NOTE: THESE POSTS ALL COME AT THE SAME TIME BECAUSE CUBA HAD INSUFFICIENT WIFI TO GET ON SQUARESPACE. I WROTE THEM ABOUT ONCE A WEEK WHILE I WAS THERE. THEY ARE POSTED HERE IN REVERSE CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER. ENJOY!
I’m getting a little lazy because "My Tattoo" was so long so I’m just going to give a couple more brief thoughts:
My whole year has been marked by misunderstanding. This has made me much more conscious of the amount of information I present. I find I’m saying a lot more now that I’m saying fewer words. By choosing my words more carefully and clearly I’m communicating a hierarchy of importance based on omission. When speaking Spanish this is additionally limited by my “chops” or what I know how to say. This has significant relevance for music. It also made me realize (especially with digital communication) that most of the people I’ve known in the US don’t listen to all the details I say anyway. But the only way to say what I really mean is to think of those details and then do the extra step of leaving them out. Just saying less is being lazy—like what I’m doing right now. By leaving MOST of my shit out, people actually pay attention to what I say.
This quote is somewhat relevant to this idea.
“The Latin American musicians understand our music much better than we understand theirs.”
--Dizzy Gillespie to Paquito D’Riviera
From hearing a couple of jazz shows here I think he’s spot on. These musicians can play just as good as the ones in the US. And I think there are three reasons they understand our music better than we do theirs. The first is just the most obvious that I think more Latin American jazz musicians have studied American music harder than most Americans playing Latin music. The second is a topic Paquito went on to address in the letter this is quoted from. Cuban music is in his perspective and mine to a degree rhythmically richer than American music. The harmonic, and form side of the equation is pretty much basic jazz harmony it doesn’t take much more study. And I think it’s just harder to study rhythm second-hand than it is to study harmony. You can read it and listen to it on records but the in-person effect of rhythm has a bigger difference in impact for me than the gap between live and recorded harmony or form. So it’s easier to learn jazz from a distance.
The last reason is the most interesting to me. I think Cuban music fits so well with jazz songs and forms because they share not only common ancestors but a common upbringing. This isn’t a new idea. But as this relates to current musical practice and globalization I think it has important implications. All the music of the Americas and even the whole world are becoming one. People everywhere I’ve been love American music. In Cuba they especially love jazz. Our world is becoming increasingly connected and the language of the economically dominant countries is generally prevailing. But because these Latin American musics have such a strong influence already I’m excited to see the way there is genuine dialogue and room for more. Chris Thile said at obelrin once “our world is homogenizing so it’s our job as musicians to make sure it homogenizes for the good.” But his idea of good is pretty Eurocentric. I might modify this to say something like “homogenizing for equality.” But that is way less sexy.
From the outside I imagine this year might look like one endless vacation free from responsibility or work. No matter what I say on this blog many people will believe that anyway. But I took a three day vacation this week to see more of the island. It made me glad that I have approached this year from a mindset of trying to learn all that I can and work as hard as I can. Vacation is laaaaame in comparison to learning. But Cuba is really really pretty. I gotta come back.
Ok… final conclusion forthcoming