One word should be added here about the origin and the purpose of punishment [free-jazz], two considerations radically distinct and yet too frequently confounded. How have our genealogists of morals [parent culture] treated these questions? Naively, as always. They would discover some kind of "purpose" in punishment [free-jazz], such as to avenge, or to deter, and would then naively place this purpose at the origin of punishment [free-jazz] as its causa fiendi. And this is all. Yet the criterion of purpose is the last that should ever be applied to a study of legal [musical] evolution. There is no set of maxims more important for an historian that this: that the actual causes of a thing's origin and its eventual uses, the manner of its incorporation into a system of purposes, are worlds apart; that everything that exists, no matter what its origin, is periodically reinterpreted by those in power in terms of fresh intentions; that all processes in the organic world are processes of outstripping and overcoming, and that, in turn, all outstripping and overcoming means reinterpretation, rearrangement, in the course of which the earlier meaning and purpose are necessarily either obscured or lost. No matter how well we understand the utility of a certain physiological organ (or of a legal [musical] institution, a custom a political [musical] convention, an artistic genre [see!], a cultic trait) we do not thereby understand anything of its origin. I realize that this truth must distress the traditionalist, for, from time immemorial, the demonstrable purpose of a thing has been considered its causa fiendi--the eye is made for seeing, the hand for grasping. So likewise, punishment [free-jazz] has been viewed [heard] as an invention for the purpose of punishing [???]. But all pragmatic purposes are simply symbols of the fact that a will to power has implanted its own sense of function in those less powerful. Thus the whole history of a thing, an organ, a custom, [free jazz] becomes a continuous chain of reinterpretations and rearrangements, which need not be causally connected among themselves, which may simply follow one another. The "evolution" of a thing, a custom, an organ [free-jazz] is not its progressus toward a goal, let alone the most logical and shortest progressus, requiring the least energy and expenditure. Rather, it is a sequence of more or less profound, more or less independent processes of appropriation, including the resistances used in each instance, the attempted transformations for purposes of defence or reaction, as well as the results of successful counterattacks. While forms are fluid, their "meaning" is even more so. The same process takes place in every individual organism. As the whole organism develops in essential ways, the meaning of the individual organs too is altered. In some cases their partial atrophy or numerical diminution spells the increased strength and perfection of the whole. This amounts to saying that partial desuetude,--in short, death--must be numbered among the conditions of any true progress, which latter appears always in the form of the will and means to greater power and is achieved at the expense of numerous lesser powers. The scope of any "progress" is measured by all that must be sacrificed for its sake. To sacrifice humanity [musical school graduates? music school professors?] as a mass to the welfare of a single stronger human species [a stronger music? a stronger musician?] would indeed constitute progress. . .
Nietzsche, Fred. The Genealogy of Morals, translated by Francis Golffing
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Plenty of question marks.
The thing about Fred Nietzsche, like that lady J who wrote the bible, is that his words are so loaded, so easy to get wrong, so easy to incite lunacy, that by now (perhaps, like Jazz) the human mind has developed a tolerance to them, in the I-can-drink-a-six-pack-of-tall-boys-of-beer-at-lunch-and-still-teach-period-6-gym sense of the word. In a I-can-go-to-church-each-week-and-still-be-an-evil-bastard sense of the world, too.
You (I) just have to wonder if even Fred Nietzsche could comprehend how those "in power" would come to be "in power" centuries after his death--and what kind of "leaders" that process, a hundred years later, would produce (or is it require?)
Has anything changed? Did Fred Nietzsche know damn well exactly how jelly boned things were to become? Did he? What if somehow we could have Fred Nietzsche listen to Celine Dion. Would the reinterpretation and rearrangement, the outstripping and overcoming, still be seen as a "natural" process--or a process that has become entirely un-natural like cancer, or fracking? To what degree is man rooted in nature? To what degree could Fred Nietzsche have comprehended Celine Dion?
Thus the whole history of a thing, an organ, a custom, [free jazz] becomes a continuous chain of reinterpretations and rearrangements, which need not be causally connected among themselves, which may simply follow one another. The "evolution" of a thing, a custom, an organ [free-jazz] is not its progressus toward a goal, let alone the most logical and shortest progressus, requiring the least energy and expenditure.How does everyone feel about the "need not" part? I feel like Teddy Adorno would say that administration has mushroomed since Fred Nietzsche's time. Further, I think we can all say it has mushroomed since Teddy's time. It's hard to imagine a commodity as controlled as music "evolving" haphazardly or innocently.
At least with regards to the arts, specifically that improvised music that no one likes, that evolution is at the very least informed and more likely consumed by the usual, boring extra musical actors and imperatives, all in a place of power for very un-Nietzsche-ian reasons.
Being a lesser power myself, the subject of the expense of numerous lesser powers as precondition to progress always catches the eye. Someone at the work place chose some random jazzy mix on some free streaming music thingie. In betwixt Lester Young and Ben Webster would be Olaf Koerggengoren and the North Dakota Boys playing Wind Chill Advisory from their new album Jazzy North Dakota Winter Whiteout. Clearly a lesser power and yet, someone up at mission control told the satellite to put Olaf between Lester and Ben, side by side, arm in arm--despite the fact that Olaf's is an entirely different music (the "sound" being the least of the differences.)
Is the object to bury the "old knowledge" under a deep blanket of snow? Millions of newly graduated music school snow flakes--each different, yet each the same--layering a once fertile ecosystem in a thick cold mountain of white? Is that as humane a fate for old knowledge as any?
Or is it just a simple reinterpretation / rearrangement / outstripping / overcoming?
Supply and demand: If there are many dozen new hat wearing tenor players graduating each year who can play the entire history of the jazz saxophone with varying degrees of authority, what then becomes the value of a chorus of Giant Steps? Does a chorus of Giant Steps function now as it did when it originated? Does it have the same purpose?
While forms are fluid, their "meaning" is even more so.
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In light of this, I have decided to become part of the problem and double down on tonality for 2015--if only to finally rid myself of it forever. Part of it is study for an RCM exam. So far that has been a worth while process. After all, it's better to know what you don't know than to know what you know.
What's interesting about the RCM exams is that they change every so often. They evolve, if you will. There was a recent evolutionary step, wherein requirements and literature were updated. It makes you (me) wonder what the original materials and requirements were.
This time around, there's some Bob Mintzer etudes to learn. They gave ol' Lenny Neihouse the heave-ho. Lots of James Rae, too. Who here knows who James Rae is?
You also need to know how to play the blues scale--though you are not required to play the blues. That the RCM wants saxophone players to know the blues scale, but doesn't require them to know how it functions seems...typical?
[Note to self: check and see if bassoon players and french horn players also required to learn the blues scale...]
What's more, there's this unspoken expectation that I'll use a "classical" mouthpiece for the experience. Should I use my "jazz" mouthpiece for the blues scales? Fuck it, maybe I'll throw my jazz mouthpiece down the toilet and get a mouthpiece from Dr. Caravan. Catherine Sikora has the wide open mouthpiece with thick reed thing covered. Perhaps that's my cue to go the other way.
Simultaneous to that, I've sort of maybe struck up a bit of a deal with the kind people at Jazzeveryone.com wherein I'll do some writing about my experience and (hopefully) progress with their materials in exchange for use of their materials. Though that too could totally fall apart.
If I am going to learn the blues scale, might as well learn how to play the blues. Willie Thomas has a system. Lord knows I love a system, and for the next year, I'll be loving his Pentatonic Pair System towards the ends of confident gallops through the blues, rhythm changes and Giant Steps.
In the end, when I inevitably fuck it up, from that year's misreading will come some sort of fresh new mutation to spice up my old, tired, nonsense.
Believe it or not, the inspiration for this supplication to administered musicality was the very inspiring playing of Quamon Fowler.
I dunno...something real, something human and yet something extra human about it. Better to work on that modality for a year than spend it sniffing glue, right?
Once that writing project goes live, I'll make a point of letting the 3 to 5 of you who read this blog know.