Uncommon music criticized by the common man. (Or, exercises in futility masquerading as critical thought.)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

I have been drafting a piece for this site re: avant-garde music when CO posted the following in the comments of a previous post (about QBICO Records):

The more abstract music (or any art) gets, the more its about the process.

I was going to try to incorporate this sentiment into my other mini-essay, but have decided to briefly address his point instead.

Let me start by saying that CO is not the first person I've heard make this statement re: modern or abstract art. And while it's not entirely untrue, I think its value is overstated. I find this to be particularly true as it applies to free jazz. Frankly, there is not much of a difference between a free jazz performance and any other type of jazz performance. Depending on the performers, it could be just as ordered as a chamber quartet, or as sweaty and blaring as a rock concert.

Now, if "process" encompasses more than the live creation of the music (and based on CO's comment that he could watch it but not listen to it, I did not take him to mean more than that), then there are certainly numerous differences between free jazz and more traditional jazz. But, implying that the greater value of free jazz resides in its creation and not in the finished work unfairly diminishes a rather sizable body of music. I think this sentiment stems largely from the fact that avant-garde art is viewed as primarily "academic" in its appeal; the relatively small audiences for such art reinforces this notion. As such, avant-garde works are assumed to reside within a sort of experimental vacuum, where the form is tweaked for the sake of tweaking, but with no real artistic goals in mind. Certainly, this spirit of "what will happen when I do this?" does exist, but how else do you innovate form? If not for artists who try to go beyond the formalistic restrictions of their art, there would be no progress.

Of course, whether a person likes "new" art is entirely subjective and is not the point here. However, to ignore the art for the sake of the form renders innovation meaningless and essentially stifles creativity.