Overview of Paul Rinzler's The Contradictions of Jazz Chapter 4: Assertion
Overview of PAUL RINZLER’S The Contradictions of Jazz - Chapter 4
Ch. 4 - ASSERTION
There are four aspects of assertion:
III. Self Expression
The primary value in jazz is improvisation because:
- 1. It is an affirmation of whatever meaning or emotion the improviser is able to create or communicate to the listener.
- 2. It is an act that requires initiative.
- 3. It allows the improviser to express himself or herself musically.
- 4. It allows the improviser to fulfill his or her musical desires.
One should note that assertion has been distinguished from aggression and from submission. (p. 38)
I. AFFIRMATION IS POSITIVE (pp. 39-40)
- One of the greatest forms of affirmation in art is the word "Yes," in Rinzler's opinion. (p. 39) His example of this is at the end of Ulysses. (p. 39)
- A broader way to express an affirmation, beside just with words, is through an act. Putting specific words to exactly what part of the music is doing the affirming and exactly what is getting affirmed can be difficult music, sound, can lack semantic content. Art in general can be affirmations. (p. 40)
- Assertion implies initiative because to assert is to put oneself forward boldly and insistently. (p. 40) Asserting oneself, however, requires an affirmative decision to seize the opportunity and to put oneself into the fray. Initiative characteristically begins with an intrinsic/internal motivation. (p. 40)
- Assertion is optional and not required or automatic, so, one must make an affirmative decision and exercise some initiative to be assertive, and that is what jazz musicians do. (p. 41) In jazz, the standard and the ideal is that one should take the initiative to assert oneself through improvisation. (p. 41) When improvising effectively, a musician must have something to say. If an improviser does not have the internal motivation to want to express something, then that improvisation will be a poor one. In summary, a jazz improviser needs to have something to say, that is, to assert, and when improvising must take the initiative, and intend to do so. (p. 42)
III. PUBLIC ASSERTION
- A complicating aspect of assertion in jazz improvisation is that jazz, as a performing art, is public, not private. A weaker form of assertion might include private initiative and creation, but the stronger form requires initiative and creation to be public and social, and that is the form that jazz generally adopts.
- Jazz embraces assertion and initiative in the form of a jam session which is an important method by which jazz musicians learn their trade as well as providing opportunities under pressure to learn and practice how to improvise effectively. It takes confidence, courage, initiative, and assertiveness to learn one's craft in the public arena of a jam session. (p. 42)
IV. SELF EXPRESSION
- (1) When one takes initiative and asserts or affirms some individual aspect of one's personality, one engages in self-expression. (p. 42)
- (2) When one asserts oneself, one makes a statement becasue there is some internal aspect of one's personality that leads one to what is asserted. (p. 42)
- (3) Assertion is merely not being afraid to be oneself and to show this to others. (pp. 42-43)
- (4) Because assertion begins with internal resources, it can express very meaningful and personal things reflective of a person's tastes, attitudes, demeanor, memories, feelings, and thoughts, to mention some significant ones. (p. 43)
- (5) Jazz musicians can sometimes tap into a deep unconsciousness when improvising. When this happens it is referred to as "laying it all out there." (p. 43)
- Ideally, jazz musicians have to mean what they play to be excellent musicians. This requires them to feel something sincerely and then be capable of expressing this in their performance. It is possible to play music technically correctly, but without really expressing internal thoughts and feelings. An important jazz improvising goal is finding that place inside oneself where one feels something deeply and use that as the emotional pressure driving the improvisational performance. (p. 43)
- The verb “fulfill” means to satisfy (requirements, obligations, etc.) One is fulfilled when one is satisfied by expressing one's character and personality. Rinzler uses the example of successfully buying a house and feeling fulfilled in having done so. That assertion can bring fulfillment is an important point because sometimes there are obstacles to fulfillment. (p. 44) Jazz improvisation is a discipline that demands that one assert oneself to be completely fulfilled.
- Play what you want. Music is widely recognized as having great power over one's emotions. Because jazz musicians are not only playing the music, but are composing and also expressing what they consider to be enjoyable, they experience a very high level of fulfillment. (p. 45) Improvisers get to play exactly what they want, which is a high level of musical fulfillment.
- Don't play what you don’t want to play. Jazz encourages the attitude of fulfilling oneself musically because it emphasizes improvisation. (p. 45) It is part of the contradiction of jazz that jazz educators can appropriately insist that their students learn to play jazz standards as a fundamental part of the idiom while still encouraging them to also play exactly what they want. (p. 45)
- A. Assertion is expressed in jazz through affirmation , initiative, self-expression, and fulfillment. (p. 45)
- B. Jazz thus offers musicians an opportunity to become themselves more fully and thereby achieve musical satisfaction. (pp. 45-46)