...these silver lines, travel from my thoughts to yours, wavering, floating like spirits dancing...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Far away, in the misty mountains, among the clouds circling the vast plains, where eagles and vultures circle, there is a treasure trove, if you seek to find it out. The snow drifts on the lofty peaks, and chilly winds blow, the mountain lions roam and the silence is all around. But sometimes, it is broken, when the wind picks up speed, and then rushing like the gushing waters in the stream below, they scream and rattle like keys in an old rusty metal box. The girls come out and play among the snow, and look about for scraps to make a snowman. And if you look closely they will have completed making one. Sometimes, the night is pierced by the song of a woman, half in despair, half in desperation, and her long, soulful notes carry through the night, and it seems reach up to the very stars that twinkle in the mountain sky. She is remembering something, and yearning for something lost, something not yet forgotten, something which was hers. That is the moment when the silence is truly broken. When the night is at it's darkest. When the moon is at it's highest. When the lions are at their hungriest. And the eagles and vultures at their most restless. The woman comes out and sings, her hair flying about her in the chilly wind, her voice scratching like a rough sandstone. She climbs and climbs the high mountains, for she alone knows the place of the treasure trove. That is where she hid something. Something precious, something old, something she cannot yet forget. Every night, she sings, and seeks out the treasure on the snowy mountain, and every night, clutching it to her chest, near the empty space within, she climbs back down and cries herself to sleep. Only to wake up the next day, and find herself in the same dream, and go in search of her treasure at night, and sing her heart out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jungle Music

"New Orleans was a ramshackle whirligig of a town, part French, part Negro, part Southern dude, part Northern carpetbagger, part Mexican, part Spanish, and part Indian. It was also a trading center and port, sprawled along the Mississippi on the Gulf of Mexico. No other town in the United States could boast such a cosmopolitan mix, or promise such an exciting welcome. It was noisy, dirty, hot, and smelly. And in this place, according to various Northern newspaper reports, was first heard a sound called variously "jass", "jasz", and "jazz."

Nowadays, the word "jazz" has little meaning. So many different styles of music - from Louis Armstrong to the Modern Jazz Quartet - have been labeled jazz that any sense of difinition has been lost. Jass now means anything that anybody chooses to call jazz - the music bellowed out today on the Bourbon Street, for exaple, is no more jazz than the French Quartet was Storyville. It sounds vaguely similar to "authentic" New Orleans jazz, but is too loud and too fast. The loudness, at least, may not be the fault of the musicians. They are often required by the bar owners to play more lustily than the outfit next door because the loudest music attracts the most customers in off the street.
Many of these musicians learned their jazz from the first recorded group, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. But the compositions played by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band were too long for the three-minute wax records of their day, so to accommodate the technical requirements of an infact recording industry, the band simply speeded up their muisc to make it fit. In live performances, as the band itself admitted, such speed would have been unthinkable.
Jazz was primarily a performing art; it has never lent itself easily wither to arrangement or to sheet music. The determination to write down melodies and call them jazz came soon enough, but this was not in the spirit of the original music..."
"All music is entitled to the dignity of definition and jazz is no exception. As it was heard in New Orleans after World War I, it possessed a definite and limited form. It consisted of any melody played by two or more musical voices, improvisng collectively in two/four or four/four time, that was syncopated. Such a definition (or any definition for that matter) will not satisfy many people, aficionados of the extended, exploratory solo do not permit their heroes to be shackled by form. But before virtuosi boosted their images at the expense of cooperative musicanship, the style was not so loose. The word "jass" may indeed have been Negro slang suggesting copulation, or merely an onomatopoeic reference to the sound of a New Orleans paddle steamer. But its meaning was clearly understood by all its early practitioners, as was its instrumentation and proper place in society. Without structure or purpose, it would have been anathema to anyone striving to attain respectability. "
From 'All you need is love', The story of popular music, by Tony Palmer, 1976.