Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Surprising Endorsement

Regular readers, particularly of my Examiner.com articles, should know by now how often I appeal to the epithet that jazz is "chamber music by other means," occasionally alternating it with Duke Ellington's more universal proposition:
It's all music.
Today I discovered another source of support in a rather unlikely place. It appeared in an article entitled "Making Music Together: A Study in Social Relationship" in the second volume of the collected papers of Alfred Schutz. I have been drawn to Schutz for some time, particularly due to the phenomenological stance he takes to the study of those "social relationships." Thus, when I found a citation to a paper entitled "Making Music Together," simply knowing that Schutz was the other was enough motivation for me to find it and add it to my reading queue. Sure enough, in the process of developing his thoughts about what makes music-making a uniquely communicative experiences, I encountered the sentence:
And there is no difference in principle between the performance of a string quartet and the improvisations at a jam session of accomplished jazz players.
I have no idea to what extent Schutz himself was a practitioner when it came to making music, whether it involved performance, composition, or even my own struggles with using descriptive text to report on someone else's performance. Like the source of his inspiration, Edmund Husserl, his verbiage is often thick and elusive. He circles around his subject matter, almost like a shaman trying to psych it into submission, rather than taking a more classical Aristotelian approach to taking things apart and then reassembling them. One almost has to read him as an alternative approach to poetry (a reading strategy I have also applied to Ludwig Wittgenstein).

As a result, I suspect it will take a bit of time before I can adequately summarize just what I have been getting out of reading this essay. Ironically, the next paper in the collection is entitled "Mozart and the Philosophers." It goes without saying that this is the next one on my personal reading list! However, while reading Schutz can be an arduous journey, I have encountered enough his papers to accept that this was just how he wrote. There is nothing wrong with having to put in a bit of work before finally figuring out what a paper has been worth reading.

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