03 February 2014

Exchange with Milo Fine (vii): "fuck prejudice!"

[Previously: Foreword(i)(ii)(iii)(iv)(v)(vi)]

[SK] Just one thought this time, regarding the academy broadly construed: I am (finally) reading the George Lewis book about the AACM, and in light of our last installment, it's intriguing to consider how many of these musicians, to say nothing of their more "inside" but also-innovative peers and elders around the country, spent time, musical and otherwise, in the military. This is not just to ponder the impact of military culture on their subsequent activities, but also that they possessed the requisite "inside" chops at early stages in their musical development. On top of that, if not because of it, there seems to have been very little scorched-earth modernism at work among this assemblage, no matter how strongly a few unperceptive contemporary critics may have thought they detected it; there is even mention in the book of the fundamentals of Western music theory being enthusiastically taught in the early AACM educational program. So, I suppose it's too bad I didn't actually listen to any of this music sooner; aesthetically, at least, I feel like I come from a similar place (a blessing and a curse alike, I suppose, in that it's not quite so radical a place anymore).

Good points/observations all. I knew this about the AACM, but hadn't thought of it in quite a while. (However, what's interesting in this regard is the nature of some of their early work. Listen, for instance, to Anthony Braxton's brilliant FOR ALTO. Talk about raw and unfettered!) The same thing held true for the first wave of Brit improvisors. Paul Rutherford, John Stevens and Trevor Watts met when they were in the Royal Air Force music school, which, as Martin Davidson astutely puts it in his liner note to the Spontaneous Music Ensemble CD reissue[s] of CHALLENGE was "a relatively painless and cheap way of getting a technical music education." (Indeed, my dad used his already established musicianship to gain playing experience while in the army. And it helped him to avoid some of the usual bullshit to boot.) And this gets us back to that self-serving canard: "You gotta know the rules before you break 'em." I say this is self-serving because it creates a more or less single path to finding one's voice; to creativity.

As I stated previously, as evidenced by the wonderful music created by folks having gone down this road, it is certainly a viable path. But, naturally (and again), that has as much (if not more) to do with the resolve of the individual to utilize their education to their creative advantage than the aforementioned canard. The reason I somewhat unfairly state "canard" is the fact that, in almost every endeavor, this "rule" is erected as a barrier in order to create a set of values which insulates those who have chosen to go that route; something to hide (their own weaknesses &, perhaps lack of resolve/initiative) behind. This is also why, generally speaking, and no matter how creative, articulate and accomplished they might be, someone without academic credentials is generally not allowed to teach in the academy. (If universities gave these people jobs it might expose the fact that the emperor has no clothes, or, at least fewer than one initially thought!) Similarly, when I tried my own divorce decades ago (that marriage being a short, wrong-headed union if there ever was one!), I was last on the docket. I asked someone -- perhaps the court officer -- why that was, and he told me that the legal system didn't want to broadcast the fact that a basic divorce could be done without the "benefit" of a lawyer. (Just think of all the lawyer's fees that wouldn't be collected!) On the other hand, of course, being an autodidact doesn't guarantee anything either. As I'm wont to intone, something akin to genuine creativity is in the hands of the individual practitioner, regardless of background. The (A) point is not to disregard the autodidact; what he/she brings to the table, out-of-hand. Fuck prejudice!

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