Friday, April 27, 2007

clazz or jassical?

The Ornette Coleman Pulitzer Prize news on the web is fascinating. The original AP wire service story by Jake Coyle has the following opening:

"Ornette Coleman won the Pulitzer Prize for music on Monday for his 2006 album, Sound Grammar, the first jazz work to be bestowed with the honor.

The alto saxophonist and visionary who led the free jazz movement in the 1950s and 1960s, won the Pulitzer at age 77 for his first live recording in 20 years. The only other jazz artist to win a Pulitzer is Wynton Marsalis, who won in 1997 for his classical piece, Blood on the Fields."

Apparently uncomfortable making the jazz versus classical distinction, several publications used the AP article but changed the lead to something like this, from the International Herald Tribune:

"Ornette Coleman won the Pulitzer Prize for music on Monday for his 2006 album, "Sound Grammar," the second jazz artist to receive the honor."

The Boston Globe's Jeremy Eichler ran a strange piece under the headline "Classical Music has Nothing to Fear from Pulitzer Going to Jazz Artist." Yehudi Wyner, a classical composer who recently won a Pulitzer, and who was on the nominating jury, is quoted as saying, "Classical music is very much a minority art, and in some sense, recognition by an august agency helps keep it alive, or keeps its prestige alive. But the idea that jazz, this most vital and participatory American art form, was in no way recognized and was actually shunted aside, it's scandalous. It's unconscionable."

Several writers indicate that Coleman "blends classical and free jazz" techniques in his creative process.

The struggle continues, even among certified professional experts, to make sense of American culture.


7 comments:

Dan said...

I wonder if jazz will ever get through its awkward adolescence to become a full fledged art music that gets the kind of institutional support (or maybe I should call it propping, stuffing, or embalming?) that so-called classical music receives. Only time will tell I suppose....

peter breslin said...

Hi Dan- if you visit the NEA Jazz in the Schools curriculum pages, Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center have already saved jazz for institutional support, so we don't have to worry.

PB

Dan said...

PHEW! What a relief.

Serious question: is there a large marginalized classical community that feels alienated from the establishment in the same way the outside jazzers do?

peter breslin said...

Hi Dan- I'm not sure, but my impression is there is, indeed, a large, marginalized "classical" community alienated from the establishment. I gather most of these composers would not use the word "classical," but perhaps "new music" or "creative composed music" or something. I'm hoping to interview Tan Dun later this month, whose opera, Tea: A Mirror of Soul, is receiving its American premiere this summer at The Santa Fe Opera, and I'll ask him.

Santa Fe is perhaps a crystalline reflection of American "serious music" programming. Santa Fe Pro Musica, for example, recently did a concert called "Baroque Hits," with Bach, Vivaldi and Handel (including the complete Water Music) on the bill. The Santa Fe Concert Association is constantly importing musical culture focused on repertory that's almost always from 200 or more years ago. The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival usually has about a 90/10 mix of the familiar and the more adventurous.

Santa Fe New Music, on the other hand, www.sfnm.org, stages a handful of performances a year to much smaller audiences of much more contemporary work.

I'd be willing to bet that a CD release of contemporary composed orchestral/chamber/vocal music sells far fewer copies than a new Cecil Taylor CD.

PB

Massimo Magee said...

on ubuweb I think there's a documentary that Derek Bailey did for channel 4 in the UK where he talks to a whole load of improvising musicians. I seem to remember in one of the episodes he interviewed a pianist who was interested in playing the classical music with improvised ornaments and cadenzas etc. as it would have been played back when it was composed. I remember him saying that he had been marginalised by the establishments because this was seen as 'radical', I think.

peter breslin said...

Hi Massimo- I think those of us outside the conservatory tend to forget just how *conservative* the conservatory is. I suppose my few brief run ins with the classical musician mindset and the entire world of high pressure, high stakes classical music (which is not unlike professional sports or horse racing) have reminded me on occasion. It is a *very bad thing* that a "jazz conservatory" approach is being applied in so-called "jazz education," as it takes the worst of an already toxic, shame based, competitive, mechanical approach to music and applies it to a living, breathing art form.

PB

Massimo Magee said...

...killing something by locking it in a mortuary.....