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Calling all post-structuralists and Chomsky fans...

Words, sentences, dialects... Its all too good to be true isn't it? Is it a language when a baby cries or a lion roars? Archie Shepp cries and roars doesn't he? Or does he speak?

I understand jazz, but is it possible to misunderstand jazz? John Zerzan (Google) reckons the primary function of language is deceit. Can jazz deceive?

What use is the language metaphor? Does it help or hinder our development as improvisers and artists? What does it emphasise and what does it gloss over?

Can you answer this question with a groovy lick?
 

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very interesting question indeed (and the first answer to your question also!).

I think Jazz is a " language " where lexicon, grammar and syntax are continuosly evolving and expanding incorporating other languages and cultures as they go ( as many modern languages do). But, this is rather than a language, more an attitude, a way of thinking, doing, a way of life even, towards communicating by means of music than about the rules and structures and indeed the words which are part of this language.

A language one can speak just by using the method rather than knowing the rules.

However there is a body of tradition which has a fixed language, grammar and syntax which we all know about and that is indeed the immortalized jazz which is ended up in codified form and has intellectualized itself in concert halls and conservatoires. This is the jazz that has entered the realm of tradition .
 

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I wrote this in the other thread:

superunknown373 said:
To me what makes jazz is the way it deals with harmony. I know that this has changed throughout the years and Louis Armstrong would not play over a chord the same way that Charlie Parker would, but basically jazz employs its own harmonic language that is clearly distinguishable. When you're listening to a guitarist or a saxophonist or whatever, even if they are playing rock music you can tell who comes from a jazz background from the way they work around the chords. For example, take Van Morrison's "Moondance": the rhythmic, swing style is reminiscent of jazz, so is the chord sequence to a certain extent, but when you listen to the saxophone solo you can tell straight away that the saxophonist there does not come from a jazz background. He doesn't resolve phrases in the way that a jazz player would, hasn't really absorbed the language, and so on.

It's hard to pinpoint jazz solely to improvisation. Would you say that Glenn Miller's big band did not play jazz because the solos were written? Or any Frank Sinatra big band number with no solo interlude, is that jazz? Also consider the fact that there's plenty of other musical styles that rely extensively improvisation, including rock, flamenco, Indian ragas, etc. I think in the end it has to come down to harmony. People often refer to jazz as a language and the more I listen to it and play it the more I realize it's true. Jazz is a language and like any other language it has its common phrases (licks), its grammar (chord progressions and scales), and as with any other language people combine the grammar and the vocabulary to form their own unique speech patterns. The same can be said with flamenco, it's just a different language, and you can tell the two apart just as you can tell English from Spanish.
I think in principle it is a language, so long as you don't take the analogy too far as you have here. Of course listening to jazz is not going to give you clear and concise, quantifiable information. It's a language that communicates emotions, not facts.
 

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Well wouldn't it depend upon how you define "language"?

wikipedia said:
Language is a system of finite arbitrary symbols combined according to rules of grammar for the purpose of communication. Individual languages use sounds, gestures and other symbols to represent objects, concepts, emotions, ideas, and thoughts.
I'd say jazz could fit the that definition.
 

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This whole "jazz is a language" thing seems misplaced to me.

Sure, maybe there are som similarities to language. Great, so that tells me that there are rules, something like a grammar, something I can look at to learn jazz in same way as I might learn a language, that's helpful. Le'ts emphasize those similarities.

But to suggest that jazz _is_ a language, that it somehow fits the essential definition of "language", that leaves me scratching my head. Mostly it sounds to me like people trying to sound deep, insightful, or academic, but not really offering anything very helpful.
 

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I agree with much of what Hsitz and Gary say in that it could be described as a language, but we would of course be missing a lot of beauty if we think of it in these terms alone, but I didn't understand that was what KofC was necessarily saying in his original post. Thanks for the link Gary.
 

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It's a fair bet that all post-structuralists are Chomsky fans--i.e. the garden variety non-facist North American university type post-structuralists at least--in the sense that they get their political views/myths from him. It's debatable, however, whether most Chomsky-ites (the majority of whom I assume have some real training in actual linguistics) are post-structuralists.

Rory

the analogy between language and music is useful precisely until it stops being useful.
 
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