the yelling reaction

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epistrophe

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This is a picture I took at The 55 in NYC, with my cell phone.

I’m reading some extracts from a series of interviews with the playwright Koffi Kwahulé, whose work is known to have been strongly influenced by the rhythms and violence of jazz. He argues that at the core of jazz is an absence, a void, that gives the music its feeling both of destructiveness and of yearning, and that the music, rather than attempt to fill this void, instead establishes it as fullness. We could say that the blue note – the sounding of a minor chord where a major one is anticipated – exists to create a gap between expectation and realization. While jazz may make great use of repetition, he points out, its movement is not towards exhaustion or completion (insofar as those words function as synonyms) but rather towards “[digging] away at entrenchments toward stranger and stranger lands” – towards widening the distance between yearning and satisfaction. He argues that the density of jazz, and thus the depth of the void at its core, builds with the strength of its obstinacy.

Thelonious Monk & John Coltrane – Epistrophy

epistrophethe repetition of a word at the end of successive clauses or sentences. From the Greek epistrephein – to turn around (epi in addition + strephein to turn)

“What matters is the strength of the obstinacy with which he keeps on hitting the same spot…and that gives the impression of a spiral, as if the narration were digging its own furrow by turning in on itself. You can find this same technique in the paintings of Francis Bacon. Density is built up through repetition, through responding notes, through stubbornness. You could do something else, but you haven’t completely finished, there’s still an interstice to explore, a sound to produce.”

Two Figures in the Grass | Francis Bacon, 1952

Soon I should actually start writing my final paper on jazz, and not just putting it off by blogging about it. Even my homestay mother is calling me out on being a procrastinatrix.

Quite tired now; off for tea (Mariage Frères – the yummiest in Paris) and to bed. Bonne nuit, tout le monde.

Related: basslines and plotlines, Debussy’s use of meter

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Written by bellaheureuse

December 8, 2009 at 11:41 pm

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