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Posts Tagged ‘bebop

“Saint: A dead sinner revised and edited”*…

 

Johann Sebastian Bach

 

When eminent biologist and author Lewis Thomas was asked what message he would choose to send from Earth into outer space in the Voyager spacecraft, he answered, “I would send the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach.”  After a pause, he added, “But that would be boasting.”

You can hardly find a more sanctioned and orthodox insider than Johann Sebastian Bach, at least as he is typically presented. He is commemorated as the sober bewigged Lutheran who labored for church authorities and nobility, offering up hundreds of cantatas, fugues, orchestral works, and other compositions for the glory of God. Yet the real-life Bach was very different from this cardboard figure. In fact, he provides a striking case study in how prickly dissidents in the history of classical music get transformed into conformist establishment figures by posterity…

Fighting, drinking, organ loft liaisons… and then there’s the music– the subversive practice of a canonical composer: “J.S. Bach the Rebel.”

* Ambrose Bierce

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As we interrogate our idols, we might send harmonic birthday greetings to John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie; he was born (in Cheraw, S.C.) on this date in 1917.  A jazz pioneer– performer, bandleader, composer, and singer– he was a trumpet virtuoso and a style-setting improviser.  His combination of musicianship, showmanship, and wit made him (with Charlie Parker) a leading popularizer of (the emerging new music) bebop.  His beret and horn-rimmed spectacles, his scat singing, his bent horn, his pouched cheeks, and his light-hearted personality became emblematic of the form.

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Written by LW

October 21, 2019 at 1:01 am

Going out gracefully…

Twenty-four more valedictions at Buzzfeed’s “The Last Words Of 25 Famous Dead Writers.”  And many more parting shots– like Oscar Wilde’s “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go”– at Wikiquote’s Famous Last Words.

As we rehearse our final scenes, we might spare a tuneful thought for trumpeter, bandleader, and composer Miles Dewey Davis III; he died on this date in 1991.  Davis was a pioneer of a number of jazz forms– bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz, and jazz fusion, among others– but was perhaps even more influential for the musicians he launched in his bands (an extraordinary roster that includes Bill Evans, Gerry Mulligan, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Elvin Jones, and Jack DeJohnette) and for the bands and musicians he influenced (and equally amazing list that includes Lalo Schifrin, Tangerine Dream, King Crimson, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, Duane Allman, Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, Lydia Lunch, Jerry Garcia, and Prince).

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