Friday, 12 June 2015

Ornette Has Left the Planet

Sad day if somewhat inevitable. Ornette Coleman passed yesterday in New York, aged 85. I can't think of anything profound to say about Ornette that hasn't been said before. He has been praised up and down, called everything from genius to legend, recognized financially with a MacArthur fellowship. Thousands of student musicians will hear him but none can imitate him because he did not play by the numbers; there are no pattern book exercises you can memorize and play at high speed that will teach you harmolodics.

I found seven different articles about Ornette on The Guardian today while searching his obit. Some choice snippets:

"Having bought his first saxophone with money he had earned from shining shoes, Coleman learned to play it as if it were a toy. “I didn't know you had to learn to play,” he told the Guardian. “I didn't know music was a style and that it had rules and stuff, I thought it was just sound. I thought you had to play to play, and I still think that."

"Coleman was given an alto saxophone by his mother at the age of 14, but there was no money for lessons. It did not occur to the boy that this might matter. As Coleman once put it: “I thought music was just something human beings done naturally, like eating. I thought [the saxophone] was a toy and I just played it. Didn't know you have to learn something to find out what the toy does.”"

"His playing was by now a partly planned, partly serendipitous mingling of tonal, atonal and microtonal music (the exact pitch of Coleman’s notes defy the tuning fork), infused with the blues."

How about that? Music as sound? Something human beings done naturally? You mean you don't have to painfully kvetch out years of lessons, exams and competitions to become a player? You have to play to play? Defy the tuning fork? Blasphemous. One of a kind. Irreplaceable. Listen to his records.

Here are links to the full articles:

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