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Free Will

The latter half of the twentieth century brought with it an uprising of free will and interest in freedom of expression. Valerie Wilmer wrote in As Serious as Your Life: The Story of the New Jazz:

Jazz, or the New Music, means many things to many people. It always has done, although it could be suggested that the musicians of the past were possibly more single-minded in their decision to be specifically jazz musicians. Everything from waltzes to rhythm-and-blues are part of the musician's vocabulary at some time or another and many have been forced to continue playing `commercial' music in order to survive. But now the stress in the musicians' community is more on continuously changing, shifting, `creativity'. The idea of using improvisation always provided ample freedom for playing variations on a melody or chord pattern, but those among the new musicians who define themselves by preference as `creative artists' are constantly striving to reach the point where they repeat themselves as seldom as possible.[23, p.25,]

In many ways the trend in Jazz music at the start of the 1960's was representative of a conscious divison between the roles of entertainer and artist on the part of the musicians' community. Frustrated with the increasing stylistic blockades formed in jazz over the past decade and a half (notably ``bebop,'' ``cool'' or ``west coast'' and ``hard bop'',) musicians at the end of the 1950's began struggling to rid themselves of stylistic preconceptions about the music, so that many of them could start from ``ground zero.'' Ornette Coleman is quoted in Ekkehard Jost's Free Jazz as stating, ``Let's play the music and not the background.''gif Thereby summarizing the views of an entire culture directed now towards artistic freedom of expression with no bounds on creativity.

From a sociological point of view, this new direction in jazz was labelled as ``The New Music'' or even ``The New Black Music'' due to the predominantly African-American jazz scene. The ``New Music'' was met with an unprecedented attack from the predominantly white jazz critics, who, in turn, generated an unprecedented number of verbal and physical rebuttals. Wilmer's fiery treatise on the subject conveys the feelings at the time with a passage depicting Anthony Braxton's denied `concert-artist' status in Britain:

...The implication was clear. Anyone unfortunate enough to be born Black could never be considered as anything other than a `jazz musician' - in other words, an `entertainer' - no matter how many instruments he had mastered or from whatever quarter his artistry had drawn praise. On this occasion, even the endorsement of white critics and composers was insufficient.* [footnote in Serious: ``This would, of course, have happened to a white instrumentalist, too, under a system that treats musicians as exchangeable units of labor, but the basis is essentially racist.''][23, p.11,]

Research turned up a number of stories depicting the public's misunderstanding of the direction of these African-American ``free jazz'' musicians. They ranged from the mildly scathing to the outright violent, as evidenced by the following passage:

A contemporary white American composer, talking with some British musicians, felt sufficiently relaxed to describe an instrumentalist whose talents he had utilised as `one of the few Blacks I can talk to'. For the elucidation of the assembled `foreigners', he added, `Blacks are getting ridiculous in the States now.' [23, p.12,]

In retrospect, nearly every important artistic event regarded as avant-garde has been met with a tumultuous response from the general public and widespread criticism from the media. In this particular case, the response was generated by a mostly Caucasian media and record industry and was aimed at the largely African-American jazz movement, causing widespread racial separation and a sociological, rather than artistic, basis for the formation of a gaping fissure within the musical community. On one side of the rift, jazz musicians were questioning the European ideals of rhythm, meter, tonality and pitch in music, while critics on the other side were incapable and unwilling to judge music not based on these familiar Europeanisms.

Thankfully, prominent figures in jazz such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane began experimenting in the free jazz vein, granting acceptance to the new form of expression in lieu of their credentials.

Regardless of societal concerns, this avant-garde trend in jazz music afforded the musicians previously inexperienced freedom in both composition and improvisation that would have a lasting impact. Of the pioneers of this movement, including John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler and Eric Dolphy, it was Ornette Coleman with a nearly overnight appearance on the scene in 1959 who was responsible for setting the standard.

This investigation of mathematical chaos theory and ``free jazz'' has yielded a view of both that identifies a definite - if slightly strange - order behind each field's seemingly random characteristics. This paper, by design, will explore this inherent order with intent to promote a much-needed humanistic understanding of modern developments in chaos theory relative to musical artistic concepts found in avant garde ``free jazz.''

next up previous contents
Next: Mathematics Up: Introduction Previous: Determinism

Mike Andrews
Wed Oct 23 01:18:29 EDT 1996