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Extended Discussion: Free Jazz
Reflections on Music Pieces
Ornette Coleman’s ‘The Lonely Woman’ (TheSenbee) has the saxophone in lead role. With a constant beat from the drum ensemble at the background, the saxophone creates an overture and then follows a main line. The overture is evokes the imagery of a gray overcast sky amidst cornfields, and gives the impression of a beginning or a promise. The middle section, where the saxophone goes into relatively more complex moves, has a series of short sub-pieces that are simple to construct. The piece ends with a modified rendering of the initial saxophone, and the cymbals close the piece. While the piece can stand as a unique identity, it appears incomplete to the effect that it creates a craving in the listener for more. It is as if a message began to unravel, and the composer left the listener with a part of the message.
Cecil Taylor’s third part of the Willsau Concert (Hardy) begins with the piano drawing in the listener with short notes. The listener has to listen patiently to discover the connections and the buildup. The middle section of the octave begins to dominate as the piece progresses, and the notes begin to coalesce in a more complex manner. Halfway into the piece, the higher notes meld into the piece in a rapid movement of fingers running across the keyboard. The higher notes give the impression of fanciful visions and light-footedness entering an otherwise dreary life. The piece slows down towards the end, as if returning to reality, but the higher notes persist. The piece makes gives an essence of hope, and gives a joyous feeling overall. Cecil Taylor appears well versed in the piano. The music seems a well constructed whole, and has the ability to stand on its own.
Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts” (Pastoretat) begins with the saxophone making a statement that appears to go off key at times. While it begins with a sweet melody, the melody does not follow a natural or intuitive buildup. While the listener expects a melodious middle, the piece goes into a fervent search for meaning and structure as seemingly discordant notes clash with one another. The cymbals provide an interregnum in the middle of the piece, and the listener waits, wondering if Ayler would create a further assault on established musical convention of notes being in sync. Ayler begins the ending section with the same mellifluous tune as in the beginning, but does not diverge into discordance. Overall, the music appears to say that life has potential, but would not follow a script. It is as if Ayler is challenging the listener to dismiss him as incompetent. When the listener is about to do so, Ayler comes back into harmony, as if to state that the discordance is a matter of choice and not incompetence.
Reflection of Afro-American Struggle for Equal Rights
Ornette Coleman’s “The Lonely Woman” conveys the impression of a promise or a new awakening amongst the blacks in the 1960s. Cecil Taylors’s Part 3 of the Willsau Concert reflects the hope that arose amongst the blacks as they began their struggle for equal rights. The piece reflects how such a hope remained kindled despite the challenges of daily life. Of the three pieces, Ayler’s piece has the potential to stay with the listener for the longest time. “Ghosts” appears to reflect the Afro-American struggle for equal rights the most aptly. The piece suggests that the listener should not dismiss black America as being without class or quality. It says that what is on the surface, such as color of the skin, is no measure for the talent and potential within.
The pieces cannot be appreciated in one round of listening. Coleman and Ayer provide glimpses of great melody and then draw back. Ayler’s counter-intuitive melody would make any new listener to wish to leave, unless the listener is given the context in which the piece is to be heard. While the piano of Cecil Taylor stands out as the most well constructed piece in the traditional sense, it is the saxophone of Ayler that is the most haunting.
Pastoretat. “Albert Ayler- Ghosts.” YouTube. March 7, 2009. Web. April 11, 2015.
TheSenbee. “Ornette Coleman-Lonely Woman.” YouTube. February 2, 2010. Web. April 11, 2015.
Hardy, Bob. “Cecil Taylor (3 of 5).” YouTube. January 18, 2008. Web. April 11, 2015.
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