Overview of Paul Rinzler's The Contradictions of Jazz Chapter 6: Freedom
Overview of PAUL RINZLER’S The Contradictions of Jazz - Chapter 6
Ch. 6 - FREEDOM
“Jazz improvisation and dissonance (freedom from melody) are musical realizations of freedom.” (p. 58)
Definition of freedom: some aspects of freedom that help define it in terms relevant for our discussion:
- ○ Sovereignty (authority to make a choice)
- ○ Presence of options
- ○ Capability to express or carry out a choice
- ○ Distinction between positive and negative freedom (choices coming from internal motives versus external forces). (p. 58)
- "Improvisation is at the core of jazz and the essence of improvisation is freedom and individual sovereignty.” (p. 59)
- "The freedom of an improviser stands in contrast to the relative lack of freedom for a performer who is playing a piece of music already composed and notated.” (p. 59)
- "For a non-improvising performer, the composer is sovereign over two of the most basic aspects of music—notes and rhythm—but the improviser is sovereign in the composer’s place.” Even so, the improviser is not free from the context in which he or she plays (the group in which he or she is playing), which ties into Rinzler’s idea of individualism vs. interconnectedness. (p. 59)
- Liberation: there is liberation of the improviser “from ‘the tyranny of the score,’” and there is liberation of jazz itself from commonly accepted jazz sounds: the birth of new jazz styles. (p. 59)
- ○ Example: from big-band to bebop. (p. 59)
- This type of liberation can be applied to ANY musical movement, and in fact to every art movement! This idea ties into tradition vs. creativity.
- Jazz requires options, not one.
- Diversity supports freedom because diversity leads to numerous options to choose from, so musicians are:
- ○ “Free to play various substyles of jazz” (p. 60)
- ○ “a valuable trait for a jazz musician is versatility." (p. 60)
Positive and negative freedoms:
- Freedom has two terms defined by Isaiah Berlin (philosopher and historian): positive and negative freedom
- Negative freedom: “the absence of outside restriction, interference, or coercion.” (p. 60)
- Positive freedom: “an expression of self-realization, of internal desires, or of the uniqueness of an individual.” (p. 60)
- It’s impossible for positive freedom to occur without negative freedom. When negative freedom happens first, next is to express positive freedom.
Adolescent rebellion as negative freedom:
- a good example of negative freedom where the desire to be free becomes a goal usually occurs in teenagers or adolescents.
- ○ Ex: rock music such as metal, speed metal, thrash
- "A controversial style of jazz, a misinterpretation of positive freedom for negative freedom.” (p. 62)
- According to free jazz musicians, “freeing an individual to play nearly anything conceivable required responsibility not only among other performers, but to the audience as well.”(p. 62)
- Had norms and limitations that help improvisers who wish to use traditional materials to reduce negative freedom.
- ○ Ex: Ekkehard Jost- ‘I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside’ (p. 62)
- According to free jazz critics: free jazz merely expressed negative freedom, rejected established order.
- ○ Ex: free jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman (p. 63)
- "However, free jazz has no predetermined harmonic basis: traditional harmonies are not planned, but happen spontaneously.” (p. 63)
Limits of freedom:
- style and the composition limit a jazz musicians' freedom to improvise. (p. 64)
- freedom in jazz is not absolute but remains an essential characteristic. (p. 64)
- jazz musicians self-restrict freedom when improvising in order to conform to various standards of style. (p. 64)
- improviser's can decide how much of the style will be stretched or broken. (p. 64)
- " . . . the composition determines the melody and the chord progression on which the improviser bases the improvisation." (p. 64)
- The improviser can play in a key different from the key of the composition; creates harmonic tension. (p. 65)
- The improviser has the freedom to ignore initial set of conditions defined in the composition. (p.65).
Complete Freedom: "beyond the limits of style and the composition, freedom itself is fundamentally limited." (p. 65)
- ○ "Any act, including musical ones, can be seen to rest or to be founded on some other act, and not, therefore be completely free or original or creative." (p. 65)
Rinzler's Example: “Even if a free-jazz saxophonist plays the most outrageous honks and squawks (without even discrete pitches or rhythms in meter)-something in which a listener might find absolutely no rhyme nor reason, and so may think is absolutely free.” (p. 65)
- ○ "And if there must always be some contact or background against which even the most extreme act is conducted, it cannot be said to be completely free; the background or context is predetermined and this is that part of the act that is not completely creative or free." (p. 65)
Boundaries Accepted or Challenged:
- “If freedom always implies…a type of meta-freedom open to the jazz musician is to accept or push against a boundary to a greater or lesser extent." (p. 66)
- “A boundary can be defined by what we normally call style, which creates a consistent approach to using the materials of music." (p. 66)
- “That consistency defines a boundary, which then may or may not be challenged." (p. 66)
- Trumpeter Clifford Brown was one of the most mainstream jazz improvisers who stayed within the boundaries of jazz, for instance his solo on Sonny Rollins's "Pent-Up House." (p. 66)
- “If Brown would have decided to use more dissonance, or to change to change his phrasing radically, he would have begun to engage the boundaries of mainstream jazz and the initial context of his solo." (p. 66)
- A good example of challenging a boundary is saxophonist and composer John Zorn's solo on his "Latin Quarter." (p. 66)
- Zorn begins his solo with a radically different idea compared to the surrounding context. (p. 66)
- Zorn pushes the boundary of what had been established by the performance up to that point. (p. 66)
- “It is part of the meta-freedom of an improviser that he or she not only chooses how to work within the given boundaries, but also whether or how much to push at or stretch or even break those boundaries” (p. 67)
- “Both positive and negative freedom are expressed in jazz." (p. 67)
- “Positive freedom supports and is connected to some other values in jazz: assertion, initiative, fulfillment, self-expression, the personal, and antiauthoritarianism." (p. 67)
- Freedom is an essential part of jazz.