Sax on the Web Forum banner

1 - 20 of 58 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
711 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I was talking to a colleague at work about our creative ambitions outside of work - his in film, mine in music - and about how difficult it is to blend artistic values with business sense. And it got me thinking how to jazz music, particularly in that golden period of the 50s and 60s, actually managed to capture that perfect blend of artistic expression and commercial success. And then I got to thinking that maybe this has spoiled future generations of jazz musicians who always feel that this 'ideal' is the only respectable goal, when perhaps more flexible approaches may be more beneficial, and that maybe we all just need to grow up, admit the past was great, and move on.

Sorry, that's a bit heavy for Friday afternoon - but what are your thoughts?
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member/Logician
Joined
·
26,005 Posts
I do love the music from that golden period, but there was also something about that period that is sorely lacking in modern jazz; melody. It wasn't like much of anything new was created during that time. Mostly, the jazz artists were taking old standards and jazzing them up. There was familiarity for folks to grasp and hold onto. You could even dance to it. Then something happened... jazz got incredibly selfish. The audience was forgotten and sales plummeted. Want proof? Well, what's the most popular jazz today? Soft jazz. Melodic jazz. Tunes folks can whistle on their way down the street.
 

·
Forum Contributor 2015, SOTW Better late than neve
Joined
·
4,272 Posts
Hmmmm.... That's like saying we should except living a less than perfect world. That it's okay if the current state of pop music sucks and money over art rules. IMO, people today are less educated as to what the ideal standard should be. Seems like more folks are willing to be told and sold on what good music is instead of thinking for themselves. That's my ideal ;)
 

·
Forum Contributor 2008-2017
Joined
·
667 Posts
Playing for the Audience?

Hi, our group (Sax, piano, bass, drums) has a weekly gig for three months in a new restaurant/wine bar on the SF peninsula. They advertise "live jazz". The gig is going well, but I notice that we get the most applause on the tunes where they can recongize the tune or the head, and are much more reserved on the more avant gard or obscure tunes. (Also more tips in the tip jar!) I've decided, for the continuation of the gig to pick those tunes where the audience is happy, rather than those where we can impress the other band members.

--Sidepipes
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member/Logician
Joined
·
26,005 Posts
tjontheroad said:
Seems like more folks are willing to told and sold on what good music is instead of thinking for themselves.
So they should instead have you tell them what they should be listening to? Come on... folks like music they can dance to and tunes they can sing in the shower. If artists wish to be artists, that's fine; they can ignore that. But if they wish to be commercially successful, they've got to play for the audience. It's really that simple. The big music companies realized that long ago. When will musicians wake up...
 

·
Forum Contributor 2008/Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
3,295 Posts
There are so many types of "Jazz" that it really doesn't make much sense to lump it all in. Are you wondering about art music vs. entertainment music? Of course art music is for idealists and the like. That's why it's art music. Entertaiment music is for the intention of speaking to the masses. And then there are the crossovers. Honestly, if you look at the popularity of hard rock, metal, punk, rap, etc... how much of this music can you whistle walking down the street. Still, they have a much greater market share than jazz does today and probably ever will again. So I ask, what's the point? I see jazz being played in coffee houses and local bars and don't see any Iron Maiden cover bands there. It's a "house music" no longer meant for the masses. The masses means 60,000 people in arena's with big light shows and theatrics. Choreography. Sex symbols. If you were to supplant jazz's golden age to today's dynamic it would fall flat on it's face. Less than 10% of the market share would care who Benny Goodman of Glenn Miller were today let alone Charlie Parker or Dizzy Gillespie.

Jazz is a music of influence today. Not affluence. Some people pay attention. But it's people who take the time to care about music and what goes into it and comes out. Those people are fewer and fewer. It's not because the music is unapproachable but because most people choose to remain ignorant and judge music on the lowest common denominator. Comparing jazz to popular music is like comparing McDonald's to a home cooked meal.
 

·
Forum Contributor 2010, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
5,076 Posts
Sidepipes said:
Hi, our group (Sax, piano, bass, drums) has a weekly gig for three months in a new restaurant/wine bar on the SF peninsula. They advertise "live jazz". The gig is going well, but I notice that we get the most applause on the tunes where they can recongize the tune or the head, and are much more reserved on the more avant gard or obscure tunes. (Also more tips in the tip jar!) I've decided, for the continuation of the gig to pick those tunes where the audience is happy, rather than those where we can impress the other band members.

--Sidepipes
This seems a most reasonable -- and time-honored -- approach to me. Bird didn't make his money (or support his habit) playing "Confirmation" at dance halls. There's a reason why bebop (for instance) evolved in after-hours sessions basically for musicians only. For most of us, pleasing the audience is not only OK, it's necessary; just make some time to play other kinds of music when nobody is trying to dance or eat dinner. In a restaurant, you gotta play restaurant music, unless it's a very special place. IMO, context is a huge determining factor in what goes down. So: make yourself more than one context in which to play. (Whatever happened to that one Minton's place anyway:D ?)
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member/Logician
Joined
·
26,005 Posts
Swampcabbage said:
Honestly, if you look at the popularity of hard rock, metal, punk, rap, etc... how much of this music can you whistle walking down the street.
May not be able to whistle it, but you can dance, thrash, mosh or god forbid, kill to it; henceforth its popularity.

Swampcabbage said:
Jazz is a music of influence today. Not affluence. Some people pay attention. But it's people who take the time to care about music and what goes into it and comes out. Those people are fewer and fewer. It's not because the music is unapproachable but because most people choose to remain ignorant and judge music on the lowest common denominator. Comparing jazz to popular music is like comparing McDonald's to a home cooked meal.
This is really elitist. You can't call people dumb for not liking your music, just as liking a certain type of music ain't gonna make you any smarter. It's purely subjective, and it should remain that way.
 

·
Forum Contributor 2008/Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
3,295 Posts
Grumps said:
May not be able to whistle it, but you can dance, thrash, mosh or god forbid, kill to it; henceforth its popularity.


This is really elitist. You can't call people dumb for not liking your music, just as liking a certain type of music ain't gonna make you any smarter. It's purely subjective, and it should remain that way.
There's a difference between being dumb and ignorant. Look at today's consumer society. It is built on convenience. Why do people go to MCDonald's instead of staying home and cooking a real mean (not just throwing something in the microwave). Many people today don't even really know how to cook; make a soup or even boil an egg. Is it because they're stupid, no, it's because they have chosen to be ignorant in a specific matter (learning about cooking). Art music (again, I tell you this is not jazz vs pop music) is not geared for mass consumption and personally most art music people are not "shooting for the stars" it is my experience that many of the golden age sentimentalists pine over how art has ruined jazz for mass consumption. Not true, there is still jazz out there that is singable, and danceable, and speaks to the masses.

I say it's not fair to blame artists for ruining a genre of music that's popular "edge" was made irrelevant by another genre and dynamic altogether.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,862 Posts
Most look to music as entertainment, they don't want to think " wow listen how he fit that dim9 chord in there" or whatever.

The problem is the sterotypical attempt to fit a square peg into a round hole. "Art music" as it was coined earlier, trying to be a commercial success, it ain't gonna happen. You have to play to the audience. The largest listener segment views music as entertainment. Bebop, Modern jazz, whatever label you want to place on it, has always been favored by a small audience segment.
 

·
Forum Contributor 2010, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
5,076 Posts
Grumps said:
liking a certain type of music ain't gonna make you any smarter. It's purely subjective, and it should remain that way.
True in a way, but: it's also true that the more music you listen to, the more range you develop as a listener. Most people don't explore very much, musically, which is fine: that's no knock on anybody. People spend their lives the way they spend them. Some have no use for music at all (my dad), some like it but pay little real attention to it (my mom), some become obsessed with it (me).

The work I do involves poetry. You should tune in to the arguments that rage about that in terms of audience! They make our kvetching in this forum pale by comparison -- precisely because (in terms of audience, money, etc.) there is so much LESS at stake! Many folks there are fierce, territorial, and bitter.

One of the things I do as an educator is to try to "normalize" the experience of reading poetry for my students, so that it is no longer an exotic thing to do, but one choice among many available to them in their lives, no matter what their lives turn out to be about. Music, which is much more ubiquitous than poetry (there is, thank god, no such thing as elevator poetry! Imagine what it would be like if there were!), is even more of a smorgasbord for folks. The ones who gravitate toward it will become more and more discerning, which is not an elitist position: it's pragmatic.

I'm not sure whether this conversation is quite what docformat had in mind. . . . Doc, do you need to step in and format us further?
 

·
Forum Contributor 2015, SOTW Better late than neve
Joined
·
4,272 Posts
Grumps said:
So they should instead have you tell them what they should be listening to? Come on... folks like music they can dance to and tunes they can sing in the shower. If artists wish to be artists, that's fine; they can ignore that. But if they wish to be commercially successful, they've got to play for the audience. It's really that simple. The big music companies realized that long ago. When will musicians wake up...
Hey I'm all for big buck hit making tunes with mass appeal. My beef comes from how the non-music playing public has been dummied down into thinking if it's on the charts it gotta be good. My parent's and grandparent's generation knew the difference and still can tell good music when they hear new stuff now. I really don't think most of the now generation even cares if it's any good. It's much more peer pressure oriented today and the record labels have jumped on the bandwagon for that cash cow. If the audience was better educated, they'd demand more from us players and the biz as a whole. This would mean more work for great players. Not to mention a better cultural experience for all.

Alas, you're right in one way... I'm just dreaming :dazed:
 

·
Forum Contributor 2010, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
5,076 Posts
tjontheroad said:
Hey I'm all for big buck hit making tunes with mass appeal. My beef comes from how the non-music playing public has been dummied down into thinking if it's on the charts it gotta be good. My parent's and grandparent's generation knew the difference and still can tell good music when they hear new stuff now. I really don't think most of the now generation even cares if it's any good. It's much more peer pressure oriented today and the record labels have jumped on the bandwagon for that cash cow. If the audience was better educated, they'd demand more from us players and the biz as a whole. This would mean more work for great players. Not to mention a better cultural experience for all.

Alas, you're right in one way... I'm just dreaming :dazed:

TJ has a very good point, and it's not just about music. The culture has absorbed the idea that if something doesn't involved mass appeal and tons of money -- mostly overnight -- then it's not worth dealing with. The world of publishing is a good example: so-called literary publishers (or maybe it would be better to say "the publishers formerly known as literary") now are all about vertical audiences (can we sell 10 zillion of these books TOMORROW) than about horizontal ones (can we sell 20 zillion of these books in ten years' time). Music the same. Supercapitalism (aka sheer greed) is driving the business side, and the audience allows itself to be dictated to BY the business side. You can point out all day long that, by alalogy, this means that the BEST cuisine is MacDonald's because it sells the most, and the BEST screen experience is the worst of popular television. It's just not translating in the mass mind.

This is the world we live in, at least in the USA. Really, these matters shouldn't affect the "real" music all that much: it goes on, just as really good writing goes on, and getting published by smaller presses run by folks who have their heads on the right way around. We get frustrated when we see "hacks" making tons of dough, and audiences being bewitched by them, of course. And admittedly there is sometimes something genuinely evil behind such bewitchment. Most of the time, though, it's just people getting by and entertaining themselves somewhat mindlessly while doing so.
 

·
Forum Contributor 2008/Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
3,295 Posts
If you want to entertain then entertain. If you want to be artistic then be artistic. For me, I've accepted that my artistic music is not going to reach the masses. It was never written for that purpose, it was something in me that I wanted to get out. I don't think that should be stifled because it might drag down the perception of the public that all music of this genre is unapproachable. At the same time, I don't resent the public for not listening, hey, they have better things to do with their time anyway. And when I'm on a "pop" gig I don't try to cram art music down their throats either. I try to relate to the song and that will fall in line with everything else.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to entertain, but blaming those who are artistically driven to express themselves in a more diverse way for bringing down the popularity of a genre is ludicrous to me.

Next you'll be saying the Bartok destroyed the market for popular orchestral music. It's totally unrelated. What destroyed doo-wop's popularity? Avant garde doo-woppers?
 

·
Forum Contributor 2010, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
5,076 Posts
Swampcabbage said:
Next you'll be saying the Bartok destroyed the market for popular orchestral music. It's totally unrelated. What destroyed doo-wop's popularity? Avant garde doo-woppers?

Bartok!? Hell, I thought it was the Klingons!

check out Sun Ra for avant garde doowop!:D
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,430 Posts
docformat said:
I was talking to a colleague ... about how difficult it is to blend artistic values with business sense. And it got me thinking how to jazz music, particularly in that golden period of the 50s and 60s, actually managed to capture that perfect blend of artistic expression and commercial success.
There was a serendipitous confluence of events that allowed jazz and popular musics to cross paths for a while in the 1930's and throughout the WWII and post-war 1940's. But I think it's important to realize that the most popular stuff wasn't necessarily the heaviest jazz (Paul Whiteman, Glenn Miller), and that the heavier jazz things (Claude Thornhill, Bird and Diz) weren't necessarily the most popular.

Also, we have to remember that marketing jazz in the mid 20th century was a simpler matter than today, just by the lack of so many competing forms of entertainment. Would jazz clubs really have been as successful in the 1930s-'60's if everyone had had 150 cable TV channels, and NetFlix, and YouTube? Not to mention the zillions of competing musical styles to check out.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
Joined
·
3,204 Posts
swampcabbage said:
It's not because the music is unapproachable but because most people choose to remain ignorant and judge music on the lowest common denominator. Comparing jazz to popular music is like comparing McDonald's to a home cooked meal.
Grumps said:
This is really elitist. You can't call people dumb for not liking your music, just as liking a certain type of music ain't gonna make you any smarter. It's purely subjective, and it should remain that way.
In fact, it's closer to reality than we (me too) want in fact. I love the metaphore of Swampcabbage. These days, if I warm up at work some meal I cooked the night before, they don't ask "how did you cook it" but "where did you buy it".

Same with music. How much people take the time to actually sit down and play a CD a couple of times to grasp the music completely? How many people take a chance at going to a concert of somebody they don't know just to listen to the music? How many people dive into a CD-store and try out CD's they've never heard of? Even more, styles they don't really know?

Exactly like pop music has more to offer than Britney Spears, jazz has more to offer than the elite free jazz for people that heard everything else already. But people don't take the time to discover it any more. For them jazz is linked to either the elevator or an irritating stream of notes.

I wouldn't put it as sharp as Swampcabbage, but basically I believe he's not far from the truth.

at least, in my humble opinion offcourse :D
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,862 Posts
all the more reason to embrace the internet as a way of self distributing your music, etc. Who needs the record labels?

Give your music away free, build a following and you will have rabid fans that will buy whatever you put out because its you, and they love the stuff you do. Creators have the entire world (nearly) at the end of their fingertips via their keyboard.

don't think as an unknown you can make a CD of your music and sell it. Realize no one knows who you are, and even fewer care. They are not going to drop a dime for your music, but if you give it away, they will take a listen, if they like it they will come back for more. And those fans will then purchase your CD, etc.

There was a time when record labels controlled distribution: i.e. a consumer couldn't get the single song unless they purchased the entire CD, so the labels could charge $17 a disc and created a lavish lifestyle for themselves. Now they are scrambling to find a way to continue supporting that lifestyle, charging for mp3, not "developing an artist", trying to prevent downloads of music etc. They want the quick buck. With the internet it's a whole new world and they are afraid, very afraid.

Don't you be, embrace it, use it, enjoy it.
 

·
Forum Contributor 2011, SOTW's pedantic pet rodent
Joined
·
8,322 Posts
docformat said:
And then I got to thinking that maybe this has spoiled future generations of jazz musicians who always feel that this 'ideal' is the only respectable goal, when perhaps more flexible approaches may be more beneficial, and that maybe we all just need to grow up, admit the past was great, and move on.
This "standing on the shoulders of giants" feeling can be intimidating and also debilitating, I believe. Musicians who see themselves as jazzers tend to be very aware of and very well versed in the jazz tradition. This is a matter of respect and a sign that they take the achievements of great artists seriously. Which is clearly a good thing, from one point of view. Nevertheless, I would say, tentatively, that this respectfulness can also become a barrier to expression and growth. A self-conscious obsession with past achievements is perhaps not one of the most obvious characteristics of people who make music which is of the present rather than the past. IMHO.
 
1 - 20 of 58 Posts
Top