Tuesday, June 12, 2007

free jazzonomics

Check out Marc Ribot's thoughts up at Mwanji Enzana's blog.

I'm not sure if the comment I left there makes any sense. I guess I'm reading Ribot offering three sources of capital for new music: market forces, state subsidy and self-promotion. And I think he's saying that people are perhaps too quick to dismiss or take for granted the value of state subsidy. I run into some confusion, not fully understanding what Ribot means by "state subsidy." I assume he's referring to local, state and federal grants funded by tax money, funneled back to the arts. But Ribot seems to be addressing the crisis in venues at the same time as problems with funds for individual artists.

I'm thinking now that these are two different topics. Venues are particularly problematic. Santa Fe is at a low point in the venue cycle in some ways. Most of the clubs that offer live music of any sort are unrelentingly lame, treat musicians poorly, offer lousy sound and cramped quarters and have about as much sense of adventure as a Methodist grandma. (A couple of venues offer "alternative" live local and touring acts that seem to be "alternative" only to the extent that they aren't yet rich and famous with a major label deal; the music itself is often approximately as alternative as white rice with butter instead of plain white rice). Performance venues with a concert setting are somewhat more rare for local music, with the exception of Wise Fool, High Mayhem, The College of Santa Fe. Club venues rely on market forces perhaps more than any other arts presenting component in a local economy. Alcohol sales and door charges.

On the concert level, Santa Fe doesn't have a dedicated concert hall, despite the rabid passion among the wealthy and aged for classical repertory. The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, one of the most respected in the world, schedules shows in several different venues around town. One great addition over the past few years has been The Santa Fe Opera opening itself up to live performance in the off season. The Opera has also made the Stieren Orchestra Rehearsal Hall available more often; it's a top of the line small performance space with impeccable sound. Strange venues have increased their visibility, such as The Unitarian Church and The Scottish Rite Masonic Center. Also, FanMan Productions has revived the summer series at the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater.

With a few occasional exceptions most of these venues host imported culture.

Making a living in Santa Fe as an improvising musician is impossible. Of course it would be, considering it's impossible in New York or Los Angeles. But I don't think a lack of venues is the reason. I think it's because creative composed and improvised music is feared, hated, misunderstood and dismissed before the fact as pretentious, intimidating, boring, ugly, unlistenable and amateurish garbage. Americans ever have been philistines, even when they have been correct. The majority of so-called avant garde music is apparently self-indulgent and disturbing. Music for an American is his or her little anodyne, his or her little sentimental pillow of middle class dreams, his or her little soundtrack for the more important business of getting and spending. "Getting and spending" meant in the broadest possible sense as a life of means, a life of goals, a life of tit-for-tat, a life of bland, inconsequential trade offs.

The ability of most Americans to hear sound has been lobotomized, amputated, castrated.

The outlying territories have long been abandoned (if they were ever actually even briefly visited) in favor of white picket fences and streetlights, well marked streets and police cruisers, diet soda and processed cheese food and beef by product sloppy joes.

Economic struggles in the world of new music are a laughable flyspeck. Injustice and oblivion and willfully ignorant consumerism runs its sticky befouled and befouling fingers over everything, not just new music. Is it any wonder that "the state," itself now at the beck and call of corporate materialist commercialism, the government itself now an advertisement for infinite petroleum and douches and sugar free gum, would begin to abandon arts funding? Or throw its hefty ass behind arts that are already doing just fine in the so called free market?

As my friend Zimbabwe Nkenya recently emailed, when I asked him about Arizona where he briefly lived and mentioned that I had heard it was very "conservative:" "Conservative is a code word for backwards and racist."

When actual practitioners of new music look back and characterize earlier periods as "Crazy Experimental Freedom" and claim it needs to be "harnessed," haven't the terrorists already won?

It's a great game, extracting money to fund activities that are blatantly subversive from the entity one is hellbent on subverting. I have nothing against it. I would take gummint money in a heartbeat if I could finagle it. I would take a grant from The Old Fart Society To Preserve 32-Bar Song Form and Jamey Aebersold Jazz Vomit if I could. But it's far more often ourselves who are forced to act against our own self-interest by the vast bloodsucking machine, not the other way around.

3 comments:

unnarrator said...

Wowzers! I wish I could add something pithy and trenchant but instead can only stand back and look on admiringly at the sputtering livid lucid Menckenian pyrotechnics. Holy moly! Go you!

Dan said...

All that's left to say is amen, I believe.

peter breslin said...

as ever, commentariasts are welcome. even if they throw eggs. but especially if they say amen. or holy moly.

PB