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Excerpt: ‘Beyond a Love Supreme’ by Tony Whyton

Excerpt: ‘Beyond a Love Supreme’ by Tony Whyton

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Published by OnPointRadio
Excerpt: ‘Beyond a Love Supreme’ by Tony Whyton
Excerpt: ‘Beyond a Love Supreme’ by Tony Whyton

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Published by: OnPointRadio on Aug 20, 2013
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 A Love Supreme
azz recordings are powerul objecs. Te legacy o recorded jazz
functions as the backbone of the music’s history and shapes our
undersanding o he pas. Hisorically, recordings were crucial o hespread o jazz culure, enabling he music o develop ino a globalphenomenon. Wihin he early decades o jazz hisory, enering herecording sudio no only provided musicians wih an opporuniy odocumen heir music or poseriy bu also encouraged new ways o  working and perceiving perormance pracice. Tis balance beween viewing recordings as a orm o hisorical documenaion (capuringmusic as i would have sounded) and undersanding recording as acreaive medium (developing sounds ha are unique o he sudio)poins o poenial ricions ha emerge when jazz is placed on record. Jed Rasula, or example, describes jazz records as a “seducive menace”;hey are oxymoronic in ha hey are, on he one hand, essenial o ourundersanding o he pas and, on he oher hand, problemaic, in hahey oer a limied ake on he hisorical process.
  As seducive objecs, recordings provide us wih a window ino heime o heir creaion and, by lisening o sudio chater and outakesand so on, we can undersand how recordings were pu ogeher andlisen in on he creaive process as i happened. As a “menace,” record-ings can presen a skewed view o perormance as i would have hap-pened wihin is hisorical conex; or example, we migh believe haall perormances o early jazz were similarly shor or, hrough he cleveruse o ediing echniques, we migh believe in superhuman eas or hamusicians can be in wo places a once. Consequenly, recordings alsoengender dieren orms o behavior in people. By reiying jazz—orseeming o urn he music ino an objec—jazz recordings crysallizesandards and urn feeing momens ino benchmark saemens or
[ 4 ]
 A Love Supreme
subsequen generaions o absorb, imiae, and measure hemselvesagains. As Marin Williams saed,
 Phonograph records are in a sense a conradicion o he meaning o he music.Ta is, hey end o make permanen and absolue music ha is creaed or hemomen, o express he meaning o he momen. On he oher hand, recordsates ha wha is made up or he momen
survive ha momenaesheically.
 Williams ouches on some o he inheren conradicions o usingrecordings as he cenral pillars o he music’s hisory, or jazz is oenheralded as he quinessenial improvised music whose essence canno be capured or documened oher han “in he momen.” Indeed, wihinesimonies o jazz hisory, he recording is oen discussed as a poorsubsiue or he experience o live music, and here is litle acknowl-edgmen o he way musicians and hisorians boh rely on recordings oell he sory o jazz and he proound impac recordings can have onmusicians and liseners alike.During he second hal o he 20h cenury, orma changes, hegrowh in discographies, archival resources, collecions, and reissueshas demonsraed he imporance o recordings o jazz hisory, whichhas ed ino he consrucion and undersanding o jazz as a canonicalar orm. In many respecs, he canonizaion o jazz would no be pos-sible wihou a body o recordings o celebrae and revere. Indeed, i ishrough he noion o he jazz “work” ha musical geniuses are mosoen celebraed and heir recordings discussed as imeless maser-pieces. In conras o he growh in canonical readings o jazz hisory,recordings also provide us wih a means o escaping xed percepions o arisic culure or hisorical noions o genius as records are bound up wih he collaboraive pracices o he modern age. In many respecs, jazz records and sudio pracices align hemselves wih he dawn o hemedia age, where elecronic objecs orm a cenral par o our under-sanding o arisic experience. As Michael Jarret saes,
  Jazz didn’ emerge in an oral culure (America is no myhic Arica; jazzmen areno grios). And excep as a reacion, jazz is no a response o prin echnology,since Arican Americans were rouinely denied access o he benes o pub-lished music. Jazz is, in ac, a response o and an eec o elecronic culure(radio and records). As surely as cinema, i invened sraegies or navigaingelecronic space. Louis Armsrong isn’ a lae arriving epic poe; he’s an early arriving cyberwrier. He has lessons o each us abou wha is o come.
 a love supreme
[ 5 ]
  Jarret seeks o dispel several myhs abou jazz’s links o he pas, isoraliy and place in naure, and insead assers he music’s link o hemodern age. Te imporance o recording echnology o he developmeno he music makes jazz an ideal culural orm rom which o under-sand he role o ar oday, where mos experiences are mediaed by echnology in some way.Considering hese poins, I argue ha we need o hink o jazz record-ings as more han jus sonic documens ha capure music in he mak-ing. Tey are powerul culural ariacs ha can aec people’s lives,inspire uure generaions, and ac as a beacon or social change. More broadly, recordings have poliical poenial boh in he way hey providehe building blocks or undersanding jazz hisory bu also by he way in which heir infuence exends way beyond musical or even arisic com-muniies.
Recordings can be undersood boh as xed works ha areopen o inerpreaion
as perormaive exs ha can be played inany given conex, giving rise o new meanings and uses or music. Temuliaceed naure o recordings presens a number o challenges ormusicologiss who, radiionally, have sough o explain he meaning o  works as somehing xed and have used he deciphering o a musicalscore as heir primary means o analysis. When we undersand he variey o uses o recordings and he meanings hey generae over ime,new modes o analysis are clearly required. In his sudy o Arican American music, or example, Guhrie Ramsey discusses he way in which music presens a paricular challenge or musicologiss oday:
 I believe ha i becomes a mater o conscience and principle o acknowledgehe limis, and indeed ry o expand he boundaries, o wha is considered hemusicological radiion, especially wih respec o he sudy o Arican American musical culure. We need o couple he sophisicaed analyical oolsdeveloped in musicology wih ohers in order o reveal he layers o meaningha liseners respond o and nd compelling.
 Alhough Ramsey is alking specically abou Arican American music,I would sugges ha a sophisicaed oolki is necessary or all musicalsudy, especially when i involves recordings. I argue ha, in order odevelop an undersanding o he mulilayered naure o jazz recordings,a more nuanced orm o musicological enquiry needs o be developed where layers o meaning are uncovered and music’s place in hisory isrevised and reinerpreed. Tis sudy, hereore, refecs a desire oexamine he broader conexs wihin which music operaes, he soriesha become associaed wih paricular albums or he meanings ha

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