P.J. O’Rourke and I were not friends other than online, but I was going back over my emails when it dawned on me that P.J. O’Rourke is the Father of Degage.
I am loving Bruce Boyer’s work on music, and the playlists are doing well. I did see a few comments about jazz in general, including one about there being legit arguments for jazz not qualifying as good music. A few notes. That was not on purpose.
As always, first we have to differentiate between what we don’t like and what isn’t good. My daughter doesn’t like sushi. Or James Taylor. Both are good. And legit. Liking something has nothing to do with whether or not it is good. In order to understand if it is good, let’s apply some criteria. First, is there musicianship involved? Yes, whales of it. Jazz guitar, for example, is perhaps the hardest genre to master (John Mayer has though). Some argue that jazz requires even more musicianship, because you kinda can’t rehearse it. There is too much improvisation. With enough repetition you can teach almost anyone to play a song on almost anything (I’ve done it). It’s memorization. Improvisation requires a greater technical capacity. Then there is the deep end of the pool. Does jazz integrate rhythm, harmony, melody, texture/timbre? Again, perhaps more because it is on the fly, a great deal of it. Second, does it create a response? Do you feel different, after having heard it? Did it get you from A to B? There are deeper weeds here too, but I think it is safe to say at minimum that jazz moves many.
I abhor that notion that if you just understood music you would appreciate jazz. Nonsense. Jazz is not for a lot of people. If you take a popular composition class you learn about patterns and predictability – jazz ain’t that. Plenty of people who are tremendous musicians get lost in jazz. It says nothing about you one way or the other if you like it or don’t. But. If you want to TRY it, those playlists are a great place to start. There will be no singing along, not much of it anyway, but there will be floating in a pool. It is the difference between enjoying the drive to the summer house where you know where you are going, and just driving. Which with the price of gas may not be as relatable a metaphor as I would have liked. I find jazz great to play underneath an activity (work, etc.) because it isn’t repetitive. There is no subconscious anticipating anything. So you can just tune in and tune out, and you don’t miss anything.
But yes, Virginia, jazz is good even if you don’t like it.
This is the J Crew catalog cover from Spring/Summer, 1989. Different people get their inspiration for their look from different places, for me, this shot was it. Now that I think about it, I wish I had shown this to P.J. Apparently neither one of us got there first. I posted this in the FB group a year or so ago and somebody told me that the guy to your left is a famous artist. I think I have that right. You’ll tell me. And I really should have emailed this. Ugh.
I am doing a deep dive into Teddy Roosevelt. I did not know, for example, that John Hay, TR’s Secretary of State, was also a Secretary to… Lincoln. Or that he skinny-dipped, while he was President, in the Potomac. He was Ivy League, Harvard. I mean, you can’t have everything. I am reading Theodore Rex, but if you know of good books or sites, tell me? Thanks.
Tomorrow, a feature from a new author, one of our very own, on the Scally Cap.