Monday, June 8, 2015

Musical Punctuation, Continued

Whenever I hit the Publish button for any new entry, exceptions to whatever rule I have just proposed flood my mind. Here are a couple that occurred after last week's "Music Needs Punctuation Too" post.

1. As soon as I proposed that Miles Davis is the master of musical space, the voice of my Ideal Reader resounded in my head: "Miles? What about all those guys that came before him, guys like Lester Young and Count Basie?" Absolutely. In fact, as the years went by, Basie's piano playing reduced almost entirely to space and punctuation, with no sentences in between. If you see later footage of him, he liked to just raise an eyebrow and drop in a leading tone on an offbeat every bar or two. He made the rhythm section the lead. Like a point guard dishing out assists.

2. Having proclaimed that breathing room and punctuation rule in live performance, I recalled an indelible musical moment from the avant garde music fest Autumn Uprising that ran for a few years in Boston in the late 90s, early aughts. This group came out and for their first "song" played one note at maximum volume for about five minutes. It was magnificent -- and funny. But in this case, the 150 of us or so in the audience knew what we were going to get: music that made us come to it, and not vice versa. So context is key.

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