New Book Contains Chapter On Lennie

General Discussion
B T
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Wrapping up Sermon

Postby B T » Sun Jul 29, 2007 11:05 am

These questions are posed in the interest of tying loose ends. Not a debate:

1) Regarding multitracking ... and the left and right hands being egalitarian on the keyboard. One could argue that in multitracking, the pianist could record each track with the same hand. One could actually be listening to an extravaganza of the right hand. Or the left. Who knows. He's not around to ask how he played each track. It is a moot point, academic at best.

2) How do you respond to the age-old argument that LT suppressed drummers? I don't necessarily subscribe to that stance. Drummer Roger Mancuso refutes it vehemently. But the argument would be that LT's music could not be egalitarian if the drummer was suppressed.

Marv Friedenn
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Postby Marv Friedenn » Thu Aug 02, 2007 3:23 pm

The egalitarianism of Lennie's overdubs on Pastime and Ju-Ju pivots on the expectation of the listener, not on the technique of the performer. I assume Lennie improvised on both tracks, on the original and the overdub, with his right hand. But the unwitting listener, having no reason to suspect a technological "sleight of hand," hears the music as a single performance, and therefore is irresistibly conditioned to imagine the intertwined improvisations to be the product of left and right hands. Without being in on "the secret," the listener has no other choice. Furthermore, since Lennie obviously intended this illusion, namely, that the left hand is equal in creative status to the right hand, I believe Lennie intended an egalitarian effect.

That from the point of view of the performer the effect is contrived is owing to the fact that Lennie was incapable of sounding like two pianists playing at once, that is playing what Lennie called "conflict solos." (In this case, self-conflict solos!) If anyone could have, Lennie probably could have learned to do it. But if it took him a year to master the difficult yet simpler (both technically and psychologically) left hand "bass" technique, imagine how long it would have taken to promote the left hand to flawless creative equality with the right! (The only other pianist who, as far as I know, even came close to such two-handed mastery is Phineas Newborn Jr. But Phineas mainly played double octaves, I think.)

I admire Lennie for having used technology to save himself a world of time and trouble. Sure, the egalitarianism here is artificial rather than performance-authentic. But as I say in Sermon, Lennie succeeded "at expressing artificially an ideal of equality which, being utopian, rarely exists." Therefore artificiality is the appropriate mode for expressing the spirit of a world which requires artful contrivance to be even possible.

Maybe someday in a more equitable world--we all can't be winners, but b'god none of us have to be losers!--piano students will learn to play conflict solos (Countdown counterpoint! Down-for-the-count-counterpoint! Count Dracular counterpoint!) as a matter of course.

Notice I argue here that Lennie made music that was egalitarian. Whether Lennie himself was egalitarian is a somewhat different and more complicated matter which I leave to his biographers to fathom.
Last edited by Marv Friedenn on Sat Aug 04, 2007 8:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

Marv Friedenn
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Joined: Thu Jul 06, 2006 7:34 am

Postby Marv Friedenn » Thu Aug 02, 2007 4:10 pm

As to Lennie's attitude toward drummers, I don't have a coherent opinion. But here are a few impressions that may help.

The fact that Lennie overdubbed Peter Ind and Jeff Morton on Line Up-East Thirty Second by no means reflects badly on Peter and Jeff. The commercial format of this split-improvisation is the Minus One series where the listener plays along adding the missing instrument. In this case the listener is Lennie Tristano and the missing instrument of this "piano trio" is the piano. Lennie avails himself of this opportunity provided by commercial enterprise and recording technology to play alone; I mean to play absolutely alone without the distraction of having to be musically civil and accommodating to his fellow musicians (who nevertheless are virtually present) and therefore to play without the slightest social discomfort at tending strictly to his own musical affairs. The result is the best up tempo recorded jazz piano solo produced in the 20th century. Music is such a gregarious art! But here Lennie reminds us that the inspired music occasionally heard in a packed concert hall to universal acclaim is born alone in a woodshed.

On the other hand, on Stretch and Con Con (Descent Into the Maelstrom), Lennie, Sonny Dallas and Nick Stabulas must have taken a very aggressive drug for the musicians to brawl so uninhibitedly. Lennie is in no way perturbed by Nick's thundering horse hooves trampling Lennie's solos since Lennie himself, the drug having kicked in, has switched from piano to steam hammer!

I'm confident that Lee Konitz can throw light on this drummer question. Lee is very candid about musical matters. He may have even covered the topic in his forthcoming book.

B T
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Postby B T » Wed Aug 08, 2007 4:38 pm

Marv Friedenn wrote:I admire Lennie for having used technology to save himself a world of time and trouble. Sure, the egalitarianism here is artificial rather than performance-authentic. But as I say in Sermon, Lennie succeeded "at expressing artificially an ideal of equality which, being utopian, rarely exists." Therefore artificiality is the appropriate mode for expressing the spirit of a world which requires artful contrivance to be even possible.


I can almost hear Malcolm in there!
"egalitarianism ... by any means necessary"

I still see the recording studio as a new medium, and not an artificial substitution for performance. Photography seems to be accepted as a genuine art form in its own right today, and not a substitute for drawing or painting. But we can leave it at that. Question #1 well answered.

B T
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Postby B T » Wed Aug 08, 2007 4:57 pm

Marv Friedenn wrote:As to Lennie's attitude toward drummers, I don't have a coherent opinion.
***
On the other hand, on Stretch ...
***
I'm confident that Lee Konitz can throw light on this drummer question. Lee is very candid about musical matters. He may have even covered the topic in his forthcoming book.


Oftentimes, those who say that Lennie suppressed drummers have not heard the entire catalog. In the back of their minds they are hearing the 40s trio material (no drummer) the two free tracks (again, no drummer) or even something like Turkish Mambo (its a metronome). Stretch is an absolute shred track.

One of the things Roger Mancuso said to me when I asked him about this very topic, and I have to put it in extreme layman's terms here ... (don't remember an exact quote) ...

If a drummer was trying to play "fancy fills" it would have been just fine if it didn't interfere with the timekeeping. Lets leave it there for now.

B T
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Joined: Tue Jun 27, 2006 2:49 pm

another wrap

Postby B T » Wed Aug 08, 2007 5:24 pm

Lets also tie one of my loose ends, the religion question. I think it applies because your book suggests change. And I put forth the proposition that religion stands in the way of any such change.

I wrote:It was culture shock: Moving from a reasonably tolerant area to a socially retarded one at a young age.

In the former, it was a given that various belief systems existed within society and were to be respected as such. In the latter, predominantly Protestant (of the fundamentalist persuasion), it was a "given" that everyone on the planet was destined for eternal damnation except for those who interpretted the Bible literally ... and believed!

("have faith, my child")


It wasn't so bad (yet). I thought it was a small price to pay ... living in a socially retarded area ... to live in a primeval forest. I loved the Great Outdoors so much I almost turned into a sasquatch!

The real shocker was when I left "home" to check out the big bad world. Nay, my children, it was not only hillbillies that thought thusly! The fundamentalist worldview is not just something out of Deliverance. One example is enough ...

[TRUE STORY]
One would assume that one could have an intelligent friendly conversation with, lets say, an aerospace engineer working/living in a large metropolis like Los Angeles. The topic was whether a tale like Noah's Ark was just that - a tale, or accurate historical data. One would also assume that someone who had studied all that math, physics and engineering would be open minded enough to have such a discussion. So I proceeded. Before I knew it, this man was on the verge of tears. He managed to blurt out the standard, "isn't it nice to take it on faith?" before breaking down. He didn't know whether to cry or beat me up! Naturally, the conversation had to end right there.
[/TRUE STORY]

This condition (religious fundamentalism) permeates all walks of life. These people set/support policy. This is a tough one.

Marv Friedenn
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Joined: Thu Jul 06, 2006 7:34 am

Postby Marv Friedenn » Tue Aug 21, 2007 7:41 am

B T proposes above that religion stands in the way of change. I agree. But I'm proud to say that as of 2007 SERMON ON THE FLATS stands in the way of religion!

B T
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Joined: Tue Jun 27, 2006 2:49 pm

Postby B T » Wed Aug 22, 2007 9:18 am

Marv Friedenn wrote:B T proposes above that religion stands in the way of change. I agree. But I'm proud to say that as of 2007 SERMON ON THE FLATS stands in the way of religion!


You are to be commended! But one must be careful ...

These people (meaning the fundies) can do a lot of damage. And they mean it. There are those in my neck of the woods that would murder me in my sleep if they could get away with it. Simply because I have a battered paperback of The Origin of Species in my house. And I haven't even read it yet!

Marv Friedenn
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Joined: Thu Jul 06, 2006 7:34 am

Postby Marv Friedenn » Sat Aug 25, 2007 9:57 am

I'd feel more comfortable ending this thread with a prayer instead of a scare.

God to angel: Float them in infinite space. Then give each of them thirty six million seven hundred ninety two thousand minutes to guess my name. If anyone succeeds my name is mud!

B T
Posts: 103
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amen

Postby B T » Tue Aug 28, 2007 5:33 pm

Marv Friedenn wrote:I'd feel more comfortable ending this thread with a prayer instead of a scare.


Yes, me too. But on scares and prayers ... one begets the other:

Marv Friedenn wrote:God to angel: Float them in infinite space. Then give each of them thirty six million seven hundred ninety two thousand minutes to guess my name. If anyone succeeds my name is mud!


What happens upon a lifetime of pondering, when one discovers one has been duped? Some could possibly be so angry that they would want to take care of their false messiah themselves. The result would then become written down ... and we would have ... just what the world needs ... [drum roll, trumpet fanfare] ... voilà: another religion!

But let's not descend into this maelstrom! Let's end on a positive note ... or two.

A suggestion: You could probably write a great collection of short stories. It would be worth thinking about for your next book.

And ...

Good luck in promoting your current book!


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