Tag Archive: jazz


I am always on the lookout for new metaphors to assist me to improvise jazz. My latest efforts have been in the area of quantum physics. Unfortunately, quantum physics has no direction, no aesthetics, and no love. It is strictly probabilistic and functional. Cubism, on the other hand, is an artistic and geometric concept which combines physics (planes, dimensions) with perspective, shape, and artistic creative energy. Besides, cubist art is my favorite form of art. While I’m attracted to 12-tone music, I’m a real novice at it and need to work more on treating it in terms of improvisation. Cubism might be a way to improvise from the perspective of shifting tonalities, rhythms, meter, scales, and atonality as a vehicle to effective, moving expression.

Let me sketch out some brief ideas. There is an interpretive structure to improvisation which is a form of spontaneous composition. What if we structure improv musically to include things from different perspectives to bring together objects as seen from different dimensions, utilizing elements of music assembled with an arc designed to hear something as a metaphor for visual things seen as if the musician were a cubist? What would the musician use in her attempt to create a sonic representation of different elements? What would some of those elements consist of?

  • Here’s a brief list of some of the ways musicians could approach the problem of creating music cubistically:
    • Texture
      • Continuum from rough to smooth
      • Granular and gritty to liquid and fluid
      • Layers reminiscent of geological layers as seen on the walls of a chasm or on mountainsides        
    • Rhythm
      • Continuum from classical and unaccented through all variations of popular rhythms including jazz swing and all forms of jazz historically beginning with 19th century forms into the present
      • Electronic jazz to electroacoustic
      • All forms of rock
        • Hip hop
        • Funk
        • Ska
        • Reggae
        • Metal
        • Blues
      • Rhythms of different cultures
        • Indian
        • African
        • Asian
        • Middle eastern
        • South American
        • Indigenous and tribal
    • Meter
      • Western meter used in jazz
        • 4/4
        • ¾
        • 6/8
        • 2/4
        • 9/8
    • Non-western meter
      • 5/4
      • 7/4
      • 11/4
      • 13/4
    • Chord changes
      • Complex bebop changes
      • Simple postbop changes
      • Drones
    • Musical notes
      • Continuum from tonal to atonal/12-tonal
      • Continuum of intervals from consonant to dissonant
        • Large intervals
        • Small intervals
        • Close intervals
        • Scalar intervals
          • Major
          • Minor
          • Whole tonal
          • International scales
            • Different ragas
            • Persian scales
            • Scales from a variety of folk musics used for example by Bartok, Tchaikovsky, Spanish, French, English, Celtic, German
    • Blues
      • Country blues
      • Funky blues
      • Bebop
      • Cool
      • Honky tonk
      • Roots
    • Emotion
      • Meditative
      • Warm and sweet
      • Soulful
      • Negative
        • Anger
        • Rage
        • Fury
        • Defensive
        • Reactive
        • Fear
      • Positive
        • Joy
        • Happy
        • Light
        • Fluttery
        • Warm
    • Abstract to primitive
    • Different instruments
      • Strings
      • Reeds
      • Brass
      • Percussion
      • Combinations of different instruments
        • Solo
        • Sections
    • Musical metaphors
      • Weather
        • Stormy
        • Rain
        • Wind
        • Sunny
        • Cold
        • Warm
        • Lightening
        • Thunder
      • Cosmic
      • Quantum
      • Cubist
    • Psychological
      • Jungian
        • Functions of personality
          • Thinking
          • Feeling
          • Sensation
          • Intuition
          • Judgment
          • Perception
        • Metaphysical
          • Unconscious
          • Collective unconscious
          • Myth structure
          • Alchemy
          • Dreaming
      • Freudian
        • Unconscious
        • Abreaction
        • Wish fulfillment
        • Sexual fulfillment

Flattening, deconstruction, rearrangement of perspective, elimination of depth, monochromatic color—all these typify cubist painting. Ultimately, abstraction from reality marks the demarcation of cubism from more representational art. But, as far as I can tell, performance art is less represented than sculpture, painting, collage, all visual art forms at least regarding cubist expression. In fact, aside from Merce Cunningham and his movement strategies which do not rely on programmatic notes or references to anything but movement, I cannot think of any performance art which relies on cubism to inform its realization. And, I’m not sure Merce, or John Cage for that matter, would agree with me.

I cannot find any musical representation of cubism aside from visual art utilizing musical instruments and musicians playing them. No composers I have discovered attempted using cubism as a source of inspiration. No musical forms appear to consciously utilize cubist principles. I have asked others to comment on cubist principles of music—no one answers.

How is it, then, that I can hear cubism almost every time I listen to free jazz? I can hear planes, dimensions, interacting perspectives, dissonance, complex rhythm, different musical schools, colors, and emotion all coming together in different performances of small, medium, and large ensembles made up of every musical instrument whether western, non-western, found objects, electronic, or uniquely made by an individual. In fact, I have been attempting to understand improvisation from so many different perspectives that my abstraction of these arguments has become a cubist expression all by itself! Lately I’ve been considering physics—Einsteinian and quantum, string theory and quantum chromodynamics—as springboards for hypothesis generation. The overarching issue for me is “where do all the notes come from?” 

My personal experience of improvisation lies in the sense that when I abandon myself to the process they come from somewhere other than my conscious decision to play particular notes. Personal example:  for years I have considered myself to be a poor player of chord changes. I get stuck on playing specific notes in a chord and can’t think quickly enough to make the changes. If the changes are simpler and I can think quickly enough, I lose something in terms of inventiveness. It is only once I have warmed up to a musical structure (a tune for the uninitiated) can I let go enough to have some fun. It is faster than thought. If it is a tune with chord changes and I let go I find new and inventive ways to play the changes. The danger for me is repetitiveness. I can start to play everything the same so different tunes begin to sound the same.  That is why I am now on the lookout for a way to structure improvisation and composition which will guide me when I take off. For a while I conceived of playing a solo as riding a wave as if the music was a wave and I was surfing it. I have also tried to expand meter by using Indian raga time such as the Tin Tal—a 16 measure segment in 4/4. If instead of 16 4/4 measures I think of it as one long measure in 4/4 the entire structure opens up. My latest infatuation has been the idea I got from string theory of superposition. That is quantum physics for allowing notes to appear by a process of probability. I also borrowed Feynman’s concept of the subatomic particle being in every potential place and speed until it appears—the wave again—when the wave crashes, or as physicists put it, when the quantum wave function collapses. This all felt soulless and didn’t allow for the spiritual or emotional to enter into the equation. Plus, there is no aesthetic I know of that doesn’t allow for human intervention—even Dali relied on the unconscious and its predilections to “determine” his dada.

Many different aspects of experience have gone into my lifetime of composition. I have borrowed from the Kabbalah, quantum physics, and jazz to compose a 12-movement piece I performed in 2019 entitled Qabbala::Entanglement. I have used the Torah and poetry to compose a double string quartet with double SATB chorus entitled Abyss. And I have played with Finale, a music software program, to write pieces that were suggestive but not totally specific about what the musical structure was. I am looking for the next muse to my music. Perhaps it will be cubism.

I’m changing. Up till now I’ve insisted I did not have the self-promotion gene. This gene is not expressed, i.e., functional. Time to express it. In the interest of playing more music in front of others. Widening my field of music means playing music I haven’t played in years. Been working with phenomenal vocalist Lex Grey and incredible drummer Sonny Rock up in the Catskills which extended into sitting in with more rockers up there like Tas Cru and Murali Coryell. Re-entered the new music downtown NY scene–playing with Rashid Bakr/Charles Downs’Centipede with Ras Moshe, Larry Roland, Billy Stein, Matt Lavelle. Sessioning with Steve Cohn. Getting down with Mel Nusbaum, Billy Stein and ZONE. Put out INTERVALS, a cd with Billy Stein that breaks down all the barriers. Ready to do it again. And working with and putting out a cd,New York and Me, produced by NY/Santa Fe storyteller Regina Ress. And the third cd, Natural, that came out this year on old buddy Mike Mahaffay’s label in a group called the Willamette River Pirates caught me playing with the West Coast new music scene. Also curated the first night of the 7th Annual Westbeth Music Festival and played in four different groups including ZONE, Michael Moss / Billy Stein Duo, Dave Mann Mannmadesound, and The Raytones. And, released two YouTube videos of Billy Stein and myself.

Next up a west coast tour in the spring. Billy Stein and I are performing March 20, 2013 with my old buddy pianist Jack Bowers in the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz. Reaching out to other venues on the left coast.

Coming to my point…. My self-promotion gene is starting to express itself, as am I. I’m composing new music and want to share it with others. You can purchase INTERVALS on this webpage. I’m playing with as many people as possible. Help me climb that mountain. I’m itching to expand.

Billy Stein on guitar and I on Bb clarinet performed Billy’s piece, “Riverside After Dark” at the Westbeth MusicWorks First Fridays Concert Series on August 3, 2012.

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