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  1. #51

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet
    Yeah I know, one man's floor is another man's ceiling, but for chrissakes, this is a Jazz forum, JAZZ dammit, we're only talking about the highest art form known to man!
    Seriously, I don't know if you said that as a joke or not. It comes off as though you are all knowing, as though there is no room for various opinions or any doubt. Talking about arrogant and elitist!

    You write as though you'er the final arbiter of what is the highest art form.

    So there is no doubt that someone blowing Parker like bebob lines over diffucult and fast chord changes (or even Parker himself) is higher art than a major compostion by Mozart or Beethoven?

    So you've decided composition is a lower art form than improvisation?

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  3. #52

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    Art has two basic requirements. Both must be present for it to be art.

    1. The piece must demonstrate mastery of the medium.

    2. The piece must create an emotional reaction from the viewer.

  4. #53

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet
    Well, I wouldn't say I'm angry, I smile as I write (kinda wryly maybe), I get pissed off when I see that Jazz no longer garners the respect it should, particularly among young people. For example, it has become typical to witness this scenario: I youtube up and coming Jazz guitarists, then read comments underneath. Jazz lovers get how "good" the guy is, suggesting strengths and weaknesses (all subjective obviously), but the young "shred" brigade chime in with comments like, "wow, pretty good for jazz, he should try metal, he's almost fast enough"! Now how many times do I have to read moronic responses like that and cop it on the chin? Why don't the GP appreciate greatness like they used to? Even non musicians of the day knew Mozart was a superior composer to most others at the time, and peasants understood the greatness of Shakespeare. Jazz deserves more respect and you know it. If we stopped being humble, we might get noticed, not because we want the attention, but because we want Jazz to get it and go on getting it.
    Jazz IS getting more respect. I believe it was 60 minutes (or some other tv show) that did a peice on the state of jazz education and sales in the US. Jazz has steadily represented about 2% of total music sales in the past couple of decades, but that is muddied as smooth jazz is figured in.

    Jazz sells about as well as classical. However, jazz programs at the university level have exploded in the past 10-20 years. So, these kids who get their jazz degrees certainly have an appreciation for the genre, more than in the 70s-80s when I was growing up.

  5. #54

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    i think maybe i'm missing the definition some of you are using for the "levels," and i'm not being clear enough in what i'm saying.

    is some art better than others? absolutely. the talk i don't like is about an artist reaching "levels" of importance or value. good artists still make bad art. let's use the beatles as an example again--they didn't, in my opinion, suddenly become more important when they became a studio band--they simply made records that were more serious and a "headier" listen. But not everything the beatles did after this point was as good as some of it. O-bla-di O bla-da? gimmie a break, that's a pop song.

    I see this all the time in the visual art world--an artist makes some big strides, creates some new interesting work, and then everyone collectively lauds everything they do after that. were all of monet's paintings good? no! artists get "deified." i don't like that, and i think it's totally fine that the beatles put a skiffle # like "the one after 909" oon a record after they had become "important."

    this also draws me to the distinction of art and craft. in the visual art world, when someone truly masters their craft, they are an artist (frank lloyd wright, for example--more than just an architect to most folks, right?) Pop songcraft is a craft, and i think the beatles showed mastery of it even in the early days..."She Loves You" is a work of art, to me.

    to me...again the subjectivity. But that's what i'm getting at. Certainly, i wasn't an artist when i first picked up the guitar, but i wasn't claiming to be making art then (nor am i now, really) But art need not always show mastery--look at the "outsider" artists like henry darger, or even grandma moses. The definition of art is very broad, and I don't think it gets any easier to define it when we cross over to auditory arts.

    To me, jazz is not more important than rock, hip hop, country, whatever. I like it more. I play it. But it's not more important.

    Is it more difficult to play? Probably. More difficult to master? that's arguable as well. But just because someone plays jazz does not mean they are an artist on another level--it's not the medium, it's the product. This is why, in my opinion, i find the art of a group like "godspeed you!black emperor" more relavent and enjoyable than the art of wynton marsallis, or of mozart. Sometimes, it has nothing to do with talent.

  6. #55

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    Stravinsky's Firebird comes to mind for me. There are certain parts of it that move me to tears every time I hear it. Mastery + Emotion = Art.

    Grandma Moses: there is mastery there. Look at her use of color, composition, etc. It's not "academic realism" but it exhibits clear mastery of her medium. The question for me, however, was whether there is an emotional element. For me, no, so by my definition it's not art. Most "folk" visual media is not art by my definition.

    A urinal on display. Is it art? No. Emotion (anger/outrage) yes, but no mastery.

    So what of bebop? Mastery? Yep. Emotion? I think so.

    Free Jazz? Mastery? Probably. Emotion? For me no, sterile, cacophonous, so not art.

    My two part definition helps me categorize these things very well. Like other posters have said, I too refuse to go along with "anything goes" definitions of art. I wrestled with this for a long time, frankly. I had to be able to put guys like Cy Twombley who scribble on a chalk board into some kind of perspective, or go mad.

    And, my definition also allows an artist to have some works that are art, and some that are not, which is very important. Nobody gets a free pass, i.e. Picasso. Just because you get the label of "artist" in front of your name doesn't mean everything you do is art. Picasso has a LOT of art. He has a lot of shlock too.

  7. #56

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    ...good artists still make bad art.
    +1

    ...artists get "deified." i don't like that,
    Totally agree

    ...art need not always show mastery--
    +1

    ...just because someone plays jazz does not mean they are an artist on another level--it's not the medium, it's the product.
    +1

    To our patient "Original Poster".

    I think this interesting discussion really does relate to the original post.

    IMO the basic philosophy of improvisation is to spontaneously organize sound in such a way that it speaks directly to the listener. After all, the listener is an essential component to the equation regardless of their level of understanding. Good improv should transcend the illusion of technique and communicate directly to the listener. Sometimes this requires simplicity and other time complexity.

    Improv is a craft that over time may or may not develop to a point where the musician can successfully transmit an intended emotion response. When this happens it transcends craft and becomes art.

    So, IMO, the first goal is to develop the craft. Take a technical or theoretical concept that you know well and try to make it disappear in the ears of the listener. Don't deploy technique for any other reason than to communicate the emotional content of the tune.

    I am merely a craftsman on the journey, but IMO, the best way to develop this "philosophy" into practice is by learning to interpret and embelish the melodies of any favourite tune. The beauty of a good melody is that the artist has provided the artistic content to base your improv on and has already delivered a common denominator between you and the listener. Modify and play with the melody, always cognizant that there is someone listening. After a while, phrases in the melody can be replaced with your own phrases creating surprise and interest, but the phrase is paramount, technique is secondary.
    Last edited by Jazzaluk; 05-11-2009 at 01:21 PM.

  8. #57

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    Quote Originally Posted by Goofsus4
    And, my definition also allows an artist to have some works that are art, and some that are not, which is very important. Nobody gets a free pass, i.e. Picasso. Just because you get the label of "artist" in front of your name doesn't mean everything you do is art. Picasso has a LOT of art. He has a lot of shlock too.
    Surely that could mean that some 'artists' don't produce any art! That's like someone saying 'I'm a guitar player', when they don't play guitar.

    What about all the people who work in some sort of creative field who call themselves artists, or who are known as artists simply by their profession? Singers, songwriters, musicians, painters, sculpters, set designers, poets, writers, actors, etc etc etc, are they all frauds?

    If your child brought home some painting they'd done at school and said 'Look what I did in art class!', are you going to reply: 'Well actually that's not really art.'?

    Why does it have to have such a narrow definition?

  9. #58

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    Quote Originally Posted by Goofsus4
    Stravinsky's Firebird comes to mind for me. There are certain parts of it that move me to tears every time I hear it. Mastery + Emotion = Art.

    Grandma Moses: there is mastery there. Look at her use of color, composition, etc. It's not "academic realism" but it exhibits clear mastery of her medium. The question for me, however, was whether there is an emotional element. For me, no, so by my definition it's not art. Most "folk" visual media is not art by my definition.

    A urinal on display. Is it art? No. Emotion (anger/outrage) yes, but no mastery.

    So what of bebop? Mastery? Yep. Emotion? I think so.

    Free Jazz? Mastery? Probably. Emotion? For me no, sterile, cacophonous, so not art.

    My two part definition helps me categorize these things very well. Like other posters have said, I too refuse to go along with "anything goes" definitions of art. I wrestled with this for a long time, frankly. I had to be able to put guys like Cy Twombley who scribble on a chalk board into some kind of perspective, or go mad.

    And, my definition also allows an artist to have some works that are art, and some that are not, which is very important. Nobody gets a free pass, i.e. Picasso. Just because you get the label of "artist" in front of your name doesn't mean everything you do is art. Picasso has a LOT of art. He has a lot of shlock too.
    I went to a Cy Twombley retrospective in Berlin in 1995. Several rooms of scribble, small, large, and extremely large. If there was anything "artful" about it, it was the accompanying essay-like attached descriptions, which are integral to his "art", in much the same way as, say, Dali's titles influences the "emotional" effect on the viewer. Anyway, all this goes to show that, of course, it is impossible to delineate art from craft sometimes, as it is to separate art from philosophy. Some things exist in these blurred lines, for sure. But most things don't, infact, contrary to any impression I'm sure my previous posts have left on some of you, I feel quite certain that some Rap is more artful that much that passes for Jazz, no question. But the truly great Jazz is in it's own building. With the possible exception of some Vedic, or even African music, it stands alone as the most sophisticated spontaneously improvised art form. Was Parker a greater artist than Stravinsky? It can be easily argued that he was, after all, he was composing spontaneously. Stravinsky marvelled at Parker's ability, apparently, when witnessing it live. Parker, arrogantly, never looked at the great composer all the while. I believe Bird couldn't help but feel elitist, much of his behavior alludes to this. Jazz was more exciting when it was cocky, when you risked humiliation if you couldn't cut it. Duke, Prez, Bean, Diz, Miles right through to Sun Ra and the Marsalis bros all had the chutzpah, the "f**k you" attitude that demanded attention at the same time as it invited derision. If you call that elitism, then, yeah, bring it on!
    Last edited by princeplanet; 05-11-2009 at 01:57 PM.

  10. #59

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet
    I went to a Cy Twombley retrospective in Berlin in 1995. Several rooms of scribble, small, large, and extremely large. If there was anything "artful" about it, it was the accompanying essay-like attached descriptions, which are integral to his "art", in much the same way as, say, Dali's titles influences the "emotional" effect on the viewer. Anyway, all this goes to show that, of course, it is impossible to delineate art from craft sometimes, as it is to separate art from philosophy. Some things exist in these blurred lines, for sure. But most things don't, infact, contrary to any impression I'm sure my previous posts have left on some of you, I feel quite certain that some Rap is more artful that much that passes for Jazz, no question. But the truly great Jazz is in it's own building. With the possible exception of some Vedic, or even African music, it stands alone as the most sophisticated spontaneously improvised art form. Was Parker a greater artist than Stravinsky? It can be easily argued that he was, after all, he was composing spontaneously. Stravinsky marvelled at Parker's ability, apparently, when witnessing it live. Parker, arrogantly, never looked at the great composer all the while. I believe Bird couldn't help but feel elitist, much of his behavior alludes to this. Jazz was more exciting when it was cocky, when you risked humiliation if you couldn't cut it. Duke, Prez, Bean, Diz, Miles right through to Sun Ra and the Marsalis bros all had the chutzpah, the "f**k you" attitude that demanded attention at the same time as it invited derision. If you call that elitism, then, yeah, bring it on!
    If you think that elitism, arrogance and attitude are somehow key to success in selling yourself as a musician...good luck and God's speed. These traits are usually a result of over-success, not a cause.

  11. #60

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    Quote Originally Posted by abracadabra
    If your child brought home some painting they'd done at school and said 'Look what I did in art class!', are you going to reply: 'Well actually that's not really art.'?

    Why does it have to have such a narrow definition?
    it depends what the child painted. if he just splattered some paint on some paper with no reason or integration to be discerned, then yes, you would say "that is not art." if you are a rational person who knows what art is.

    the definition is not really narrow. it is not narrow to consider things that are not art to be not art. if you dont have specific definitions of things then they become meaningless.

    you want to say that art can be anything. art is not just the process or ends of creating, it matters what is created. in fact, thats really all that matters.

  12. #61

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    Quote Originally Posted by franco6719
    As I said, it's just INSANE to think there are no objective standards at all in art or that there shouldn't be.

    Here, not to mention other names and controversial matters: I decided to start playing the sitar the other day. I will memorize one melodic passage or something. Am I now on the same "level" as Ravi Shankar? That's idiotic. Let's stop joking around.

    Some foolish clown who tosses red dye into the Trevi Fountain is not on the same level as Michaelangelo!!

    I just wrote a short poem about toilet paper.
    Here it is:

    I like toilet paper.
    You like toliet paper.
    Toilet paper is useful and good.
    Thank you all.


    I WANT, no I DEMAND that this BS to be recognized alongside the work of
    Shakespeare. Enough already.
    it seems like you have at least partially realized my viewpoint from our last discussion about this.

  13. #62

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    First off, when you use the word "mastery" with art, you have to be super careful. To master something means you've accomplished everything possible in your respective art and are at a finishing point. We as improvisers know well that you never master a music. Coltrane always said "there's no such thing as mastering and art, it's an ongoing process of creation and experimentation until we die." We always abosrb and apply new concepts until we die, otherwise, we'd never progress as musicians. To master something also means you've learned and applied every possible aspect. This is not true, especially for jazz. Why is it that a great player like Scott Henderson, who in his 50's comes out and says "I've been working on playing motives based around fifths in my blues lately," when 20 years earlier when he was playing with all those outside concepts, he could have quit progressing? because it would have grown stale

  14. #63

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    I would like to address the focus of the original questions as to whether improvisation is an innate ablility and can really be taught or learned.

    If we accept the premise that improvisation is a willful departure from an established parameter of the melody, harmony, rhythm or form of a musical piece it is, by definition, innate.

    As a music educator and well schooled in teaching the techniques of improvisation I have observed that most musicians, given the opportunity, can and do improvise at a level commensurate with their abilities. It can be as simple as changing the phrasing to a complete restructuring of a melodic or harmonic (or both) concept. Again, the element of volition is crucial to the process.

    Many years ago I had my awareness of the significance of volition heightened when a great jazz player turned me on the book "New Pathways to Piano Technique" by Luigi Bonpensiere. It is out of print but can be found in some larger libraries. There is a forward by Aldous Huxley and deals with this subject extensively. Some later books by other authors("The Inner Game of Music" etc.) lay claim to have "discovered" techniques that were written about by Bonpensiere in the late 1940's. At any rate, it should be required reading for serious students of improvisation, not just pianists.

    All this being said, the art of improvisation (in any genre) is only truly manifested when the artist commits a volitional act of spontaneous creativity. This can be anything from a 5 year old playing around with a pentatonic riff in an Orff ensemble to some dude playing 8 choruses of his favorite Parker tune (hopefully without falling into every cliche in the book).

    The true art in it is in the exploration of the possibilities, don't you think?
    Last edited by Jazzcat; 05-12-2009 at 10:19 AM.

  15. #64

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzcat
    If we accept the premise that improvisation is a willful departure from an established parameter of the melody, harmony, rhythm or form of a musical piece it is, by definition, innate.......
    ....All this being said, the art of improvisation (in any genre) is only truly manifested when the artist commits a volitional act of spontaneous creativity.....

    The true art in it is in the exploration of the possibilities, don't you think?
    Great post Jazzcat!!

    Do you think that "intent" plays a role in the volitional act or is it sufficient to merely explore and present possibilities? This seems incomplete to me in terms of art.

    I think improvisational art must also include a willful attempt at effecting some response in the listener. Otherwise it would seem to be a rather aimless activity. An incomplete triad.

  16. #65

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    Quote Originally Posted by mfarkas
    it depends what the child painted. if he just splattered some paint on some paper with no reason or integration to be discerned, then yes, you would say "that is not art." if you are a rational person who knows what art is.

    the definition is not really narrow. it is not narrow to consider things that are not art to be not art. if you dont have specific definitions of things then they become meaningless.

    you want to say that art can be anything. art is not just the process or ends of creating, it matters what is created. in fact, thats really all that matters.
    I would say that art is the creation of something, anything, by a person, for the aesthetic appreciation of others.

    So, if a child knocks a pot of paint onto a canvas, that is not art. If the child intends to see and display the effect of the paint spill, that is art.

    Previous definitions posted have included the 'mastery' of the medium, but as others have said, it is hard if not impossible to guage when or if mastery will occur. Also, I don't think any kind of mastery is a pre-requisite.

  17. #66

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    Quote Originally Posted by abracadabra
    I would say that art is the creation of something, anything, by a person, for the aesthetic appreciation of others.

    So, if a child knocks a pot of paint onto a canvas, that is not art. If the child intends to see and display the effect of the paint spill, that is art.

    Previous definitions posted have included the 'mastery' of the medium, but as others have said, it is hard if not impossible to guage when or if mastery will occur. Also, I don't think any kind of mastery is a pre-requisite.
    its true that mastery has nothing to do with whether something is or is not art, but it will probably have something to do with how good the art is.

    the problem with your definition of art is that you hold aesthetic appreciation as the purpose of art. that is not correct. that is like saying any sound that is made deliberately is music. that obviously doesnt work as a definition. real art serves as the inspiration for contemplation beyond a purely sensory level. so the child spilling paint is not art even if it is intentional, because no contemplation can come from looking at a paint spill.

    furthermore, with your definition, how would you know if the child made a mistake or was trying to show the effect of a paint spill? what does that even mean to show the effect of a paint spill? why is that worth showing?

    if you look at the history of art, from when it was first created, you can see that its purpose has always been for something much more than mere visual or auditory pleasure.
    Last edited by sfas; 05-11-2009 at 07:23 PM.

  18. #67

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    Frank Zappa said "Art is making something out of nothing and selling it."

  19. #68

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzaluk
    If you think that elitism, arrogance and attitude are somehow key to success in selling yourself as a musician...good luck and God's speed. These traits are usually a result of over-success, not a cause.
    Not to sell myself, or yourself as musician. I'm just talkin' about how Jazz can sell itself as a vital and exciting art form. After all, these days there's a lot of things out there competing for one's attention, especially youngster's. Whilst it's demeaning to all the arts to liken them to competitive sports, it cannot be argued that the greatest practitioners perhaps in all arts have been the ones spurred on by spirited rivalry. It's the human condition. So is the ego. Art celebrates the human condition, and some of it embraces the "ego". Without this there's no Wagner, or Miles Davis etc etc.

    Of course you make a great point, when artists become over-blown, they begin to rely on things other than their unselfconscious expression. That's gonna happen and that's ok too. It's all part of the cycle. When things become too up themselves the reaction is humility. Jazz is in a humility phase at present but has been for too long. Jazz needs a new loud mouthed champion that walks the talk. Where is the next Cassius Clay of Jazz?

  20. #69

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    Quote Originally Posted by mfarkas
    it seems like you have at least partially realized my viewpoint from our last discussion about this.
    Or, more probably, that you misunderstood my position in the first place. The discussion on the other thread was concerned partly with (ok, I'm going to toss out a big word here) epistemology, or how and whether we can KNOW what specific alleged artworks or art processes are really art and not art, to what extent this is subjective and so on. I claimed, and continue to claim, that is this process of the present identification and specification of specific examples as art is tremendously subjective and mostly impossible. Hence, I rarely make claims like "That painting is not art", "Ornette is not a musician" Rap is not art", etc.. I mostly don't know whether these borderline cases will or will not be classified as art by whoever turns out to be resposnbible for classifying such things in the future. This does not mean that no objective standards and criteria for art versus non-art exist (an "ontological" question).

    There certainly are some such standards. The poem I wrote above is BS and the poems of Robert Lowell are not. The point is extremely complex, but I think this comes down to several factors: skill and originality are foremost among them. The first factor is realtively easy to measure and define, but even IT harbors a large grain of subjectivity. In sum, I would say "if everyone can do it and it is all good, then it is not art."

    Originality is also a decisive factor. If it is a copy of a painting and not an the embodiment of an original view, experience or thougth process, then it is not art.

    Furthermore, we were talking about and debating the fact, which you deny, that art is both a process of creation and the products of that creative intentionality. In sum, we were discussion WHAT IS ART and not "Is THIS or THAT object a WORK of art. These are radically different questions.

    But, honestly, these philosophical questions will end up nowhere, as usual.


    I think we must look to our evolutionary biological history as a species to find out what purpose art serves to human well-being and consciousness. Many experts are now exporing this avenue. Dennis Dutton has wriiten about the evolutonary pschology of literature, for example. I will see if I can find the link.

  21. #70

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    Webster says this about mastery:

    Mastery: possession or display of great skill or technique.

    This is one of a few definitions of course, but none of them say that mastery means "nothing more to learn" or "highest possible acheivement" or any of that.

    Mastery is an essential ingredient for art because it eliminates the idea of accidental art. There is no such thing. If it's accidental, it isn't art.

    Is the wind whispering through the trees art? Is a magnificent sunset art? Is the aforementioned child knocking over jars of paint and making an interesting, even beautiful result art?

    No, because no mastery was involved.

  22. #71

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    Jazzaluk,

    Due do restrictions of space and time I can't go into the depth on the topic I would like but Aldous Huxley,in his forward to Bonpensiere's book, addresses the role of will and intent at depth (he even comes up with a formula!! - leave it to Huxley!). They are part and parcel of the end product. In the legal community the term"willful intent" is used as the definition for premeditation. Check it out if you get the chance. It is an interesting read.

    The thing about jazz improvisation that resonates most with me is that the artist (either fledgling or accomplished or somewhere in between) is making a personal statement. Aesthetic considerations can be debated but it still comes down to that artist being driven to make a statement and saying "can you dig it?" His success at expressing himself will be tempered by his technique, intellect and emotional range(not nercessarily in that order).

    As a sax player I have listened to or seen some pretty heavy hitters in my day. One performance really stands out as illustrative of this whole conversation. It is Gerald Albright's live recording of "Georgia On My Mind". He takes that classic tune and uses every resource of the horn (range, timbre, articulations etc.) to make an exciting and profound statement.

    I had a conversation with Ralph Moore(a former student of mine and sax player on the Tonight Show band) about that performance(Albright's). His response was "Man, you got to be willing to unzip, hang it out and possibly lose it to play like that!!!!"

    I think that is what seperates the truly great from the rest of us. That, and 10,000 hours in the woodshed!!!!

    I will leave you with my favorite quote from Lord Buckley (a true hipster):

    "If you gets there and you ain't got it, there you jolly well are!!!"
    Last edited by Jazzcat; 05-12-2009 at 10:45 AM.

  23. #72

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    Quote Originally Posted by Goofsus4
    Webster says this about mastery:

    Mastery: possession or display of great skill or technique.

    This is one of a few definitions of course, but none of them say that mastery means "nothing more to learn" or "highest possible acheivement" or any of that.

    Mastery is an essential ingredient for art because it eliminates the idea of accidental art. There is no such thing. If it's accidental, it isn't art.

    Is the wind whispering through the trees art? Is a magnificent sunset art? Is the aforementioned child knocking over jars of paint and making an interesting, even beautiful result art?

    No, because no mastery was involved.
    youre right that there is no accidental art, despite what john cage would say, but there can be art without mastery or great skill in an area. a child can make a work of art if it produces contemplation about life in this world, even if it is not perfectly constructed. it may not be as good of a work of art as that of a master though.

  24. #73

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    Goodsus4,

    I disagree that mastery is an essential element of creating art. How would you account for the creation of an interesting improvisation that was the result of accidentally playing a "wrong" note or chord and have it take you in a new direction?

    What are your choices if you play a "wrong note"? Repeat it or resolve it! In other words, find a way to make it work or abandon it. Creativity is an organic process and to hold that art is only created when complete mastery is achieved seems pedantic to me.

  25. #74

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    Quote Originally Posted by franco6719
    I claimed, and continue to claim, that is this process of the present identification and specification of specific examples as art is tremendously subjective and mostly impossible. Hence, I rarely make claims like "That painting is not art", "Ornette is not a musician" Rap is not art", etc.. I mostly don't know whether these borderline cases will or will not be classified as art by whoever turns out to be resposnbible for classifying such things in the future. This does not mean that no objective standards and criteria for art versus non-art exist (an "ontological" question).

    Originality is also a decisive factor. If it is a copy of a painting and not an the embodiment of an original view, experience or thougth process, then it is not art.

    Furthermore, we were talking about and debating the fact, which you deny, that art is both a process of creation and the products of that creative intentionality. In sum, we were discussion WHAT IS ART and not "Is THIS or THAT object a WORK of art. These are radically different questions.

    But, honestly, these philosophical questions will end up nowhere, as usual.


    I think we must look to our evolutionary biological history as a species to find out what purpose art serves to human well-being and consciousness. Many experts are now exporing this avenue. Dennis Dutton has wriiten about the evolutonary pschology of literature, for example. I will see if I can find the link.
    the reason you think philosophical questions end up no where is because your philosophy is full of contradiction and lacks reason.

    who are these people you speak of that come along and decide what art is? what qualifies them? why do you accept their decisions as absolutes? that kind of thinking will serve you well if you are ever a subject in a dictatorship.

    but at the same time you say there are some objective standards. what tells you what those are? it sounds like you used reason to come to those standards on your own. if you would take that process and use it to make up your whole philosophy then you would have something.

    how and why does the classification of art become subjective after starting out with basic objective principles that you admit exist? this mix of subjectivism and objectivism is confusing and leads to no where. it allows you to make basic distinctions based on reason (I think) and then leave the rest up to mystic art critics of the future or something. you need to integrate your thinking, and drop this idea that you need other people to validate your own thought.
    Last edited by sfas; 05-12-2009 at 11:01 AM.

  26. #75

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzcat
    Goodsus4,

    I disagree that mastery is an essential element of creating art. How would you account for the creation of an interesting improvisation that was the result of accidentally playing a "wrong" note or chord and have it take you in a new direction?

    What are your choices if you play a "wrong note"? Repeat it or resolve it! In other words, find a way to make it work or abandon it. Creativity is an organic process and to hold that art is only created when complete mastery is achieved seems pedantic to me.
    Hitting a wrong note, then making something entirely new out of it? You are describing mastery in my opinion. The novice would likely hit the bad note and then ignore it, treating it just as a clunker and hoping to get back on track. The artist with a mastery of the instrument and music uses the accident as the foundation for a new idea.

    Accidents are part of the creative process. But the mastery is involved in making the accident work to your advantage.

    In the visual arts, for instance, say watercolor work - a painter with a mastery of the medium will often exploit the accidental bleeding and mingling of colors to create atmospheric effects intentionally. The novice just makes a mess and starts again.

  27. #76

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    Quote Originally Posted by Goofsus4
    . The novice just makes a mess and starts again.
    Hopefully the novice learned something from the "mess" and grows in the process. Whether it is music or visual art, most artists produce their more interesting work while going through a "phase", "period" or some other label that we choose to describe their evolution as an artist, don't you think?

  28. #77

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    who are these people you speak of that come along and decide what art is? what qualifies them? why do you accept their decisions as absolutes? that kind of thinking will serve you well if you are ever a subject in a dictatorship.

    Basically, they will be a combination of other artists, art critics and various knowledgable and expert people in the relevant fields. I don't accept their decisions as absolute. I might not accept many of them at all if I were still alive to debate such issues. But first of all, I won't be, since we are talking about many decades, if not centuries, before something can be legitimately called a work of art. Their is always a sort of mild conformist dictatorship in such matters (the ruling sociological paradigm). This even applies to a large extent to science, as recent philosophy of science has revealed. I have actually written many philosophy papers on the arbitray nature of expertise.

    An example among extremely many: who decided that Virgil's poems were worthy of being preserved and passed down through the generations. Well, Virgil himself asked to have them all burned at his death. Emperor Augustus intervened to save them because the poems were all basically hyms to the glory of Rome under his rule. Later, generations upon generations of artists and other "experts" realized that the work had merit. How many such works have been destroyed? Probably infinite amounts of the greatest work were lost at Alexandria for one. Arbitrary.


    Yes, there are some basic objective standards that probable have a biological origin. Beyond those BASIC principles, we get into muddy and deeply subjective waters. There is no contradiction in this at all.

  29. #78

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzcat
    Hopefully the novice learned something from the "mess" and grows in the process. Whether it is music or visual art, most artists produce their more interesting work while going through a "phase", "period" or some other label that we choose to describe their evolution as an artist, don't you think?
    Absolutely. Creating art is a mentally exhausting process. It requires inspiration and intense focus. It's hard to keep that up 24/7. Some artists and musicians are more prolific than others, to be sure, and I wonder if that has something to do with how many "phases" they go through in their careers.

  30. #79

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    To franco6719,

    When eschewing mediocrative expression, it behooves one to be mindful that pedantry, being indicative of inherent megalomania, frustrates it own aim and results in ennubulation!

    To mfarkas: I was with you right up to the point where you said "faith has never done anything." Without faith there is no spirituality and thus we are left with only the resources of our intellect to guide us. We have come a long way in a short time, but in the grand scheme of things we are poor creatures indeed.

    Educators have gotten caught up with "learning styles" (auditory, visual, tactile, etc.). By and large they don't address the "prophetic" style - that is to say those individuals who have an inner sense of knowing(they don't know how they know, they just know). We all know people like that. Some call it intuition, some refer to it as "psychic". Its hard to pin down because you can't feel it, see it or touch it. Educators shy away from it because it is "paranormal" and being prone to pedantry just can't deal with it. Unfortunately (or fortunately as the case may be) some of our most creative individuals are strong in this trait. A lot of kids are diagnosed with ADD when the reality is they are most likely a prophetic learner - their creativity must be constantly challenged and they need to learn to follow through. Too often they have a sense of "been there, done that" because they "know" how it is going to come out, but they fail to realize that follow through on their part in necessary.

    This has been an interesting thread. Thank you all for the discourse.

  31. #80
    Just my two bits, I actually signed up to this site because I thought this point was such an important one to discuss.

    My point of view is that improvisation is a canvas that we can fill HOWEVER we want. If you're playing purely with your intellect that's just as valid as throwing out melodies in a trance.

    The improvising is more or less a reflection of who you are, and in many many fragments according to the songs and the setting, your mood, and all that.

    Of course my favorite way of improvising is when my feelings combine with perfectly with my intellect and "soul"; though I always enjoy improvising purely from concepts. Frank Zappa said he thought of geometry when he improvised, John Coltrane would take binoculars to look at stars before his set... it's all valid, it just ends up making good music somehow.

    The reason you can't seem to agree is because you all have different approaches to improvising, and are all arguing that they are the same thing.

    It's like the buddhist story:
    "
    The king said that he should be brought an elephant and all the blind men in the city.
    They were brought to him,
    Now let the blind men study the elephant, he said, and let them tell me what an elephant is like.
    Of course the blind men only had small parts of the elephant to themselves; one had the ear, another the tail, another the leg....
    So once they had done the king asked, "so what is the elephant like?", and as the first blind man answered ("like a tree trunk")(he had the leg) the others were offended and yelled in disagreement ("no he it is like a hose""no like a great leaf")."

  32. #81

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    Quote Originally Posted by chicoplaysthetele
    Just my two bits, I actually signed up to this site because I thought this point was such an important one to discuss.

    My point of view is that improvisation is a canvas that we can fill HOWEVER we want. If you're playing purely with your intellect that's just as valid as throwing out melodies in a trance.

    The improvising is more or less a reflection of who you are, and in many many fragments according to the songs and the setting, your mood, and all that.

    Of course my favorite way of improvising is when my feelings combine with perfectly with my intellect and "soul"; though I always enjoy improvising purely from concepts. Frank Zappa said he thought of geometry when he improvised, John Coltrane would take binoculars to look at stars before his set... it's all valid, it just ends up making good music somehow.

    The reason you can't seem to agree is because you all have different approaches to improvising, and are all arguing that they are the same thing.

    It's like the buddhist story:
    "
    The king said that he should be brought an elephant and all the blind men in the city.
    They were brought to him,
    Now let the blind men study the elephant, he said, and let them tell me what an elephant is like.
    Of course the blind men only had small parts of the elephant to themselves; one had the ear, another the tail, another the leg....
    So once they had done the king asked, "so what is the elephant like?", and as the first blind man answered ("like a tree trunk")(he had the leg) the others were offended and yelled in disagreement ("no he it is like a hose""no like a great leaf")."
    Hey Chico, great first post. Yep, too true, we are all like the blind men, grappling at our own little corner of the truth!

  33. #82

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    im pretty sure joni mitchell was completley self taught, creating her own tunings and chords and everything from scratch. I'd say thats an artist. but this argument belongs on another thread. i wanna hear some more improve ideas.

  34. #83

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    Quote Originally Posted by mfarkas
    if it is subjective above the basic principles, how do they decide what is right and wrong? and when they do decide, what would make their decision right or wrong? the fact that they said it?

    and its interesting to say that you would debate them on it. what would you use as the basis of your debate? if there are no objective principles to go on beyond the basics, how would you debate anything? how would you know anything?

    this is mysticism you are talking about:

    art is whatever the mystics say it is.

    how do the mystics know?

    they just do!

    sorry. doesnt work. its circular and worthless. the only way to know anything is reason; the integration of sensory information. you are talking about taking things on faith and feeling. reason is behind my philosophy of art, faith is behind yours. reason has brought us everything we have. faith has never done anything.

    I never said that these experts actually had any kind of special insight. I don''t know where the devil you could have derived such nonsense. I, BTW, am an atheist, not to say an anti-theist. I don''t know what the hell you are talking about by mysticism and other such transcendental phantoms of the human imagination. Since we seem to enjoy taking thing to a personal level on this forum, or this thread at least, please LEARN TO READ.

    I said that the matter will be decided ultimately by human beings, many of whom label themselves "experts". These decisions will not necessarily be based on reason, mostly they will be totally arbitrary (tyranny of the majority, conformism of the time and other unconscious sociological pressures). They will not be either right or wrong. They will just be whatever they are. Of course I can disagree, but the disagreement would be totally useless in the present context, for example, since I am not a member of the established powers who control such matters.

    You seem to think we live in some kind of genuine Rawlsian ideal state of nature or something close to a Rawlsian ideal of democracy. You are dreaming, my friend. But I won't get into political philosophy here.

    Reason is the "integration of sensory information". Oh boy, I don't know where to start with that. What about deductive reasoning and mathematical/logical reasoning. The integration of sensory information is only a part of the process of empirical (inductive or abductive reasoning).
    Reason is a tool and not an end in itself. I begin to strongly suspect you are another one of these Ayn Randian pop philosophy cranks.

  35. #84

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    The basic point is simply this: It is just as ridiculous to think that there are absolute objective standards according to which we can all agree to draw up some such ordered classification as the following:

    Mozart > Bach
    Bach > Beethoven
    Beethoven > Art Tatum
    Art Tatum > Miles Davis
    Miles Davis > Sonny Rollins
    Sonny Rollins > John Coltrane
    John Coltrane > Wes Montgomery
    Wes Montgomery > Jimi Hendrix
    Jimi Hendrix > Pat Metheny
    Pat Metheny > Pat Martino
    John Scofield > Joni Mitchell,
    Joni Mitchell > Sting
    Sting > Les Paul
    Les Paul > John Lennon
    John Lennon >

    It is just as ridiculous to think we can classify art and art creations that way than to think that "Everything goes and everything is good.

    So, I fall in neither simplistic camp. Sorry. Most things like this do not have easy answers.

  36. #85

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    As far as improvisation goes, it is an expresion of who we are, so in it's purest form it can't be taught, but we can teach tools to express ourselves.
    We have things to say before we can speak, it's just important not to forget there are things we can't say with the words we are taught, sometimes we have to make our own words or simply stomp and sign.

    As far as the the sub conversation, perhaps take it to PM.

  37. #86

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    I think it's difficult to seperate who is an artist and who is not. The Temptations sang My Girl and it will be around a long time. Smokey Robinson's songs are here to stay as are Stevie Wonder' s. They were artists. The Temps never wrote any of what they sang but they sang better than any group around at the time.There are some great POP songs out there and some great covers by some real artists. I think you need a combination to be remembered. Daryl Hall and John Oates write the songs for Hall and Oates. Daryl has one of the best voices ,technical and other, in the business...yet Mick Jagger gets more Press....Those songs will be remembered but only certain ones will survive the test of time. In comparison, I doubt that Cold Play or some of today's "JAZZ" groups have yet to do anything "TIMELESS" .Smooth Jazz may or may not produce timeless songs..."Yet to be determined" as they say. Miles, Bird, they are timeless except the listening audience is not large enough to create standards that people will associate with times in their life that they want to recall as did Lionel Ritchie with his music.Benny Goodman songs are still requested... Very few ask for Miles or Bird or Mel Torme for a wedding but The Christmas song will be around a long time and most think that Nat Cole was the originator when Mel Torme wrote it. Why did Nat Cole have the hit and not Mel? Always wondered....It's just the time , the place , the writer the singer or player and who remembersthe songs and why. Jobim's music will be around a long time. Most do not even know who wrote half of them but they like them. Why ? I hated the Beatles in the 60's but now I can hear the intricate things that I never thoiught about. It still is not music that I would want to listen to when i recall times in my life that mean anything. It's Circumstance". If you were in the Village at a club watching Miles you might love that music because of what it means to you not because of the technical aspects of the music. As a wedding singer for 30 years or so I realized that certain songs will remain in people's minds...no matter how great or how lousy I could sing that song , they heard what they heard in their head ...what was on the record , and then told me I was great...No , The song was great , the memory was great...99% of people have no clue as to what is "GREAT" ! A great song is going to stay around a long time. That sound of the artist that sings or plays will live in people's minds and everytime they hear me they are really hearing the original not me.

  38. #87

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Jerome
    I think it's difficult to seperate who is an artist and who is not. The Temptations sang My Girl and it will be around a long time. Smokey Robinson's songs are here to stay as are Stevie Wonder' s. They were artists. The Temps never wrote any of what they sang but they sang better than any group around at the time.There are some great POP songs out there and some great covers by some real artists. I think you need a combination to be remembered. Daryl Hall and John Oates write the songs for Hall and Oates. Daryl has one of the best voices ,technical and other, in the business...yet Mick Jagger gets more Press....Those songs will be remembered but only certain ones will survive the test of time. In comparison, I doubt that Cold Play or some of today's "JAZZ" groups have yet to do anything "TIMELESS" .Smooth Jazz may or may not produce timeless songs..."Yet to be determined" as they say. Miles, Bird, they are timeless except the listening audience is not large enough to create standards that people will associate with times in their life that they want to recall as did Lionel Ritchie with his music.Benny Goodman songs are still requested... Very few ask for Miles or Bird or Mel Torme for a wedding but The Christmas song will be around a long time and most think that Nat Cole was the originator when Mel Torme wrote it. Why did Nat Cole have the hit and not Mel? Always wondered....It's just the time , the place , the writer the singer or player and who remembersthe songs and why. Jobim's music will be around a long time. Most do not even know who wrote half of them but they like them. Why ? I hated the Beatles in the 60's but now I can hear the intricate things that I never thoiught about. It still is not music that I would want to listen to when i recall times in my life that mean anything. It's Circumstance". If you were in the Village at a club watching Miles you might love that music because of what it means to you not because of the technical aspects of the music. As a wedding singer for 30 years or so I realized that certain songs will remain in people's minds...no matter how great or how lousy I could sing that song , they heard what they heard in their head ...what was on the record , and then told me I was great...No , The song was great , the memory was great...99% of people have no clue as to what is "GREAT" ! A great song is going to stay around a long time. That sound of the artist that sings or plays will live in people's minds and everytime they hear me they are really hearing the original not me.
    Nice point. Not sure how nostalgia and sentimentality figure in to a definition of art, but you make a compelling argument. However, please do me and others a favor and take a breath (paragraph break) occassionally. It was tough to follow such a long post without them.

  39. #88

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    Maybe I've missed something out here in deep forest, but I have the internet and satellite TV, and I haven't noticed much art around for a long time now.
    Everything these days seems to be configured down to the lowest common denominator ie popular appeal and profit. I sure there are still plenty of people pursuing quality creativity, but they don't seem to be getting much publicity.

    Some argue that everything has been done already. The last big event in Britain was Punk....more than thirty years ago.

    I just think people are becoming toys of technology, rather than the other way around. It's affordable, easy to buy (even from your own bed with net shopping), satisfies short-term curiosity and passes the time. Why should the people of the modern world bother with anything else?

    Soma!

    Back to the original post, I feel that the playing of any musical instrument is artistic, and to be able to make the music up 'on the fly' as in improvisation, is surely art.

    If it isn't, then what the hell is?

  40. #89
    I am a novice improviser but one of your suggestions seems spot-on:

    Knowing the tune cold - chord progression and the melody.

    I encounter some players at jams who “solo” despite not knowing the tune. That rarely ends well.

    Thank you

  41. #90
    Quote Originally Posted by Goofsus4
    I'm not talking about 15 minutes a day. I'm talking about hours upon hours upon hours.

    My philosophy about improvisation is just PRACTICE IMPROVISATION RELENTLESSLY!
    The other day, I read a post. The writer signed off with “... time on your instrument..”

    It blew my socks off. Of course, JazzGuitar.BE is about learning (this Art). There are modes and poly-rhythms and Bird-solos, best books and equipment subtleties. But .... nothing of true value is going to happen without “... time on your instrument ...”

    Isn't there a Latin phrase: Sine qua non
    [ my font went nuts ]
    Maybe that applies. Maybe it means: “without this there’s nothing”.

    I dont know what “Generic Modality Compression” means (Mick Goodrick book) but I understand “... time on your instrument ...”.

    I’m probably going overboard here.
    There’s a local professional musician nearby. He wants said to me: “You know what you need to practice?” “Everything”.

    So yeah. There’s “How to practice.” And “What to practice”. But there isn’t “If to practice”.

    “Time on your (my) instrument
    ”.

  42. #91

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    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarStudent
    The other day, I read a post. The writer signed off with “... time on your instrument..”

    It blew my socks off. Of course, JazzGuitar.BE is about learning (this Art). There are modes and poly-rhythms and Bird-solos, best books and equipment subtleties. But .... nothing of true value is going to happen without “... time on your instrument ...”

    Isn't there a Latin phrase: Sine qua non
    [ my font went nuts ]
    Maybe that applies. Maybe it means: “without this there’s nothing”.

    I dont know what “Generic Modality Compression” means (Mick Goodrick book) but I understand “... time on your instrument ...”.

    I’m probably going overboard here.
    There’s a local professional musician nearby. He wants said to me: “You know what you need to practice?” “Everything”.

    So yeah. There’s “How to practice.” And “What to practice”. But there isn’t “If to practice”.

    “Time on your (my) instrument
    ”.
    Well said!

    To improvise you need to catch the moment. I think no one are trained enough to imagine how a solo will turn out in the end. No teaching materials can change that procedure. It’s your musical influences and hopefully even your spinal cord that will guide you right. All great guitarists and other instrumentalists in jazz history had or have one thing in common, they all had or have feeling about what time was or is right to bring out the best ideas. Of course we can continue to analyze masterful solos over and over again, but in the end it doesn’t matter because we know nothing about tomorrow. That’s my view about the real definition of jazz music. We know nothing to know at what direction we’re going towards. Catch the moment!
    Last edited by Bbmaj7#5#9; 08-29-2019 at 04:21 PM.

  43. #92

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    Of course pop is art, if it's done well enough. The format of the 3 minute pop song is an artform. Uptown Funk is undoubtedly a piece of art based on the conditions of its genre. You can say it's an art of reflective surfaces with not a lot going on underneath, but that is also an artform. In a way the three minute pop song is aesthetic in its purest form - signifying nothing.

    Now as for improv. I'm not good enough to have a philosophy per se. I have a strategy: Play and listen to the melody until alternative melodies, licks, etc present themselves. Of course that doesn't work if somebody count off a tune I've never played before, but it sort of works for the known/prepared tunes.
    Also, when I was younger I tended to just play whatever came into my mind at the moment, more or less only relating to the changes. These days I try to overtly and consciously respond to the melody. Sometimes by referencing sometimes by rejecting it, but I try to always have the melody in the back of my mind as I play. I suppose that if you want to elevate that to a philosophy, it's this: Any improvisation is always a response to a melody real or implied.

    yeah, good thing I don't make a living off my thinking cap.

  44. #93
    My sense of what makes something beautiful (Art) is (my sense of) the sacrifice that went into its creation: the implicit labor, the sacrifice, the love.

    Seeing a guitar in Segovia's hands, learning how long Rose LaVelle practiced before her famous goal, hearing about Pat Martino overcoming memory loss, learning how cheaply Willie Nelson sold his early songs, hearing that John Coltrane practiced 14 hours a day.

    i believe that Art is sacrifice on display. The saying: “It took him 25 years to become an overnight sensation” captures this.

    It inevitably goes like this: I see something stunning. Later I learn the “noble path” of the artist.

    I think what makes something beautiful is a sense of the labor. Magnificent gardens necessitate a lot of labor and learning. When I see the garden, I’m somehow connecting to the accomplishment of the gardener! (I don’t know a petunia from a nightshade.)

    How many years could the 20 year old Justin Bieber have toiled? What could he have forgone?

    Of course, to refute my own theory: I heard Mozart created Art ata very young age. I guess that’s where the rare “child prodigy appellation is used.
    Last edited by GuitarStudent; 08-30-2019 at 08:59 AM.

  45. #94

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    Derek Bailey wrote a book on improvisation worth checking out. An amazing overview of its use in many forms of music.

  46. #95

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Jerome
    everytime they hear me they are really hearing the original not me.
    Spot on. They always go for the songs they know, even if they're not played that well.

  47. #96

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    I know this is common, learn to improvise with scales and arpeggios. But I why not listen to a tune and then improvies, the melody in head?

  48. #97

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    Wow, a 10-year-old zombie thread! I didn't notice when I opened it up, and read the first post, and despite this thread's age, something that I could relate to immediately struck me.

    People unfamiliar with Johann Sebastian Bach are often unaware of how good he was at improvisation. I mean, he improvised fugues, for pete's sake! If you take a look at Bach's history, you'll find that he started out as a youngster, apprenticed to a master musician -- the town cantor, if memory serves. One of his duties was to copy musical manuscripts. No Xerox machines in the 17th Century. He did this all by hand, and he most likely copied many hundreds of pieces of music, all as part of his apprentice duties. What this did for him was not unlike what modern musicians do when they listen to a track over and over again to memorize every phrase, every nuance. When a modern musician is studying the playing of another like this, s/he isn't thinking about improvisation. S/he is thinking about copying what this other musician did.

    I know that this was the way I approached learning guitar licks as a young "lead" player. That was how I essentially developed a blues style -- copying the licks played by all the players I admired the most. Now, strictly speaking, if you're just stringing together a bunch of licks you've learned, one after the other, that isn't really improvising. But what happens is, things change. Just like how language changes over time, one's style begins to evolve. The licks begin to change as one finds out the best ways to fit them together. One begins to think about how these licks are structured and laid out, and can start to break them down and analyze them, and figure out little ways to alter them here and there. Small steps that can turn into milestones with enough practice and exploration. Over time, a style develops and, perhaps before the player realizes it, he or she is improvising. But it all begins by copying the works of others. Same as JS Bach.