30 September 2009

Fire Music: Flaming Tongues And Volcanic Brass - Is There A Noise Continuum? - Part 10

Noise as agent of freedom? As agent of change and hope? As agent of Civil Rights even? The angry but sometimes sometimes joyous and often spiritual noise of the free jazz brigades from the late 1950s onwards basically politicised Noise forever in popular music. Whereas the talk of Noise in academic classical and modern compositional circles had started long before that but the common person was often kept out of the loop of such intense debates and out of hearing of these works by the various avantgarde composers from Varese to Cage to Xenakis. Jazz on the other hand, before the onslaught of Rock N Roll from the 1950s and 1960s onwards, was the voice of Pop or symbols of popular culture then.

The debate of whether the Noise in free jazz or fire music or the New Thing as it has been variously and divisively called by both fans and detractors pushed jazz as a music form out of the popular music circuit by the beginning of the 1970s is inconclusive. But the Noise it entails definitely resonates till today. The power of progenitors like Albert Ayler's march like tunes turned wild improvisation of the highest level has not only make many jazz musicians to re-think their approach to the art form (whether they were supporters of it or not it caused many to either become more staunch in what they do or to try to go "out" in their playing).

As a result of going "out" many free jazz musicians employed non-tonal based moves and thus inviting many critics to called the new sound emerging 'noise' which in some cases they do sound like shards of pointed non-chords and non-notes coming at you. The Europeans heard landmark free jazz albums like Albert Ayler's 'Spiritual Unity' and were inspired to make an equivalent album in the form of 'Machine Gun' and many other European free jazz greats on the musician-run FMP Records in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Long before Hiphop, free jazz was the original 'Black Noise' which put forward the notion of Black empowerment and limitless artistic expression. A noise of righteous anger in the face of the struggle for Civil Rights and Black Rights and a resolute staking of ground for Black consciousness and non-White contaminated music. A music which rejects the idea of Black music as entertainment, minstrelsy and joke to the Whites, thus continuing and further developing what the Black Be-boppers first started out to achieve.

To find out more about Albert Ayler, go to Ayler.

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