miles ahead

Seems my mention of Miles Davis's album, On the Corner, stirred up some echo in Chris and Kasey - see comments below the entry. Cool!

Here's an excerpt from a Down Beat review of the album in 1972: "Take some chunka-chunka-chunka rhythm, lots of little background percussion diddle-around sounds, some electronic mutations, add simple tune lines that sound a great deal alike and play some spacey solos. You've got a 'groovin'' formula, and you stick with it interminably to create your 'magic'. But is it magic or is it just repetitious boredom?"

Sounds like a kind of magic to me and miles ahead of its time, certainly in jazz, though maybe not in classical circles. It raises all kinds of questions about 'reception' and about 'genre'. Miles was supposed to be playing 'jazz'. It didn't matter if what he was doing was good, bad, interesting, whatever, it didn't fulfill the requirements of the genre 'jazz' and, therefore, only got a two star rating back then. Of course, others outside the jazz field thought it was pretty good. Ring any bells?

The liner notes to the reissue by Bob Belden go into great detail how Miles and producer Teo Macero used techniques like overdubbing and, effectively, tape looping, to create the tracks. And it was done in analog, no laptop electronica, no ProTools in 1972. Also, apparently, the last time Miles heavily edited his recordings. He just went on, eventually, to do other things. People don't like it when you go off and do other things.

Apropos of nothing, I picked up a cheapie tonight, Talking Heads Remixed. Not sure what I think of it yet, or if I'll play it often, but it's kinda fun, at least.


chris said…
Great post, Jill.
Especially on the annoying aspects of categorizing--"genres"--like categories were invented (cf the Aristotelian-ish need for putting everything in a nameable place) to be inflexible. I think it's been a misprision ever since Aristotle got so fired up about it. Odd thing, tho, is that many of his works are abbreviated, basically notes jotted by students after-the-fact of his lectures. It may be that he didn't endorse categorizing at all, or perhaps not to the degree that western civ seemed to latch on to the tendency and give it such hegemony in philosophy and conceptual thinking processes.

Miles, man!--messin' with it all. yeah.

best wishes,
chris murray

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