Entry 114, July 12th, 2011, 8:51pm (GMT +2)
I think I've figured out why I'm here.
Not the big picture, of course, the “why are we here?” question that has been the butt of philosophy jokes for centuries. No, I think I've finally figured out why I have done what I've done since graduating from college. Why I moved to New Hampshire, and bounced around on people's couches, and finally took the job here on the Grandeur instead of doing something sensible like going to graduate school.
I've been looking for something since I graduated, but I didn't know what until today. I've been looking for the place where I fit in the world. More specifically, I've been looking for the place where my music fits in the world, and to be honest I haven't found it yet.
In school, we studied bebop. We studied hard bop. We studied swing, we studied the blues, we studied Duke, the Count, Monk, Miles, Trane, Dizzy and all the cats. This is the music I love, and this is my musical heritage, but I haven't found the place where it fits in the
It fit back in school, of course. But who was our audience in school? Our friends, our family, our peers. People came to our concerts to give to us, not to receive, and that's backwards. Musicians should give to the audience, not the other way around.
Maybe there is a place where it fits. Maybe there is some secret valley somewhere where bebop is the hippest thing since sliced bread. I'll keep looking, but I'm not convinced I'll find it. There are a few places I need to check, places where it is much more likely to live than the places I've been recently (New York City, Barcelona, Paris, Japan), but what I see so far is not encouraging.
So let's say that I keep looking, and I never find the place where the music I love fits. What do I do? Well, there are two options. 1. I can get upset at the world for not being the way I wish it was, or 2. I can change. If music doesn't speak to people the way we're making it, then I guess we need to change how we make it.
Because music is still important to people. This much is obvious – who do you know who doesn't listen to music? People have always needed music and always will. The problem is that the “wrong” music is important to them. We jazz musicians always talk about educating the public and fixing them so that they like the “right” music again. Wouldn't it be easier to learn their language instead of forcing them to learn ours?
I believe that it is possible to create a music that I love that normal people today can love as well. I think that we can make a music that has just as much depth, soul, and integrity as jazz does, and that also speaks the language of today's culture. Isn't that what bop musicians did in the forties? Isn't that what Miles and Coltrane did? It has been done before, it can be done again.
Perhaps I sound like I've joined the “innovation” side of the “innovation vs. tradition” argument. Maybe it sounds like I want to throw out everything that has come before, dismissing the old masters as “corny” and “irrelevant.” This is not true. I'm going to keep studying bop because I love it, there's no question about that.
Maybe my own musicianship just hasn't been strong enough to make the old forms work in present day situations. This is a distinct possibility – I am far from a master of any idiom. I don't know how to tell if this is the truth or not.
Maybe I just haven't found the right place yet. Maybe someday I'll land in a town where everyone loves Art Blakey's sound and I'll live there for the rest of my life, happy as a clam.
But one thing I know is true. No matter how many Lee Morgan solos or Cole Porter tunes I learn, they're not mine. Lee and Cole can teach me a lot, but someday I need to make my own music. It may even be set in the frame of what they or other great musicians have done (likely, it will be), but at some point it needs to become mine. And if I want to make it my living, then I need to figure out where my music fits in the world. That's what I'm looking for.
It's a relief to finally know what I've been doing all this time!