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  • PERSPECTIVE : Beyond Criticism

         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.