Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jazz'll Make You Think

In my continuing quest to add CD's that are part of the core jazz collection as spelled out by Penguin, I added a few more nuggets to my collection earlier this week. They were:

-Short Life of Barbara Monk by Ran Blake
-Mel Torme Swings Shubert Alley
-Sound by the Roscoe Mitchell Sextet

I've listened to each one just once. I have to take issue with Sound. I read where this is a landmark album and I've already noted it as part of Penguin's core collection. It is also a Crown collection pick. Unfortunately, it's crap. I actually listened to this while falling asleep on Monday night, so I've actually listened to this one twice, but only once while I was awake. It caused me to ask myself one simple question: What is the difference between music and noise? My definition of music would include the use of words such as "rhythm, time, melody, and harmony". Wikipedia says the same: "Music is an art form in which the medium is sound. Elements of music are pitch (which governs melody and harmony), rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter and articulation),dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture." Sound does not have any of that. I mean, I'm impressed the guy can make a trumpet sound like a fart and then like an ambulance speeding down a gravel road, or whatever. And I'm glad he can find a way for sleigh bells, gongs, penny whistles, recorders and an assortment of cymbals and castinets to be used in one song, even if it is 26 minutes long. But is that music? I mean, if you tried to write down Sound as a score, could it even be done? I don't believe it could. If I'm right, then, is it music? It's got plenty of timbre and texture and the medium is certainly sound, but I think the sound of me cleaning the fish tank has all that, plus some rhythm and dynamics to boot. Maybe I should make a CD of me cleaning the fish tank!

All I can say is, when you've listened to a bit of music, you ought to be able to hum it when it is over. If you reach the end of whatever you are listening to and can't hum it, I would question if that qualifies for music. I'm sort of amazed that Mitchell and the producers of his record used a title like "Sound". I suppose they realized its more fitting title, "Noise", wouldn't sell many albums. As it is, only hype has managed to sell this CD since, because there is no music on there. Maybe years from now, or even weeks from now, I will feel differently. Eventually, I came around to Eric Dolphy (but I can hum one or two of his songs). Maybe there is a root that my brain will eventually tap into that will allow me to understand and appreciate the significance of this monumental work. I don't know. I pretty much doubt it. I think I just have to admit that if you are into Roscoe Mitchell and his Sound, you are much smarter than me.

Or, maybe, not.

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