By Andrew Durkin
Decomposition is a bracing, revisionary, and provocative inquiry into music—from Beethoven to Duke Ellington, from Conlon Nancarrow to Evelyn Glennie—as a private and cultural adventure: the way it consists, the way it is idiosyncratically perceived through critics and reviewers, and why we hearken to it the best way we do.
Andrew Durkin, most sensible referred to as the chief of the West Coast–based commercial Jazz workforce, is singular for his insistence on asking tricky questions on the complexity of our presumptions approximately track and approximately listening, specially within the electronic age. during this profitable and lucid learn he explodes the age-old notion of musical composition because the paintings of person genius, arguing as an alternative that during either its composition and reception track is essentially a collaborative company that comes into being in basic terms via mediation.
Drawing on a wealthy number of examples—Big Jay McNeely’s “Deacon’s Hop,” Biz Markie’s “Alone Again,” George Antheil’s Ballet Mécanique, Frank Zappa’s “While You have been Art,” and Pauline Oliveros’s “Tuning Meditation,” to call just a few—Durkin makes transparent that our appreciation of any piece of song is often expert via neuroscientific, mental, technological, and cultural components. How we hearken to song, he continues, may need as a lot strength to alter it as song may have to alter how we hear.
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Extra resources for Decomposition: A Music Manifesto
Teachout is unquestionably responsible of a gratingly stronger tone—a functionality of the cultured positivism that looks his expert bailiwick—but he's faraway from seeing Ellington as “incapable. ” And notwithstanding i've got larger sympathy with the spirit of Payton’s grievance, for the needs of this bankruptcy i have to indicate that he the following frustratingly enacts one of many traps of the rhetoric of genius. Deconstructions of creativity are frequently brushed aside in what Joseph Horowitz, writing approximately classical tune, calls an “attitude of hortatory, contentious reverence,” a stance that “denounces impostors and wards off agnostics. ” Jazz has its sacred cows too, and to the level that the song is known as heroic paintings, the belief of conventional authorship, at the very least in terms of jazz composition, can be one in all them. announcing so doesn't make Ellington’s artistry any much less awesome. yet finally our comprehensible wish to guard him from serious presumption aren't come on the cost of the opposite musicians in his band, as though they have been inconsequential to the ensuing attractiveness. “COTTON TAIL”: SOLOISTS AND PALIMPSESTS In his liner notes for The Blanton-Webster Band, a three-CD compilation of the Ellington band’s tune from the early Forties, Mark Tucker writes, “In contemplating Ellington’s wealthy and efficient existence as a qualified musician, one’s head spins. How did he do it? What might account for his unheard of luck? ” mockingly, while discussing the origins of “Cotton Tail,” one of many compilation’s featured works, Tucker walks us via a stunning instance of the collaborative dynamic within the staff, answering his personal query. “Cotton Tail emerges as an easy, basic romp at the chords of Gershwin’s I received Rhythm,” Tucker says. “Ben Webster’s celebrated solo varieties Cotton Tail’s centerpiece. The later refrain for the reeds is additionally considered Webster’s invention. in reality, it seems like a harmonization of a sax solo. ” Tucker’s research is helping us comprehend the artistic paintings within the tune quantitatively; by means of his reckoning, eighty-four bars of “Cotton Tail” will be attributed to Ellington (seventy-six bars of ensemble taking part in and 8 bars of Ellington’s soloing), while 104 bars are Webster’s (the sixty-four-bar major solo, an eight-bar solo holiday, and thirty-two bars of harmonized solo on the end). There are others who imagine Webster was once accountable for extra of “Cotton Tail” than that—Teachout notes that the piece “is exclusively credited to Ellington, yet Webster is believed to have either composed the track and organized the both celebrated soli refrain. ” In both case, the remarkable factor is that Webster’s contributions—based in improvisation yet nonetheless basically compositional—are proportionally larger. therefore the apposite identify of the CD set—The Blanton-Webster Band. (In addition to Webster, bassist Jimmy Blanton is featured. ) but when it really is precise that Webster is liable for greater than part the track that makes up “Cotton Tail,” is it reasonable to easily assign authorship to Ellington by myself, because the manufacturers of The Blanton-Webster Band do—or to indicate extra extensively, as Harvey Cohen does whilst addressing an analogous period, that Ellington used to be capable as a solitary actor “to produce one of many maximum classes of prolonged creativity within the band’s history”?