Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Respectable Routinized Neo-Academic Style

B O O !

It's that time of year again. [Actually, it's about 12 days after that time of year...] It seems like September 15th was just yesterday. At least I got the costume made for the compost pile.

This Halloween I wanted to make a special costume for the compost pile, so I made some carrot juice and combined the carrot-grindings with some hair I brought home from the feed lot (the cows get a shave before they get branded.) I also brought home a lot of cow feces to add to the other manure, but that's all under the hair. Now is that a great low cost costume for the compost pile or what?

Trick or treat!

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The Internet has been kind of boring me lately. Ever since Mwanji stopped blogging I haven't enjoyed this particular aspect of cyberspace as much as I once did. But that hasn't stopped me from being totally mesmerized by this whole stock market thing. Not that I have any money in the stock market or a retirement fund 401k thing anything gross like that, but seeing the squiggly line go down and to the right as it has for the last month gives me a real 1928-1932 kind of feeling.

Feelings aren't facts of course.

Before October is over, some Maoist self criticism is in order--but first a riddle:

What do Stephen Haynes, Matt Weston, Taylor Ho Bynum, Dave Douglas, The Bad Plus, and just about every other Jazz/Free Jazz blog meme generator/outlet imaginable have in common with yours truly? They didn't wish Bill Dixon a happy birthday on their blog either.

Doods! We are all one! So when are we going to play some music together?

While I was ashamedly remiss in putting out any happy-birthday meme, I was on a conscious, intentional, focused, concentrated Dixon listening jag for a good solid week from the 2nd to the 9th. I put all the small group recordings into the carousel: November 1981, Son of Sisyphus, Vade Mecum (1&2) and Berlin Abbozzi.

Dixon is one of those artists where a small segments of his work (let alone the totality) stand as tremendous achievements. If those were the only records he ever made, Dixon would still be a central figure in our beloved improvised music. The two-bass thing--that was Dixon.

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For the last few installments, we have been taking hurt words from W. Jackson Bate's little gem The Burden of the Past and the English Poet, which for our purposes here might as well have been titled The Burden of the Past and the Improvising Musician in the Early 21st Century.

Unfortunately, W. Jackson Bate's book is no different than any other in it's ability to make me yawn a lot and do other things.

One of the other-things I did was make a small green house out of garbage to extend the growing season here in "so called" zone 5.

Hands up, who here has anxiety about starving to death in the wintertime?

We'll get back to Bate, I promise--but in the mean time, let's turn our attention again to Adorno. Winter is coming. Bate's writing is just a little too sunny. Let's turn up the bleak-0-meter to 11 with some passages from Adorno's Philosophy of New Music. My copy is translated and edited by Robert Hullot-Kentor. It has lots of foot notes and is published by the University of Minnesota Press.

"The history of new music as a movement no longer tolerates a "meaningful juxtaposition of extremes." Since the heroic decade, the period around World War I, it has as a whole been a history of decline, of involution to the traditional. Modern painting's aversion to figurative representation, which in art marks the same breach as does atonality in music, was an act of defense against mechanized art merchandise, primarily photography. In its origins, radical music reacted no differently to the commercial debasement of the traditional idiom. It was the antithesis to the spreading of the culture industry into its own domain. It is true that the transition to the calculated manufacture of music as a mass produced article took longer than did the analogous process in literature or in the plastic arts. Its aconceptual and nonrepresentational aspect, which has since Arthur Schopenhauer recommended it to irrationalistic philosophy, made it refractory to the ratio of salability. It was only in the era of the sound film, of radio and publicity set to music, that, precisely on account of its irrationality, it was entirely seized by society's commercial rationality. However, once industrial management of all cultural goods was established as a totality, it also won control over the aesthetically nonconforming. In late industrialism, the superiority of mechanisms of distribution--which stand at the disposal of kitsch and bargain-basement cultural goods--together with the socially manufactured predisposition of the listener, brought radical music into complete isolation. For those composers who want to survive, this isolation becomes a moralistically invoked social pretext for a false peace. This characterizes a musical type who, with undaunted pretensions to modernity and seriousness, conforms with calculated idiocy to mass culture. Hindemith's generation still brought talent and skill to its efforts. Its moderation was evidenced above all in its entirely unprincipled intellectual compliancy, in compositions made to suit whatever the occasion, and finally in the liquidation of its contemptible program along with everything else musically discomforting. They came to their end in a respectable routinized neo-academic style. This reproach cannot be lodged against the following, third generation. The collusion with the listener, disguised as humanity, begins to disintegrate the technical standards that progressive composition achieved. What held good prior to the breach, the constitution of a musical nexus by tonal means, is irretrievably lost. The third generation does not believe in the solicitous triads that they write with a sly wink, nor are the threadbare means at their disposal themselves adequate for any music other than a vacuous one. These composers prefer to evade the rigor of the new compositional language that in the marketplace rewards the greatest efforts of artistic conscientiousness with utter failure."

Adorno, Philosophy of New Music, "New Conformism" p. 9 - 10

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"They came to their end in a respectable routinized neo-academic style."

Ooof! Withering!

So here's a question: Who, in our beloved improvised music, are the analogous heirs of Hindemith who are now riding out the apocalypse in the comforts and rewards that come from capitulating to a respectable routinized neo-academic style? Is that just a fancy way of saying "selling out."

Though he worked in academia, Dixon's style was never routinized neo-academic. Maybe that's why they didn't mention Dixon in that goddamn all girl drama academy's 75th anniversary vanity pamphlet. They did have a nice little feature (picture and write up) on Anna Gaskell, which was nice, especially since Anna Gaskell merely attended but did not graduate from Bennington College. Dixon taught hundreds if not thousands of students at that school for somewhere in the three decade range and nary a peep.

Is it petty to bring this up? Is it petty to bring this up if it is true?

Hey, maybe we can have our bloggers-who-didn't-say-happy-birthday-to-Bill-Dixon jam session in the "Barbara Uskow Deane Carriage Barn." Wouldn't that be a thing?