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“It has been the fortune of jazz to elude any and all attempts to tie it down, even to words. For better or for worse, the very name of this music has resisted any really satisfactory explanation. Often, when the whole can’t be defined, it is possible to make some sense out of it by summing up its parts. But when a part grows so big that it almost eclipses the whole, as Charlie Parker’s music has spurted beyond the confines of jazz, simple definition becomes utterly impossible and complex description must take its place. But complex description cannot and will not be understood by the lay public so the best that can be done is to give a brief biography of the man who raised jazz to a really thoughtful level, who gave it freshness, form and profundity, and to explain as adequately and yet as simply as possible how this rather awesome feat was accomplished. (bold not in original)
Philosophy of Jazz (2014) by Daniel Martin Feige — English translation
Chapter Introduction: What is a philosophy of jazz?
The book is about a philosophy of jazz and its character, at least in some passages it is an introduction to the philosophy of jazz. It is, however, an introduction to history, styles and important music of jazz. A fundamental familiarity with the history, the essential styles and central artistic personalities of jazz is assumed. Of course, in the course of the presentation, I will come back to aspects of the history of jazz and on some of its styles, important musicians and their peculiarities. But neither do I devote a separate chapter to the history of jazz or to the styles and musicians of jazz. The present book is not an introduction to jazz in the sense of conveying knowledge about jazz, even if such knowledge is certainly conveyed in passing. Rather, it is an explication of central philosophical questions connected with jazz, as presented from the perspective of those who are basically familiar with this music as a listener or producer.
This book focuses on two subject areas: As part of the considerations, on the one hand a philosophical sketch of jazz as a certain type of artistic music is drawn up. On the other hand, it clarifies why and to what extent jazz is an interesting subject for philosophical reflection.
FOOTNOTE: The following publications, for example, can be used here as introductions, although their reading, of course, does not replace listening experiences and the development of the certainty of one's own taste.
- Joachim-Ernst Berendt, Gunther Huesmann, Das Jazzbuch: From New Orleans to the 21st century (Frankfurt / M., 2005).
- Paul F. Berliner, Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation (Chicago, London: , 1994).
- Mervyn Cooke, David Horn (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Jazz (Cambridge, New York: , 2002).
- Scott DeVeaux, Gary Giddins, Jazz, (New York: , 2009).
- Ingrid Monson, Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction (Chicago 1996).
- See also the Rethe of the Darmstadt Jazz Institute, edited by Wolfram Knauer: Wolfram Knauer (ed.), Darnutadter Contributions to fizzzfirschung. Volume I-II, Hofheim 1992 ff.
If the present book thinks philosophically about jazz in this way, the following nonetheless does not only discuss questions of a philosophy of jazz understood in this way. Rather, more far-reaching questions of philosophy come up again and again in the discussion of these questions. This fact does not arise from a lack of concentration in the presentation. Rather, it is owed to a characteristic of philosophical reflection in general. Because philosophical questions are related in a non-external way. An answer to a philosophical question always presupposes answers to other philosophical questions. If you commit yourself to something, you have implicitly committed to much more. For example, if you think about jazz, you quickly come across the challenge of pinpointing how jazz differs from other types of music. If one pursues this challenge, one encounters a related problem: Can one define jazz by specifying features that clearly distinguish it from other types of music, or is the idea of such a definition not understandable at all? This question is no longer just a question of music philosophy, but a question of the logic of conceptual distinctions in general. An answer to the question of how such conceptual distinctions are to be understood also defines the way in which the difference between jazz and other types of music is determined. In the following, I would like to take account of the fact that every determination is accompanied by implicit determinations by including digressions where necessary, which ask more extensive questions than questions of a philosophy of jazz affect. In this way, I hope that the book will also become accessible to those readers who have not received any training in academic philosophy. For this reason, the presentation largely dispenses with technical terms or explains most of the technical terms, the use of which is unavoidable, in the running text. In the footnotes alone, I will loosen the reins a little and with appropriate references to the literature, I will begin to take a position on special academic discussions.
But what is a philosophy of jazz anyway? This is a philosophical question in itself. Because as to the question,
what are the specifics of philosophical reflection consist of gives a different conception. can be understood in such a way that asks what distinguishes a philosophy of jazz from other types of scientific study of jazz. The feature that explicit philosophical determinations presuppose many implicit determinations is not sufficient here. Because this is not an exclusive feature of philosophy. A philosophical preoccupation with jazz differs in other respects from other paradigmatic scientific preoccupations with jazz. For paradigmatic scientific preoccupations with jazz, musicological, sociological and cultural-historical research should certainly pay off if they deal with aspects of jazz. If one distinguishes this research from the analyzes of philosophy, it does not mean that musicologists, sociologists or cultural historians cannot contribute to a philosophy of jazz. Because it's not about which subject someone is institutionally involved in, but about what kind of questions he or she deals with. Correspondingly, there are also contributions from the circles of musicology, sociology and cultural history that can be understood as contributions to a philosophy of jazz. The contrast between the philosophical preoccupation with jazz and other academic preoccupations with jazz does not mean that a philosophy of jazz can simply ignore the knowledge of musicology, sociology and cultural history. If such knowledge is not taken into account, philosophical considerations should at least not contradict them in principle. The connection between the last two remarks can be explained as follows: The philosophy of jazz does not compete with musicological, sociological or cultural-historical analyzes of jazz. Because if you are interested in the question of how jazz actually developed historically and which social driving forces and dynamics were at play here, were, for example, sociological and cultural-historical works, for example, are the right address and not philosophy, but that already makes a difference. If a cultural-historical analysis is based, for example, on traditional sources that document what recipients and producers have said,
so the philosophy asks which statements about jazz are true. The presentation of the historical development of jazz itself can be right or wrong—but the question of what jazz is and how it differs from other types of music has not yet been adequately answered with reference to the opinions of producers or recipients. Because the reference to the opinions of producers or recipients does not in principle have any authority, since their opinions could also be unfounded or one-sided, or merely an expression of subjective preferences. If philosophy is about justifications in this way, it differs from sciences such as musicology, sociology and history, but also from sciences such as physics or biology in that it does not produce knowledge, but rather knowledge about knowledge. It takes up what we have already understood in a certain way and tries to make it understandable for us again in a well-founded way—or in individual cases to show that some of our beliefs are wrong. Of course, the subject of philosophy is not just any arbitrary concept. A philosophy of brushing teeth or washing socks would hardly be worth the effort. Rather, the subject matter of philosophy is the basic concepts that are essential for our understanding of ourselves and the world. These are terms without which we could not adequately understand ourselves as the rational living beings that we are. One can therefore briefly say: Philosophy is a reflective science that aims to clarify the basic concepts that are essential for our understanding of ourselves and the world. If we learn to understand something better in philosophy in a certain way, what we already knew beforehand in a certain sense, then philosophical reflection is still not a zero-sum game: Philosophy lets us what we already knew in a certain way before, better and more often understand differently. Another difference is characteristic of philosophy in contrast to the sciences mentioned. It can be made understandable on the basis of the remark that philosophy is essentially a reflection: Philosophy pursues a different method than sciences such as music science, sociology or history, but also as sciences such as
it does not proceed empirically; their method consists of physics. Because classical experiments or statistical surveys neither in week in the elaboration of historical events from the sources. Rather, it consists in a concept analysis—understood in a broad sense—and its procedure for clarifying the content of concepts is argumentation—also understood in a broad sense. If one adds this characterization to the preceding characterizations, one can say that philosophy is a general, reflective and non-empirical discipline. Philosophy is not just a general discipline because its questions are general. Their answers are also general according to the claim. Because a philosophical answer to a philosophical question is not just my answer, I claim that it should be everyone else's answer as well. It's not about wanting to put your opinion in the mouth of the other; rather, it is about the fact that philosophy is not about opinions, but about truth. In this sense, differences of opinion in philosophy, as philosophical differences of opinion, are precisely a common struggle about which answer can claim generality. Philosophy is not a non-empirical discipline in the sense that it only thinks about objects that are not empirical. The characterization does not concern the content, but the method. To say that philosophy is an argumentative conceptual analysis says something only about the way in which it treats its respective object, but not about the object itself. It is therefore not the case that the fact that the method of philosophy is non-empirical would follow that it could not speak about objects that can be qualified as empirical in a certain way. If one understands philosophy as a general, reflexive and non-empirical science, the following question immediately arises: In what sense is jazz an interesting subject for philosophy? After all, jazz does not belong in a series of terms such as knowledge and action, which it can be said beyond dispute that they denote fundamental dimensions of the human condition in the world. In fact, one can say that a philosophy of jazz is different from epistemology or the
- Ornithology by Irving Kalus, Paper submitted for Adv. Comp. class, Department of English, NYU December 22, 1949.