Oftentimes, I aim to inspire reflection. But, instead, I usually enable plagiarism. Being wrapped up in the warmth of my own spirit can be very distracting, so distracting that I forget the demons. There is a flattering element to plagiarism, of course. But, the flattery deteriorates very quickly as I re-realize that no acknowledgment will come. My response to the lack of acknowledgment is a perpetual series of shrugs.
You may be thinking that the things this generation does have been done before. But, I can assure you that they haven't. There have been attempts made by the previous generation. But they never ended successfully. The lesson to be learned from their failure can be found in the actions that followed the attempt. An idea only finds its beginning in the lifting of a pen or the pressing of a button. It finds its end in death, while its memory lives on to inspire those of a common understanding.
I do not say this in order to chastise anyone, especially not my elders. I simply am pointing out that I am not accepting a baton from the hand of the elders. I am picking up a baton that's been dropped, in hopes that the relay is not already over. Of course, if it is, I will still finish for pride. I am unveiling the spirit of the music, which speaks the spirit of the People, which is teaming with leeches. But, you cannot assume the properties of greatness just by associating with it. If a great woman was swimming across a great body of water, and as she emerged on the other side, you saw that she had a leech attached to her, would you endeavor to be like the leech? Would you interview and praise the leech?
Consciousness is not a state, rather it is an action. This means that an individual cannot be conscious. An individual can only act with consciousness.
Consciousness is not a state, rather it is an action. This means that there can be no conscious community. There can only be a group of people who are acting with consciousness at a given moment.
There can be no existential state of consciousness.
Many people mistake themselves to BE things that they DO.
You can't be a Buddhist or a Muslim or a Christian. You can only practice Buddhism, Islam or Christianity.
You can't be a musician. You can only live within the discipline of music.
You can't be someone's lover. You can only treat them in every moment with love.
Therefore, there should be no pride associated with these things. They are simply beliefs and practices.
Now, there are things that you undeniably are, that you BE.
I am a man. I am brown. I am tall.
However, I can't act like a man, act brown or act tall,
They are states, rather than actions.
This concept does not stand against the natural roles we assume when we are living purposefully.
Rather, it sets the stage for us to assume these roles.
Spirit thieves do just what the name suggests. They indulge themselves in the theft of someone's spirit. For, there is only so much to go around, and many are unsatisfied with their helping. Even though one can gain infinite amounts of information by simple submission, there are so many who lack the humility required to do this, and prefer the ease of treachery. Of course, treachery requires that one be in possession of little to no character, a trait which defines the spirited. And the spirit thief abhors nothing more than the suffering through which character is gained. So, in turn, treachery is the most natural choice.
Creative energy, especially as applied to music, is the source of all spirit and this has always been common knowledge, if not in the conscious mind, then certainly in the unconscious spirit. Yes, the spirit is unconscious and thus the spirit thief does not know what they are. They simply steal because it is their nature. The close friend. The charming spouse. These are one of many common disguises for this individual. For, an individual should not be close unless there is an offering to give. A woman should not initiate her charm unless she is interested in giving of herself. Charm and friendship are surely acts of accountability. This is obvious. But, of course, the greatest tools of the spirit thief are evasion and deflection of that which is obvious.
Even without considering the origin of its name, visual observations tell us that 'French kissing' is not born of the Peoples that inhabited the earth in the earliest days. Be it a modern Western war custom or simply a page in the Kama Sutra, it is a relatively new thing. The adoption of our highly-evolved modern mouth-play is a learned behavior. For, when the example of the dominant society is not followed, a severe insecurity presents itself in the form of violence, be it physical or psychological. To confirm this idea, we need simply to look at the instance of this woman who was harrassed for covering her body on the shores of the ocean just last year.
Yes, one of the traditions of Western culture, of course, is the lack of self-control, especially as displayed by hypocritical religious zealots. We could exhaust ourselves in examining the practice of pedophilia within the lineage of the catholic church for confirmation of this, from the castrato to the modern altar boy. Furthermore, we can trace the behavior in many parts of the world back to religious missionaries who introduced this 'sin' to the Sapiens with colonialism and slavery. This isn't to say that lust is foreign to the big-lipped and wooly-haired, nor that I am without lust personally.
However, the cultivation of lust as a natural practice is, without a doubt, foreign to the Sapiens nature, which is why lustful music is constantly being presented to the village and why the lost tribes are constantly portrayed to the world as being unable to control their desires. Let's look at these concepts of desire through perspectives of circumcision. It should be noted that while female circumcision in 'Africa' is commonly demonized, male circumcision in 'America' is hardly criticized at all. Surely, having the foreskin of your penis cut away is no better a prospect than putting a knife and stitches to the vulva and clitoris. Although male circumcision is often done in 'Africa' under the same risky conditions as female circumcision, there is no speech of it. This is not a statement of agreement or disagreement with either. I am simply highlighting an understanding skewed by conquest and its close cousin, propaganda. Instead of offering a cleaner and healthier way of carrying out a practice, the overseer will always introduce a new practice that suits him or her better. It is the way of the devil to appeal to Eve, and in every instance of interaction, this is the campaign that will take place.
Female circumcision in 'Africa' is called 'genital mutilation' by the west and is referred to as an encroachment on 'sexual freedom.' It is also criticized for the health risks involved with the low-tech procedures that take place in pillaged 'African' countries. Surely, if certain happenstances had not come to pass, these procedures would be much less traumatic and risky. It is only the stolen resources of the world, taken by surprise and deception, that allows the west to operate with lower health risks in any medical procedure.
My understanding of female circumcision in 'African' countries is that it is performed in order to dull a woman's sex drive. I also understand that it is performed by other women (though inevitably it was a man's idea). Regardless of any moral position, this practice lines up with the idea that I am presenting here, which is simply that the conscious cultivation of lust is not native to the Sapiens. Rather, the modern idea of sexual freedom (a.k.a. lust) is rooted in pure Euro/American conquest. I don't write this as a scorned refugee, but as a humble shepherd, leading as many as possible from wickedness. For, although the western media purports that the circumcision of men in America is for health reasons, it certainly is not. To support the cliche of the health-concerned westerner, there are 'scientific' reports that claim circumcision in the USA is declining, and as a result, more men will contract diseases. But, if there will be an increase in the contraction of diseases among uncircumcised American men, it is simply due to the increase in their already quite degenerate and unclean behavior. Without a doubt, male circumcision continues so that men can go about their normal deviant sexual behavior with a bit less risk of contracting a disease. With less risk of disease, American degeneracy can more easily be spread far and wide, not just within the walls of Babylon, but throughout the globe. Rather than confront the culture that surrounds us, it is much easier to act as if penises naturally need to be modified for health reasons.
Of course, women do not have the luxury of being modified for safety in their devious behavior. Since the male sexual organ is placed inside of the woman, they run a much higher risk of being infected with whatever filth a man's secretions may hold. I agree with no concept of circumcision, but we must ask ourselves what are the origins of these things. In our answers, we should be honest. And if the answer leads back to the same place, it should be easy to make decisions about our behaviors. It certainly is not in the best interest of any nation (especially the lost tribes) to take sexual cues from the West or to embrace their reasoning systems, which have brought them to their current culture of utter perversity. Every people must evolve in their own path, no matter the pressure from outside forces.
Speaking of the lost tribes here in Babylon (a.k.a. USA), the degradation of our character is encouraged in the overwhelmingly lustful nature of our music, as I briefly mentioned above. We are then discouraged from questioning the music in low character songs that imply that it is taboo to monitor our behavior. These songs feed us the dreadfully incomplete idea that we only live once and tell us that we should live carefree. Western songs, in their insecurity, speak of pleasure as if it must be gained outside of oneself, in a never-ending campaign of personal conquest. In this sentiment, our music acts as an uncircumcised American penis, bedding the world into oblivion. However, I do not urge the lustful to be paralyzed by shame in their lust, nor do I shame the one who listens passively to lustful music. However, I certainly do urge the nationless nation to refrain from drowning in the low character that defines the dominant society.
I would say that eliminating our basest passions starts with having existential pride in our sexual counterparts. A man should not see a woman with beautiful lips and immediately think of placing his tongue or penis in her mouth – and I have heard men utter these desires very often over the years. The pressing of lips together is more sanitary and shows a respect toward the essence of both partakers. It can be seen as a greeting or a show of support between a Sapiens man and woman who are in harmony with each other. Our contact with each other should not hold intentions of self-gratification. Yes, when we free ourselves from lust, we will find the urge to free another from their own lust. At that point, man and woman will kiss with closed lips and get back to the work of maintaining the village, and later the world.
I personally understand that the message is far more important than the messenger and the idea more important than the message. This is why the carrier of strong messages often disappears soon after the idea is delivered. This fact is something that the subject of this essay did not understand, or perhaps did not respect. He understood so many things, many more than most. But, his lack of understanding in this department, or his refusal to act in accordance, resulted in his death, which orphaned and widowed those closest to him. His most obvious intention, whether consciously or subconsciously, was to become a hero, in contrast to his beginnings as an anti-hero. Of course, at the end of any aspiration of idolatry, you will find death.
The great orator was killed while in the act of orating, a most romantic death. The romance of this death inspired an expansive number of traveling orators to follow in his footsteps. For, so many desire a romantic death such as his. But, had he lived to see a natural end, how long would the campaign of oration have lasted? In some sense, with the establishment and expansion of the Nation, the goal had already been attained, which was to provide a shining example of discipline to the lost tribes. But with each new idea and thought that came to the great orator, he began a new campaign of oration. Perhaps, that is the divine reason his life was ended, because his purpose had been served and over-served.
Certainly, if I am to judge the circus of know-it-all speakers that tour through our enclaves today, I should judge the trendsetter. For, attaining a mastery of oration does not equate to attaining a mastery of discipline. Oration serves the many who are equipped to listen, while one does not have to be an orator to reach the few who are equipped to act on the message. For, those who act on their sincerity have a habit of observing sincere actions much more so than they listen to sincere speech. Besides, speech is the currency of stagnation and sincerity usually comes with little to no announcement. So, we are left to wonder what our great orator intended in his repeated instances of public discourse with the dominant society, against the counsel of the people to whom he owed his great consciousness.
Now, his idolization by the many confused followers around the world, speaks to the world's general consciousness in relation to the confused People our great orator attempted to represent. For, the path he walked was immensely difficult. Yes, it is spoken of in many ancient books, the sinner turned moralist. But, he wasn't merely that, as he was certainly one of the extreme few in history who could claim to have made an effort against stagnation. His willingness to act on this sincerity was what he was admired for. Of course, he was not the only one to think the thoughts he spoke. I suppose his awareness of this fact is what gave him the confidence to speak these thoughts so openly. However, we must always consider that opposing forces will always act in opposition. Every thesis has an antithesis and each will be supported in action.
One of the hallmarks of ignorance is the misassociation of words with ideas, actions, states and visualizations. For example, you can't be in the gutter and be on the street at the same time. These two words describe two different places and ideas. So, the gully are not the street. Oh yes, being on the street is quite a few steps up from being in the gutter. And interacting with people on the street is much different from interacting with people in the gutter. Moreover, both lead to specific places. The street offers many paths and indeed is a conglomerate of pathways, leading to many destinations. However, the gutter ends in the sewer. This differentiation must be made, not just for the sake of perception, but for the sake of living language. Otherwise, we venture into the territory of artistic language, and there is absolutely no such thing as 'art.'
See, we all have the possibility to attain street logic, since we all interact with the street to some extent. Most of us pass through it, use it as a highway or byway. Of course, the people on the street might learn my name. But the people in the gutter only know my number. For they are always only temporarily residing there, even if they reside their forever. This is why the gutter is so dirty. It is a temporary infinity.
The street is busy and bustling, filled with action, big and little action, important and uneventful action, things going somewhere really fast or really slow. There are lanes that offer options. It's exciting and purposeful to be there. Many who live on the street don't even mind it. But, alas, the dirty water that runs and gathers along the gutter only gathers a steady stream of misery, which ends in a giant container of misery.
Think of the phrase 'street musician' and what comes to mind, probably some person playing guitar in the subway or beating a bucket on a street corner near a busy intersection. You are thinking of work, of discipline amongst the undisciplined droves. Now, think of a 'gutter musician' and what do you see? Probably nothing because that phrase does not exist. The gutter provides no place for music. Although it is there, it can only exist purposefully as a stepping stone, out of the gutter and into the street. The closest thing to 'gutter music' would be that low character music that degrades everything in sight, men women animals plants everything, music that just pisses on everything in life, even dooming its own future to be pissed upon. For, have you ever noticed how the gutter is always slanted back in toward the curb.
The gutter will be confined to itself wherever it goes. It would serve the gutter best to aspire to the shoulder. It would fair the shoulder well to learn to be street. And it would fair the street well to stay as street as possible. Stay in the big chunk and switch lanes as you must. You don't want to fly. The air game is a whole 'nother thang. You'll get shot down acting street in a private plane.
Recently, a friend sent me a review of my project “Dragtime” that he found on YouTube. In this review, an individual speaks about the work for about five minutes. He speaks of how my album was groundbreaking in its revelation of the roots of what he calls “popular music.” He speaks about the musical philosophy of the lost tribes as if it is up for interpretation by any ear that may listen. He goes on to speak about what he thinks the music of the lost tribes should be defined by, talking about swing and other popular concepts. Then, he calls all of it “jazz.” He strangely ties in “Bob James” to Ragtime, to my album and to our musical philosophy. He goes on to speak of how “jazz” programs in schools should take my work into consideration in their curriculum because it is really important.
But, the most important part of this review comes near the end, when he feels as if he must make some criticism. For, he fancies himself a critic, and every critic is defined by his dismay. The criticism he makes is that I am charging money for my work and research. He says that I should make it available on a “Pay-what-you-want” basis, which truly means that people should be able to access my work for free. But, if my work was so important, I would imagine that any sincere reviewer would suggest that listeners support it financially.
This reviewer wants to deprive me of compensation for very obvious reasons that I need not mention. He states that his reasoning starts with the music being lifted from the public domain, and based on this fact, he questions my ethics in asking to be paid for my research. Yet, these songs have been recorded many times since they entered the public domain. Surely, I doubt those other individuals who recorded them were declining to charge money for their instrumental interpretations, which were all inevitably much less innovative and creative than what I did on my “Dragtime.”
My hours researching, reflecting, digging, sequencing, editing, synthesizing, writing, and so on will always result in my being paid. I do not wish for any universities to teach my work, as I do not believe the university to be useful to anything except validating the systematic spread of Euro-centric thought. I do not need compliments because I already know how remarkable I am. But, if I do accept compliments, the ones that I absorb into my body will always come from my brothers and sisters whom I love.
I woke up to a ringing in my ear one Maryland morning. I'd been hobo-ing for years, not for excitement, but for reasons that only other hobos understand. I'd been talking on the phone for days on end and drinking wine incessantly with each sundown. Neither of these things were born of any dependency. The talking was for pleasure and the wine for amusement. I suppose the ringing was a reminder that both of these things stood in firm opposition to what I had been called to do. If I was not to make music with my gift, a single tone would badger me in my own head, unbeknownst to the world outside it.
Each morning, I would arise hoping that the ringing would be gone, that I could once again indulge my pleasure of wine and conversation. The ringing did not wane nor did it grow stronger. It remained steady. There was pressure inside my head. There is pressure now as I write about these events that passed a week ago. I don't know if the pressure or the ringing will cease. But, I do not write this in hopes of their dismissal. Rather, I am grateful for its consistence, which inspires me to act with that same consistence, which reminds me that wine and conversation pass the time but offer no decoration of it.
If this never-ending bell summons me to my desk, draws the pen to my hand, why does it do so? I suppose I do have something to report. But, I am not foolish enough to believe that my notes are of any particular importance. Surely, although my experiences may be fascinating, it is only through the hours of eating the words of others that I have anything to report at all. Among these others, in recent years, Paul Laurence Dunbar's words have been my main prey. The Pauls inspire me to no end, Dunbar being one half, the side that writes and wears the diplomatic robes of ceremony, the other side being Robeson, the singing, jumping, fighting half. I've taken it upon myself to call this idea 'The Consciousness of the Pauls.”
But, that is beside the point of this writing, which is certainly the ringing, the incessant ringing. When I would step outside into the city, it would be masked by the surrounding noise. Every puddle of rainwater disturbed by every tire would grab my focus, as it mixed with the scurrying of various little animals. It was only the stirring of outside life that could smother the never-ending bell that rang just barely inside of my ear. It was as if the ringing was trying to escape, as if it was constantly coming so close to setting itself free, as if it could hear the possibilities in the outside world that were only vaguely apparent between those four walls.
Standing outside in the peace of the noise, I answered a question that I asked myself pertaining to the relationship between sounds and words, surely not the most original question, but nonetheless, a question that cultivates a frustration that demands release. For, our bodies go through these inane cycles of collection and release on their very own, as do the ever-expanding outer limits. It seems quite reasonable to try and harness these cycles oneself, and these attempts comprise the practice of organizing sounds and/or words. It is not merely a therapeutic or romantic endeavor, but one of heavenly necessity. This no one would protest, except for the jester in their jest.
defined by a hidden distinction
speaking not in a blissful voice,
but of a blissful resignation,
mirth and more mirth
Is it not ironic that with intense laughter
comes the overwhelming, the watery eye,
the pain in the ribs and fatigue of the throat?
This is called the blues to some,
but the keepers of vibration
call it nothing at all
It is important to cultivate or adopt a system of discerning creativity. In the absence of this system, the concept of 'genre' acts as a substitute. Of course, the idea of dismantling the current classification system leaves the music open to the same nonsense rhetoric that empowers corporate musicians and DJs to speak about 'post-experimental-prog-rock and its jazz roots.' But, since the listener is the sole focus of this essay, let's ignore all that. For, it is only the listener who can hold the music to a higher standard. Although the chef is often displeased with his team, all hell breaks loose when a plate is sent back to the kitchen and the big question presents itself. Where did this mediocrity come from?
'Genre' limits the capacity to accept new ideas. Since it is a phantom idea, it can only yield a phantom investment. This can only lead to a phantom community filled with people who would rather photograph the creative reservoir than preserve it. The purpose of a 'hip-hop community' can only be to hip and to hop communally. The purpose of a gathering centered on 'Soul' music is to cultivate and harvest 'Soul.' This is a lovely concept until the People at the open mic are hungry and the harvest must be auctioned. At that point, you realize that you've literally sold your 'Soul.' I particularly disapprove of this idea of 'Soul,' which is transferrable via food and music. It's ridiculous.
Furthermore, the constant conversation on “finding an audience for 'jazz'” is truly a matter of a slaver looking for a buyer of the slave's amusing 'expression.' Of course, we've now come to the point where the musician often enslaves and markets himself. The word 'jazz' is not like the word 'Soul' though. It has a literal meaning. It means 'shit,' as does the word 'scat.' The phrase “All That Jazz” can be interchanged with the phrase “All That Shit” without causing any confusion as to what the meaning is. It also can refer to 'sex' or any other animalistic impulse (jizz + ass = Jass or Jazz). If this is true, and it is, then the purpose of a 'jazz community' can only be to bullshit with each other communally, which is what has always been happening, at the expense of the maintenance of the roots. I suppose the assumption is that the only way peace can be maintained is through communal sex, a musical orgy. Basically, I am speaking of a consciousness that is designed to afford male Citizens access to the People's creative reserve and female Citizens access to the energy that supports this reserve.
It should be noted that the model used to extract 'market-fuel' from the People's creative reserve is identical to the model used to extract literal fuel from the People's land. In addition, it is simply an aggressive version of the extraction process that influenced the Citizen to monetize his own existence. For example, Bela Bartok built a legacy that seems to be revered within its context, simply by collecting the 'folk melody' of regular 'folk' and cultivating it into an exhibition of individualistic 'composition' for rich Citizens. Another example would be the perpetuation of the term “Country” as an identifier for a style of 'folk' music. This thought opens the market to an individualistic Australian “Country Singer” to rise to the top of the market, simply by perpetuating American “countryness.” Any actually descriptive term would draw attention to the particular Citizens who cultivated the music, why they created it and the source material from which they created it. Of course, this would inevitably draw attention to the great distance between the 'folk' appropriator and the source material, which still stinks of extraction from Stolen Africans. This is the understanding of music that the People deal with when entering the Citizen's marketplace. In trying to navigate a marketplace that can only serve the purpose of extraction, the People risk the loss of their connection to the true source material buried under a pile of the their own discarded ideas, abandoned because of the need to keep moving forward.
Indeed, we are at a point now where only an extreme few are interested in preserving a connection to the source material from which modern music is created. Often, I've had my interest in the creative reserve insulted as a fetish for novelty or poverty. However, if the boundaries of musical 'genre' are controlled by the market, so are all of the songs coming out of these 'genres.' If the idea that we begin with originates from a market-motivated individual, then the music they are producing must be market-motivated music – yes, even if it is passionate and true. Thinking otherwise will lead you to believe that my music or Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' or Solange's 'A Seat At The Table' are more cultural than marketable. It will have you believe that the words 'American' or 'Black' are representative of a culture, rather than a culturally-based 'genre.'
I do not intend to desecrate my own work or that of my peers. I do, however, intend to draw attention to the idea that our consumption of music has begun to take a hold on our understanding of how to interact with it. I intend to draw attention to the fact that this can be reversed in many ways, all starting with our producing music in offering back to the universal God, rather than back to the market. In the mind of the true musician, the gaze of the market is only an afterthought.
It pains me to write so much. But, the language is all so coded and loaded that it entertains me to unravel it. Hopefully, I am helping by putting these writings in the atmosphere, and hopefully the offering is absorbed before the children all begin to buy into the anarchy curriculum (we're pretty much there). Let's finally talk about two words that have no meaning when placed together, 'identity politics.' I suppose the idea of this phrase is that people are gathering into groups based on assumed identities and then seeking political or social leverage for that group. But, what if you don't want anything from the socio-political system? This question doesn't suggest that we should continue to act carelessly and neglect the system of finance and politics that governs the world. But, let's not demean our own intelligence. Let's understand it's all a huge scam, a veil hiding the insecurities of the Citizen.
Of course, 'identity' is a particularly useless word, as it is meant to cage something that is defined by action. You cannot purport yourself to be something that you don't be doing – yes, I understand the structure of that sentence and it was purposeful and much more involved than the proper grammar would allow. If you don't be playing and living music, you aren't a musician. Then again, just cause you be playing music don't make you a musician. Every time you shake a rattle, even if you shake it forever, you aren't being a musician. You are just shaking a rattle. All of the foolishness I am speaking is the confusion that comes with the acceptance of devious and condescending conversations about the phantom idea that is 'identity politics.'
I am concerned with none of these things and I believe my writing speaks in support of this statement. My main and only concern is action. I am concerned with the doing of things, never the being of things. I have spoken of being things in the past, but only as a result of what I do and have been doing since birth. I've been reading and writing. I've been playing music. I've been living under a state that oppresses what I do, not what I am. I sound like I do when I sing because this is how things have evolved around me. Of course, history is associated with community, nationality, sex and race. This is a defining factor in our understanding of life, but only as it pertains to what we are doing and why we are doing it.
The following concept could be expanded on quite a bit and I want you to feel free to do so. I will offer a simple equation that will hopefully bring clarity to all who indulge it as a starting point in assuming their place creatively. Please note that I did not say 'finding' their place creatively. For, we all are born into a particular role and instead of running away from it or acting as if we do not know what it is, it is better to walk directly into it. This is where you will find your most satisfying work.
Action + Reason + Association + Reason = What + Why + With Whom & Where At + Why.....
I wash my hands / because it makes them smell good / and I do it alone in the bathroom / because I don't need help doing it.
I play music / because I am compelled to hear the sounds that take place inside of my head. / When I feel the idea is shared, I prefer to do it with others who have an equal understanding and hear a similar sound. When I feel the sound is uncommon or unparalleled, I play alone. When I play with others, I play at a location of shared comfort. / When I play alone, I play in the place where I am most comfortable. / I make these choices to balance the greatest outcome with the least opposition.
We, here in America who have undergone the transplantation of slavery usually make reference to 'Africa' as one land mass. This annoys many people and they charge us with ignorance. But, it is not because we are ignorant that we ignore the nationalistic boundaries sculpted by colonialism and/or civil conflict. We simply refer to the continent as it exists in our lives, as a mass of land. Our interactions with the 'Africans' here in 'America' let us know that they are our 3rd cousins, close in spirit though not in mind.
Many frown upon how we understand and speak of our heritage and misunderstand the unprecedented dilemma that we face here. For example, there is the Ghanaian musician Guy Warren, also known as Kofi Ghanaba. Guy Warren reminds me of Charlie Parker in the sense that he was a well-studied, well-meaning man who was in pursuit of novelty. Music has a great capacity to foster communication and connection. But, you can't communicate with people or hear the source material of their music when you think you are better than them existentially. The following quote was taken from the book, “America Speaks, Africa Answers.”
“There has never been anybody in the history of jazz music like me... I am to jazz music what Kwame Nkrumah was to modern African politics.”
It is only the familiarity of the word 'jazz' that makes this sentence seem reasonable. This word has been made familiar as part of the market. It is a war strategy which promotes global assimilation. Anyone can play 'jazz' because the term just means “shit.” Oftentimes, on the bandstand, you will even hear 'jazz' musicians say things like, "Play that shit!" If you replace the word 'jazz' with any word that actually references the People from which the music comes, Warren's words become an undeniably moronic statement. For example, although I personally would prefer not to label any of our music as 'Black' or 'American,' we can easily use Payton's concept of 'Black American Music' to prove this point:
“There has never been anybody in the history of 'Black American Music' like me... I am to 'Black American Music' what Kwame Nkrumah was to modern politics.”
Surely, the fact that Guy Warren is not 'Black American' at all reveals that he is thinking aggressively. What he is saying is that he is actually a more complete person. In some respect, the sentence doesn't even make sense anymore, since there is no land or resources for 'Black Americans' to reclaim, like there was in Nkrumah's movement. Though I do understand his assessment that the music is controlled and needs to be liberated, his viewpoint is quite the cliché. Yes, the musical idea we created has many elements in it from our land of origin. But, rather than being the product of a place, it is the experience of specific people that cultivated the ideas that comprise our music. And those people are over here, with us, in our homes and places of gathering. There is only one way to our true creative reserve. There is no detour made for those who do not respect the People.
The music is far more controlled today and I would argue that Guy Warren's need to aggressively assert his individuality contributed to this fact, as it is a result of the same supremacist mindset that he decries in this quote. It is a mighty fine example of what it means to be so removed from the People, so purely nationalistic in thought, that to the People, your viewpoint is simply the same as any other outsider. From this viewpoint, engagement with the music will be as an attacker.
“Art Blakey bores me to death. He excites you at first; the first two seconds – and then that's it – he can't go any further than that.”
There is a pervasive idea that the People need to have their essence completely emptied and refilled with something better, something implanted by the Citizens of Europe, of modern Africa. This man, Guy Warren, though a valuable historian, was not helpful to a village that is constantly being taken hostage and pillaged. He seems like the crab that jumped in the barrel only to complain about being pulled down. Charlie Parker is Bill Evans is Stevie Ray Vaughn is Rudy Van Gelder is Amy Winehouse is Eminem is Elvis Presley...is Kofi Ghanaba?
Wind Instruments cultivate strong and steady breathing habits.
If rhythm is the sole focus, and not tone or melody, Percussion Instruments cultivate extreme focus on expanding simplicity, as well as linear thematic development.
Tonal/Melodic Percussion Instruments, such as the balafon or other derivations like the piano, cultivate focus centered on multiple lines of thinking.
Stringed Instruments cultivate style.
Vocalization cultivates strong and steady breathing and a deeper awareness of one's own body, as well as self-confidence and self-expression. Group vocalization encourages acceptance of a position or role, as well as the impulse to share.
****Performance can be antithetical to physical and mental cultivation, as it brings the direction of focus from inward to outward. However, if measured, sharing one's sound is invaluable. Music is intended to cultivate a balanced individual. One doesn't have to play everything from every angle in order to achieve balance. You may only want to apply these instruments to your life as they correspond with skills that you lack or qualities that you want to enhance in yourself.
Communal music creates different roles for individuals within a shared musical idea. With this being said, we can assume that Charlie Parker was unsatisfied with his role within this idea. I would not necessarily suggest that he consciously displayed malicious intent toward his People in the manner in which he cultivated of his talent. But, whether he did so knowingly or subconsciously, he surely sought a position of novelty. This statement is validated by all of the Charlie Parker imitators that continue to pop up to this day, still wanting to be seen as special, as novel.
Certainly, I see no harm in one's natural spirit coming through in their interpretation of a song. But, that is not what Parker did. Rather, he studied Euro-Classical ideologies and applied them to the music, which was already dealing with instruments and structures that were adopted or created out of scraps from the hog. In comparison to this technical approach, which is one of the pitfalls of playing an external instrument, there is the voice, an internal instrument which is the most sincere presentation of the spirit. Karlton Hester points out in his “Bigotry and the Afro-Centric Jazz Evolution” that Betty Carter's performances on 'The Audience with Betty Carter' or 'At the Village Vanguard' preserve her musical interaction with the village, rather than with an audience waiting to be catered to. Yet, on Charlie Parker's recordings, you hear very little call and response. For, there is little room between the virtuosity for communication to take place.
I suppose that if Charlie Parker's lean towards the Euro-Classical is considered an invitation to infiltration, Bill Evans took him up on the offer. Surely, employing Bill Evans was a matter of 'taste' for Miles Davis, who boasted that he would hire green people if they could play. This 'taste' can most definitely be credited to his development under Charlie Parker and his relationship to Euro-Classical music, playing it extensively in his youth and even attending Julliard while in Parker's band. The conflict between Davis and Evans over the crediting of the overcelebrated composition entitled 'Blue In Green' is indicative of the larger problem at play here. Evans penned the 'melody' and perhaps the 'harmony' and feels entitled, though he admitted that the initial idea came from Davis. This conflict is cultural in nature. Writing things down signifies nothing within the context of the People's culture. Ideas flow freely and endlessly. But, within Citizen culture, transcription of a person's ideas is a valid transfer of ownership.
We would see Bill Evans seldom hire 'black' musicians as he became more successful creatively and financially. We would also see his 'white' bandmates lauded for their help in the reconstruction of the People's music, removing all of the few remaining elements of 'Africa,' leaving nothing but Chamber music. Evans would become a model for a movement of European 'jazz' to be developed as legitimate music, rather than a lifeless music rank with the stench of extraction. When you listen to his 'great' group with Paul Motian and Scott Lafaro, it sounds like Chamber music, doesn't it?
Needless to say, these musicians represent a turning point in the struggle. The Citizenry's extraction process eventually evolved into a direct pipeline from our alienated elders to outsider children. As pretty and delicate as his playing may be, Bill Evans was an infiltrator of little more significance to the People than Mezz Mezzrow. I never hear the People's true musicians praise Bill Evans because his music does not resonate with them. Yet, various chamber orchestras memorialize him and corporate musicians speak very highly of his legacy. Bill Evans is Stephen Foster is Rudy Van Gelder is Bobby Caldwell is Eminem is Stevie Ray Vaughn...is Charlie Parker?
Our multi-tasking is not such a simple thing, something to be accepted in passing. In my recent learnings, I've concluded that it takes two minds to do two things, three minds for three and so on. So, if you are listening to music and cooking and thinking about something and eating and talking on the phone, you are actually five people. When you are done with these things and return back to simply being, you become one again.
Music that explores the world, as if aspiring to reincarnate Columbus, must originate of this multiplicitous mind. Of course, the exploratory listener is an asset to the musician. But, an exploratory musician is one that does not know, one that gropes in the dark for clues, searching for a deep fiction. When he gropes through our music, he knocks over the artifacts of history, which have been kept in the darkness because they are safe there.
The darkness offers no aggression. Rather, it bypasses the turmoil caused by the blinding light. Therefore, we should not grope in the dark, in a panic as if we are headed toward oblivion. Rather, we should briefly burn a low wick to guide the way. For, we are not headed for oblivion, but pushing down the walls that confine us in the deepest wickedness of the oblivion that has been upon us for so long.
No matter how fast pictures pass in front of our eyes, we must remember that every frame contains many pictures that could stand alone. A movie is lots of pictures. A television show is lots of pictures. It has often been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Can you process a thousand words per frame, if there are 25 frames passing per second? This means that you would be processing 25,000 words per second. Surely, in 25,000 words, one could rewrite history or create a new mystery, all without your knowledge.
So, how many pictures are there in one sentence, one paragraph? How many paragraphs are there in one frame of a movie? There is no way to understand all of them. Yet, still you see most frames of a moving picture. Yet, still you feel as if to interact with the moving picture is to interact with some living idea. Yet, still, we choose to look to the moving pictures to inform us about ourselves and to inform the public about us.
It would be more beneficial to stare at one picture for two hours and process the information contained within it than to watch a two hour long movie. For, watching movies is a task to be completed by experts, people who have consciously cultivated the ability to process high quantities of visual information. The same can be said about listening to sound. Furthermore, if each sound contains a wealth of information, historical and scientific, an expert of sound, a musician, should also be a translator of information. This is not our practice, especially pertaining to the music of stolen 'Africans' here in this country.
The most compelling thing about moving pictures is the rate at which they allow us to pass the time. It is the quintessential nihilist activity. Knowing this, I can't help but to admire the filmmaker who moves one picture at a time, rather than 25. I respect those who can walk outside and be truly cognizant of their surroundings, to see the real stage show. I admire the 'musician' who understands each word and its origin, and speaks them sparingly, so as to construct phrases that make sense. I respect the listener who hears the song in everything. Seeing, rather than watching. Listening, rather than hearing.
Sidney Bechet was one of the first musicians I was drawn to after Ellington and Monk and the singers I had always listened to. When I was about 14, I bought a few CDs from a nearby music store and among them was a compilation of some of his works. I quickly took to 'Really the Blues,' then 'Characteristic Blues.' Later on, as an adult, I read his 'Treat It Gentle' and listened to his music more in depth, which was quite the revelation. Though with a great measure of physical and chronological distance, I had already been exposed to other musicians from New Orleans. Jelly Roll Morton. Barney Bigard. King Oliver. The Marsalis Family. Louis Armstrong, of course. But, I knew in my listening – and later on, I found in my reading – that Bechet was just as much an anomaly in New Orleans as he was in the greater world. Though he enjoyed pleasurable things and hustled music for his bread, he was no hustler or pleasure-seeker. He was a master of musical philosophy, someone who spoke of deep roots, not just New Orleans culture, but of the motherland and beyond. Of course, I always had respect for all of the New Orleans musicians and admired them. I respected them without any encouragement or guidance.
Nonetheless, I never really felt connected to New Orleans music as a whole and I never felt as if what I was playing or singing was derivative, as the common linear narrative might suggest. In reading Buck Clayton's autobiography, I found that Bechet did not take kindly to outsider musicians playing New Orleans music anyway. He resented how 'Dixieland' was being turned into everybody's music, when it was really just the music of his community. Of course, we now have learned, as Freddie Keppard predicted, that any music's entrance into the market means that it will be exploited globally.
There is an instance in Clayton's autobiography, where he is scheduled to play a gig in France opening for Sidney Bechet. On this gig, he makes the mistake of playing a song from the New Orleans repertoire. As a result, Bechet was up in arms, talking loudly about Buck Clayton being a fake. I believe he almost refused to play after him and agreed only after much pleading. Whereas the vast majority of the 'jazz' musicians out here today are simply Buck Clayton, outsiders playing fake New Orleans music for money, a skeptical few from our respective villages outside of New Orleans have maintained a connection to the true spirit of music. For, ragging the time is a characteristic of all ancient music, as is hyper-expression and the improvisation that comes with it. The various styles coming from the various villages are modern representations of ancient musical philosophy dating as far back as the Sapiens can be traced. All of our true musicians have their own way of expressing these techniques and it is the fundamental essence of our true culture, unrelated to any generic categorization. We had our own thing where I'm from too, and honestly, I've always had something all my own.
It always struck me as peculiar that everyone was so awestruck by this New Orleans sound, that they were insistent that the purest cultural music in 'America' was from there. I can't count how many people I know that have taken vacations to New Orleans and called me to tell me that I should visit, to tell me how exciting it was to see the musicians. However, in my adulthood, after playing and writing and watching and listening so much, I now understand the national and international fascination with dancing, wailing exhibitions of 'negro-isms,' especially as part of any sidewalk presentation.
The story of New Orleans and Congo Square is told time and time again, noting how freely the slaves were allowed to dance and sing on Sundays. Strangely enough, this story is always told with a romantic tone, recalling its significance. But, you see, most of our stories moved through the other southern states, in places that did not merge cultures and ideologies as they did around the Gulf Coast. In most of the southern states, the 'master' did not particularly present himself as being some sort of temporary ally on Sundays. However, his imposition of Christianity is no more deviant than the manufactured culture of New Orleans, which has always been encouraged (and cultivated) among the 'black' population, not just to enslave the body, but to manipulate and deceive the soul. You see, in New Orleans, slavers had a bit more foresight and understood that the bondmen must feel as if they have some portion of freedom in order to carry out their duties more willingly and more effectively. The laws pertaining to the maintenance of slaves in New Orleans were very specific. Through these laws, bondage would seem like employment and welfare, as it does today.
To illustrate the stark similarities, I'd like to call attention to the dancing holy ghost that overtakes many 'black' Christian churches on Sundays. For, if these services took place in the the street, on floats and on rooftops, instead of between those four walls, they would look and feel identical to a New Orleans procession. For, shuffling feet are shuffling feet, regardless of the label that presents them as cultural, religious, secular or sacred. In 2007, I was invited by the head of my university music department to take part in an international music exchange program hosted by the U.S. State Department. The visiting music students from Brazil, India, South Africa, Ireland and Mali were all excited to see the 'culture' of the church one Sunday, at the invitation of one of our 'black' professors. Being raised in the church, I understood that, if open to outside spectators, it becomes a circus attraction. I had long abandoned Christianity and did not attend. I have come into an even greater consciousness now that exposes the New Orleans thing as an equivalent dynamic. I'm sure it is quite amusing to watch and take part in those festivities, just as it might have been for the international students to watch the 'negroes' sing and clap hands so passionately in church.
Let it be known that I do not dismiss New Orleans as being some early slave-haven. I have read many accounts of New Orleans life in the days before 'abolition,' of course their most beloved being that of the mistress Delphine LaLaurie, whose reality has become exaggerated during the process of marketing horror stories, much like the city's musical export which bears the exaggerated misnomer of 'jazz.' But, as a result of the consistently relentless impositions of the slavers outside of New Orleans, descendants outside of New Orleans are relentlessly cautious and far less prone to marching in the street. When the people of Alabama did end up marching, it was for what they might consider justice. Even if their approach was just as mistaken as New Orleans, and it was, the marching was not for cultural reasons.
Culture should be an afterthought when self-centered productivity is at stake. Though it is also grossly exaggerated, the efforts in Alabama may have been the closest we've come to staying focused on the task at hand, which is to regain our sense of self-discipline and to lose our fear of doing for self. Of course, there have been other movements that have been successful to some measure, as well. The Nation of Islam presents a strong example. But, I find it undeniably suspicious that the story of the preservation of 'African' music on this land has often been centered on the wailing and marching culture of New Orleans. So many rich traditions of music have been overshadowed, and indeed, buried by this fetish, which is drenched in liberalism, the most powerful tool of deception used in support of the ongoing state-sanctioned genocide. To this day, for this very reason, very few are aware of the drum and fife tradition here on this land.
Now, don't go and accuse me of being aggressive toward New Orleans for what I write. New Orleans musicians have had an entire century to correct this exaggeration. As far as I have seen, this correction has never come, and so I write this out of love and necessity. It is difficult to watch music within the 'United States,' even beyond New Orleans styles, evolve within a market-motivated tradition of mindless blowing competitions and presentations. Of course, it was inevitable that as the Great Migration descended on the north, the New Orleans styles overwhelmed Chicago. But, this means that although Jimmy Yancey is a native Chicagoan and born 7 years before Louis Armstrong, he is lesser known and music during this period of the city's history is more associated with Armstrong.
Of course, in reality, there are really very few things that separate New Orleans music from other southern styles and their northern cousins, one of them being the simultaneous soloing that marks the call and response of New Orleans parades and stationary performances. New Orleans certainly cultivated a very distinct personality in their expression on wind instruments and trap drums. Their musicians can be credited without protest for originating a great bulk of the modern personality of these instruments in our music. However, in Chicago before the migration, neither wind instruments nor drums were popular among the 'black' population. Rather, the piano, guitar and voice were the main focus. For, during slavery, in many places outside of New Orleans, drumming and playing loud horns could result in perverse violence, including the severance of the hands.
At first, the New Orleans style of simultaneous adlibbing was rejected in Chicago, because realistically, unless the most sensitive and knowledgeable musicians are involved in its execution, it sounds sloppy and difficult to follow. The style only became widely accepted as part of a trend, much like trap music and wearing tights as pants today. As the music progressed, musicians freed themselves from this submersion in novelty, with men like Louis Armstrong, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman and Ellington using the style masterfully only as part of their repertoire of sounds.
As for the second line rhythm, it is simply a repetitive fixation on a common rhythmic figure that could be found all over the country, as well as in 'Africa.' But, in the 'USA,' it was usually expressed vocally or on string instruments, save for the fife and drum music mentioned earlier. I don't use the word fixation in a critical way, but simply to point out that in choosing a rhythm to focus on, we create a habit, and that habit can easily be called 'culture.' All of this was most interesting to the 'whites' on the north side of Chicago, who influenced the trajectory of the music with their financial spending power. But, much like today, the general population of 'negroes' finds it easier to feign ignorance than to expose the insecurity of the usurping majority.
It would be years before Chicago would recover a balanced representation of its Midwestern character, which would be found in the 2nd half of the twentieth century with people like Von Freeman, Jimmy Dawkins, Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions and Psychodrama. Of course, the great appreciation for New Orleans music continued even beyond this renaissance of Chicago character. This can be evidenced in the success of No Limit Records in Chicago. In it's early days, the label represented a style of music very distinct to New Orleans. All over the south side, the south suburbs and in north Lake County in Indiana, the output of New Orleans rap was widely consumed.
Getting back to the subject at hand, it seems to be the nature of the market to duplicate the original for the masses. How many Sidney Bechets popped up in Paris after he relocated there? Is it not simply common sense to view this as a continuation of the siphoning of soul that started in Congo Square? For, I was in a subway in Paris in 2009 when a Frenchman walked into the train and played Sidney Bechet licks perfectly, asking for change! In respect to Bechet's role in this, although he did do a great deal in furthering the financial viability of carnivalistic buffoonery, this is not what he was about at his core. Certainly, neither he nor the city of New Orleans were alone in being subjects of market exploitation. Within the modern representation of 'jazz,' Charlie Parker is arguably a much more popular personality to emulate. Furthermore, how many Curtis Mayfield impersonators are there out here right now, getting paid serious dough? I could name the head impostor right now, but I do not wish to stir up trouble.
It is important that the public understand the information that is being communicated in the music. Bechet used to say that the audience had the potential to be just as musical as the players, sometimes more. He explained it very well in “Treat It Gentle.” For, music was not born on a stage. It was recently placed there, just like the West 'African' was placed in Congo Square. I have always felt uncomfortable being on stage, though I have done my best to indulge it. It can very easily be argued that stage performance is a form of idolization and that those who seek it find themselves worthy of being idolized. We are greeted daily by this idolization that created our ongoing dilemma. It controls us in our manufactured cultural practices that constantly favor beauty more than productivity, that constantly favor the cultivation of the external over the internal. This cultural stagnation is consistently magnified and used as a distraction, as is the case with the unique qualities of New Orleans musical ideology.
Why are our ancestors
always kings and princes
and never the common people?
Was the Old Country a democracy
where every man was a king?
Or did the slave-catchers
steal only the aristocrats
and leave the field hands
My own ancestor
was a swineherd
who tended the pigs
in the royal pig-stye
and slept in the mud among the hogs.
Yet I’m as proud of him
as of any king or prince
dreamed up in fantasies
of bygone glory.
"When I'd see photos of jazz musicians recording or performing, I found myself looking at the mics, not them." - Rudy Van Gelder, JazzWax.com
Rudy Van Gelder was an optometrist who gained pleasure from recording sound. Our musicians were merely characters in his recording fantasies, of no more importance than their instruments or the furniture that decorated the rooms in which they recorded. But, why would an optometrist's name be plastered across the front and back covers of albums, in big letters, as if he was doing something special by indulging his fantasy? I would argue that the musicians did not demand his humility, and so he believed that he was contributing to the music. In actuality, as beautiful as the music may have sounded in the end, he had nothing to do with that beauty. He was simply employed to record it.
His refusal to rebuke the celebration of his name has inevitably tarnished the legacy that he might have enjoyed, had he actually been of help to the village, which was being represented in the music. Of course, while Miles Davis was being beaten by the police for 'standing around' outside of his own show, Rudy Van Gelder was inevitably enjoying a life of not being beaten. In fact, he opened his 'famous' studio during the very summer of 1959 that this beating incident took place. I would not deny that Van Gelder managed to cultivate a certain sound from his techniques. It was a nice sound. But, it is a sound that isn't particularly remarkable, in comparison to other recording engineers. I find the celebration of his name to be an enduring hipster trend. Of course, we can only imagine what it would sound like if Miles Davis recorded his own albums, as an engineer. It certainly would have been a truer sound, more in tune with the music. It is simply a matter of genuine respect for the music and genuine interest in the music.
Honestly, many musicians did not want to be recorded at all and only did it for money. The intention of every style of music coming from our People, long before recording technology, was to play it for the village. This particular optometrist was not from the village. Yet, when you listen to certain albums on Spotify or buy them from Amazon, you will find that his name has been submitted as part of the titles of many albums. I am sure that Kenny Dorham did not actually put Rudy Van Gelder's name in any of the titles of his songs, nor did any of the other musicians.
I find it laughable that this optometrist has a collection of music called “The Best of Rudy Van Gelder.” There is even an album called “Blue Note Perfect Takes” where his photo and the words "Blue Note" are huge and Thelonious Monk, Joe Henderson and others have their names printed in tiny letters. Once again, in actuality, the recording engineer has nothing to do with a take being perfect. That phrase refers to the musicians playing the music impeccably. If Rudy Van Gelder had an ounce of humility about him, an ounce of respect for our music, he would have objected to this. Indeed, most of these albums where his name is listed on the front cover, or the spine, the sidemen in the actual band don't even get to have their names there. It is downright pitiful that this man and the corporations that employed him would take advantage of the plantation situation like this. For, can we not tell the truth, even if he isn't here to feel the sting of it? It is a shame that our musicians have such a legacy of weakness, that no one has really called this man out for this. But, I'll say it again and again. Rudy Van Gelder is Stephen Foster is Bill Evans is Bobby Caldwell Amy Winehouse is Eminem is Stevie Ray Vaughn.
The award giver, the corporation, asserts power by offering a reward.
The award recipients confirm corporate power in their acceptance.
There is no deviation from these natural laws,
unless we intend to adhere to the unnatural.
It is not our nature...
It is not our nature to smile and show teeth.
It is not our nature to overindulge in consumption.
It is not our nature to run in circles, big or small.
It is not our nature to envy.
It is not our nature to seek pleasure.
It is not our nature to seek pleasure.
It is not our nature to seek pleasure.
It is not our nature to challenge God.
It is not our nature...
It is not our nature to conjure vibration for entertainment.
It is not our nature to manicure and manufacture our visions.
It is not our nature to speak excessively.
It is not our nature to value the preservation of the body over that of the spirit.
It is not our nature to lie to ourselves.
It is not our nature...
It is not our nature...
It is not our nature...
Although I enjoy the experience of listening to vinyl, there is a common idea that the medium legitimizes the music, which discourages the consumer from taking accountability for their experience. In most cases, the trouble of pressing and storing vinyl is not worth it. Honestly, the listening sessions I remember most fondly are similar in the level of physical and mental investment that was brought by the listeners, regardless of the format. Our listening is characterized by the people who listen and what it means to them. When listening collectively, we should either do so on a medium that is shared or let the availability of the music dictate. This idea makes the digital medium most reasonable.
On the other hand, when I mention to a certain type of personality that I listen to music on CD, I am often met with a look of confusion, as if I am stuck in a state of nostalgia. The look gets even more severe when I show my vinyl or cassette tapes. Other times, talking to a different person, I am congratulated. This perceived nostalgia draws contempt from the working person, who resents the idea of leisure. It draws praise from the preservationist, who appreciates an interest in roots. It draws respect from the elitist, who values its exclusivity. These are generalities, but I do understand their origins. I find it necessary to quantify my reasons for listening on certain formats when there are now others that are easier to navigate. I would not want to get trapped in the act of arbitrarily resenting, preserving or elevating a format. Although I am not opposed to creative exclusivity, I abhor the lack of creative reasoning.
I certainly do not favor one medium over the other. I do not simply curate my music according to any guiding principles. Rather, I curate my life with a certain set of principles and those principles carry across all parts of my life, including my listening and playing practices. You do this too. Certainly, if you have no system of discernment, you have accepted the loaded one that has been provided for you. Yes, loaded like a gun.
However, once again, pressing a new piece of music to vinyl does not legitimize its content or connect it to any particular lineage, especially if that is what is intended. Those ideas exist outside of intention. If we focus on the content and how it is integrated into our lives, we will find more understanding in our experience and our methods of discerment will be more clear-minded, based on forging strong relationships.
For the continuance of
a low buzz
of high level
a true listenership
true as the musicianship,
when it is true
having humble spirits
on both sides of the sounds
in the outcome
of the music
We have been born into roles in a play, each role acting as a placeholder, until we can escape the confinement of our gifted selves. It is true that most of us do not have such a chance to be redeemed. This is why people who can express themselves through sound are consistently accused of having a gift. Much of this opportunity for redemption is contained in the person dismissed as the 'groupie,' who is willing to reciprocate the bravery and faith that is felt in the music – and this reciprocation isn't always an offering of sex. But, in common practice, the 'musician' is motivated by domination, socially and sexually. Often, he has nothing to offer but the worthless toots of a trumpet and treats the 'groupie,' who is actually the most treasured muse, with the same abusive nature as he does the music. In the absence of male discipline, the rare female 'musician' very often follows suit in her desire to sexually and socially manipulate her audience. Once again, the question must be asked;
Do I forage within myself in order to improve the creative reservoir
or do I forage within the creative reservoir in order to improve myself?
Modern society within the United States of America is an entity that is constantly evolving, especially as it is experienced by the young Sapiens man. A woman is generally valued in and for her youth in this place. This isn't the case in terms of the education system and the general attitude of the state, which greatly miseducates and deceives her. But, it certainly has been the default within the family structure. Within the village, the little girl's protection is a top priority. Most often, even a man who consistently misvalues women – and let's be honest, most men do – will shelter his own daughter, by any means necessary. Any male interacting with a woman in her first quarter can attest to the naivete that she enjoys as a result of this protection.
Now, on the other hand, a little boy has a hard time coming up within this same village. I don't point this out in order to say that women do not struggle in their 1st quarter. I know of the orphaned little girls that line the streets of certain places around this country, coerced into doing nefarious things in order to survive. I know of the other hardships that young girls face as well. On various occasions, I've seen it with my own eyes. However, this is not the norm. In contrast, it is quite normal that the majority of Sapiens boys must fight for every bit of food and shelter that they receive. The little boy often must seek asylum in his mother, who is trained and/or sponsored by the state to degrade her male partner and pass on her miseducation to the offspring. This continues until the little boy can emancipate himself, which must eventually take place, while the little girl has this independence as an option among options, choosing between accepting the subsidies of the state or striking out on her own.
The modern young woman naturally resents this, as she is just as attached to the old ways of patriarchal authority as the man. For, this matriarchal 1st quarter is still a very new concept and no one is used to it yet. The modern woman often mistakenly looks for the traditional man in the 1st quarter, although as a result of the modern structure, he doesn't arrive until the 2nd or 3rd quarter. We must begin to notice this if we are to attain the necessary balance that will preserve the village. For, otherwise, the prosperous young woman will continue to resent the young man and the prosperous older man will continue to take advantage of the young woman. In turn, the lonely mature woman will continue to wander aimlessly, flaunting her power for co-workers who laugh behind her back, and often right in her face.
Though it has not been successful so far, it may not be possible to abandon 1st quarter matriarchy under the current system. I am often surprised by the young woman's resentment toward her powerful position in modern society. I am often confused at how she protests against it, pleading to give the responsibility and accountability back to the patriarchal structure. Of course, any reasonable man or woman would prefer that leadership duties be dispersed throughout the village over time. But, indeed, a young man must progress as swiftly as possible past this 1st quarter survival ideology – and he must do so without compromising his dignity. In turn, a woman must humble herself in the 2nd quarter, not simply as an act of submission to a man, but for the good of the family, the community and the music.
Valuing the arts is not a quality of the dominant 'American' culture. But, in our modern Sapiens culture, it is. The path of the musician is often the young man's rite of passage. In this matriarchal first quarter, the young man who finds himself to be creative should focus on this creativity. He should cultivate his understanding of life through the arts. Yes, this cultivation can continue throughout his life. However, as he ages, his philosophy must evolve, should he intend to step out of an exhibitionist view of creativity and into his rightful leadership of the village. This isn't to say that in the 2nd or 3rd quarter, a man should abandon music. It simply must be re-imagined within the framework of his life. For, if it is not, he will not be of proper use to the family or village. Although the music is presented as a lifelong 'profession' by the dominant society and the elders, it actually is revealing itself to be a discipline to those of us who are paying attention. What is being seen as a break from tradition is actually a return to it.
****This essay uses the terminology of the period, rather than modern or futuristic terminology.
Though his earnings were pillaged both before and after his death, Duke Ellington is consistently propagandized as either being sympathetic to the cause of the Citizenry or being completely apolitical. However, the slightest bit of research reveals that he was a realist with a hefty investment in the People, and engaged the Citizenry only as it pertained to this investment. He was one of the few who saw through the rhetoric of integration, and verbalized it to be the extraction process to end all extraction processes. Every style of music that has descended from the People owes a great debt to Duke Ellington.
For example, although his production entitled 'My People' is predated by many examples of rapping, it can be argued that he helped forge the path that led to socially-informed 'Hip-Hop.' He can also be credited, along with people like Ray Charles and Mary Lou Williams, for secularizing the People's Christian music. Though this secularization was labeled an abomination by religious purists, agnostics found it was a first step out of the quicksand of hypocritical religious doctrine.
Certainly, the sound of the secular religious music that emerged in the 60s is greatly indebted to Duke Ellington's conception of sound. The Impressions and Johnny Pate performed an arrangement of Ellington's 'Satin Doll' as a statement of homage on their first collaborative album, “The Never Ending Impressions.” In the years to come, some of the group's most engaging productions featured Mayfield and Pate's Ellingtonian conception of music. It is no coincidence that 'My People' debuted in Chicago in 1963 and that Curtis Mayfield's “Keep On Pushing” was released by The Impressions in 1964. Much of the music that Curtis Mayfield and Johnny Pate wrote after their time writing for the Impressions carried the spirit of Duke Ellington, as well.
Though Ellington's closeness to the spirit of the People enabled him to cultivate such divine music, it was always a source of resentment for the Citizenry, including all of their pets and pet organizations. There was an incident in 1951 that began a wave of public confrontation between the NAACP, the Afro-American newspaper and Duke Ellington. On the 10th of November, members of the NAACP picketed Ellington's performance at the segregated Mosque Auditorium in Richmond, Virginia. He pulled out of the engagement, lamenting that the protests were preventing the members of his band from earning a living. Soon after, the band was scheduled to play at the segregated Municipal Auditorium in Atlanta, where a similar protest was staged.
THE AFRO-AMERICAN NEWSPAPER: ELLINGTON PLAYS AS ATLANTANS ENTER BACK DOOR – Atlanta: More than 1,000 indignant Atlantans tore up their $2.50 tickets refusing to enter the Municipal Auditorium here Friday after rudely being informed the front door was for white only. While this number, angered over the disgusting Jim Crow arrangements, refused to enter the small back entrance, more than 4,000 crowded in to see and hear Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughn and Nat King Cole. There were 1500 white record fans with a great big section all to themselves... Approached backstage by the Afro, Duke Ellington, a greasy stocking on his head, snapped, “I don't want to discuss it.” It was the same attitude he took in Richmond during the fight over segregation at the Mosque. While patrons were forced to undergo segregation, the white members with the Ellington and Cole aggregations were allowed to perform. This was in contrast to Birmingham, where Police Commissioner Eugene Bull Conner informed the white musicians they could not play on a stage with colored musicians.
Surely, even if there is a criticism to be made about their methods, the People were righteous in protesting the way that the music was being presented to them. But, since it would be laughable for musicians to show up at the protesters' segregated workplaces with demands that they walk off the job, it seems unreasonable to expect musicians take such a stance in the middle of a tour.
DUKE ELLINGTON: All this fighting that's going on now about race is for the negro at the bottom. It isn't doing the Negro who's got something any good.
The entrepreneurial mind is one that doesn't always understand the concept of asking for permission. Ellington had invested quite a bit of sacrifice into the development and maintenance of his band. For example, their first gigs were gained via an exploitative ad in the Washington D.C. phone book, but later he would rent Pullman trains to ensure that his band would not be victimized by state-sanctioned racial aggression. I suspect that these protesters were apathetic, in terms of the conditions faced by the touring musicians. I also suspect that this type of apathy, combined with a lack of entrepreneurial thinking, strengthens the recruitment and fund-raising efforts of organizations such as the NAACP or Black Lives Matter, that quantify the People's struggle into an ethically-gratifying activity.
With his statement about his band being blocked from their wages and his comment about the desperate nature of protest, Ellington was hinting at the People solving their own problem autonomously, by collectively investing in themselves, in order to collectively be of undeniable value to the world. His words are controversial because they seem to blame the People for their own hardship, distancing him from the ones he claims to love so much. However, the information contained within the actual words carries a message of undeniable truth – and isn't that what we long for when we look into a lover's eyes?
THE AFRO-AMERICAN: DUKE CALLS FIGHT FOR [CIVIL] RIGHTS SILLY – St. Louis, Mo: Declaring with pointed emphasis 'We ain't ready yet,' Duke Ellington, world famed swing orchestra leader, said in an interview here that fighting being carried on in an effort to gain integration is “a silly thing,” at the matinee performance of the Biggest Show of '51 … According to the Duke, the fighting being carried on by some people is getting us nowhere. He could see no particular progress over the last few years and questioned “the good it's doing us” to get one or two people in a few white schools or certain jobs. Several times during the conversation, he referred to “those people” but would call no names. He did mention the Richmond incident when the Richmond NAACP picketed the Mosque Theatre where he played to a segregated audience. Ellington maintained that there are so many arguments against us that our efforts are futile. As he prepared to return to the stage he said, “No, we ain't ready yet. Get together $100,000,000 and then we can do something.”
DUKE ELLINGTON: You own $100,000,000, you go and demand something, you're somebody, you're somebody of substance. You don't walk in and say I represent 20,000,000 people, you say I represent $100,000,000. It has a different image.
MERCER ELLINGTON: [They] took a statement of Ellington's out of context, from the article and says, 'Duke Says We Ain't Ready!' One reason for the statement was that we ain't ready because we didn't have the money to go to court to litigate and to keep on appealing and do what was necessary. But, [the paper] implied 'Not ready for education' and 'Not educated well enough to accept freedom' and so forth. We had a hard time going around trying to explain that and trying to straighten out the whole thing...The point was which way do you want it? Do you want to go ahead and start fighting with no money? Or do you want to get money from the sources which it is available.... His philosophy towards race was the achievement of financial support in order to go about these things legally... the answer, as is being proved, is about money, he felt the solution was economic.
THE AFRO-AMERICAN: DUKE ELLINGTON'S VIEWS ON JIM CROW SHOCK NATION – Maestro says 'We Ain't Ready Yet.' He intimates that coloured people who live in the South know the law – that calls for the practice of jim crowism – and they might as well make themselves satisfied with their lot and stay in their 'places.' Says the Duke: 'This thing about sitting anywhere they (coloured people) want is so much bunk. If you go South don't you have to sit in the rear of the streetcar?' With the NAACP his obvious target, the Duke questioned the progress that has been made in the past few years... Early in February, the Duke showed evidence that the civil rights battle was getting 'under his skin' when he was quoted in the daily press as saying: Why do they do this to me? Why only the other Sunday I gave a concert in New York that netted them (the NAACP) about $10,000.'
It would seem that the Afro-American newspaper was working in tandem with the NAACP in order to secure donations from Ellington. This, in addition to being constantly stalked by the government, had to have been a great source of stress. The Afro-American newspaper stopped their attacks on him only after years of donations to the NAACP, which I imagine is comprised of many of their supporters. Indeed, it seems as if this paper is still using the same tactics to secure funding and readership. But, it is more important to understand that this type of journalism is recycled from the Citizen's 'journalism.'
THE AFRO-AMERICAN: DUKE BENEFIT FOR NAACP NETTED $1500, NOT 13,000. The record shows that Duke at times has tried to win more support from coloured people by attempting to prove he is a great race man who has contributed heavily to their cause through organizations such as the NAACP. A closer look at the record will show this to be false... A case in point is the benefit performance which Duke staged last Jan. 20 at the Metropolitan Opera for the benefit of the NAACP... From the box-office standpoint the performance was a great success with about $14,000 being collected from the sale of tickets, the NAACP ran up expenses of approximately $1900... Duke's organization also came up with approximately $7500 in ticket sales...[but] Duke's organization reported that their expenses with the promotion were approximately $6,000 … The net result was that when the two operations were dovetailed, the expenses shared and the profits accounted for, the NAACP 'benefited' about $1500 from a $14,000 promotion … The inescapable fact in the whole thing... is that Duke, like so many great bandleaders of today is faced with economic ruin in this day of small combos, television and cocktail rooms.
The excerpt below is taken from Stuart Nicholson's “Reminiscing In Tempo,” the book containing this back and forth between Ellington, The Afro-American newspaper and the NAACP.
Clearly the black press were not about to forgive easily the 'We Ain't Ready Yet' incident. The fact of the matter was that Ellington was damaged by his statement and it took some time to weather the storm. Nevertheless, despite something of a feud that developed between him and the NAACP, he continued to make contributions to the organization but thereafter was far more circumspect in his handling of racially-motivated questions from the press, his replies always graciously avoiding any contentious issues. Eventually the differences between Ellington and the NAACP were patched up and on 11 September 1959 he was presented with the Spingarn Medal for 'the highest and noblest achievement by an American Negro during the preceding year or years.'
Ellington soon withdrew from discussing certain issues with the media. But, we can be thankful that, every now and then, he would address the world using the word rather than the song. The following excerpt is taken from a concert program at an Ellington performance of his “Sacred Music” in 1965,
"How can anyone expect to be understood unless he presents his thoughts with complete honesty? This situation is unfair because it asks too much of the world. In effect, we say, "I don't dare show you what I am because I don't trust you for a minute but please love me anyway because I so need you to. And, of course, if you don't love me anyway, you're a dirty dog, just as I suspected, so I was right in the first place." Yet, every time God's children have thrown away fear in pursuit of honesty, trying to communicate themselves, understood or not, miracles have happened."