3 Comments

  1. Durl

    Big band jazz was very popular for the high school and college stage/jazz bands in the 60’s and 70’s. You had all of the requisite instruments available, there was a lot of sheet music available, band directors had been strongly influenced by it in their educational career, and trying to get students to do improvisational solos is good for their music development. I totally sucked at improv because at the time I was way too OCD … OCD prefers marches and other very regimented pieces of music! Today, I’d really love to be in a jazz band and have the opportunity for improv.

    A memory from seeing Stan Kenton in performance. Our stage band stayed at the same hotel that his band was staying at. One morning at breakfast, the wait staff was overwhelmed with the number of customers, and were slow in providing coffee refills. Mr. Kenton just got up, picked up the coffee pot, and went around the restaurant topping off people’s coffee cups. Quite a lesson in humility (that he would do this himself rather than get one of his employees to do it), and a lesson in taking charge if no one is available.

    • Bookscrounger

      Yeah, and the attendance at his concert was so light we got to go onstage to talk with him and his performers at intermission. That was in Houma/Thibodaux, I think we were staying at the Holiday Inn?

  2. M

    This is an especially fine one Joe.

    Words that come to mind are “incentive” or to coin a phrase “psychological economics.” (I bet if I Googled that it’d come up; I’m not even going to look. 🙂 ).

    “Change” can be loaded with peril and toying with “cognitive dissonance” in terms of the thing itself can be equally perilous. Using an example from popular culture, things didn’t turn out so well once Skynet became self-aware.

    I don’t know if you intended as much, but artists of all stripes are always consciously pushing the limits, consciously re-arranging them, getting caught up in them and, I believe, occasionally forgetting to turn the process off or at least dial it back a little.

    For example, I think we see that in the progression of William Burroughs’ writings — he recognized it in himself and using language I won’t include here, described the result in ‘Naked Lunch.’

    William Blake with his “If the doors of perception were cleansed…”

    With Van Gogh, it’s relatively easy to search for chronological lists of his works. It’s perfectly natural for anyone in any field to progress and grow but in his particular case the transformation was so profound–from frankly dark, depressing and off-putting work to the final works (perhaps best represented by ‘Wheatfield with Crows’ which exist magnificently at the other end of the spectrum–not only inviting but captivating and compelling with the ability to transfix. He’s especially useful to examine because, as you know, he never sold a painting, etc. — a control group of one, ignored by his contemporaries and universally praised by those who’ve followed.

    Mapplethorpe, admittedly controversial, openly embraced throwing away fixed ideas in the interest of whatever else he could find. As his significant other reported in a bio, they’d lie awake in bed at night talking with Mapplethorpe going on about wanting to be the one that “people lied awake in bed at night talking about.” (because some of his work is SO controversial I do want to say that his photographs of flowers are phenomenal. I’m no saint but his flower photos account for my interest in him as a photographer.)

    Artists as canaries.

    Artists ‘get’ that ‘luxury’ because the world won’t necessarily end if they fail.

    I want to say that corporations and politics as we know them don’t enjoy the same luxury but maybe they simply don’t believe that they do. Steve Jobs viewed his prime function as that of residing at the intersection of art and technology. People with nothing to lose seem to have an advantage at moments: Jobs as I mentioned, Musk at Tesla, Ford at Ford, Grove at Intel. We reward those folks beyond their wildest dreams.

    It’s only when we drill down to politics that all the incentive, all the magic becomes lost or smothered. The Founding Fathers you mentioned existed in a space that rewarded political innovation, a space that’s all too rare in politics.

    TL;DR: we pursue and reward change associated with pursuits higher on Maslow’s hierarchy and aren’t so fond of change that affects the lower levels, usually only doing so as a catastrophic last resort.

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