June 30, 2006

"Is blogging jazz?"

Amba asks.


Jacques Cuze said...

Blogging is everything that is good, and virtuous, and dangerous, and sexy, and fresh, and edgy, and bad boy, and hip.

And the best blogs are inherently conservative, even if their authors would claim to be lefty liberals.


Diecast Dude said...

If blogging is jazz, j'accuse, you are Kenny G... dull and predictable.

P. Froward said...


And — if jazz is that which is unpredictable — neither is our truculent little friend whose name is the entire content of his mind.

bill said...

took me a minute to find it, but blogging is just writing.

bill said...

diecast dude, speaking of Kenny G, are you familiar with Pat Metheny's opinion: musical necrophilia

Buddy Larsen said...

Necrophilia, can't help but think of R Crumb and his "Dance of Death" work, that I read somewhere was set off by Bruce Springsteen.

Diecast Dude said...

That is an awesome statement by Metheny.

And I don't see blogging as jazz either.  Not a lot of free-form improv going on from what I see, with most everyone following the same link/comment pattern.

MadisonMan said...

I don't like jazz, and I like blogs, so how can the two be equal?

Jacques Cuze said...

I think Amba meant jizz. The act of producing a blog and producing jizz are sometimes very close. And we all like jizz and blogs so that helps MadisonMan out too.

Some bloggers go for distance, some bloggers have a repeated stream of limp posts that seem to dribble out and go nowhere.

We all like to watch some poor soul catch it in the eye.

Yeah, blogs are like jizz.

Buddy Larsen said...

Blues is stuck with the same old three-chord progression yet uses that stricture to do all sorts of wildly different things with mood.

P. Froward said...

DD, I'd argue that ringing endless changes on a standard pattern (e.g. "comment/link") is very much what improvisational music is about. There's almost invariably a framework that everybody's working with or against: Chord progression, tempo, etc.

Buddy, there's more to blues than 12-bars.

Buddy Larsen said...

P Froward, right-o--but you must have it in there as the point of departure, or else you're playing out of the genre.

Buddy Larsen said...

I love that comment--it was in a Mark Steyn column but I forget the attribution--that trying to write about music is like trying to dance about architecture.

Ann Althouse said...

It's Frank Zappa.

Buddy Larsen said...

How could I forget Frank Zappa of all people--must be time to move to Montana and raise me up some dental floss.

Tibore said...

Some blogs are jazz: Truly improvisional sessions where participants riff off each other to present something truly unique, original, and of the moment. Some are pure rock: 3 chords and a lot of attitude. Some are Punk: 3 chords and a lotta screaming. Some are weird, wacky, Dr. Demento stuff (Eggagog!!!).

And some are just the same note, over and over.

Ron said...

Blogging is popular...and all comparisons end there!

Maxine Weiss said...

It's one of those things they defies definition.

The date stamp is the least of it.

You are taking a blank screen/canvas.....and creating something from nothing. And, each day you get a new chance to do it all over again.

I can't tell you the money that I've saved on my phone bill. And it's kind of a bother to be yapping on the phone every time a new thought pops into my head.

I kept a journal for years, and that was truly a nightmare.

This is far more convenient.

The only negative, for me, is the remuneration.

I believe I should be paid by the word. Every word I choose, I should be compensated for. Every post should net be some sort of flat rate.

I truly believe I'm entitled to that, and am always disappointed, each day that I've blogged.....that I've not been paid $$$$$$$$$.

It doesn't stop me from doing it the next day, though.

Peace, Maxine

Ron said...

But if bloggers were jazz musicians, who would Ann be? Carmen McRae?

Kos is a Coltrane waitin' to happen...

Michelle Malkin -- Lady Day?

Sanjay said...

Wow, what a gross underestimation of what's involved in making jazz.

Metheny's famous (and beuatiful) screed on Gorelick made the "musical necrophilia" argument but made some other more substantial criticisms (e.g. Gorelick's tendency to be out of tune and sharp). While I more or less agree that dubbing over a dead artist and selling it as a sort of duet is tasteless, it sin't a hard and fast law or aesthetics and (as Metheny pointed out) other talented people have done it. His objection really seemed to be more the poor quality of the crud being overdubbed.

Frankly, although I have much respect for Metheny both as a musician and a speaker, I think he sort of put his foot in his mouth with an interview on children's music that he didn't expect would get broadcast on the Internet, then sort of saved it by attacking an easy target, then had to issue _another_ clarification.... not his best moment, much as I dislike Gorelick's music.

P. Froward said...

The USAF has defined blogging. We can all go home now.

Buddy - I'm pretty sure "Smokestack Lightnin'" isn't any kind of a twelve-bar, but I've got it on vinyl and my turntable met its maker some years ago, so I can't be sure. But how about "Oh Death"? The Charley Patton one, not Ralph Stanley. Or "Boom Boom" by John Lee Hooker, or his version of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken"? "Shake Your Hips" (and quasi-covers thereof)? Heck, while we're on I/iii/IV, there's "Texas Radio and the Big Beat", and "Jean Genie" is glammed-up blues.

Certain kinds of bent notes, major and minor thirds and flatted sevenths and that sort of thing, in a major (or majorish) key are much nearer the heart of it. If you're going to limit it to twelve-bars and variations thereof you'll have to either arbitrarily exclude a lot that's recognizably blues, or else arbitrarily expand your definition of "twelve-bar-derived" to make it include everything included by the kind of definition I'm pushing for — which you could've just started with and saved yourself the trouble. You're multiplying your entities beyond necessity. Alan Lomax wouldn't like that.

None of which is to say that twelve-bars aren't extremely common.

I'm deeply ignorant of the blues, mind you, but you don't have to be an expert to cough up counter-examples.

Buddy Larsen said...

LOL--"Alan Lomax wouldn't like that."

You're right, I was being too definition-oriented.

What I had in mind was classic Delta Blues--I/IV/V, 12 bars, or the so-called tonic, subdominant, and dominant.

what I was trying to add--re an analogy to blogging's "restrictive" form--is that there's a world of variation that can only open up inside a restrictive form.

IOW, if you want to be distinctive inside a classic form, you can't do it without a whole lotta soul--and mastery. I agree all the way with your post up there saying something like that.

P. Froward said...

I entirely agree that arbitrary strictures are good for creativity (Jack White preaches on that theme, as a matter of fact) and that a very great deal of blues is built on that one chord progression. And mastery sure helps.

I wasn't arguing with the actual substance of what you said; just cavilling mindlessly about details.

Buddy Larsen said...

well, we both got to exercise our fingers, so all's well that ends well. :)

Elizabeth said...

Michelle Malkin as Lady Day? I think you've shown this metaphor can't be trusted. I'd pair her with whoever writes for the Barney show. But that's just me.

Theo Boehm said...

Good discussion!

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. Should blog comments have a word count? How about varying the word count with the topic? “This topic’s complex and important. You all get 500 words today.” Or, “This post is about American Idol. 25 words should do it.”

Michelle Malkin as Billie Holiday is a creepy idea. I rather think of her as Dinah Shore without the talent. How about Glenn Reynolds as Stan Kenton? Who then is Oscar Peterson? Charlie Parker? Dizzy Gillespie? Miles Davis? Coltrane? So far I’m not inclined to mention most bloggers in the same breath as these, but I stand to be enlightened.

I do like to think of Ann Althouse as Marian McPartland, though. They both have superb training and ability, wide-ranging backgrounds, fluency in a variety of styles, and, most importantly, a positive, engaged and encouraging attitude about what they do. They have a definite edge, but are not unnecessarily ill mannered. Ann is not yet a Blog Legend, but I like to think that will happen someday. (Have I laid it on thick enough after the American Idol dig?)

Writing about music: Words Without Songs.

Kev said...

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, 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.

Buddy Larsen said...

I like to play, Kev, tho I've never made a buck at it. Just an 'ear' player. Piano and harmonica--or blues harp. I like to try to ape Vince Guaraldi and Ramsey Lewis mostly--jazzy funk where you can hide your lapses with a loud left hand. Blues harp just anything and anybody. I was a lot better harp player before the last few thousand cartons of Marlboros, sigh. I have a truly talented 15 yr old daughter and should be horsewhipped in the town square for not adamantly insisting she train whether she wants to or not.

Diecast Dude said...

DD, I'd argue that ringing endless changes on a standard pattern (e.g. "comment/link") is very much what improvisational music is about.

Sorry I'm so late in responding, PF (like you were sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for one, I'm sure).

I will never claim to be a jazz expert, although I have listened to and played various forms on occasion since my teen years lo those many decades ago.  While some variations are based on a quite basic formula -- here's the basic riff on top of a chord pattern, here's the solo, back to the riff and close -- other variations seem to be far more free-form where pretty much everything comes off as improv and there is no detectable structure such as in traditional song forms.  Unfortunately, I can't think of any names to go with the latter.

And since the subject of blues came up, anyone other than me heard Brother Yusef?  Amazing acoustic blues player.

Theo Boehm said...

Hey, Kev, I was wondering when you'd turn up on this thread. Great to hear from you! This has kind of run its course, so I should really come over to your blog and see what's happening.

Good points about Metheny. I, too, read that "musical necrophilia" piece it seems like ages ago. There was a fashion for doing this sort of thing when it became technically plausible, like Woody Allen in the movie with Hitler. I remember basically being creeped out by the thought of Kenny G--or anyone--attempting post facto to crash a Louis Armstrong session. What I'd like like to hear is Kenny G try that with a Thelonius Monk recording. What I'd really like to hear is Thelonius Monk and Kenny G actually live together. On the other hand, that isn't a good idea, as I could burst a blood vessel laughing at what Monk would do to him.

Buddy Larsen said...

Some play to live, some live to play--

Theo Boehm said...

And, sadly, Monk's still dead.