Welcome to the new Fizzle blog.
I’m glad you’ve found it and I sincerely hope you enjoy the posts we’ll be sharing here over the coming months.
Now let’s sort out some admin before we go any further.
My name is Lee Griffiths and I’m one of the promoters who runs Fizzle in partnership with TDE Promotions. If you’ve been to one of our Centrala gigs in the past few years you will likely have seen me introducing the bands and reciting the list of upcoming gigs to an audience who, frankly, know our gig listings better than I do.
If, on the other hand, you haven’t been to one of our gigs before and you would like to, then **plug warning** you can check out our upcoming gigs or sign up to our mailing list to stay up to date on everything that we do **end of plug**.
The way this new blog will work is hopefully, probably, something like this:
I’ve invited a bunch of amazing improvisers to submit posts covering any aspect of improvised music that takes their fancy.
We’ll be releasing posts once a month with the aim of keeping this up for at least a year.
Each post will be relatively short and accessible to a general audience.*
So with all that out the way, let’s take a moment to have a quick listen to the piece Artists Ought to be Writing by pianist Jason Moran.
This track features Moran playing the piano and some recorded speech from artist and philosopher Adrian Piper. In the fragment of speech that we hear, Piper implores artists to “break down some of the barriers of misunderstanding between the art world and artists and the general public,” by “writing about what they do”.
I more or less agree with Piper’s sentiment, and that’s more or less the purpose of this blog. But I’d like to expand a little on Piper’s comments with two of my own.
1. I don’t think that she is suggesting that we, as artists, have to explain ourselves in order to justify our existence.
Piper’s use of the word “ought” might seem to come on a bit strong for those of us of a more delicate disposition. Why should we have to tell you what we think about when we’re making music, Adrian Piper? Is Elton Dean’s beautiful 1977 rendition of John Coltrane’s Naima any less valuable because Dean didn’t write publicly about his artistic procedures and presuppositions? No, surely not.
The purpose of writing as an artist is not to supplement the art. We aren’t making up for an inherent lack of meaning or purpose in our art. Art has its own ways of being meaningful, that can be quite distinct from how meaning gets made when we write. But writing about art can do something for us. It sets up a different way of relating to one another as artists, audiences, promoters and, importantly, as people.
Gigs, for the most part, have an inbuilt power dynamic. The musicians have control of the room for as long as they are on stage. It’s certainly true that the audience effects the performance in a number of subtle and important ways, but it’s a far-from-equal relationship. When artists use words to express their ideas about art it creates a more equitable relationship; most people can’t play the saxophone competently, but most people can talk or write about someone playing the saxophone. My understanding of Piper’s desire to get artists writing, is that she wanted to provide a forum for exchanging ideas about art, whether your relationship with art is primarily as a practitioner, a promoter, an audience member, a teacher, a critic, or a newcomer.
2. Writing can be many different kinds of things.
Some of the musicians who I’ve asked to contribute to this blog are also academics. The study of jazz and improvised musics in academia is a growing field to which improvising musicians are increasingly being drawn. But we should be wary of giving too much authority to academic writing. Academic writing was not the first style used to write about improvised music, nor is it necessarily the most correct or important. Musicians write about their music all the time in social media posts, blog posts, emails, texts, promotional bumf**, rehearsal notes, etc. These writing practices can be at least as informed and informative as academic writing if given enough care and attention. To this list of writing practices we can also add those times when we talk about our music, both on stage and off.
These are all opportunities we have to make an offer to the communities of artists and audiences in which we find ourselves. By writing and talking about our music we can offer up not only a way of understanding our practices, but also an opportunity for others to respond. Audiences can amplify, recycle, and expand on our use of words, adding in their own insights and experiences to create a meaningful dialogue that destabilises the boundaries the exist between artists and their audiences. Writing and talking sincerely about music can sometimes leave musicians feeling exposed because those boundaries have come to feel comforting, and artists can be quite prone to feelings of imposter syndrome and self-doubt. But to expose yourself to your audience***, can be an act of great generosity that invites reciprocation and lays the ground for new insights to emerge through a more evenly shared discourse.
So that’s the idea behind the blog.
I hope that the musicians that contribute find it a useful space in which to write about their artistic practices, and I hope that its readers feel inspired to contribute in some way to the conversation.
* Like the Ant & Dec of improvised music blogs.
** Yes it is a word, actually!
*** Metaphorically speaking of course.