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Re: Music Descriptions

At 3:09 PM -0700 6/30/97, Stephen P. Goodman wrote:
>Kim Corbet commented about the use of the word 'jazz' as a label for
>ambient material, and I thought I'd add in some marketing/radio history
>that coincides.  In the Los Angeles area, the radio station playing soft
>rock/etc., KTWV ("The Wave") started out in '86-7 billing itself as a kind
>of ambient station, playing pieces from Steve Reich, Brian Eno, Philip
>Glass, and even on occasion King Crimson pieces in the vein of "Matte
>Kudasai"; concurrently I began seeing the Music Plus's and Wherehouse's in
>the area sporting a "New Age" section in the places formerly occupied by
>labels like "Electronic" and "Experimental".
>For the past year or so, The Wave - perhaps it's called the same thing in
>'your' town - has been sporting the term 'soft jazz', which caused me to
>think again of this term.  Perhaps the term 'jazz' is ethereal and
>undefined enough to get away with as an umbrella, but isn't it just a
>label, after all?  I wonder what true jazz enthusiasts and musicians would
>think.  Anyone?

I think it is called "Quiet Storm" here, but we all know that format, I'm
sure. "Music to entertain middle-aged, upper-middle class housewives by"
might be the term the record company/radio execs use. (no offense to
musically literate middle aged upper middle class housewives intended :-) )
That's the format where Kenny G gets to be a respectable jazz artist.

I'm not one to care much about labeling, but I have been listening to and
attempting to play jazz for a reasonable length of time. Using that term as
an umbrella label to cover anything you like doesn't really work for me. It
seems like attaching adjectives to the word "jazz" is the latest rage in
the music-genre-labeling field. To me, this always seems like some sort of
misguided attempt to attach artistic credibility and sophistication to the
music being labeled, and rarely has much to do with any connections the
music actually has to the stuff normally called "jazz."

Now, I'm hardly qualified to decide what is and is not jazz. But if you are
trying to describe your music to me and you use the word "jazz," I will be
thinking about musicians like Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Duke, Bird,
Miles, Coltrane, Monk, Ornette, Pharoah Saunders, Sun Ra, etc., etc....  If
you really want me to be thinking along the lines of Glass and Eno, then
you are better off using a term like "ambient."

And if you are trying to impress me with the fact that you are so
cool/artistic/sophisticated that you can combine a few terms not usually
placed next to each other as a description of your Incredibly Unique music,
which only people as cool/artistic/sophisticated as yourself can possibly
understand, at least be creative enough to use something other than "jazz."
Everyone else is already using that one. :-)

Why not just think up some new descriptive term if you don't like what's
available? For example, it wasn't so long ago that there was no music
called Industrial. But as soon as someone did label their music Industrial,
it was pretty clear what they meant.

Something else that slightly disturbs me about this thread is a sort of
implicit assumption that all music employing looping somehow fits in this
experimental/ambient vein. I think I've said this before, but looping is
much more than that. I think of looping more as a musical technique that
can easily span many, many genres. Most of those genres already have bins
at the record store and radio stations devoted to them, so when one of that
genre's artists employs looping, no one really has to think about where it

We don't go in the record store expecting to find a section called
"drumming," containing all the music with percussion used in it. Why do we
hope for a section just for loop based music? I expect to find it anywhere.


Kim Flint                   | Looper's Delight
kflint@annihilist.com       | http://www.annihilist.com/loop/loop.html
http://www.annihilist.com/  | Loopers-Delight-request@annihilist.com