‘restrictions stimulate creativity’

‘restrictions stimulate creativity’

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

February 11th, 2018, 1:38 pm #1

A provocative opinion from William Poulos in
https://www.varsity.co.uk/music/14685

"The anecdote illuminates a paradoxical truism of the arts: restrictions stimulate creativity. When the brain is forced to overcome an obstacle, only then is it encouraged to think of ways around it. Jarrett had to think of a way to make a bad piano sound good: surely much more stimulating than trying to make a good piano sound good. Any pianist can do that.
Jazz is based on improvisation which, to adapt T.S. Eliot, seems free but isn’t for anyone who wants to do a good job. Every jazz musician’s note choice is limited by the chords underneath their playing, because some notes sound better over some chords than others. The early jazz musicians who wanted to record their music had another restriction: time. The primitive recording technology of the time – the 1920s – allowed tracks to be three minutes long at most. In my opinion, this produced better jazz. I much prefer the solos of Bix Beiderbecke, who had only 30 seconds to impress their audience, to those of Miles Davis, who wastes every bit of eternity."

I tend to agree with Mr. Poulos. Have you ever tried to fix a piece of equipment but did not have the proper tools? You had to improvise with what you had at hand and challenge your imagination. Sometimes you come up with a better solution.

Albert
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Andy Vaaler
Andy Vaaler

February 12th, 2018, 6:43 pm #2

On one hand I agree that the skill of an artist is more obvious when you are aware of the problem they must overcome to produce something good.

On the other hand, the limitation can be so severe as to be stifling -- as in just about any Whiteman recording where Bix is not audible (IMHO).

Limitation, shackle, or something like that doesn't describe it well (although the paradox is fun). For me, it's a question of recognition, common ground. I think it's easier for people to appreciate artistic achievement when it arises frame of reference that the audience can identify. Find something familiar to people, and then: bend it, shape it, improvise it, make it into something new. The People will dig that.

Long solos, "free" jazz -- there is no law against such explorations into outer space, and they may be interesting for a while. But after a time I will say "you've lost me." That is, I've lost the frame of reference that allowed me to appreciate what you are doing.
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Brad Kay
Brad Kay

March 12th, 2018, 3:39 am #3

The best music - read "Art" - comes out of the tug-of-war between chaos and order. Music that is too orderly is cookie-cutter boring, fascistic even, and it loses your concentration. Music that is too chaotic also will make you tune out. But music with the right balance of the two can hold the old attention every time.

Bix combined chaos and order in the loveliest way. One of my favorite solos of his is in "Forget-Me-Not" by Paul Whiteman. This tune is the UN-jazziest piece of orderliness, but Bix sails through his sixteen bars, jazzing it as if it was "China Boy." Only someone who saw the chaos in order could do that.

-Brad Kay
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

March 14th, 2018, 9:27 pm #4

The Wolverines "Jazz Me Blues" includes a 20-bar chorus by twenty-year-old Bix. This is the first instance of Bix playing a correlated chorus. It is a masterful, geometric construction: first two measures are played; these are followed by two more measures, related to the first two; then, four measures, related to the first four, follow, etc. There is no chaos, just a perfectly organized geometric sequence.

Albert
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Joined: March 15th, 2018, 3:07 pm

March 16th, 2018, 1:09 pm #5

Brad Kay wrote: The best music - read "Art" - comes out of the tug-of-war between chaos and order.   Music that is too orderly is cookie-cutter boring, fascistic even, and it loses your concentration.  Music that is too chaotic also will make you tune out.   But music with the right balance of the two can hold the old attention every time.

Bix combined chaos and order in the loveliest way.  One of my favorite solos of his is in "Forget-Me-Not" by Paul Whiteman.  This tune is the UN-jazziest piece of orderliness, but Bix sails through his sixteen bars, jazzing it as if it was "China Boy."   Only someone who saw the chaos in order could do that.  

-Brad Kay
I'm old enough to have vague memories of Paul Whiteman's Sunday television show, which I recall regarding as hopelessly "square," but sometimes funny: I remember one performance of "Chloe," with lots of dry-ice fog and a girl in a gauzy dress flitting about a stage with bare trees hung with Spanish moss.  Another memory is of Whiteman dressed in seventeenth century knee britches and white wig a la' Bach or Handel, introducing, with an affected accent,  "Jada."

At that time I preferred listening to my one album, "Bix and Tram." But now that I can hear all of hiss solos with Whiteman, I have even more admiration for Bix's abilities. How he could step in to all that and create such gems of improvisation on the spot  is a wonder of the world.
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