and symmetrical beauty, ugly beauty, nonsensical beauty, beyond-words beauty, and everything in between. Let me explain.
In the age of information channels that require no qualifications to reach millions, college juries where young jazz musicians are rated on a scale of 1 to 10, and mass exportation and exploitation of black culture, Amiri Baraka’s essay, “Jazz and the White Critic” on the faults and arrogance of white criticism of jazz music has been utterly ignored. He writes about the futility of traditional musicology when evaluating “Negro music” and the arrogance of the white critic in telling a young black musician that what he/she is doing is wrong. Upon reading examples of statements made by white critics on the absurdity of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane as an emissary of “anti-jazz”, I began to wonder about how much of an effect these flagrant statements really had on the imagination of the American people. Whose approval really matters and to whom?
Recently for my Jazz History class at school, I was tasked with interviewing a musician connected with the bebop movement. Sheila Jordan, a friend and mentee of Charlie Parker’s, Duke Jordan’s former partner, a former student of Lennie Tristano (said by Max Roach to be the leader of the “downtown” school of bebop), and of course, an incredibly studied and accomplished musician herself, seemed to be a perfect candidate. I was lucky enough to make contact with her, see her perform for her 90th birthday celebration at Blue Note NYC, and have a wonderfully enlightening conversation at her residence a few days later.
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