Monday, November 2, 2009

AACM Book, Part 2

A Power Stronger Than Itself

More excerpts from the George Lewis book with my own commentary

P. 91

“According to the Nigerian musician Babatunde Olatunji, Coltrane and Yusef Lateef were working with him on plans to organize an independent performance space and booking agency. Olatunji portrays the saxophonist as declaring in their conversation that “We need to sponsor our own concerts, promote them and perform in them” …The three musicians drafted a tri-partite mission statement:

To regard each other as equal partners in all categories

2. Not to allow any booking agent or promoter to present one group without the other two members of the Triumvirate.

3. To explore the possibility of teaching the music of our people in conservatories, colleges and universities where only European musical experiences dominates and is being perpetuated."

I think this is incredible, to show that had Coltrane not died, there would've been this powerful musical trio of these great musicians, always playing on the same bill together, and hopefully, even playing in a group together. This most likely would've put Yusef more into the forefront of music, as well as Olatunji. Incredible organizing and sticking up for one another though!

P. 177

“In one of our many interviews, Abrams presented a summary of what a first-time student in his class would encounter in the first few lessons:

We learn how to develop things from the raw materials. First of all, before we write any melody, I deal with the scales and derivatives of scales, which brings us across modes – Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian. We’re listening to stuff that’s around us, and then we can transcend. We’re not captive to the usage of things around us, the empirical part.

I take a tetra chord 2 =2 =1, C + D + E + F. We have to have a note to start from. That’s the first four notes of the major scale. If we proceed with the major scale, from the F we get another 2, to G. From the G we get another 2, to A. And then, form A to B another 2, and from B to C, a 1. So you have 2,2,1 with a 2 in the middle, then 2,2,1. That’s the major scale, and you can start it on any note of the major scale.

They have music paper by now, and they take this scheme and transfer it back to notation, so that they can see it. We’re heading towards composing, personal composing. We’re collecting these components, so we won’t be puzzled by how to manipulate them. First, we organize ourselves rhythmically, so that we have some idea of how to move things around in a verity of ways. We learn all the major and minor scales, and related scales, like the double harmonic scale, stuff that we hear around us.

We haven’t started talking psychologically yet, and we haven’t talked about how the Chinese or the Indian have different tunings. That’s left to personal investigation, which is strongly encouraged.

Then I make an impression up the student by playing it. All the time they’re getting an appreciation of what they hear around them, all over televisions, the symphony orchestra, and everywhere. Then you hear something a little more abstract, then you go investigate to find out how it was developed. This is giving you the basis for looking into it. If it uses notes, rhythms and harmony, you can find out what it is.

Next I give them rules for generating melodies. First, write an uneven amount of notes’ end on the same note you start on’ never make two skips in a row, because we’re trying to separate out chordal melodies. There are six or seven rules, then we start to construct melodies. Then we bring rhythms over, and we write a rhythm for the melodies. So in about the third session, we’re composing melodies. Here’s a person who didn’t know anything in the first session, and they’re creating with full confidence in knowing what they’re doing. They know the materials they’re using. I encourage people to be forthcoming to teach other people, and assisting them.

The AACM School was developed out of this."

I personally like this, because it shows me that these musicians were well trained, and that AACM literally was a school! This short excerpt is nice to read coming straight from Richard Muhal Abrams' mouth to see how this collective of musicians learned together.

P. 184


Reach down deep inside of what you are

And bring up the reality of

The “part” = you don’t need the

“training” of the “actor”; you need the training

of yourself, what you are already - that IS enough.

How to act in each “scene”;

Don’t “act” at all becoming yourself out

Of you life and do the scene, the reality

Of it, as it is the facts of you life

Are the only theatre needed.

-Joseph Jarman"

This comes from a collection of writings of Joseph Jarman, one of the members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, on theatre and acting. I thought it was pretty inspirational, and could be applied to music/composition as well as the theatre end of things.

Stay tuned for more updates/passages from A Power Stronger Than Itself, until I finish the book!

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