18 September 2011
It was my last night in NYC and there were too many choices. I chose Henry Threadgill giving a workshop at the Jazz Gallery. The session went for 3 hours, more lecture than conversation. I think this is a fair summary of his argument (note that it mainly concerned composition). You need more “information” (meaning, learn everything you can including all musical styles; otherwise meaning relationships between notes, chords, rhythms of what you are writing). Move things around to make more information (eg, stack or invert information). When composing, write one or two lines and keep writing. Get the choreography right (eg, piano fingering, drum movements). Composition is about organization: it has to go somewhere and be “cognisant” (sic). Current jazz education is poor: you can be given lots of theory but not know what to do with it; many technicians sound the same. Keep developing (getting more information). Music can be art or entertainment but they don’t mix. Art is demanding to experience and a demanding lifestyle. Do things without thinking too much, but stop and investigate any problems in detail. He’s obviously a committed musician with worthy concerns and some real capability in composition but I was disappointed that the session didn’t seem to click for me. It was too metaphorical for my literal and rationalist mindset, I guess. I expect it would have interested me more with some practical work to consider and/or some more precise questions from the audience. I was fascinated to hear him on piano before and for a time during the session. You could virtually hear his creation process as he explored sounds of passages and relationships. I didn’t want to interrupt the session, so no pics in deference to Henry and others.