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October 04, 2011

Improvisation and identity

In jazz improvisation the notion of creating "your own" expression is very important. Individuality in sound, phrasing, articulation and rhythm is held in high esteem. All truly great jazz musicians have created their own sound; Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Gary Peacock, Herbie Nichols, Roland Kirk, to only mention a few, have all set a new standard on their instruments. Their music becomes a vehicle for their identity. Individuality, however, is obviously not the only component because all of these musicians, while breaking with the tradition they operate within, they also build upon it.

In free jazz, as it was shaped by Ornette Coleman as well as the European school, musicians were encouraged to free the music of its harmonic, rhythmic, melodic and sonic predispositions. This was a step towards an even more individualistic form in which the 'self' was free to create without any ties to pre-existing musical structures. But in this movement lies also a motion away from the individual and the 'self' towards a universal, 'natural' music, loosly related to Stockhausen's experiments with intuitive music and John Cages chance music. Now, it should be noted that neither Stockhausen nor Cage made this connection, they saw their own art as distinct from jazz, free or otherwise. Cage wanted to imitate nature and chance was the method. He departed from music as an expression of the self and sought the music that we are surrounded with.

The self as something that is reflected in nature rather than imposed on it.

Posted by henrikfr at October 4, 2011 10:19 AM


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