On the launch…

An open letter on the launch (February 6, 2013)…

Thanks for visiting “The Rhythm of Study”! As someone who has spent his whole career around jazz—at the pianist’s bench and the academic’s desk, in the teacher’s classroom and the club manager’s office—I am constantly working to dissolve the boundaries separating all of these…to make space for collaborative performances that acknowledge the singularities and diversities of the jazz world. Whether I’m performing on-stage, conducting ethnomusicological research in the Canary Islands, giving a conference presentation, listening to a live show, or leading a classroom full of students in a discussion, I’ve always felt that the unique characteristics and skills associated with each particular role enriches the collective whole of all of them. I’ve been looking forward to launching TRoS for a long time…as a space where I can let this dynamic play out among a wider audience while elaborating on it through the participation of a much larger community.

TRoS will not propose any either/or situations, because we’re clearly dealing with a whole host of both/and scenarios. Listening, reading, conversing, walking down the street…these are polyphonic activities, involving many voices all drawing on unique backgrounds, skills, compulsions, and passions. Navigating the polyphony is as much about allowing possible paths emerge as it is following one of those discernible paths in the moment. And you may follow — or forge — another one tomorrow.

I have started TRoS in the hopes of laying out some paths. Not to set out on just one and certainly not to suggest that everyone follow in exact step. So, as much as I’ll contribute extended features—well rehearsed and thoroughly composed articles and reflections—TRoS will also bring more fleeting punctuations and asides—a website link, a Facebook post, a bit of news—as well as the perspectives of other artists, advocates, and academics. The results over time, I hope, will be an interwoven complexity from which readers and participants can consider, walk through, listen to, and act on a myriad number of possible paths.  The break is yours to take: fill it with whatever riffs, lines, substitutions, and superimpositions you will, but let’s agree on this…

This is about art as action and advocacy. When we commit to the necessary and ever-present relation between improvisation on the bandstand and improvisation in everyday life, we shed any misconception of jazz as artifact and embrace its potential as action. Music is a social process and TRoS celebrates jazz and improvisation for their potential as processes to affect positive, empathetic, and substantive cultural and political change. And so, this is about communities that improvise—those who employ jazz and improvisation in art and life—and the process of improvising communities—organizing and acting as emergent collectives for realizing this potential inherent in improvising.

Even though my passion and commitment to jazz and improvisation has taken me down many, varied paths, I’ve always felt like there’s a singularity to be teased out of this. And, so far, I’ve come to realize that, if there is a singularity to it all, I could not possibly describe it through just one improvisation or composition, but only possibly through improvising and composing on the rhythm of study as philosopher Giorgio Agamben explains it in the graphic that sits atop every page of this blog.

TRoS makes the break…allows a break to happen…but each of us takes that break in the moment as it emerges.

So, how does all this translate to a blog? What will you find here? Articles, reviews, interviews, news, a bit of my personal history in writing, links to my other projects, and many, many (sung, spoken, written, and recorded) perspectives on jazz. All mixed in and interwoven with each other…in complex, polyphonic, and sometimes discordant richness. I’ll feature individuals whose work resonates with TRoS in a series of brief encounters and more extended reflections…all of this revolving around and intersecting with this complex polyphony of improvising jazz communities of artists, advocates, and academics.

Here’s a bit of a road map to TRoS for starting in…the posts feed is here. The menus in the website header are themes with which I tag individual posts; clicking on any one of them will lead you to specific paths and the particular angles I’ll be exploring. The only exception is the “Ab(outing)” page, where you’ll find a more concise take on TRoS’s mission, a bit more information on me, and the @TRoS section which will feature elaborations on that mission and vignettes on the philosophies that guide my work. The blog’s first feature belongs to the pianist Jean-Michel Pilc. It includes reviews of Jean-Michel’s two recent recordings (Essential and Threedom) and of his new book on improvisation, along with an exclusive interview. You can find it all here. In the next few months, I’ll be posting features on composer/advocate/and conductor of the Asian American Orchestra, Dr. Anthony Brown; saxophonist and head of jazz studies at Virginia State University, James Gates; and an extended review of new releases by the Brooklyn-based label, Pi Records.

Thanks for visiting. Please share this site with your friends and colleagues. (TRoS is also on Facebook and Twitter.) There are a lot of individuals who have helped and worked with me in arriving at this point…launching TRoS. In moving forward, let’s continue the collaborative improvisation…!

~ Mark

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