Random thoughts / zufällige Gedanken
zum 18. Darmstädter Jazzforum 2023
20. Juni 2023
... was the topic of our last Darmstadt Jazzforum conference, but of course the area of diversity also plays a role when we talk about the future of this music. We have noticed that a large percentage of jazz musicians in Germany are still male, predominantly white ("caucasian" is the American term), mostly come from rather educated families and have usually studied themselves.
How, for example, did those responsible for the Deutscher Jazzpreis, which was criticized in the first few years for its lack of diversity on the advisory board, jury and among the prize winners (Musicians For), ask themselves, can all this be changed? Concepts have been around for a long time: affirmative action in the U.S., quota regulations over here.
And yes, things have changed in recent years: Public juries usually have gender parity (if not, anger is - justifiably! - pre-programmed). There are prestigious prizes and funding programs that take care to alternate between female and male artists. Awareness of the presence of female musicians in jazz has also reached the musicians themselves, who either form bands with female musicians for strategic reasons (looks good on applications) or (actually more and more often, and this is the progress that at least I see here) recognize that bands with female and male musicians can take a completely different creative path, open up new spaces, lead to a different way of reacting to each other, of dealing with each other. und Musikern einen ganz anderen kreativen Weg einschlagen können, neue Räume aufmachen, zu einem anderen Aufeinander-Reagieren, Miteinander-Umgehen führen.
I tend, I must emphasize at this point, to be optimistic. I see this last development in numerous young ensembles (i.e. musicians in their 20s, early 30s), for whom gender balance is almost a matter of course, whereas just a few years ago one could argue about it with artists (and really both male and female musicians). So all is well? Not at all!
Jazz, we like to claim - by the way, also in the teaser for the last, i.e. the 16th (Jazz und Politik) and the 17th Darmstadt Jazzforum (Diversität im Jazz) – ideally represents the discourses of our society. But where are the musicians with migrant backgrounds? Where is the "last generation" on the jazz stage? Where are instrumentalists fighting for the rights of marginalized groups in our society?
In any case, all these are topics that will occupy us during the 18th Darmstadt Jazzforum, for example when Evi Filippou talks about her work with elementary school students, when James Banner presents his class-work project, in which he has invited mainly colleagues from a working-class rather than an educational background, when Julia Kadel describes the reasons why the Queer Cheer initiative was started in 2022 (which, by the way, received the special prize of the jury of the German Jazz Award), when Christopher Dell understands improvisation as a model of social coexistence, when Sabina Akiko Ahrendt reports on the connection between music and political activism, when Mariana Bodarenko reflects on the role music plays in times of war.
We cannot foresee the future. We can prepare for it. We can create spaces, secure spaces, in which the future can be experienced. We can work towards ensuring that at some point, when we talk about diversity, it is no longer about quotas and blame, but about the creative power of diversity. In jazz, too. But not just in jazz. In every place we get involved. Awareness. Change in consciousness. Not in others. In ourselves. This is how the future works. (I think...)
Wolfram Knauer (20. Juni 2023)
1. Juni 2023
(9) Ohne Vergangenheit keine Zukunft
Es ist ja eine Binsenweisheit, dass das “Neue um des Neuen willen” eigentlich ein alter Hut ist. Spätestens seit den 1970er Jahren geht das nicht mehr, diese Forderung, Jazz, Musik, Kunst ganz allgemein habe sich immer weiter zu entwickeln, immer neue Spielformen, Klänge, Approaches zu erfinden, dürfe sich auf keinen Fall wiederholen.
Tatsächlich hält sich diese Denkweise aber bis heute, zumindest bei uns in Deutschland, und sie ist wahrscheinlich auch dem Kulturdiskurs der Nachkriegszeit geschuldet, der in der Entwicklung ja immer die Hoffnung des Sich-Neu-Erfindens sah … verstehen Sie: sich neu erfinden in einer Gesellschaft, die an die zumindest jüngere Vergangenheit am liebsten gar nicht mehr denken wollte.
Die Amerikaner haben weniger Probleme mit dem Verweis auf Tradition, mit dem Nebeneinander-Stehenlassen von stilistischen Richtungen. Naja, stimmt nicht ganz, Wynton Marsalis führte, zumindest in New York (oder in Europa) durchaus zu Diskussionen, als er in den 1990er Jahren eine swing- und harmonie-bezogene Ästhetik des Jazz verteidigte und Fusion-Sounds oder improvisatorische Experimente aus der freieren Ecke als ganz interessant, “aber warum muss man das auch Jazz nennen” bezeichnete und deshalb seinerseits von der Avantgardeszene des Big Apple (und darüber hinaus) angefeindet wurde. Von Mickymaus-Bands reden wir also gar nicht, wenn wir Tradition meinen, sondern erst einmal von kreativen Versuchen aus der Jazzgeschichte heraus eine eigene Stimme zu gewinnen. Marsalis ist das ja durchaus gelungen: sowohl als Trompeter wie auch als Komponist.
Wo finden wir das hierzulande? Ach ja, Till Brönner, auf jeden Fall, er hat ähnliche Anwürfe auszuhalten aus einer jungen sich als Experiment verstehenden Jazzszene; er ist ähnlich gesettled in seinem Erfolg. Er setzt sich andererseits seit Jahren für ein House of Jazz Berlin ein, auch wenn das nicht seine eigene Klangfarbe widergeben würde. Tills Musik ist … ich wollte schreiben massenkompatibel, aber stapeln wir mal nicht zu hoch, auf jeden Fall aber kompatibel mit vielen musikalisch offenen Menschen, die auch Jazz gern hören, zumindest wenn er melodisch ist, aber “wenn es zu wild wird, ist das nichts mehr für uns”.
Tatsächlich vertritt Brönner genauso den Diskurs um die Zukunft dieser Musik hierzulande wie die in ihrem musikalischen Ansatz sehr unterschiedlichen Künstler:innen, die etwa mit dem diesjährigen Deutschen Jazzpreis ausgezeichnet wurden, genauso wie aber auch die (inzwischen nicht mehr allzu zahlreichen) Trad-Bands, die sich der Musik der 1920er und 1930er Jahre oder Musiker, die sich dem swingenden Mainstream verschrieben haben, sofern sie denn einen eigenen Klang daraus generieren konnten. Letztere Szene ist in diesem Diskurs (also dem um die Zukunft des Jazz) übrigens kaum zu hören, wird, wenn sie erklingt, auch nicht sonderlich wahr- bzw. ernstgenommen, unter anderem, weil ihre Fürsprecher oft gerade nicht die Musiker:innen sind, sondern Fans, die eher ideologisch als musikalisch argumentieren. Wenn man genau hinhört, dann lassen sich durchaus Bands entdecken, denen eine eigene Positionierung auch innerhalb traditioneller Spielarten des Jazz gelungen ist, die Echoes of Swing etwa, sicher Musiker wie Trevor Richards oder Reimer von Essen, Martin Sasse, Thilo Wagner und andere.
Deren Musik macht enorm Spaß. Sie wirkt kein bisschen museal, weil sie im Hier und Jetzt erklingt und eine Energie erzeugt, die sich direkt mitteilt. Und doch wird sie, zumindest in der Jazzszene als rückwärtsgewandt wahrgenommen. Gegenbeispiele sind etwa Uwe Obergs Ellington-Projekt, der Lacy Pool, oder “Transformations and Further Passages” des Clarinet Trio, ein Projekt, das sich Kompositionen deutscher Jazzmusiker:innen aus den 1950er und 1960er Jahren annimmt.
Was also ist die Zukunft des Jazz? Ganz bestimmt geht es bei ihr nicht nur um das “bislang Un-gehörte”. Es geht um das Bewusstsein, dass Musik Positionen markiert, musikalische, ästhetische, gesellschaftliche, und dass man sich als Musiker:in dieser Positionen klar sein sollte, im Konzert, in der Entscheidung fürs nächste Albumrepertoire, in der Ansprache an sein Publikum. Wenn überhaupt, ist Zukunft nämlich keine Zeit-, sondern eine Ortsbestimmung. Sie bezeichnet ein Ziel, auf das man zusteuert, auf das man aber nur zusteuern kann, wenn man weiß, wo man sich eigentlich befindet. Position beziehen aber lässt sich tatsächlich von jeder stilistischen Warte aus. Es gehört nur der Mut dazu, diese immer wieder neu zu beschreiben und sie in Beziehung zur aktuellen Wirklichkeit zu bringen.
(Wolfram Knauer, 1. Juni 2023)
9. Januar 2023
... left 2 3 4, right 2 3 4, or: Artificial Intelligence and Jazz
Mark Schieritz has discovered a French website that, purely by "artificial intelligence", locates all sorts of terms according to whether they are politically "left" or "right" (https://linksoderrechts.delemazure.fr/). This leads to curious associations such as: rose = left; tulip = right; tomato = left; rye = right; two = left; three = right. As a test, Schieritz lets numerous everyday words pass through the AI filter and then considers (a) how the classification may have come about and (b) how he himself thinks about it. The French computer science student Theo Délemazure, who programmed the aforementioned website, uses the software GPT3 for this purpose, which processes the entered terms in a kind of blunt context search on the Internet.
Schieritz's article is highly amusing (Die Zeit, behind the paywall). By the way, he also asked Délemazure's AI about musical terms: George Frideric Handel = right; Johann Sebastian Bach = left; C major = right; D major = left. (Schieritz: "D major sounds like revolution, C major sounds like restoration. Don't even ask!") Which made me curious. Jazz, after all, has always been located on the left (correct!). According to Délemazure's AI, it has that in common with New (contemporary composed) Music, with rock (but not right-wing rock), with baroque. Classical is on the left, classical music on the right. Lydian is left, Phrygian is right. Count Basie: left; Glenn Miller: right. And then there are also enough contradictions: Charlie Parker: left, but Bebop: right. Even in the Jazzinstitut Darmstadt we apparently are not all on the same side, at least if the knowledge of artificial intelligence is anything to go by.
But have fun with it yourself: it's great fun to query the website "left or right" (which is available in French and German) for all kinds of terms, names, contexts. And in fact, you can also influence the future (read: future results), by responding if a result doesn't seem right to you.
What does all this have to do with the future of jazz? Well, nothing... or a lot. In fact, quite a lot of research is being done on how artificial intelligence and music can be brought together. Computers are already suitable for analyzing and evaluating music (Jazzomat). You could have "new music" generated of historical jazz greats, as no less than Kenny G recently demonstrated when he fed artificial intelligence samples of Stan Getz's saxophone tone and then had it "invent" a new tune (AI and Jazz). Or: George E. Lewis, trombonist, composer and musicologist, has for a long time been working on computer software allowing him or others to improvise along the computer (MIT lecture). Interaction, re-creation, analysis - the new technologies can therefore be used for all sorts of things.
But how can all of this be used in a musical practice that is so strongly characterized by individuality, authenticity, uniqueness as jazz? Or, to put it another way: Is this kind of individuality aesthetic, which has shaped jazz discourse right up to the present, something we will have to accept for all future? Couldn't we perhaps talk about it? The discussion that is going on everywhere about the hegemony of a European value aesthetic also concerns the ideas of what is actually good in music, what is considered progressive, how important progressiveness is for the development of an art form. Or whether the alternative model to individuality might be that of community, whether progress does not also include the rediscovery of supposedly old practices. Part of the future of every art form is that we constantly renegotiate the space we give it, how it participates in the social and cultural discourse, how it thereby constantly redefines itself, explores its different contexts, consolidates its position in the association of current arts, contributes its political weight, develops its creative power. In all art forms, and thus also in jazz!
Julia Hülsmann = left; Christopher Dell = right; Till Brönner = left; Angelika Niescier = right????
Ah, artificial intelligence, you still have a lot to learn!
Wolfram Knauer (9. Januar 2023)
3. Januar 2023
(7) Jazz ist die Mutter des HipHop
Unlängst stolperte ich über ein Video des Pianisten Robert Glasper, der 2019 in einem “Jazz-Night in America”-Video erklärte “why Jazz is the mother of HipHop”. Robert Glasper über Jazz und HipHop
Wenn es nach mir geht, brauche ich diese Erklärung gar nicht. Hört man sich die Samples von DJs wie Africa Bambaataa der frühen HipHop-Ära an, ist für mich evident: Dem HipHop fließt Jazz-DNA in den Adern. Und es ist kein Blick über den Großen Teich oder in die Vergangenheit nötig, um die Verbindung zwischen HipHop und Jazz zu finden. Man braucht sich bloß junge Jazz-Schlagzeuger wie Silvan Strauss anzuhören. Album “Facing” von Silvan Strauss
Längst tue ich mich schwer damit, Jazz oder irgendeine andere Musikform als ein abgeschlossenes Genre anzusehen. Die Zuschreibung von unterschiedlicher Musik zu festgelegten Genre ist ein künstliches (kein künstlerisches) Konstrukt.
Die Eingrenzung und Legitimationsversuche des Jazz in Abgrenzung zur populären Musik machen mich regelmäßig stutzig und das Naserümpfen, wenn es um HipHop-Musik geht, wirft für mich einige Fragen auf. Ist es nicht leichter, Jazz und HipHop, sei es historisch oder musikalisch betrachtet, in den Zusammenhang zu stellen, als sie zu unterscheiden? Und wäre es nicht klüger, in der ständigen Debatte um den hohen Altersdurchschnitt bei Jazzfans von einer reaktionären Denke abzusehen?
Denn wirft man einen realistischen und gegenwartsbezogenen Blick auf das Ganze, stellt man fest, dass die jungen Leute Jazzstandards wegen der HipHop-Samples im Ohr haben und sich dessen gar nicht bewusst sind. Worüber sie sich aber bewusst sind, ist, dass MCs und DJs Zukunftsmusik spielen, sich immer wieder selbst überhöhen und gegenseitig steigern und damit das Innovative in der Szene befeuern, den jungen Leuten eine Zugewandtheit zur Zukunft vermitteln. Virtuos batteln sich Rapper:innen während der Cypher; Freestyle bedeutet Improvisation, bedeutet Innovation. Und das kennen wir doch irgendwoher.
Das alles kann man anerkennen, kann den Geist, der durch diese Musik weht, bündeln und das Potenzial, das in der Innovationsfähigkeit von Jazz und HipHop liegt, nutzen, um für das Große und Ganze eine vorteilhafte Zukunft zu gestalten.
Marie Härtling (3. Januar 2023)
20 December 2022
(6) Jazz: the most political of all art forms... really?
Yes, we do it, too: we like to brag about all the things that jazz stands for: individuality, freedom, openness, tolerance, diversity, experiment, progress, future... But are we really doing the music a service with all of these charges? Or don't they actually stem from our own political strategies to help jazz, i.e. "our" music, gain more prestige and respect, more leeway, more funding?
In fact, jazz is very different things to each of us. For me, Whitney Balliett's definition of the "sound of surprise" is still one of the most coherent. Yes, in the best case jazz surprises me - more than I expect from almost any other art form... but stop! There goes the jazzman in me again, who ascribes to jazz a "more" of abilities than contemporary new music, than advanced forms of popular music, than the avant-garde in visual arts, dance, theater or literature...
And the same holds for "repertoire", i.e. for the recollections of the great recordings of jazz history. In fact, these often enough fall outside our discourse of a progress-oriented art form. The "mainstream" - that is, the jazz mainstream, which is a different term than "mainstream" per se... oh, that's a subject to be discussed separately, how terms so often mean something different when used in different contexts... the mainstream, then, does not appear at all in funding programs for our music. It seems that there is not enough "research" involved, that it only relies on the "pleasing": looking in the rear-view mirror cannot possibly the future, can it! Not to mention traditional jazz. Just look at the winners of the German Jazz Award.
I don't want to criticize all of that. I believe that there is music that is more in need of funding than others, and I believe that we have found quite a good system in this country for creating and securing "spaces" for creative music. BUT: Shouldn't we be honest, identify jazz as just one of numerous avant-gardes and perhaps put the really outstanding thing in the foreground: namely that it actually doesn't fit into our European-influenced avant-garde concept at all, that in it, as an Afro-diasporic tradition, other value standards are possible and are lived, that ideally it always confronts us with our own misunderstandings about this music?
Admittedly: It's hard for me to do without the superlatives. After all, they work quite well in conversation with jazz lovers as much as with jazz newbies. And for me personally, jazz is about all of those things: individuality, freedom, openness, tolerance, diversity, experiment, progress, the future - more than any other form of music. But that has more to do with my own focus than with the music itself.
Perhaps we should just be aware of this from time to time, of the fact that many arguments in favor of jazz are due more to our love of the music than to an objective view of it. And to the fact that they also close our eyes to what a more unbiased view of jazz could contribute to the general cultural discourse.
Wolfram Knauer (20 December 2022)
31 October 2022
(5) just go ahead ... (women in jazz)
The future, after all, is always the present and the past, because we shape it out of what we have experienced, and because we have to start now changing things that we want to be different. This is what is going through my mind these days, while I read in German and American newspapers about Terri Lyne Carrington's publication "New Standards. 101 Lead Sheets by Women Composers" (e.g. die tageszeitung). The topic of "Women in Jazz", of course, is not a new one. At the same time, it is one that can be used almost as an example for how things change within our scene. Until at least the 1970s, female jazz musicians/instrumentalists were rare - at least that's how it seemed, because the press mainly reported on their male colleagues. die tageszeitung). Das Thema “Women in Jazz” ist ja kein Neues. Zugleich ist es eins, an dem sich die Veränderungen in unserer Szene fast schon beispielhaft nachverfolgen lässt. Bis mindestens in die 1970er Jahre hinein waren Jazzmusikerinnen / Instrumentalistinnen rar – zumindest schien dies so, weil die Presse vor allem über ihre männlichen Kollegen berichtete.
Every now and then there were articles about the subject in the jazz press, then in the 1980s the first publications followed documenting a glaring gap in the narrative of jazz history. Rosetta Reitz's record series "Women in Jazz" (1980-1981), Sally Placksin's book "Women in Jazz" (1982), Linda Dahl's "Stormy Weather. The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen" (1984) essentially changed this narrative. They documented that throughout jazz history there had always been women musicians, vocalists as well as instrumentalists. They thus changed the perception of history, yet these changes did not so much affect the present, which was still characterized by a fundamental skepticism toward female musicians in a male-dominated world.
At first it was singular, then more and more events, workshops, concerts, festivals that focused on the presence of women in jazz. And there were increasing calls for gender-balanced panels, for programs where the quota of women musicians (or at least bandleaders) was at least as high as that of men. There was an awareness that a desirable future can only be achieved by making changes in the present. Parity within juries is now the norm rather than the exception; festivals or workshops that fail to ensure at least adequate representation of women artists face a well-deserved shitstorm. There is still work to be done in university professorships and in radio big bands, but basically the issue has arrived everywhere. It is an issue not only in jazz, but actually in the whole of society, so it can no longer be pushed aside so easily. At the Darmstadt Jazzforum, we, too, have placed a focus on the topic (e.g., 2015: Gender and Identity in Jazz; 2021: Roots | Heimat: Diversity in Jazz), and yet we, too, must allow ourselves to be reproached for not always having designed our program in an exemplary manner: The lack of gender balance is not only prevalent in jazz, but also in jazz research and jazz journalism.
So now Terri Lyne Carrington's "New Standards": an at least ambiguous title for her book, which on the one hand looks for a different repertoire that makes female musicians more visible (audible), but on the other hand also demands new standards in everyday jazz - and not only demands them, but also provides the necessary material for them. In doing so, however, Carrington is not only changing the present; her book - just like her work at the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, which she founded in 2018 - is directed toward the future of jazz. Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice – ist auf die Zukunft des Jazz gerichtet.
The future, it should be noted, never consists of hope alone; it needs activists in the present. However, this is not exactly new to us; after all we are experiencing this everywhere around us at the moment. Thus, when we talk about the future, we must always look at the discourses of the present, not so much in a critically questioning way than with as encouragement. The more opinions are expressed and involved in the discussion, the more people identify with the topic, the better a future can be negotiated in which everyone feels involved.
(Wolfram Knauer, 31 October 2022)
6 Octber 2022
... "infinite vastness"* ...
Theo Croker recently recorded an original entitled "Jazz Is Dead". Pirmin Bossart headlines his article in the fall issue of the Swiss magazine Jazz 'n' More "Jazz is dead - but creative music is alive" and quotes Croker, who considers genres obsolete and finds that what some hip-hoppers do today "is more jazz than what jazz musicians do".
So there we are, then, with the question that has accompanied jazz for decades and that has become loud again in recent years - under changed auspices: doesn't the label "jazz" tend to hinder the perception of the music as a creative art that reflects the present? Doesn't the label carry far too much ballast around with it and wouldn't we all be helped if we finally stopped dividing music into genres?
My own opinion: I think "jazz" is a great term, but that is because I've known it for so long and because it stands for the music to which I feel so strongly emotionally attached. I find that labels are needed to talk about something - if I didn't have genre labels, I'd have to redefine what I'm talking about every time (of course, that can be nice too, but it's quite tedious...). The problem - in my opinion - is not the labels, but the tendency of many recipients to make these labels absolute, that is, to confuse the label with the thing itself. The problem is still that "jazz" is understood as a clearly circumscribable genre rather than as a musical practice. The problem has been furthered by the recording industry, which very deliberately used to label - "file under jazz / rock / country" etc. - in order to be able to market its products specifically to potential buyers.
But actually it doesn't matter what you call it, as long as you remain aware of the openness of this music. Personally, I have never quite understood that in the - in my opinion - most open music, jazz, of all things, such rigid aesthetic discussions about the permissibility of stylistic developments were even possible, when this music - again: in my opinion - lives precisely from in- instead of exclusivity. This is then how I understand Theo Croker's sentence. If one recognizes "jazz" as a musical practice, it can be found in all kinds of musical projects. Critics warn that this leads to arbitrariness, but in fact such an understanding simply calls for more open and at the same time more precise listening. And why shouldn't one argue from time to time about whether a recording, whether a concert, whether a musical attitude still fulfills the criteria of what "jazz" is for one personally?
Insofar as art is creative, it changes continuously, and with it the aesthetic criteria. All of us who are somehow involved with this music, whether professionally or not, have to deal with this change. Whether we accept it or not, who cares! Creativity makes demands not only on the creators themselves, but also on their recipients. That's why art, especially music, is a mirror of society. Particularly in art, experiments often challenge us to question ourselves, because they distruct the thought patterns in which we have actually made ourselves quite comfortable.
But back to the Darmstadt Jazzforum. We have titled our conference with a Sun Ra quote: "Destination unknown: The future of jazz". The uncertainty of that destination, it's something we're all kind of familiar with: We usually know where we come from, we know what structures we live in. But how we will shape the future, how this future will influence our own life and thinking, we just don't know. However, the unknown, the indeterminate is not only frightening, it also describes the hope for a "better", a "fairer" world.
Development, at any rate, is actually always a step ... forward.
*"Space: infinite vastness" [Der Weltraum: unendliche Weiten] would be the introduction to the TV series "Star Track" in its dubbed German version where the original has: "Space: The final frontier".
(Wolfram Knauer, 6 October 2022)
4 October 2022
(3) If you have visions...
I have mentioned it twice already, thus, today it's about "visions". And, no, you don't have to go to the doctor if you have visions, as Helmut Schmidt once so beautifully advised. It is enough to regularly compare your vision(s) with reality, i.e. to stay aware of the fact that a vision is possibly a long-term goal towards which one can work, which on the one hand, keeps changing itself, but which on the other hand, already by thinking about it, influences one's own perception of reality, and by working on or by talking about it, actually influences reality.
What, then, are visions? In our context, we could speculate about the musical vision, the idea, for example, of creating a constellation of sounds that is unheard of, at least for oneself, or the idea of an intercultural improvisation in which all participating artists follow the conventions to which improvisation is subject in their respective cultures. A vision could be limited only to one's own instrument, to technical details, to the mastery of it, or to mechanical changes that simplify intended musical processes. Wouldn't it be great, could be another vision to work towards, if our society was completely represented in the field of jazz and improvised music, in all its diversity?
Visions are really just that, the idea of an ideal goal. However, they usually have very practical effects, often already on one's own very current actions. The moment I have something in mind that seems desirable to me, I will already check my current actions to see whether they help or hinder the way to get there. And thus, every vision influences my actions. At the same time, my actions influence the vision as well. The vision has the advantage of blocking out reality. When working on its realization one then recognizes what is really possible, better perhaps: what seems possible to oneself, and automatically one adapts one's own vision. With each step, the vision becomes more of a goal, more of a compromise between vision and reality. So that's the third concept here: Vision - Reality - Compromise. But the compromise is not a slimmed down vision, it is what is feasible in reality (for oneself).
Jazz, Jazz Jazz.... For me, jazz has always been a visionary music. I can only speculate about the individual visions of the musicians; even if they talked about it, "expressed" visions are something different than the idea itself. For me, Duke Ellington had the vision that music could capture the reality of the African-American experience and thus enhance understanding of the ills of U.S. society. For me, Charlie Parker had the vision of a musical language in which the coming together of melodic, harmonic, rhythmic aspects with the moment of complexity that came with it, especially through the technical mastery of his instrument, could produce new sonic worlds. Miles Davis and his vision of sound - of his trumpet as well as of his band and his productions. Peter Brötzmann and the / a vision of free interplay. The vision of nationally or regionally connected sounds (Garbarek, Stanko). The vision of a folklore that cannot be assigned (Louis Sclavis, Erika Stucky, ARFI). The vision of jazz as an example of democracy (Willis Conover or the U.S. State Department of the 1950s and 1960s) or as an example of a just society (John Lewis, Billy Taylor, Gunter Hampel). The vision of gender justice - also in jazz (Terri Lyne Carrington). The vision of jazz as a political and social positioning (Abbey Lincoln, Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Sebastian Gramss). You don't have to know the visions the musicians had in mind to enjoy their music, but knowing about them adds information to the recordings and concerts. Duke Ellington die Vision, dass Musik die Realität der afro-amerikanischen Erfahrung fassen und damit das Verständnis für die Missstände in der US-amerikanischen Gesellschaft verstärken könne. Für mich hatte Charlie Parker die Vision einer musikalischen Sprache, bei der das Zusammenkommen melodischer, harmonischer, rhythmischer Aspekte mit dem Moment der Komplexität, das insbesondere durch die technische Beherrschung seines Instruments mit hineinkam, neue klangliche Welten hervorbringen konnte. Miles Davis und seine Vision des Klangs – seiner Trompete genauso wie seiner Band und seiner Produktionen. Peter Brötzmann und die / eine Vision des freien Zusammenspiels. Die Vision national oder regional verbundener Klänge (Garbarek, Stanko). Die Vision einer nicht zuordbaren Folklore (Louis Sclavis, Erika Stucky, ARFI). Die Vision des Jazz als eines Beispiels für Demokratie (Willis Conover oder das US-amerikanische State Department der 1950er und 1960er Jahre) oder als Beispiel für eine gerechte Gesellschaft (John Lewis, Billy Taylor, Gunter Hampel). Die Vision von Geschlechtergerechtigkeit – auch im Jazz (Terri Lyne Carrington). Die Vision des Jazz als politische und gesellschaftliche Positionierung (Abbey Lincoln, Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Sebastian Gramss). Man muss die Visionen nicht kennen, die den Musikern vorschwebten, um ihre Musik genießen zu können, aber wenn man um sie weiß, gibt das den Aufnahmen und Konzerten noch zusätzliche Informationen.
The examples show: Sometimes it is really about visions, sometimes the musicians - who, I hope you are aware, are only mentioned as examples - have already set out on the path, sometimes you can follow the comparison of vision with reality almost simultaneously. What they all have in common and what the 18th Darmstadt Jazzforum will also be about is: Jazz is a music that is directed towards the future. Musicians want to create something new together with others. They want to generate new sounds, new constellations, new experiences, and ones that reflect their respective present, that - like perhaps every kind of avant-garde - contribute something to the current cultural discourse. But in order to have the freedom to develop artistic visions at all, structures are needed that at least promote them. Such structures can be artists' collectives as well as educational institutions, funding programs as well as state institutions. Visions without the possibility to realize them remain - mostly - visions.
So what is needed to encourage musicians, organizers, journalists, music curators to tackle their visions? We hope to be able to discuss concrete proposals, especially in the panels of the Darmstadt Jazzforum, not about what we don't like in the present, but about how we imagine a better future.
(Wolfram Knauer, 4 October 2022)
28 September 2022
Ted Gioia has made our 18th Darmstadt Jazzforum the subject of his blog entry today - well, not really, but his post on "20 Predictions for the Music Business in 10 Years" (The Honest Broker) at least makes you wonder what can be said about the future at all. Gioia, partly tongue-in-cheek, predicts that the music of the future will once again be more focused on the music itself, or at least that's what marketing would have us believe. Record labels will no longer play a role in the careers of artists who instead will find ways to capture 80-90 percent of the revenue from their music. The number one hit on the Billboard charts will have been generated by artificial intelligence. The individual tracks of a new album (by a major star) will be auctioned off as separate NFTs before release. Streamed music will generate more revenue than live concerts (isn't that already the case?). There will still be record labels, but they will mainly market their back catalog and worry about the expiration of copyright protection for their products. The new music industry hubs will be in Seoul, Kinshasa and Jakarta. Gioia also goes on to predict that in ten years, trombone sales will skyrocket "after the instrument is implicated in a high-profile celebrity scandal".The Honest Broker) lässt einen zumindest darüber nachdenken, was sich überhaupt über die Zukunft aussagen lässt. Gioia sagt augenzwinkernd voraus, dass die Musik der Zukunft wieder stärker auf das Musikalische fokussiert sein wird, zumindest will uns das Marketing so etwas weismachen wollen. Physische Tonträger werden keine Rolle mehr für die Karriere von Künstler:innen spielen. Diese entwickeln Strategien, beim Vermarkten ihrer Musik im Internet immerhin 80-90 Prozent der Einnahmen für sich behalten zu können. Der größte Hit auf den Billboard-Charts wird von Künstlicher Intelligenz erzeugt worden sein. Die einzelnen Tracks eines neuen Albums (von großen Stars) werden vor Veröffentlichung als NFTs versteigert. Gestreamte Musik wird mehr Umsatz bringen als Livekonzerte (ist das nicht schon heute so?). Es wird weiterhin Plattenfirmen geben, die allerdings vor allem ihren Backkatalog vermarkten und sich um das Auslaufen des Urheberrechtsschutzes für ihre Produkte sorgen. Die neuen Hubs der Musikindustrie werden in Seoul, Kinshasa und Jakarta liegen. Gioia sagt außerdem noch voraus, dass in zehn Jahren Posaunen zum großen neuen Ding werden, weil es einen groß gehypten Celebrity-Skandal gab, bei dem das Instrument eine zentrale Rolle spielte.
Hmmm, hopefully we will all see. For our topic, at least, one important aspect is emerging: music seems to have been inescapably linked to the development of the recording industry since the 1920s - so much so that technological developments automatically have an impact on musicians' lives, incomes and art. This is true for the entire music industry, but perhaps even more so for jazz because, as improvised music, it has always sold NFTs, non-fungible tokens. Every recording, every performance by jazz musicians is unique. There were and are artists who actually record as much as possible, partly for their own archive (e.g. Duke Ellington in the 1960s), partly to make them accessible to an audience that knows about the singularity of each performance (e.g. Gunter Hampel). Duke Ellington in den 1960ern), teils, um sie zu pressen und einem Publikum zugänglich zu machen, dass um die Singularität eines jeden Auftritts weiß (z.B. Gunter Hampel).
The dystopia of a future music might indeed be the idea that art produced by artificial intelligence could have similar emotional impact as art produced by humans. I'm relatively relaxed about it: Sure, it will be possible to generate music that sounds "like" something else, music that refers to sound clichés of the past, Parker, Coltrane, Miles, but mixes them in a new way. Surely AI will eventually be able to generate music that sounds "like an experiment," like what we find exciting about current improvised music. But can a machine take risks? Improvisational risks, when musicians get involved with the reaction of other colleagues, to which they themselves react; aesthetic risks of the success of a previously presented concept, in the development of which in improvised music one never plans to the end, but rather consciously relies on risktaking? Some experiments with AI exist already, after all (George Lewis' Voyager; Dan Tepfer's "Natural Machines" project). Voyager; Dan Tepfers “Natural Machines”-Projekt).
I don't like comparing music and sports, but still: Sure, a machine can run faster than a human. But will it sweat? Will you smell the excitement? Will you feel the emotional exertion and the joy or disappointment about the result? You can also "smell" music. It is created by musicians acting together, leading to ever new musical conditions, to new sonic connections, to unexpected or also expected reactions, to joy, incipient boredom, thrills or that indescribable becoming-part-of-the-creative-process.
The future of the music industry, and the involvement of musicians in it: certainly an important topic for the Darmstadt Jazzforum. Actually, it has been an important topic in jazz for a long time, at the latest since Charles Mingus and Max Roach wanted to take the marketing of their recordings into their own hands with the Debut record label. What is possible, what is desirable, what is inevitable, what should be prevented at all costs? Or shouldn't we rely on the creativity of our field, which can generate something exciting out of every situation, because it ideally reacts to the present and explores future possibilities instead of regurgitating the past?
Ah, actually I had wanted to write about "Vision and Reality", but now Ted Gioia has lifted me onto another horse for the time being. Next time then...
(Wolfram Knauer, 28 September 2022)
26 September 2022
(1) The devil You (don’t) know…
Foreseeing cultural developments has never really worked out. We are far too stuck in the thought structures that shape our cultural present for that, but we would not only have to foresee artistic discourses, but also alternative spaces in which such discourses can be conducted, topics that we perhaps do not consider that important at the moment, a changed (self-)conception of art. We would have to think about institutions and their changes (cf. e.g. the demands made at the Darmstadt Jazzforum 17 regarding diversity in institutions), political sensitivities (cf. e.g. the discussions about Documenta 15 and the control obligations of curators as well as politics), changes in the perception and recognition of artists and their creative work in society. And of course we would have to think about the artistic statement itself, the creative process and its result, in the case of music the concert, the studio production, the connection with the audience.
What would all this look like in jazz? We have agreed on identifiers for "our" music, albeit in different ways. For example: improvisational, research-oriented, reinterpreting the intensity that ist often defined as "swinging" or "energy play" or by other ways of interlocking rhythmic, melodic and harmonic impulses. A reference to the African-American origins of the music and all the connotations associated with it, especially that of community: that is, that jazz is a music that needs community, the response of the audience. Such a reference can happen quite directly (melodic, harmonic or sound quotation), but equally indirectly ("with the awareness of..."). Currently, this respect for the African-American origin and experience of jazz is increasingly demanded over here (especially in Germany) as well, for example in terms of ethnic diversity in concert and festival programs.
But will this still be the case in ten years, or will the current tendency to actively compensate for social and cultural injustices no longer be considered so important by then, and instead perhaps more attention will be paid to what improvised music can tell us "today," that is, in 2032? Will the House of Jazz be a reality in Berlin and will similar concert spaces be available elsewhere in the republic, either highly subsidized by the public sector or privately financed by commercial financiers who have recognized that artistic research is no less important for their field than that in the analog or virtual laboratory? Will we still have club concerts in front of live audiences, or will the developments of virtual reality enable us to have corresponding shared experiences in a different way? Will the musicians' life still consist primarily of travel, research and teaching, or will they be able to pursue their creative work more and more from home in a co2-neutral way?
Arrghhh... I'm not good at science fiction. Maybe I'm too much of a realist, maybe I'm too fearful, maybe I'm just not enough of an artist.... Anyway, every "Why not!" in my head is followed by a lot of question marks. It is easy to prefer the security of the current reality to the uncertainty of the experiment: "the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know...". I'll leave it at that and suspect: just as I can't imagine the future of jazz, I can't really imagine the discussions we might have about it in September 2023 at the Darmstadt Jazzforum. What makes me feel better is that I know I'm dealing with creative artists who aren't afraid to take a thought and simply spin it further, no matter how much adjustment of the context is necessary. That, after all, is one of the strengths of jazz (as well as other artistic avant-gardes): that it is able to focus on individual motifs, on rhythmic structures, on emotional inklings, to dissect these in each case, and in the process to create something new, as it were, along the way.
Which, however, immediately makes me wonder again whether the future isn't always, well, at least "also" coincidence? But that would be the topic of another blog entry - by the way, just like the topic "vision meets reality", which I would like to think about next time...
Wolfram Knauer (26 September 2022)
All photos on this blog page come from the Sun Ra Archive of the Hartmut Geerken collection at the Jazzinstitut Darmstadt.