Friday, May 29, 2009


When I listened to Ornette Coleman and Pat Metheney's Song X the first time in 1988(listen), a couple years after it came out, while the heat off it was fresh in the hearts of the jazz people at the college radio station I worked at, I totally hated the record. I remember thinking "this is why people don't like jazz." It had dumb song titles like "Video Games" and "Mob Job." Some songs were 15 seconds long, some were 13 minutes long and they were all equally annoying. I really disliked this album, and haven't listened to it since.

Now it comes across with the same jarring intimacy that I find throughout Coleman's records. He's poking you in the ribs and jostling you like y'all are old friends. Nothing too heavy, but nothing too light either. It is relentless but not raging. Stream of existence kind of stuff. I'm trying to wrap my brain around Coleman's harmolodics for the libretto for an opera about Coleman I am tentatively working on. In his words, harmolodics is:
the use of the physical and the mental of one's own logic made into an expression of sound to bring about the musical sensation of unison executed by a single person or with a group
I'm gathering that the practical musical interpretation is that all aspects of a song are alotted equal intensity: the pace, the energy, the rhythm, the melody are all coming at you in this music at the same speed. If a song is a race and all the components runners, everyone keeps pace and finishes breathlessly in a tie. I'm simplifying things and/or missing the concept entirely. I'm trying to figure out how to apply that to the writing, putting fact, fiction, conjecture, history, context, character, narration, music, truth, apocrypha, etc all on equal footing and make this thing enjoyable to witness.

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