Affirmation 1

It’s all too easy to get caught up in doomscrolling Twitter. I’m trying to stop, but at this point I’m certainly an addict. The recent article “Human Sacrifice and the Digital Business Model” by Geoff Shullenberger was helpful.

It is an arena for perpetual conflict driven by an accumulation of grievances collected in a mass program of decentralized surveillance. We are incentivized, by the coded logic of the social media platforms where public engagement now takes place, to find reasons to hate each other. The algorithms that encourage and reward particular behaviors on Twitter and Facebook play on our deepest human instincts and desires to create spectacles of symbolic violence and sacrifice.

Until I turn off the app for good — it’s hard to give it up while one’s career is hanging by a thread during a pandemic — I’m doing what I can to be a positive force, celebrating what I love.

Recently American classical music Twitter theorists — a small but noisy bunch — were all over the timeline. Opening progressive shots included comments like, “‘Bach wrote some of the greatest music known to mankind’ is the kind of language we need to change if we’re going to begin breaking down classical music’s racist problems,” and, “Beethoven was an above average composer—let’s leave it at that.”

Fine. Germany and associated European empires can make their own rulings on Bach and Beethoven. Americans could practice leaving that dominance hierarchy alone, anyway…

…For what I find relentlessly irritating is that Americans have their own great (I’m not afraid of the term) musicians, and this heritage seems to get further obscured by these academic culture wars. In essay after essay by those seeking to demand multiculturalism and racial justice, names like Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane are rarely present.

Irritation produces scolding, and I’m trying so hard not to do that (let alone succumb to “our deepest human instincts and desires to create spectacles of symbolic violence and sacrifice”). Instead, I tweeted out the following:

A lot of American musicians are arguing about music theory on twitter. There’s no one theory of music that’s gonna make you a finished American musician. Americans are blessed to be impure from the git-go. It’s fabulous. FWIW, I have already written a lot about this topic:

1) “…acquiring old-world academic tools was frequently a step along the way to being a professional American musician.” Black Music Teachers in the Era of Segregation.

2) “In 2019, our feverish culture war includes hand-wringing about the participation of African-Americans in ‘classical music,’ in this case referring to music that holds European-based presentation as the ideal.” Remembering Harold Mabern, Larry Willis, and Richard Wyands.

3) “Charles McPherson suggested to me that the songbooks are generally how jazz musicians learned European harmony, and I suspect he’s right. Indeed, before fakebooks, the piano players had to have the sheet music.” Deepening Your Relationship to Musical Theatre.

4) “Early black jazz musicians worked over the European harmonic system to include an African aesthetic.” Lil Hardin Teaches the Blues.

5) “Music theory is bunk.” Are Polychords Problematic?

6) “In some circles, ‘jazz harmony’ is held to be a valid discipline. It’s not. ‘Harmony’ is the correct discipline.” Theory and European Classical Music.

7) “Consecrated jazz drummers have less metronomic time than rock and fusion drummers for a reason. The beat is connected to the cycle of life and playing with an ensemble.” Rhythmic Folklore.

8) “Magic happens at the drum kit when the four limbs are slightly desynchronized. Any truly swinging or funky drummer does not always place the articulations of the two hands and two feet at exactly the same time.” Threepenny Review Table Talk bit on Hands and Feet.

9) “Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and McCoy Tyner all share the basic European information but their non-European information is harder to pin down. They relate harmony to rhythm in a ‘jazz’ way but intellectual analyses of these procedures are rarely convincing.” Theory of Harmony.

I maintain that great jazz fixes diversity issues in a flash. Much more to come from DTM about this astonishing and endlessly satisfying music.