Sunday, February 25, 2007

Jazz and "World Music".

There is a wonderful continuity between jazz and the many planetary traditional musics. Both forms make extensive use of 'sound color' or timbre.

An aspiring jazz player will find many chances to extend technique by making sound allegories of the methods used around the world.

And more than the sounds themselves, the context of living close to nature as a particular form of reverence, is an essential commonality between this American and those long gone West Africans who yielded up their magic in a field recording decades ago.

If you look at instrument classes as phenotypes, and search for correlations between cultures and favored instruments, you make many stimulating discoveries about human inventiveness applied to sound shaping.

For example, microtonal double reed instruments were wildly popular in many Islamic cultures of the middle east, often in large mass ensembles.

The ancient pocket violin, the lira or kemence shows up in various forms along the line of Alexander the Greats march toward India.

The cultures of South East Asia near the Indonesian archipelago have many varying kinds of Gong ensembles from the Gamelan of Java and Bali to the Kolintan groups of the southern Philippines.

The Andean Cordillera is home to a number of flutes and panpipes. Mexico has many regions where huge harps, once used as a substitute for organs in church music, are now common in folkloric groups from Veracruz to Oaxaca.

It could be suggested that much of the inventiveness in jazz is part of a search to make a bridge to the homelands through these sonic allegories.

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