Author Archives: Ratzo B. Harris

I Guess I’ll Call It Serendipity…

I knew little about Wadada Leo Smith, other than that I wanted to know more about him. I was blown away by his clear and direct explanation of his musical philosophy and his method for composing long forms that allow for the greatest creative involvement by the performer vis-à-vis the performer’s simultaneous interpretation of Smith’s “musical language,” Ankhrasmation.

Shifted Cliques

While I try to focus on improvised (American) music in my posts as a stand-alone phenomenon practiced by a dedicated and rather large clique, the truth of the matter is that very little music is entirely improvised, yet most music includes a certain amount of improvisation.

Being Vocal On the Instrumentality of Cliques

One of the speakers at Barbara Lea’s memorial said, “Music without lyrics isn’t really alive.” Although I don’t agree with the statement, I do agree with his assessment that the way a melody is delivered to our culture is with the words that are ascribed to it.

More on Cliques

You can’t practice improvising; you’re either improvising or you’re not, right? Reexamining my own practice habits, I realize that I spend a lot of time practicing improvising.

Cliques Interruptus

It’s tax time and I’ve been absorbed by the process of going through my piles of receipts and credit card and bank statements to try to keep what Aunt Ir(i)s will agree is rightfully mine. If we drive to a party attended only by musicians and we sit in, can we write off the mileage? Does my New Year’s gig count this year or last year?

Clique You Heels

Certainly the composers represented in the San Francisco Symphony program were Americans, but is their music? America, as it is understood as a modern geopolitical entity, is ethnically diverse and the music heard in orchestral halls is a mere fraction of what is heard and played here.

Clique Enter

It is no secret that the Eurocentric American mindset tends to look at modernity as equivalent to superiority vis-à-vis literacy and technological and economic development—an illiterate culture with uncomplicated tools that successfully lives in the same spot for thousands of years without destroying the local resources is the epitome of primitive and savage. And looking just at the issue of improvisation, one thing is agreed: it isn’t ubiquitous among the practitioners of Western art music.

Clique Escape

We all know that American music is comprised of a multitude of genres, subgenres, cliques, factions and styles. The swath of American music is so wide that many of its most broad-minded proponents from one camp unabashedly and sincerely argue that some of the other widely listened to varieties of American music aren’t really music at all.

What Are Our Goals?

Musicians live and work in every city and town in the world, not just the “meccas” where most of the music industry’s corporate headquarters have set up shop. And I would venture to say that the locations of these headquarters aren’t that important to the musician choosing to relocate to one of these urban centers. The music industry doesn’t give value to a local music community, although it does attempt to assign value by manipulating the broader musical culture.

This Should Be My Biggest Problem!

When I go to hear live music, I experience one of the few healthy things that our culture offers us: a chance to connect with members of our species without our differences being at the fore. Wouldn’t it be great to play music the same way?