— Maria Schneider to Eugene Holley, Jr., interview reprinted in Best Music Writing 2010, edited by Ann Powers and Daphne Carr, p. 191. To which my knee jerks, and I respond, “Hey, what’s so wrong with cool sounding music?” Academically, I can defend this response by directing readers to Lawrence W. Levine’s Highbrow/Lowbrow, a book which traces America’s cultural division into high and low culture c.1850-1900. In his book, Levine bemoans how, by 1900, “culture had become a manifestly serious and intricate endeavor that few could hope to master” (211). He explains that “what was invented [in the late-nineteenth century] was the illusion that the aesthetic products of high culture were originally created to be appreciated in precisely the manner late-nineteenth century Americans were taught to observe: with reverent, informed, disciplined seriousness” (229). My heart hurts when I witness first hand how high-culture perceptions of jazz have wrangled the fun out of so many of the great jazz recordings I cherish in my life. It’s not irreverent to play Louis Armstrong’s music and have fun—in fact, one could argue that that’s what it’s there for. When I listen to Schneider, I plead with her to include at least one really cool sounding chart. Just one. Then maybe have some fun with it, it can’t hurt. Hell, it might very well feel good. Perhaps that’s what makes fun so dangerous?
October 6, 2011
"Well, my whole reason for doing music —it’s expression. It’s not to make cool sounding music or hip tunes—it’s storytelling… The problem with big band music is so few writers are writing with that serious intent that the music really means something beyond just being a really cool sounding chart."