Tag Archive: performance arts


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.

What is Urban: city. What is Folk: artistically cultural tradition of the city. What is music: aural organized sound expression. What is Urban Folk Music: A genre of world music inclusive of art forms gestated in the creative cauldron of seething anxiety and suffering artists express when coming into collaborative work wit other urban based musicians, dancers, hiphopsters, poets, performance artists, story tellers, ad infinitum of the city.

About the suffering of artists: Artists suffering—a subgenre—is the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self or center of the universe singleton/singularity which spawns the music of our urban culture. Pain, angst, fear, sex, drugs, and espresso drive urban musicians to produce pop music, blues, rock, classical both ancient and current and especially jazz to play with ideas.

Without artists—dancers, performance artists, poets, musicians, graphic artists, painters, sculptors—there would be cultural expression restricted to the thinking, feeling, sensation Jungian functions—no intuitive, nonjudgmental creative thinking or feeling, extraverted or introverted attitudes. We as a group form a culture shared across spacetime in an archetypal collective conscious that when expressed represents our inner selves.

The subgenre of music has numerous sub sub genres nesting within and one of those, jazz, blues, and western music spikes, when musically expressed, represents our oral and aural mindful experiences which raise the abstractive and emotional aspects of the experience of the audience—live and analogue or virtual and digital.

Over the past 50 years we have played with many musicians in a plenitude of cities. Finally resting in New York City we nonetheless have cultural baggage of many cities. Going back to the source, I (Moss) more and more feel consciously the father archetype. I feel older than people around me. Up till my latest illness, I even felt young in all the facets and faces I wore. Yet plans have a way of changing with circumstance and I find myself in a more reflective mood. I spend a lot of time to myself, practicing for my return to interaction. There is a difference between process and performance wherein process produces practice and performance produces quick or slow notes. The process rather than the performance rules my existence though I am getting out.

Interestingly, when I (Moss) started playing the flute after a 3-month hiatus because I got a strep G blood infection called bacteremia that caused me to go into sepsis, my musical sensibility had reverted to a 16th/17th century preoccupation with 4ths and 5ths. I am working my way through the music until I hear once again 21st c. feelings and musical expressions, progressing into more facile note manipulation. As for performance I believe it is enough to play a note. Note/s is/are implied in the note so quantum superposition is the rule here. That is, Schrödinger’s implication that nothing is real until realized forces any improvising musician to open to the infinity of possibilities—this is the fun part.

%d bloggers like this: