Sunday, July 02, 2006

Blogging and Jazz

Over at Althouse this weekend, they're discussing the question, "Is blogging jazz?" The subject was prompted by a post at AmbivaBlog which itself was inspired by one over at the Beiderbecke Affair. (If nothing else, that's certainly like jazz; think about, say, Horace Silver writing "The Hardbop Grandpop" over the changes to "Donna Lee," which itself was done to the changes of "Back Home Again in Indiana.") The Beiderbecke piece contains a cool quote, which is excerpted by Amba:
[J]azz prides itself on impermanence & unknowing. “One of the things I like about jazz, kid,” Bix Beiderbecke told his fellow cornetist Jimmy McPartland, “is I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Do you?”
The Althouse post goes in lots of interesting directions, and a few commenters even point to Pat Metheny's G-weasel bashing from several years back, which is always great fun. A few others tried to compare some of the A-list bloggers to noted jazz musicians.

So is blogging jazz? It certainly can be, especially in the case of blogs with a lot of commenters, where the whole thing could be compared to guests at a jam session trading fours or choruses with the host. Commenter Theo Boehm, who's visited here before, weighed in at Althouse with the following:
When I was in college I used to think Kenny G was a complete fraud. He became rich and famous, while I had to sell my Mark VI alto to pay the rent.

Blogging-as-jazz: You can think of a given blog template as the type of ensemble you’re playing in. The host sets the style. The posts are the tunes, and we get a chance to solo as commenters. Some blogs are bop, some are fusion, some are cool, some are blues, etc. The topic is the tune’s harmonic progression, and we riff on that. If you stray too far from the changes you’re either revealing your incompetence, or you might be a new Thelonius Monk. And you might suggest something cool for the next person.

The analogy breaks down a little in that we’re not limited to length in commenting. “You’ve got 32 bars to make your point, or the next guy’s gonna step all over you.” Not a bad idea, but what’s the word equivalent of 32 bars? Some people cram in a lot more notes and try to impress you, while others play something simple and maybe beautiful.
I thnk Theo made some good analogies, and I added my two cents' worth down near the bottom of the comments:
As the resident active jazz musician among the commenters (or at least the only one who's uncloaked as such, so far as I know), I'm sorry I missed this thread on the day it came out. But I had a good excuse; I was jamming with friends all day!

So...are blogs jazz? Sometimes. I tend to think that Theo had it right with his point about the give-and-take between commenters and the host/hostess; it can certainly end up like a jam session in that respect.

(Oh, and Theo, I'm sorry you had to sell your Mark Vi to pay the rent. I've been lucky enough to be able to use mine to help pay my mortgage.)

As for the "musical necrophilia" link {referring to the Metheny piece], when I first read that a long time ago, it made me respect Metheny (whom I respect immensely to begin with) even more. No political correctness from him; something was crap, and he had the guts to actually say so. (It's sort of like when Clinton was president and used to play his sax on talk shows and what-not. All politics aside, the guy's just not that good of a player, but that didn't keep a lot of celebrities from kissing his butt. I remember being quite disappointed in Lionel Hampton when he said of Clinton, "He can join my band anytime." Meanwhile, Branford Marsalis said something to the effect of, "I'm sorry, but he just needs to put that thing down." )

As for my own blogging, it's not so spontaneous as I'd like it to be. It seems like I'm always going back and editing my posts until it looks just right. That process reminds me of classical composition more than jazz improvisation....but then, maybe, if you're reading my posts before they've been given the final edit, it's the equivalent of watching me practice.
Look at that--I see a few awkwardly-written sentences in there; I guess I missed a couple of changes on my solo! And since Blogger comments can't be edited, what goes out there is a lot more like a live performance than a regular post like this.

We're not likely to ever arrive at a definitive answer to this question...just like there may never be a definitive jazz solo, although many of the great ones over time are pure works of art. Still, there are about as many opinions on this as there are types of improvisation, so this was definitely an interesting topic to me. Feel free to add your own chorus in the comments.

Weird prank of the day: Workers at an Italian restaurant in Arkansas arrived there one day to discover six garden gnomes sitting atop the roof....but the owner doesn't mind; she says they help keep pigeons away.

The nose knows: Want to remember a familiar scent from your childhood? Japanese inventors are on the verge of perfecting the smellophone.

1 comment:

Gary P. said...

iF bloogng wuz jaz improveizashun, i thnk mye pOstS wud luk lik thiz?

Although I do sincerely hope at some point that my jazz improvisation would begin to at least superficially resemble my blogging comment style. I guess that would make me the guy quoting the Barney theme and Pop Goes the Weasel in charts like Minuano and The First Circle.