Tuesday, January 23, 2007

facing the music

Another change in music criticism brought about by the internet: you might just invite a rebuttal from the musician. On the freejazz.org site (see sidebar, look for post Unity: A Lack Thereof-New Year's Eve 2006, William Parker and Friends. Check out the 117 comments so far....), Dr. Yusef Copeland wrote a negative review of a live show featuring William Parker, Roy Campbell and others. Lo and behold, Mr. Campbell took the time to wade into the fray. (My grandfatherly advice to Campbell was to quote William Blake: "The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn of the crow." Wasn't that clever of me?)

This sort of thing may have happened all the time on the NY scene, for example, but there's something interesting in the breakdown of a wall that often stood in public-- that between critic and musician. Who knows how many times musicians have decked writers outside the Village Vanguard or wherever, but the debate rarely got conducted publicly.

On the internet, for example when I post here, I'm aware that whoever it is I'm writing about might see it. The only change that brings about is for me to take responsibility for my opinions, to avoid the slimy ad hominem and the insinuated backhand, formerly in great currency among jazz writers. (a writer on Miles Davis's On the Corner when it was first released, in a two star Downbeat review: "I hate to think that anyone would be so easily pleased as to dig this record to any extent.")

3 comments:

the improvising guitarist said...

“…freejazz.org site (see sidebar…”

You mean ‘online forum for so-called free jazz’…

I’d been avoiding freejazz.org ’cause of the variable level of discussions… to be honest, I couldn’t get myself to peruse all 130+ comments. I admire you for sticking in there, but I think I should watch my blood pressure ;-)

“Who knows how many times musicians have decked writers outside the Village Vanguard or wherever…”

You know, I’d love to recount a story, but (a) its not mine to tell, and (b) I might get someone, probably me, into trouble.

“…a writer on Miles Davis's On the Corner when it was first released, in a two star Downbeat review: ‘I hate to think that anyone would be so easily pleased as to dig this record to any extent.’”

You know, in a sense it’s fine to (to quote one of your comments) “[not to] like something you hear and… question the musicianship and integrity of the musicians,” but what get me most is that a when there is a reevaluation (say, in the ’70 electric Miles stuff) there’s very rarely a reevaluation of the initial critical writing. That a musician’s personal and collective histories get scrutinized and critiqued, in a sense is fine, but some how a critic, who as a group seem to value ‘consistency,’ do not have to turn the microscope back on themselves. How many critics who trashed On the Corner years ago end up subsequently give the impression they loved it all along?

S, tig

P.S. Interesting experiment: how difficult is it to write a blog comment (as I am doing now), while listening to Zorn and company’s Archery (as I am also doing). Preliminary answer: extremely difficult ;-)

peter breslin said...

Hey thanks for writing. I don't know Archery but I gather it's...distracting.

As for the story that's not yours to tell.....shucks. Maybe you could talk the teller into telling it? It's not that old story about Max Roach assaulting Ornette is it? :-)

As for critics re-evaluating their own criticism...I wonder if John Hammond ever wrote an extensive essay on how wrong he was when he wrote an extensive essay in 1943 re: Duke's _Black, Brown and Beige_ that included the following statement: "Duke has neither the training nor the ability to weave his ideas together into a coherent whole."
I bet the answer is no. Maybe Peter Watrous has been published in the New York Times clarifying what he meant when he unexpectedly snarled about Cecil Taylor's stagnation and cloying quasi-Romanticism (two months after accepting a writing gig to do the liner notes for _For Olim_, which were positively hagiographic).

As for "questioning the musicianship and integrity of the musicians," I just think this is the easiest replacement for thoughtful critical writing. "So and so can't play" becomes the all-too-authoritative sounding summary...directed at many of the geniuses whose work I cherish.

the improvising guitarist said...

“I don't know Archery but I gather it's...distracting.”

Archery is wonderful, beautiful, noisy, information rich, complex listening experience. It really grabs my ears/mind/body. Beautifully played by all involved. I recommend it.

“It's not that old story about Max Roach assaulting Ornette is it?”

No, but it was told to me by a friend of said musician in code form (very easily decrypted code, but coded nonetheless).

“…easiest replacement for thoughtful critical writing…”

Well, that’s probably the case as we witnessed re: whether AB can play standards (but I should not be in the business of opening old wounds).

S, tig