Is jazz listening to its listeners?

aydee

Platinum Member
Excerpts from a very interesting article in WSJ by By ERIC FELTEN which i thought I'd share with some of the 'mavens' here. Feel free to opine.

..........

'People who want to play jazz actually outnumber those who enjoy or even tolerate it, let alone pay to hear it." Of all the provocations in a provocative satire of the jazz world, this was the one that seemed to cut deepest. Now this article is being passed among economist-bloggers as a comic case study in market dysfunction.The piece presents a tawdry taxonomy of the sad and self-deluded types struggling to make music without starving.
A small sampling: "Gig Whores" (who will play any music at any venue with any lame band in order to pay the rent);

"Jazz Educators" (who train musicians who, unable to make a living performing, become jazz educators themselves, thus perpetrating a "vicious cycle";

and "Arts Administrator" (one who "Diverts and sucks dry the scant dollars that governmental agencies and charitable foundations earmark for jazz artists").

The basic picture—a pathetic scuffle for crumbs—inspired sadder-but-wiser grins in the jazz world. But it also sparked outrage and anger among those who were unamused:

"How does mocking the people who perform the music that the author professes to love help to create more jazz?" one musician sputtered (seeming to miss one of the basic points—that one doesn't need more of a good for which there are too few consumers).

Musicians continue to pick sides on the story.

Audiences do turn up here and there by way of describing musicians who have sold out, but never are they treated as in any way essential to the jazz musician's craft. (At the very end there is a devil's dictionary definition of "Smooth Jazz" that explains that smooth jazz artists are not jazz artists because they "have many fans [and] appreciate their audiences.")

Pleasing the audience has a bad odor among jazz musicians, who tend to see it as a betrayal of their artistic imperative.

In the midst of his midcareer doldrums, Duke Ellington was offered some business advice by a bandleader flush with success. Ellington famously snipped in reply: "The band you run has got to please the audience. The band I run has got to please me." (Never mind that Ellington knew a lot about pleasing anaudience—his hands flew from the piano keyboard with flamboyant flourish; in his heyday, Duke's show included dancers and comedians; Ellington was always seducing the crowd, cooing from the stage, "Love you madly."

"What most of us turn to music for is an emotional experience," musician turned neuroscientist Daniel Levitin wrote in "This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession."

A musician might produce awe or inspiration or exhilaration or pity or longing or terror or affection or anxiety or joy or any number of other mental states. But the musician who doesn't produce some response in some listener is a failure as an artist. The audience isn't just the group of people who pay the rent; its presence and reaction are essential to the performance.

...
 
W

wy yung

Guest
So jazz wont outsell Linkin Park. Making millions from music is relatively new. Since when was the quality of art based solely on the revenue it generates?

This is a symptom of the world run by economists. And look where that got the world!
 

Funk

Member
the record and media companies have turned music into a customer service based industry. they only distribute what sells fast and goes down easy, catering to a large group of people who believe that "if its not on the radio its not good" and demand to be entertained constantly… my fiancee used to have the worst taste in music, not dogging pop, there is some good stuff out there, but hell…. i just got tired of the same shallow topics being rammed down my throat just for the sake of the record company's profit margin! she still gives me crap for listening to "musician's music", but she's warming up and expanding her palette. thank god for youtube, which is making the record companies sweat… free worldly exposure for independent artists is the bane of their existence, its cutting out the middle man!! xm radio has some jazz stations, a jam band station, and a whole slew of independent/underground stations. itunes will let anybody sell their record there. bottom line, if jazz is to survive, it has to go (and stay) where the masses are: facebook, itunes, youtube, etc, and not stand around waiting for a club's three regulars to walk in. it might not be ideal for a lot of folks... the art of performance used to only take place in person, now more people than ever watch their favorite events in front of a device's screen. i think there is too much stubbornness and pride in a genre founded on innovation… it's the hypocrisy that is killing jazz!
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
I think we already discussed that piece in detail here a few months ago. The author admitted in some comments on the original site that it was written tongue-in-cheek.

I'm in the middle of enjoying my 24th consecutive Detroit Jazz Festival. Judging by the spectacular attendance every day of this Labor Day Weekend thus far, and the enthusiastic shouts of encouragement for the inspired performances, I'd at least say there are a lot of people around me who share my love for the music.

Here's a piece on one particular set from last night. http://www.freep.com/article/20120903/ENT04/120903002/Thrills-revelations-from-the-Wayne-Shorter-Quartet-at-Jazz-Fest?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Multiply this times about 100 to reflect four days and five stages full of music all afternoon and evening and you have an idea of the kind of enthusiasm. You gotta be in the middle of a mass of humanity hanging on the every note of these musicians to appreciate how much it's appreciated.
 

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
So jazz wont outsell Linkin Park. Making millions from music is relatively new. Since when was the quality of art based solely on the revenue it generates?

This is a symptom of the world run by economists. And look where that got the world!
I hear what you are saying and you are correct that the quality of the art has absolutely nothing to do with the revenue it generates but it has everything to do with the creation of an emotional effect in the listener.

I believe the original intent of the article was to ask whether or not jazz artists of today are concerned about the creation of an emotional effect in the listener or whether they are doing it entirely "for themselves".

I think this is a valid question.

Is the role of the jazz musician to "wash away the dust of everyday life" as Art Blakey said? This would imply a certain degree of caring about the listener.

It seems that jazz was definitely once as Mr. Blakey describes it.

Is it something else now? And if that something else is not concerned with creating an emotional effect in a listener then what is the purpose of today's jazz musician?

I am not qualified to answer this question as I am neither a jazz player nor listener. But I believe that was the original question posed by the article.

In other words, is the art inherent in the music itself or does the "art" only manifest itself when it creates an emotional effect in the listener? (Sort of a musical version of "If a tree falls and no one hears it does it make a sound?")

I myself would have to say that the "art" lies in the effect upon the listener. I say this because song and music were used by our ancestors to communicate with others. Without this "other", there is no communication.

But I may be wrong...
 
W

wy yung

Guest
Thanks for your thoughtful reply Jeff.

I am unable to answer as a layperson, being a musician. I am affected by many of todays artists. Irvin Mayfield's Half past Autumn suite, is something that moves me.

Art is something that I cannot put in a box and say "behold art!". The author seems ready to criticise, and that is all too easy. Should an artist cater to an audience? And if so is the artist no more than a slave? Or should the artist lead, or simply follow his or her muse? Nobody knows what will sell. Take the debacle that was the Yes album, Union. Or as Wakeman called it, Onion, because it made him cry.

In this age of blogs and Twitter, many have become critics. Personally I never take note of critics. Critics lambasted Miles for going electric. And look at the result following Miles' effort. Startling, to say the least. Mahavishnu, Lifetime, Weather Report and dare I say it, Kenny G.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Some musicians are happy to adjust to any style, others are compelled to follow their own particular vision even if most people don't like it, eg. Albert Ayler.
 

BickDutt

Junior Member
What people call jazz nowadays is mostly "contemporary improvisational savant music". It has nothing to do with jazz anymore, which is a swing-based dance music with somewhat catchy melodies that people can enjoy.

This CISM, as coined aboved, caters to three categories of people: musicians who want to be confirmed in their trade by other musicians, music journalists specialized in this CISM, and a few non-musicians non-journalists people who want to feel excitation in their brain but mostly just want to be cool listening to stuff that is absolutely abhorrent to the common layman.

Why is is so abhorrent? Because the first category obsesses with competition, and the music degenerates into who can play the most 'sophisticated' (read: ultra-cerebral pointless harmonies) and technically savvy stuff (unswinging rushed concatenation of notes, or vapid random fluffy carressing of skins).

Rightly so, CISM players can only be better than their peers, who will flock to gaze in awe at their flurry of notes, or become teachers. The casual music lover looks upon this circus and wonders.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN5xyZvMjJc
 
A

Anthony Amodeo

Guest
yeah we discussed this article a couple months ago......still interesting thought

.......tongue in cheek for sure 8mile

a couple Thelonious Monk quotes come to mind

"I say, play your own way. Don’t play what the public wants. You play what you want and let the public pick up on what you’re doing? even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years."


"Where’s jazz going? I don’t know. Maybe it’s going to hell. You can’t make anything go anywhere. It just happens."


...to me jazz is a live improvisational expression that was never really meant to sell like pop acts or really even to be listened to as much on record as it is in person...
....it's not cotton candy for everyone.....it's more like wine

I have never met a jazz musician in the game for the paycheck.

but I do see them play at unadvertised shows at 3 am in packed warehouses because they absolutely love what they are doing......and I love doing it as well
 

PQleyR

Platinum Member
I'd just sum it up thus: art and entertainment are not the same thing, though they aren't mutually exclusive.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Nice to see Bill Anschell's satirical piece catching the attention of a WSJ writer and some economics people, apparently— even if the guy ends up punking himself by taking it way too literally. Your excerpts are a little too fragmented to get a sense of the piece— it's hard to tell who's writing what here. A link would be nice.

'People who want to play jazz actually outnumber those who enjoy or even tolerate it, let alone pay to hear it." Of all the provocations in a provocative satire of the jazz world, this was the one that seemed to cut deepest. Now this article is being passed among economist-bloggers as a comic case study in market dysfunction.The piece presents a tawdry taxonomy of the sad and self-deluded types struggling to make music without starving.
There are a lot of people struggling, but I don't see the sadness and self-delusion he imagines. I think that's something the author is projecting on to us.

Pleasing the audience has a bad odor among jazz musicians, who tend to see it as a betrayal of their artistic imperative.
I wonder if this guy talked to any actual musicians to come to that conclusion. Most of us are trying hard to find an audience, which would imply that we want to be pleasing to them in some way.

A musician might produce awe or inspiration or exhilaration or pity or longing or terror or affection or anxiety or joy or any number of other mental states. But the musician who doesn't produce some response in some listener is a failure as an artist. The audience isn't just the group of people who pay the rent; its presence and reaction are essential to the performance.
Stupid. He should shut up about artistic success or failure, because he knows nothing about it. Stick to economics and crap. It's not a question of no one at all appreciating a given hypothetical performance, it's a question of the numbers of people who appreciate it. I thought that was his whole point.

I hear what you are saying and you are correct that the quality of the art has absolutely nothing to do with the revenue it generates but it has everything to do with the creation of an emotional effect in the listener.

I believe the original intent of the article was to ask whether or not jazz artists of today are concerned about the creation of an emotional effect in the listener or whether they are doing it entirely "for themselves".

I think this is a valid question.
That's probably happening, but it's at least as much a symptom of the screwed up economy of the scene as it is a cause of it.

Is the role of the jazz musician to "wash away the dust of everyday life" as Art Blakey said? This would imply a certain degree of caring about the listener.

It seems that jazz was definitely once as Mr. Blakey describes it.

Is it something else now? And if that something else is not concerned with creating an emotional effect in a listener then what is the purpose of today's jazz musician?
A lot of current jazz can do what Blakey says, but doesn't get the opportunity because it doesn't get heard, or heard in a context where people can give it a fair hearing. That's the whole issue.

In other words, is the art inherent in the music itself or does the "art" only manifest itself when it creates an emotional effect in the listener? (Sort of a musical version of "If a tree falls and no one hears it does it make a sound?")
Both. Art is communication, but it's also a process— a thing you do. It doesn't have to be appreciated by a third party (or by the artist from a third party perspective) to be complete.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
...jazz... is a swing-based dance music with somewhat catchy melodies...
You may be able to get that definition to stick if you can burn all of the history books, and a good part of the last 45-75 years of recorded jazz. What you're describing was a paleo-conservative definition of jazz in the 1940's.

This CISM, as coined aboved, caters to ... a few non-musicians non-journalists people who want to feel excitation in their brain but mostly just want to be cool listening to stuff that is absolutely abhorrent to the common layman.
You can riff on that stereotype all you like, but you don't actually know why they listen to it.

Why is is so abhorrent? Because the first category obsesses with competition, and the music degenerates into who can play the most 'sophisticated' (read: ultra-cerebral pointless harmonies) and technically savvy stuff (unswinging rushed concatenation of notes, or vapid random fluffy carressing of skins).
I guess that may be the case with the music capable of catching your attention, but by no means is all current jazz (or even "CISM") that way.
 

Drumolator

Platinum Member
Is jazz listening to its listeners? Probably not. But I am listening to jazz right now (Brad Mehldau). Peace and goodwill.
 
A

Anthony Amodeo

Guest
awesome examples William

this music is alive and very well.....and just far enough out of the reach of the sheep

most of the time if people are not being spoon fed music....or if it is not being crammed down their throat by TV, radio and iTunes ads they assume it is irrelevant
 

con struct

Platinum Member
What genre of music listens to its listeners? For that matter, what does it mean for a genre of music to listen to its listeners?

Someone give me an example of a genre of music listening to its listeners.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
What genre of music listens to its listeners? For that matter, what does it mean for a genre of music to listen to its listeners?

Someone give me an example of a genre of music listening to its listeners.
I started reading this thread and the above is exactly how I feel about it too. Being a performing musician is all about selfishness. Geddy Lee said it himself, he's not writing music to make his audience like Rush. He's writing for himself first, and he's totally thankful that the audience follows along. I agree with him, if you do something to make someone else happy, you'll never be happy and you'll just stop doing it, especially if there's nothing in it for you (which is why it should never become like a job, that's different).

Audience-people are paying to see the artist be himself. I'd be angry if I went to see somebody like Stevie Ray Vaughn, and he was playing like somebody else. Same for Miles Davis, or Buddy Rich....I'm buying that ticket to see them. If I want conformity, I'll go to hear a wedding band, or a band that does covers in the clubs.

Here's the question: has jazz ever listened to its listeners? And if it did, would you still be listening?
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
This CISM, as coined aboved, caters to three categories of people: musicians who want to be confirmed in their trade by other musicians, music journalists specialized in this CISM, and a few non-musicians non-journalists people who want to feel excitation in their brain but mostly just want to be cool listening to stuff that is absolutely abhorrent to the common layman.
Bick (Dick?),You forgot hobby musicians who have no trade to be confirmed in, no reputation to enhance or detract, and no care for any of it. I enjoy many styles of jazz, including 40s swing.

People often assume that their own taste is generic (or should be) ... so if they don't like a style they assume that no one else could possibly enjoy it either, then they suspect people who say they enjoy weird music of having an outside agenda (status, showing off, rebellion etc).

No offence but your comment reflects the cynical solipsism I see a lot today in public discourse. Not smacking you down, it's the prevailing view and it's worth parsing. No doubt many laypersons think of most hard bop, free and fusion as "noise".

Since I think of music as a type of food, a food analogy will fit nicely ... when humans are young their taste is skewed towards sweetness and blandness (light and gentle flavours). Later we develop a taste for bitter and sour flavours - suddenly we notice that broccoli actually tastes good. Most kids won't believe you if you say you enjoy broccoli - in the same way as those who only see jazz as a direct product of "sweet" old swing tunes can't believe that others actually enjoy "bitter" and "sour" offerings of hard bop, free and fusion. If you never give those other flavours a chance then your tastes won't broaden. If that's your choice, no drama. There are no rules.

Bottom line is we listen to "weird" jazz because we ENJOY it. Art does not always have to be immediately beautiful, or even attractive - even taking into account "the eye of the beholder". Ugly and dark music can be invigorating and exciting.

I find dissonance refreshing after hearing a lot of melodic music, which can get quite samey after a while. Some people like similar styles all the time, something I don't understand. I like variety and that leads me to some interesting musical places.

Let's try an example - I find this track is incredibly fascinating and beautiful, what do you think? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyUjgYuYR0c


Here's the question: has jazz ever listened to its listeners? And if it did, would you still be listening?
It's like how people complain now that politicians just follow opinion polls these days when what they want is vision, leadership, conviction and honesty rather than an echo or reflection. The people we like best are usually the ones who are not trying to please you but just being themselves.

The lucky musicians are those who prefer mainstream music - they don't have to edit themselves and still please most audiences. Musicians who prefer off-centre music have to reconcile themselves with the fact that many will misunderstand and some will judge harshly.

Sorry, long post.
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
What people call jazz nowadays is mostly "contemporary improvisational savant music". It has nothing to do with jazz anymore, which is a swing-based dance music with somewhat catchy melodies that people can enjoy.

This CISM, as coined aboved, caters to three categories of people: musicians who want to be confirmed in their trade by other musicians, music journalists specialized in this CISM, and a few non-musicians non-journalists people who want to feel excitation in their brain but mostly just want to be cool listening to stuff that is absolutely abhorrent to the common layman.

Why is is so abhorrent? Because the first category obsesses with competition, and the music degenerates into who can play the most 'sophisticated' (read: ultra-cerebral pointless harmonies) and technically savvy stuff (unswinging rushed concatenation of notes, or vapid random fluffy carressing of skins).

Rightly so, CISM players can only be better than their peers, who will flock to gaze in awe at their flurry of notes, or become teachers. The casual music lover looks upon this circus and wonders.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN5xyZvMjJc
I love the early trad jazz music and listen to it perhaps more than most people nowadays. I often listen to Hot 5's / Hot 7's, Chick Webb, Earl Hines, Teagarden, Bix, King Oliver, Eddie Condon, Duke, Basie, and so many others that etc.... I can't disagree with you more.

I love much of what has come long, long, long after this just as much.

Thank goodness there's jazz and it's not being marketed by the suits like most of the other styles are. Leave it the heck alone and let it evolve the way it will on it's own.

I say don't let the listener define what should be. This is why it's Jazz in the first place.

Play it and the people will come as it always has and probably always will.

Do you think historically Monk, Elvin, Tony, Trane, Miles, Blakey and so many others gave a rip about what the people wanted? Listeners know that and it's the very reason they sought it out. The artists who are doing it today are continuing that path.

Let's hope that never changes. Jazz is all about not conforming to some degree.
 
Top