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Mark Stryker

NYT: Jazz, black culture, and the academy

18 posts in this topic

I wouldn't know where to start, so I think I won't.

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I'll start with Humpty Dumpty.

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As Cedric The Entertainer once said, "it ain't that bad".

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40+ years ago, I was fighting an uphill battle to get people to pay attention to stuff like the Braxton/Max duets etc. because Braxton was too weird and Max was a bebop drummer, either Steve Gadd on one hand, Jack on the other, so I feel the pain, but 40 years (longer, really) is a lot of fixing to do, too much really. So rather than fix, just start over. AACM had a school, AACM knew better than to try to fix stuff that don't want to be fixed (if we're honest).

Just start over, do it right, and don't get co-opted by "the system". Those guys only want to be your friend when it's to their advantage, like, to keep from being made extinct by reality.

oh wait - AACM HAS a school, correct?

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I am way too weary for this shit.

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1 hour ago, Chuck Nessa said:

I am way too weary for this shit.

:tup

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Thanks for posting. An interesting read and equally interesting to see reactions to it above. 

There's an informed response to the article by Steve Lehman on Twitter. He highlights the work of Jackie McLean at Hartford as a precursor to what some in the article are asking to happen. 

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Seems to me we've got at least two issues at work here -- 1) enlisting an art (jazz in this case) to attempt to remedy social ills, and 2) who gets to be/should be represented in the jazz academy in what numbers; and then, harking back to the first point, what should those who are or will be in in their proper places and in proper numbers in the  academy once injustices are redressed be teaching? Or is this really thing all one thing/and or one thing being approached the other way around -- that is, once the numbers of those in the academy issue is fully addressed and satisfied, then what is taught there will more or less naturally go out and serve to remedy social ills? Or is it all really more or less about power -- who has it and power to do what? Also, should there be ANY academy at ll.

More thoughts when I think of them. First thought: while art certainly has power to affect others and is  itself affected practically and otherwise by power considerations, when art and power get  heavily commingled, I think one tends to get dubious or conflicted or narrowly shaped  art.

FWIW, I can think of at least three works of jazz that certainly addressed or touched upon social ills/injustices in a powerful manner and IMO were largely or wholly successful as art -- Ellington's "Black Brown and Beige," Oliver Nelson's "Afro-American Sketches" and John Carter's three-part "Roots and Folklore."

Carter BTW writes, in the notes to "Castles of Ghana" (part of "Roots and Folklore)": "By the 16th century there was a great turmoil among many of the countries along Africa's west coast. Many African chiefs. in co llavboration with Euopean traders, used this chaotic period to form a new area of trade, one involving the illegal gathering and trading of African citizens to be eventually shipped from Africa to there places in the old, in permanent detention and generally for purses of un compensated labor. Many of the forts and castles became holding stations for African captives, awaiting a efficient number for ship,ent. The inspiration for my compositions is rooted in this historical period. They are musical projections of the high emotions that must have gripped all the participants of the real life human drama."

These are the words of a serious man whose music has serious weight.

P.S. I have a good friend, a vastly experienced professional musician, who was taught jazz performance and jazz history at a prominent NYC institution's venerable jazz program for many years. Over that time he has positively affected (by their own accounts) the lives and the varied musics of many now prominent younger jazz musicians of many racial and ethnic backgrounds. Further, knowing him and his considerable body of musical and historical knowledge and his kind caring nature, I'm fairly sure that what he is able to pass along is quite special. That is, not everyone who can be labeled and placed in a slot, if that's the name of the game, ought to be so labeled and placed -- first, as much as possible, look and listen carefully on an individual basis.

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https://weinsist.org/charter

I get it. Reforms are necessary. I also believe in reparations. And these are all statements that need to be articulated for some individuals who are knew to the history WE INSIST so powerfully invokes.

But its not like efforts haven't been made, time and again, to reform these institutions. Academia is perhaps more corporate than corporate America these days, which does not augur well for its capacity to mount the kind of change initiative being called for here. I'm not sure faculty, students, and external constituents even have the bargaining power – or coalition-building skills — they need to drive that change. Certainly not while the phenomenon of adjunct professorships persists...

Also notable: the only mention of alternatives to institutions in the charter occurs here:

"WE INSIST that every cultural and educational institution ensures their ABAR is done in partnership, both with BIPOC ABAR experts and grass-roots local community organizations; establishing ABAR alliances, collaborating with local activist groups and ensuring the work is inherently always open to and in consultation with those it seeks to uphold."

What does partnership mean? Are we talking about money here? I mean, it's all/always about money, isn't it? 

There's a generational divide we have to acknowledge here as well, I think. Millennials and Gen Zers don't necessarily have the same expectations of art that older generations do. Are those differences irreconcilable? There's anecdotal evidence to that effect. Look at recent controversies in the visual arts and literature. 

Again, I'm not saying the efforts this article points to aren't worthy. I'd just like to see as much investment as possible in creating alternatives: economic, organizational, aesthetic. That, to me, is the AACM model, one that proved replicable and rather successful — on its own terms. 

 

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Self-Determination Music is not something that you do once and then it lasts forever. Not in this life.

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1 hour ago, Joe said:

https://weinsist.org/charter

I get it. Reforms are necessary. I also believe in reparations. And these are all statements that need to be articulated for some individuals who are knew to the history WE INSIST so powerfully invokes.

But its not like efforts haven't been made, time and again, to reform these institutions. Academia is perhaps more corporate than corporate America these days, which does not augur well for its capacity to mount the kind of change initiative being called for here. I'm not sure faculty, students, and external constituents even have the bargaining power – or coalition-building skills — they need to drive that change. Certainly not while the phenomenon of adjunct professorships persists...

Also notable: the only mention of alternatives to institutions in the charter occurs here:

"WE INSIST that every cultural and educational institution ensures their ABAR is done in partnership, both with BIPOC ABAR experts and grass-roots local community organizations; establishing ABAR alliances, collaborating with local activist groups and ensuring the work is inherently always open to and in consultation with those it seeks to uphold."

What does partnership mean? Are we talking about money here? I mean, it's all/always about money, isn't it? 

There's a generational divide we have to acknowledge here as well, I think. Millennials and Gen Zers don't necessarily have the same expectations of art that older generations do. Are those differences irreconcilable? There's anecdotal evidence to that effect. Look at recent controversies in the visual arts and literature. 

Again, I'm not saying the efforts this article points to aren't worthy. I'd just like to see as much investment as possible in creating alternatives: economic, organizational, aesthetic. That, to me, is the AACM model, one that proved replicable and rather successful — on its own terms. 

 

Hmm, jazz reparations. What might they consist of? Kenny G's gonads plated in gold?

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34 minutes ago, Larry Kart said:

Hmm, jazz reparations. What might they consist of? Kenny G's gonads plated in gold?

Well, I wasn't really thinking so much about the music industry (shudder) as I was about a broader context in which WE INSIST's "demands" exist. 

Reparations has become a pretty big tent — conceptually speaking — as this recent report by the Brookings Institution indicates. https://www.brookings.edu/policy2020/bigideas/why-we-need-reparations-for-black-americans/ 

Also, I get it... the "create alternatives" argument can sound like a kindler, gentler rendition of the "bootstrapping" argument. Still patrician. But I think we need to have better conversations about agency, period.  

Edited by Joe

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I think the biggest, most meaningful, reparation is to just get out of the way.

"Everybody has a right to this music" is the biggest crock of bullshit since...all the other ones.

What everybody has a right to do is to work to get to it, musical, socially, intellectually. "Playing well" should be just the beginning, Now it's a cause for celebration. Bullshit.

Somebody once told me that the biggest impact that Wynton Marsalis had, bar none, was that he shifted the  reality of jazz from it being a meritocracy to being a democracy, not in terms of public perception (yay, narrative!) but as far as the actual musicians themselves. So now, everybody has a right to this music. EVERYBODY.

Call me cranky, but, you know, FUCK "everybody".

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1 hour ago, JSngry said:

I think the biggest, most meaningful, reparation is to just get out of the way.

"Everybody has a right to this music" is the biggest crock of bullshit since...all the other ones.

What everybody has a right to do is to work to get to it, musical, socially, intellectually. "Playing well" should be just the beginning, Now it's a cause for celebration. Bullshit.

Somebody once told me that the biggest impact that Wynton Marsalis had, bar none, was that he shifted the  reality of jazz from it being a meritocracy to being a democracy, not in terms of public perception (yay, narrative!) but as far as the actual musicians themselves. So now, everybody has a right to this music. EVERYBODY.

Call me cranky, but, you know, FUCK "everybody".

I don't disagree. But I also don't think WE INSIST is really talking about or focused on the music at all. Which, come to think of it, is pretty Crouch-ian/Albert Murray-esque/Wynton-y. 

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Just....everybody go away for a while and try to be long, not belong.

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the only thing I will add to this discussion is that there are hundreds of African and Africana studies departments in the United States.

Why have they not addressed this problem?

(rhetorical question that I will answer anyway: because they are as full of crap as the rest of academia)

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