EDITION: Guimarăes Jazz Annual Journal #9 - Câmara Municipal de Guimarăes/ Associaçăo Cultural Convívio/ A Oficina    
DATE: November 2014 

In memoriam Jorge Lima Barreto

                                                              ENDLESS HORIZONS...

All we have to do if we want to draw an accurate portrait of the world jazz landscape is visit YouTube. Write
down the word “jazz” and a never-ending list of videos immediately appears on our computer screens: sound and
image, or sometimes just the music, conveying several audiovisual suggestions quite distinct from each other in
terms of their provenance and organized into eminently random sequences. Everything is there (from sound
recordings to live and real time films, whether produced with astonishing technological devices or rudimentary
machines), prepared to stand the test of time as an eternal sound movie about jazz’s different eras, whose script
is available to every cybernaut. In the midst of a quasi-fictional environment, one loses all space and time
coordinates and ends up ignoring dates and places. We inhabit a mental place of endless horizons - a sort of
permanently updated eternity composed of infinite combinations which are made real because of the Internet’s
storage capacity. In such a wide and volatile context, and due to the endless proliferation of information,
chronological organization and aesthetical sequencing of all the visual and audio materials available in the great
universal film of YouTube are rendered useless and meaningless activities. This film, entitled zeitgeist, is the sum
of countless psycho-sociological factors and offers us an ever expanding cognitive territory. The fact that it is so
vast generates the reactivation of our intellectual faculties. Meanwhile, easy and real-time access to events at our
disposal favors new discoveries. Enlightened assimilation is absorbed by computation’s “black hole”, in which
sounds and images are promptly forgotten. Audiovisual digitalization created a shapeless and incorporeal reality
based on technology in permanent contact with jazz; easy access to information transforms us into the self-made
man of our own imaginative elaborations and we are now in the center of all communicational and social

What is “new” is, by definition, ephemeral and precarious - nowadays, the impact of surprise and innovation is
frail and trivial. Overproduction in music stimulates our ears as much as it bores and anesthetizes them. Our
senses are bombarded by sounds that fade and disappear into the same rhythm. The impossibility of absorbing
this musical excess renders the world as prolix as diffuse in terms of its sound features and this situation is even
more complex due to the extreme mobility of modern man, who travels all over the world with his own cultural
references fixed in his mind. Other endogenous (mental) and exogenous (physical) elements influence how we
perceive music because we distinguish the music to which we consider to be meaningful and the music we
consume and immediately forget. The system of distribution and commercialization of music selects the artist,
according to criteria such as how competently they manage their public image as well as the quality of their
artistic work and skills. Afterwards, the system develops marketing strategies in order to provide the artists a
specific market identity, which is necessarily artificial, seeking their recognition by target audiences. Nowadays,
it is very difficult to define what exactly renders an artist successful, for those promoted by the mass media are
both volatile and merely images made alive only by the imagination and dreams of their audiences, who listen to
the music and worship the musicians as gods. These “star-artists” inhabit a cybernetic universe without
hierarchy, which is thus transformed into a virtual platform of democratic access, where egalitarianism is the
prevailing value.

Swift technological development allowed us to achieve the utopia of immediate access to every musical activity in
history. It is fascinating to see how it allows us to overcome all spatial constraints, merely by uploading and
downloading images of a musician playing far away. By illusion, we are taken to the original location. The data
available in the Internet and in our lives is thus greatly increased by the acquisition of technological devices with
these specific functions - for a reasonable price we can store a significant part of the world’s history of music in
our computer. This information, perceived from the consumer’s standpoint, spreads throughout the network.
The pre-digital age consumer was, because he could only have contact with a very small part of the music
available, decisively influenced by the traditional media (mainly newspapers, radio and television) and did not
interfere in the process of production, distribution and consumption of music. Nowadays, everyone is part of a
planetary and interactive platform of producers, sellers, listeners, promoters, etc. It is likely that this will allow a
more chronological and linear perspective on the history of jazz and help avoid the tendency towards
standardization of sound and image. However, we are only capable of achieving this if we research appropriately
and if we set our minds to finding our way within the vast ocean of available data, selecting the most relevant
information. If we choose, nevertheless, to free ourselves from the weight of tradition, we will certainly be forced
to constantly update our knowledge on what is being done in the present-day.

Placed somewhere in between classical music, more demanding and sophisticated, and popular music, simpler
and less rigorous in terms of composition, jazz benefits from this position. Despite being a relatively young genre
(approximately a hundred years of History), in jazz there was neither complete agreement nor consensus
regarding its norm and there were always many different styles coexisting and juxtaposed in the same space and
time. Excessively detailed systemizations lead to ineffective categorizations of the multiplicity of genres,
movements, idioms and styles generated and brought forth by jazz. Even though the changes happened quickly
and steadily, the old coalition between modernity and tradition gave rise to a sort of tension that propelled
creative and artistic improvements.

The speed at which these changes occurred made it difficult for audiences and musicians to fully understand
what was happening in jazz and the new forms emerging from within it. In art, one cannot speak in an evolution
based on slow assimilation of new techniques and aesthetics, though we can easily explain these processes. A
musician born in the first three or four decades of the 20th Century has witnessed several mutations in music and
this experience of metamorphosis is a specific feature of jazz with no parallel in other musical styles. This is
perhaps a consequence of jazz’s affinity with the aim to break away from the past modernism and avant-garde
art tendencies of the last century. In fact, jazz has adopted many modern arts strategies: capturing elements
belonging to foreign cultures (African, European, Arabic, Oriental, etc.), both in terms of composition and
rhythmic patterns as of the instruments used; introduction of non-musical objects and techniques of
manipulation of the instrument’s original sound - prepared pianos and guitars, electronic devices, digital
technologies, etc.; conceptualism; the acceptance of the influence exerted by other musical genres (rock, dance
music, minimalism, world music, among others); non-conventional scores; real time improvisation exploring a
sensorial, intuitive and instantaneous communication between musicians; introduction of choreography;
physical performance and the use of the body in a dramaturgical sense; the aesthetics of noise and chaos;
mysticism and esotericism envisioning music as a quasi-religious experience; mimesis of trance and ecstasy of
spiritual journeys in search of a higher conscience. Faithful to truth and beauty, jazz is experienced as a mission
and as an unfinished challenge in a quest for authentic freedom, something that is by definition unattainable due
to the fact that it is beyond our physical senses.

Jazz is intersected by countless narratives: art’s narrative and its modernistic poetics; the personal histories of the
people converging on the cosmopolitan metropolis built during the 20th Century, privileged places for cultural
fusion, out of which germinated an unprecedented phenomenon of miscegenation; those of both trained and self-
taught musicians; the narratives related to the discovery of new sounds and new musical instruments; those of
the artists influenced by new codes of musical composition; those of the streets, theaters, bars, dance halls and
brothels; of the concerts and festivals; of schools, academies and universities; music industry’s history; the
theoretical narratives of the critics and the people who wrote about jazz; and, finally, of the audiences who
listened to this music. All these histories were integrated into a great narrative that might have extinguished itself
but instead developed into an autonomous musical language in which every work has its specificity. Though
limited by rules, conventions and the heritage of its founding fathers and precursors, jazz grew spontaneously in
an urban and multicultural context. Acknowledged and categorized in a semantic matrix composed of complex
formal and historical structures, jazz is a kind of miracle, a symbol of the victory of chance against the universe’s
infinite vastness - a real presence that thrills and moves the people who listen to it. Ideas, however pragmatic and
descriptive as they may be, are only intellectual and terminological schemes we use to understand it. Jazz’s
corpus, organized as a sort of intimate dialogue which evokes incomplete and indefinite opinions about its
nature, brings forth a dispute concerning the essential elements of its definition. Looking back at jazz’s history
and its different styles, one may notice that there is a progression, something very similar to an evolutionary
diagram. The four most representative styles of 20th Century jazz (New Orleans, Swing, Bebop and Free) denote
a permanent oscillation between aesthetical disruption and the subsequent assimilation. Styles emerged as
musical and artistic cuts, cracks and blows in continuity, and they signal both the beginning and the end of an
era; it is impossible, however, to consider this process of change as a true evolutional transition. Swing and
Bebop, for example, are simply concepts and designations for open aesthetical territories that we are free to
manipulate and interpret in any way we wish. They are artificial and polysemous labels, comprising wide
semantic fields, mainly useful to journalists and theoreticians, who use it as referents. The meaning of these
concepts is permanently changing as time goes by and according to the specific position and the context in which
they are used. Some people consider Swing and Bebop somewhere in between New Orleans Jazz and Free Jazz,
symbolizing the death of the first and the birth of the second.

Often faced with troubled historical circumstances and turbulent political, social and economic events, jazz has
often played an important role in stabilizing and connecting antagonistic and fragmentary cultural elements.

In a context of permanent and rapid change, the researcher/critic must know how to differentiate and establish
relations between countless microscopic singularities, placing them in a macroscopic matrix. The mere fact that
an artistic work is considered innovative does not mean that it is understandable and pertinent. Favorable
reviews, when based on partial interpretations that focus only on the specificity of the work, are often incomplete
and ineffective. Peremptory and rigid praise of innovation for its own sake, voluntarily ignoring the multiple
factors of the context, is simply redundant. Just because something is done in the present day doesn’t necessarily
mean that it is modern or relevant; and the exhaustive repetition of a musical idea, despite its formal subtleties,
doesn’t endow it with artist autonomy or pertinence. Rarely does something truly new appear from underneath
the thick veil of novelty. Many of the current musical systemizations force the inclusion of certain artistic idioms
in their conceptual maps organizing the different musical types and genres in different categories and
subcategories. These artificial exercises of stratification are the consequences of globalization, of specialization
and radical individualization of art’s theories which, while exclusively reducing jazz to creative ideas and
abstract concepts, deprive it of its inherent emotionality and alienate it from reality.

Some theoreticians follow a chronological approach to jazz at the same time as they explore its relationship with
historical and social environments; on the other hand, others focus on its strictly artistic and conceptual
properties, deliberately ignoring the complex mental structures interfering with art in general and jazz in
particular. This bipolar methodology proposes two simple means of understanding a type of music which is by
definition difficult to comprehend, though both are useful if we wish to identify some of the more fundamental
elements of jazz. It is important, however, to identify the dynamics behind the appearance of jazz’s different
styles. These were neither accidental nor spontaneous, and the aesthetical advances and transformations cannot
be viewed as amorphous events immune to external factors. Understanding jazz’s cultural phenomenon as a
whole requires more than merely discovering a symbolic framework that can contextualize it along with all the
other experiences we may have of the world; we must regard it as a living organism, we must consider its quest
for an universal and timeless form of communication, analyze the way how performers and composers interact
with each other, acknowledge the role of instruments played by the musicians, be aware of technological
constraints and their potential, know composition and improvisation techniques, among other factors. All of
these improve our knowledge of jazz.

Jazz has lived all three ages of musical production: acoustic, electronic and digital. This is an important, though
not decisive, element to define this type of music, because it provides a specific historical identity to each
recording. Since it is mainly born of improvisation, the ghost of repetition is not a threat. The knowledge of jazz’s
distinctive features does not guarantee its absolute comprehension, even if we are capable of identifying its basic
and fundamental principles. Every different style shares with every other an obsessive quest for a musical and
artistic sense. Theoreticians often disagree about what defines a genre or style, because we can often see zones of
uncertainty, juxtapositions, syncretism, bifurcations, etc. By definition, jazz is and has always been, since its very
beginning, an intensively permeable form of music. The attentive and discerning listener will certainly recognize
a subtle and sophisticated cognitive synthesis of music and concepts in jazz, sometimes sublimated in the form of
a conflict, sometimes as pleasure and ecstasy, the consequence of an imagined and deeply physical experience.

What we feel when we listen to improvised music is far more intense if we are unaware of the compositional
processes and musical techniques of the performers - sound has a seductiveness of its own. Nowadays, and since
our daily life is flooded with music, we are forced to engage in the toilsome task of picking and choosing what we
want to hear. The media and advertising agencies mix great music with commercial clichés, thus nurturing a
hybrid musical culture. Music is processed and manipulated by our ears, thereby stimulating mnemonic
processes which generate countless cognitive and emotional associations.

The old cultural cartographies, based on principles of stability and absence of movement, were replaced by the
kinetics of worldwide traffic. Ancient theaters are now integrated in an interactive network and compete with
technology; they have lost their aura of solemnity and are no longer regarded as quasi-sacred locations.
Globalization has contributed decisively to hasten the deconstruction of pre-digital world’s references. Several of
the local and ethnographical forms of culture were set apart from their own origins and plunged into the ocean of
cosmopolitism: migratory movements intersect with streams of information, generating further
communicational dynamics.

There are few musicians we consider as innovative and original as their predecessors. Music is perceived through
our auditory senses and controlled by our intellectual system, morphing into a complex reality, both internally
and externally, blending past, present and future into a unique temporal moment. Penetrating this infinite
territory of cognition requires confronting something uncertain and unstable, something on the verge of
explosion. On the edges of space, time and thought, everything is extraordinarily simple, even if more abstract. A
scientific interpretation of the world doesn’t mean that we are free of the labyrinths of spirituality and emotion,
engendering new forms of fear and anguish.

For a long time, human beings felt the power of music merely through birds singing, the whistle of the wind, the
roar of thunder - music was yet to be invented. Man was merely an intermediary between the universe and his
own interior world, and he explored sound through his body, experiencing and learning how to control nature’s
acoustic grandiosity. He began to recreate sounds and invented a new mental space of aesthetical enchantment.
According to Greek mythology, Prometheus stole the fire of the gods and offered it to mankind - this reflects
man’s desire to overpower nature with his own body. The same happens in the ritualistic dances performed to the
sound of chants and percussions in which the body is the subject of a symbolic trade: man escapes from his
natural and objective reality and enters the realm of poetry and subjectivity. Fascinated by sound and rhythm,
man was transfigured as if dominated by his or another entity’s spirit. Incapable of producing a rational
explanation for this phenomenon, we invented the myth: a drama and a fable engraved in imagination and
disseminated through a collective fantasy, much as a dream shared by everyone. This visual fiction became the
intuitive archetype of mediation between individuals. Myth, dream and fiction were ways of bringing men
together and of filling the void: an obscure zone of knowledge dialectically impelling men towards

Music is the result of the symbolic meanings assigned to the sounds of nature. Endowed with imagination and
language, man began to understand how rhythm and harmony worked and, in an emotive response, elaborated
ideas about how the sound could represent his notions of the Universe. He invented music to rival nature by
organizing and structuring random sounds. Man placed himself in the center of the world by acquiring
knowledge about the truth, proportion, harmony and beauty in music, similarly as in relation to other art forms.
Music gave him an illusory sense of control and power because it presupposes thought, calculation, manipulation
and prior planning. Sound gave birth to a phenomenology of the unconscious, translated as sensations of joy,
sadness, contemplation, religiosity, trance, celebration, conflict, distress, revelation, etc. Music’s overwhelming
seductiveness led man in the search for more complex and more structured creations.

Man’s process of building his cultural identity was followed by his efforts to improve his musical skills (such as
the invention of instruments, of scales, of compositional techniques and of musical scores). He developed rational
explanations for the myths and the dreamlike realities he would conjure up. The end of myth meant that man
was obliged to face his destiny by himself and finally free from the existential fatalities to which he was fettered.
Freedom, however, was to be limited by the rules and laws he was about to create. Symbolic activity inherent to
dreams and transcendence provided a simplistic cognitive duality between imagination and reality. Fictional
recollections of an innocent and naive being before his original sin were, however, replaced by the image of the
man of future living in a world where technology manipulates and transforms nature. The idea of art as the work
of a higher entity which had chosen mankind to carry out his plans no longer makes sense. Nowadays, dependent
on and constrained by technology, we confront a new existential crisis and dilemma, of which art is nothing but a
                       TERMINAL PLACES...

In the beginning, jazz was a musical dialect used by black and white poor people of the South of the USA. It was
a means of expressing a spirit of resistance and the desire to protect their identity, not only as former emigrants
but also as an Afro-American community which had been sacrificed and harmed by slavery and, after its
abolition, was forced to live under a system that supported active and violent racial segregation. Most of the
musicians had no musical knowledge or intellectual conscience of the music they were playing. The fact that
information about that period is so scarce is the consequence of a deliberate strategy of concealment and
censorship regarding an activity that was not accepted and was considered subversive or inferior to other art
forms. Jazz was a response to a racist society that controlled, persecuted and repressed all signs of irreverence of
any kind. The metaphors used by musicians in both lyrics and musical structures were the result of an effective
oppression and the implicit denunciation of a profoundly unfair political system and a perverse social
environment. The clandestine meetings where jazz was played were followed by public and extremely popular
events where people exuberantly expressed their feelings and opinions. The music performed asserted dreams of
emancipation and the desire of revenge, often sublimated by instigating revolt and rebellion against the system.
It is not surprising that, for many decades, taverns, bars, pubs and basements were considered subversive
locations according to European culture. Regarded by both religious and secular institutions as places where
insurrection was encouraged and enflamed, these were usually situated in the poorest suburbs and were difficult
to supervise and control. Soon they would become privileged spots for the dissemination of popular culture,
where racial and social minorities ritualized their desire of freedom. People celebrated and shared their suffering
and sorrow in an atmosphere of freedom fueled by alcohol. This social environment allowed them to gain
conscience of their political problems; they understood that they were segregated and excluded from modern,
industrialized society and were inspired to fight against a new system of capitalist accumulation.

Jazz was born in this context of social and existential tension. Deeply rooted in the poorest and racially
segregated minorities, jazz became a powerful weapon of protest, highly seductive to the misfits. It also worked
as a common language for collective experiences of revolt and acted as a platform for cultural integration. Today,
jazz is not perceived that way, though it is still music for minorities. Activism and protest alone cannot
automatically generate an alternative to the system’s hegemony. Rebels often lose some of their innocence when
they fight against the predominant institutions. Their actions, no matter how honest and well-intentioned they
may be, become irrelevant and incoherent and end up strengthening their enemies. Destined to inhabit a
worldwide reality colonized by endless streams of images and sounds, we are forced to adopt a defensive and
distanced attitude in order to avoid being poisoned by toxic information. People are constantly urged to
participate and to turn into reporters of their own life, publicizing it through the screens of their brief cathartic
experiences, redemption not guaranteed. Jazz, as music for minorities, intensifies and amplifies our feelings of
solitude. Despite the easy access to information, the two opponents in the oldest war in jazz remain the same: on
one side, the conservatives, apologists of tradition and mainstream, classicists or old-fashioned, depending of the
perspective; on the other side, the modernists, the avant-garde, progressives and radicals, free jazz militants. Two
sides of the same coin. Jazz should be understood through a wide, global and open perspective so that we are not
deceived by the mirror - at some point, we simply cannot tell which side we are in and which image is our own.
The dualist model symmetrically divides the field of opinion into two, thereby proposing dichotomous and
excessively predictable answers. Everything is submitted to a game of dialectical tensions and choices and our
relationship with music becomes bipolar - we then begin to behave neurotically, stalking other people’s
movements, obsessed over our tribe. Ideas truly exempt of sparkling passion and emotion are impossible in such
an environment. To be forced to choose one of two sides makes it difficult to carefully analyze the music without
external and prejudicial interferences. Music becomes lifeless when one views it as a pretext for a fight between
rival tribes. In this conflict between conservatives and radicals it is wise to resist the auto-destructive power of
both factions or, in other words, to preserve one’s position as mere spectator, a sensitive, mindful and critical
one. If we accept one of the two possible answers of the conflict, we will end up giving up and ultimately
excluding the possibility of developing our own ideas, solutions and creative hypothesis. Group antagonisms are
lucidity’s worst enemies because they drain all our energies by forcing us to fight on their behalf. The most
important thing to fight against is the inertia of an exhausted system of dualistic perspective, fractured in two
simple and basic dogmas - tradition and modernity. The small victories and glories of one or the other,
ephemeral as they are, were almost absolutely irrelevant to the history of jazz; nevertheless, and despite the
theoretical contributions many people have done, the long-standing quarrel between progress and conservatism
remains ubiquitous and preponderant.It signals an exhaustive and endless creative cycle; to tear this chain of
destructive forces disguised as ideals of emancipation may constitute the beginning of a true alternative. Perhaps
the lack of choices and the claustrophobic system of repetitions, replicas and artistic counterfeits will draw
attention to the fact that it is essential to avoid engaging in artificial delimitations in music and avert the conflicts
and contradictions arising from legitimate differences of opinion. We must preserve a critical approach in order
to assert our independence from interests external to music and our autonomy from volatile discourse which, no
matter how radical and fruitful these might have been in the past, add nothing new to how art is perceived. It is
impossible to learn and understand jazz through school or university or by simply reading books. Our sensory
organs and our emotions, exposed to cultural and social transformations, play a decisive role on this task. It is,
and has always been necessary, to resist any kind of prejudice and reject any definitive and unavoidable point of
views, to fight against academic systemizations and defy ideologies based on a single formula that offer no
alternatives. Creativity requires a speculative territory of protest, indignation, conflict and innovation where one
can claim their right of freedom without taking risks with ideological or political overtones. It is important to
analyze the system with detachment, impartiality and exemption. To be faithful to beauty and truth means
necessarily to denounce the power of mass media and the capitalistic markets. Emotions devoid of values only
contribute towards the revival of the old struggle between “anemic liberals” and infatuated fundamentalists.
Zizek said “If the commonplace that we live in a post-ideological era is true in any sense, it can be seen in this
recent outburst of violence.” We are witnessing countless conflictive demonstrations of a feeling of disquiet and
malaise whose participants make no vindications and desire and propose nothing in particular. These riots are
the symbol of new phenomenon of ground-zero protest unlike any of the traditional political actions of the past.
Sociologists, intellectuals and other specialists, although striving to find a meaning for these manifestations, end
up merely casting shadows.

Trapped in a vortex of media pageantry, artists are forced to fight for their public notoriety in order to preserve
their status. They are helpless before the voracity for something new, before fashion and market tendencies
thriving on novelties. Zizek asks: “what is a "cultural lifestyle" if not that every December in every house there is a
Christmas tree-although none of us believes in Santa Claus?” Many people in jazz behave similarly. Some
programmers and critics, when questioned about the artistic pertinence of their choices, invoke the apology of
novelty, with their intention to present audacious and avant-garde projects, but, today, music cannot be
perceived in the same epistemological terms which were present during the era of New Orleans, Swing, Bebop or
Free jazz.

If we do not wish to be placed in the category of a “cultural fundamentalist”, we must escape, disobey, transgress;
this is not only a strategy of creative action but also of individual development, in contrast with the predictability
of cultural offers and the trivialization of entertainment in post-modern societies. It is wise to distrust everything
and to meditate on the powerful myth of escape, from the biblical exodus to the revolutionary ideals of freedom
and emancipation. Once we have broken away from the prisons formed by the market, egoism, egocentrism and
vanity, we may be ready to receive our desired autonomy and enlightenment and transform them into universal

Culture is not only made of technical skills and intellectual competencies but also of consensus and authority. If a
certain work of art gains its place in the people’s collective memory this is perhaps because of man’s genetic
predisposition to capture the intimate combination between music and technology, because technology is the key
element which renders the transmission and permanent rediscovery of our cultural heritage. In some cases the
need to preserve this heritage fosters policies seeking to protect and defend an intangible legacy; in other cases,
that heritage is economically exploited. People do not seem to believe in the importance of cultural values
because, by being forced to worship what is novel, the sense of community weakens under the seduction of
individualism and utilitarianism. The naďve and optimistic idea that humanity is steered by noble intentions and
purposes no longer makes sense. If that were the case, progress and evolution would be the main vectors of
History, and our societies would improve constantly. Even though often in the past humanity has decreed that
the world’s problems were about to be solved, injustice and suffering still exist and our living standards are
currently decreasing, a situation which causes numerous incontrollable bursts of violence and resentment. 

The concept of progress does not apply to science and it is the same with culture; if evolution existed in art, the
dialectical conflict between tradition and innovation would automatically generate new and better forms of
artistic practice; the ostensive denial of tradition would inevitably underpin and unmistakably legitimize the
artist’s work. The ultimate act of artistic transcendence would be the conversion of the whole Earth, property of
Humanity, into a ready-made. The planet would be transformed into a terminal place and the subject of
perpetual conceptualization, therefore putting an end to the abusive appropriation of Duchamp’s concept, which
is excessively exploited in contemporary art; future generations would cease to transform ordinary objects into
art and to intellectualize what belongs to the utilitarian and pragmatic world. This type of ethics would be likely
to slow down present-day creative efforts which compulsively produce works of art based on the concept of the
ready-made, invented by Duchamp in 1913. Some of those artists, dissatisfied with their achievements, try to
compensate for their failures and captivate the viewer by producing gigantic and disproportionate pieces.
Thousands of years ago, man used natural resources to manufacture tools, consequently inventing technique.
Earth, a natural work of art, was transfigured into a colossal ready-made, thus rendering that concept obsolete.
Under these circumstances, one of the most challenging and important artistic achievements of the 20th Century
would come to an end and man would be forced to travel throughout the cosmos searching for unknown
materials; otherwise, he would have to invent other artistic languages.

The artist who repeatedly copies, manipulates and quotes other artists intends to elaborate an original discourse
but such discourse is often based on mistaken premises. Duchamp’s ready-made has been persistently reclaimed
as a decisive influence on contemporary art and these projects are fully sponsored by a system which idolizes all
sorts of bizarre combinations and cut-ups. The revitalization of that conceptual fossil engenders countless
replicas of itself. Sometimes we feel that something new is about to appear, that a positive change is taking place
in art but the fact is that the original idea is still there, intact and immutable. On behalf of freedom of speech,
media and creative industries promote the permanent renewal of a territory impregnated with audiovisual
products that devitalize and trivialize true art. Apathy is all around us; we are surrounded by replicas; our bodies
were invaded by lethargy.
                       ... OPPOSITS MEET

Understanding modern jazz requires a comparative analysis of its past and to contemplate the aesthetical
fragmentation existing in the history of this genre. Man remains, despite all the technology available, the only
“place” where music lives or, in other words, only man is capable of receiving and understanding music. A jazz
listener can be a visionary, a universal spirit who can see across every boundary, beyond geographies and
aesthetics, or someone who privileges detail, who finds the scrutiny and study of any local and territorial variants
a challenging exercise. These two approaches reflect, respectively, a universalist predisposition in philosophical
terms and an ethnological perspective. Identifying with music is inseparable from its knowledge; we must learn
to recognize all juxtaposition and all the elements of differentiation, the definite and the ambiguous. Looking
back at the history of jazz, we easily conclude that, after the seventies, most of the music produced shows traces
of revivalism. The fact that a musician is influenced or develops ideas conceived by other musicians in no way
diminishes the dignity, sincerity and quality of his work. Today, more than ever, opposites meet. Musicians are
not allowed to ignore the past or the influences of the outside world. They are free to blend different styles,
genres, or worlds of music or, if bandleaders, to bring together musicians with contrasting backgrounds. Even
though many contemporary jazz projects are merely dedicated to the development of musical techniques,
compositional systems or concepts, there are some musicians who make brilliant efforts to interconnect
knowledge, intellectual subjectivity and emotions through jazz. Nowadays, musicians grow in environments
offering permanent contact with all sorts of musical genres and, although they are subject to a maelstrom of
sounds every day, which inevitably interfere with their aesthetical preferences, they still have the utmost respect
for the great artists of the past. Inspired by tradition, the most original and innovative musicians of the 20th
Century last decade and of the 21st Century have used quotation, reinterpretation, commentary and
appropriation techniques in their work. Even if they are sometimes unaware of this fact, they invent new musical
languages using old ideas and formulas that evoke memories and reminiscences of the history of jazz. This
apparent return to the past did not prevent the emergence of unique musicians, seriously committed to their art
and who practice what is called an “aesthetical deconstruction” of musical forms and idioms. The cultural
environment of our era favors a dialogical process between classical masterpieces and contemporary praxis.
Exploring old musical ideas, composers, musicians and improvisers create new and interesting idioms and
contribute towards relevant shifts in our musical perceptions and perspectives.

In a globalized and technological world, organized into an infinite network, jazz moves within the hyperspace of
planetary communication at the same time as street noises and sounds produced by several cultural sources
invade public spaces. Meanwhile, the supporters of tradition will continue to promote the genre’s taxonomy,
insisting on its uncompromising distinction, while the radicals will continue to defend the principles of
deconstruction, experimentalism, real-time improvisation, digital technologies, artistic hybridism…

Jazz encompasses a wide variety of stylistic proposals that prevent it from losing its relevance; the way those
different idioms interact allows jazz to reinvent itself. However, there’s a slightly unnerving ethical tension in
contemporary jazz: some artists chose to be faithful to ideals of truth and beauty whereas others seem to prefer
exploring unfathomable and hermetic artistic solutions. Ambivalence exempts jazz from being contextualized
and understood through a single matrix. Living within the most profound silence of its inner world, adventurous,
restless and meditative spirits are aware that it is impossible to organize the complexity of jazz styles and
languages into a few simplistic categories. Therefore, jazz should not be described simply as an exercise or as a
formula in which all is permitted. We can only fully understand contemporary music by intersecting sensibility
(subjective perception) and personal experience (physical perception). The temptation towards self-indulgence,
inertia and conformism must also be resisted, criticizing attempts to fossilize historical events and rejecting the
worship of novelty at any price. Jazz is a product of the mind. The fruition of jazz requires that we face its deeper
contradictions and paradoxes, the ambiguity of its idioms and the heterogeneity of its improvisations, enabling
us to find our own personal references regarding how it affects us in emotional and intellectual terms, how it
conveys and communicates its meanings and symbols. Criticism presumes ethical accuracy out of respect for
truth and beauty. A sharp and analytical point of view is essential to our understanding of jazz’s multicultural
dimensions. The conflict between its general concept and cultural conventions is inevitable. Casual  listeners fail
to notice regional interpretations and how other cultures commingle with jazz music. The history of jazz is also,
as stated above, the history of technological devices that allowed humanity to preserve its memory. There are no
shortcuts for comprehending music because it is a universal heritage, open to infinite interpretations. We will
never, in our lifetime, be capable of fully describing each and every one of its features. In that sense, we must
regard it from far beyond our personal interests, much as the modern man, when he first flew, became aware of
the fact that the world could be seen from several points of view, quite dissimilar to those he had known his entire
life (the cold hard ground). First, he felt an unusual sensation of wonder, then catching a glimpse of other and
more adventurous horizons.

Digital technologies will certainly continue to interfere with our perception of music in the same way as
analogical devices did in the past. Nevertheless, music, being a complex process of reminiscence, association and
intermediation of sounds, will always belong to the realm of the physical senses and intellectual faculties.