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.
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?
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.
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.
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.