Monthly Archives: July 2012
Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree
I recently watched the debate between columnist Stanley Crouch and percussionist James Mtume on the evolution of modern jazz with great interest. Crouch, the steadfast jazz purist, essentially took the position that much of what’s passing for jazz today is actually a corruption of the art form, while Mtume took the position that Crouch was simply out of touch with the new face of jazz.
In my opinion, Stanley Crouch was right, and James Mtume was simply remaining consistent with what his musical philosophy seems to advocate – playing to the audience and giving applause priority over substance. But Crouch made the mistake of not framing the issue in a way that would allow him to sieze the bottom line. It’s not about the new versus the old; what the discussion is actually about is quality versus lesser quality, and that can be measured.
First, just because something is new doesn’t mean that it’s better. The problem with a lot of electronic music is electronics is being used to camouflage a lack of technical competence. There’s so much noise and electronic distortion going on that it gives the musicians the “freedom” to play bad notes, be less than melodic, and play musical nonsense. Where, on the other hand, acoustic music is intimate. It’s purely about the musician and his technical ability. Period. If Bud Powell played a bad note, or played the wrong chord progression, it would stick out like a soar thumb. But if he was playing electronic music there’s so much chaos and distortion going on that nobody would notice.
Yvette Carnell: What Black People Have in Common With Pavlov’s Drooling Dogs
Pavolov was a scientist who studied physiology, and this was Pavlov’s experiment:
Pavlov became interested in studying reflexes when he saw that the dogs drooled without the proper stimulus. Although no food was in sight, their saliva still dribbled. It turned out that the dogs were reacting to lab coats. Every time the dogs were served food, the person who served the food was wearing a lab coat. Therefore, the dogs reacted as if food was on its way whenever they saw a lab coat.
In a series of experiments, Pavlov then tried to figure out how these phenomena were linked. For example, he struck a bell when the dogs were fed. If the bell was sounded in close association with their meal, the dogs learnt to associate the sound of the bell with food.
Black people react to racism, or the mere suggestion of racism, the same way Pavlov’s dogs reacted to lab coats and bells. It is a learned response to a perceived threat, but it makes us weak prey to people who would much rather have us distracted than engaged. And this reflexiveness is damning us to permanent second class status, especially here in America.
Take for example the highly sensationalized reporting on Ron Paul’s 20 year old racist newsletters. Republicans didn’t even need to do any heavy lifting to get Ron Paul disqualified based on that inflammatory accusation. Why? When all they needed to do, all they did, was mention that Paul supposedly wrote racist newsletters two decades ago and, instinctively, black writers went in for the kill, and wasted their time and valuable platforms fighting a battle that wasn’t their own.