AUTHOR: IVO MARTINS
EDITION: Guimarães Jazz Journal #11 - Câmara Municipal de Guimarães/ Associação Cultural Convívio/ A Oficina DATE: November 2016
Analyzing the aesthetical and artistic consequences of Ornette Coleman's work presupposes enframing the
saxophonist's creative strategies within a general principle of emancipation which began to take place in jazz in
the late 1950s.
After pushing Bebop's, and other subsidiary idioms of this movement such as Hard Bop or Cool Jazz, aesthetical
possibilities to its limits, the jazz phenomenon had reached a dead end, exhausted and with no ideas of what to
do next. Nowadays, to think of those zones of plausible exploration leads to the conclusion that there was still a
virgin territory available amongst the abysmal landscape of free improvisation.
The Free Jazz movement did not intend to disown the music of the past but to use it in the process of searching
for new musical solutions. Ornette did not agree that his music was called “free jazz”, which was the title of one
of his albums, because he wanted to highlight the originality of his work as composer and instrumentalist. In this
regard, it is important to mention that in the last thirty years of the twentieth century, the revolutionary project
was in crisis, and that the social, artistic and political disruptive clashes of the time must be understood and
contextualized within the turbulent dialectic between the power institutions and the individual forms of anti-
The outsiders no longer identify themselves with small groups of activists and prefer to participate in diffuse
antagonisms. Culture is now driven by individuals who refuse any affiliations with an official and pre-established
aesthetic or ideology. The autonomous and independent agents of our era produce assertive artistic solutions in
which they criticize cultural massification and the view of art as commodity. Nowadays, nobody is capable of
escaping a production economy where everybody has to pay for cultural products. In this context, we need to find
new and credible alternatives and refuse to submit art to the interests of the market.
Therefore, the capacity to seize the opportunities and to take advantage from the contradictions and virus of the
capitalist system show us the right way to follow. Contemporary artists are forced to reinvent their daily routines,
thereby destabilizing their rational plan to overpower a conjuncture that comprises and monetizes everything;
they are obliged to adopt a critical attitude in order to escape all practices of tracking, monitorization and
dissuasion exerting a decisive influence upon people's aesthetical judgements. The fulfillment of such objectives
also compelled them to develop new forms of resistance inside the institutions which, comprising artistic
techniques and languages, criticized the official powers.
Jazz did in fifty years what classical music did throughout three centuries. Such temporal compression enabled
the creation of extremely valuable works as well as a great amount of frivolous music. But it also generated the
emergence of blank spaces, obsolete genres and anachronistic music. This new reality postulates an educated and
enlightened audience, capable of discerning what is good art and what is bad art.
A group of restless and dissatisfied musicians, moving across an increasingly atrophied cultural context,
motivated themselves to explore the no man's land that existed in the market's fringes. They were focused on the
details and committed to the nomadic and unattached spirit of their music. This notion of freedom would play a
decisive role in the radical transformation of jazz.
With the appearance of rock music, which was perceived as the symbol of a new youth culture, jazz lost some of
its former admirers, and thereby its future was under threat. When, during the second half of the 1950s, Bebop
was assimilated by the mainstream, the non-conformist spirits moved to the non-places of melodic freedom and
refused to follow the traditional principles of harmonic and rhythmic structures. This dissension contributed to
even deeper mutual misunderstandings between jazz and its audience.
Ornette Coleman, born in the profoundly conservative and segregationist Texas, had already suffered the
consequences of social inequality and racism. In a sense, the constraints of the social environment where he was
raised had prepared him for the difficult artistic journey he was about to begin. His self-confidence and sense of
persistence, qualities that he had acquired throughout his troubled childhood and adolescence, were crucial
instruments of survival. The jazz he created was different from the music played by other jazz musicians because,
in spite of its freedom, Ornette's work manifested an intelligent compromise between the legacy of the saxophone
sound in jazz and the blues, its original source. However, his music was simultaneously very close to the avant-
garde tendencies which were taking place in classical music, since it absorbed all kinds of non-jazz influences
coming from Europe, Africa, the Muslim world, Latin America and India. In the 1960s, the jazz which reflected
the spirit of the times with greater accuracy was that which contained a wide variety of sounds or, in other words,
the less North-American jazz.
In 1960 Ornette recorded the album “Free Jazz” accompanied by a double quartet featuring Don Cherry and
Freddie Hubard on the trumpet, Eric Dolphy on the bass clarinet, Charlie Haden and Scott LaFaro on the bass,
and Billy Higgins and Ed Blackwell on the drums. The album, recorded in stereo with each quartet playing on a
separate channel, explored the technological possibilities provided by the new audio machines. The music is
absolutely remarkable. Although Ornette considered the expression no more than merely a name of one of his
albums, “free jazz” became a musical category designating a new jazz style. Ornette was always, throughout his
whole life, very reluctant to use this designation, but he was unable to prevent the world to adopt it as one of the
key concepts in contemporary jazz's terminology.
Ornette's musical language reminds Charlies Parker's style and is much closer to Bebop than one would think at
the first audition. The changes he introduced can only be partially explained and, however, were capable of
transforming the way jazz was played by other musicians and perceived by the audience. Often criticized and
misunderstood Ornette accepted the criticism nonchalantly and proceeded his journey towards an unknown
musical territory. He established a compromise between the creative impulse and his personal vision of jazz while
at the same time preserving, to some extent, obedience to the traditional matrix of jazz. It was perhaps the
irreverence of his music and the protest manifestations implicit in the origins of jazz what worked as a link to the
Afro-American culture, the civil rights movement and its musical traditions. The rejection of success typical of
the avant-garde artistic tendencies is sublimated in Ornette's work; nowadays there is no longer a tradition of
disruption, confrontation, fracture, irreverence or audacity because the audiences buy records and attend
concerts just to be entertained.
Ornette's quartet of 1959-60 was the first jazz group playing with almost complete freedom, adding to its musical
performance an element of relational integration between all musicians. Using apparently very simple strategies,
the quartet's music deeply impressed the Five Spot Café's audience, which was fascinated by the precision of the
musician's movements; Ornette and Don Cherry approached the main themes in unison after improvising long
individual solos. Most people did not understand what was going on; they could not understand how the band
worked and could not predict the exact moment when all the musicians would play the main theme again,
switching from raw and chaotic improvisation to written and composed music with remarkable accuracy. The
quartet did not go unnoticed. The anchor of it was the bassist, Charlie Haden, who created unpredictable
connection lines between the soloists, refusing to submit to predetermined harmonic sequences and thereby
adding cohesion to the group. Haden had discovered and developed an innovative language through which he
created a musical non place open to all forms of sound exploration. He created, to that purpose, a mechanism of
communication in which the infinitely small stimulated light, informal, flexible and soft elements, therefore
replacing the big and heavy elements supporting the traditional structures of jazz.
The blank spaces in Ornette's music unfolded a myriad of musical possibilities in multiple directions. His
language, completely innovative at the time, would be gradually assimilated by other musicians, thereby
influencing jazz as a whole. Nowadays nobody pays attention to the splendor of those moments, nor is aware of
how modern jazz is impregnated with Ornette's concepts. We tend to forget simple ideas right after we learn how
to deal with them, and the collective amnesia to which we all adhere hypocritically erases the conflicts
experienced by artists when they are not understood; we have a tendency to depreciate the musician’s audacity,
the risks he takes and the truth inherent to his creations. Time transforms unique things into ordinary things.
Ornette Coleman's innovative modus operandi placed the musicians who he played with on a different level of
interaction, a very simple musical process based on the dialogue between all members of the group, to which we
could give the name COMMUNICATION and through which he developed a spirit of communion and mutual
respect. According to Ornette's own words, ninety per cent of their music was only possible because all musicians
were listening to each other while they played. Each musician acquired the ability to get out of himself, listening
to himself while listening to everything around him at the same time. Such an experience allowed them to
improvise on another level, since all of them had step into a higher level of musical consciousness which
generated a sense of belonging to a collective entity. All musicians involved were ready to devote themselves to a
supreme value, thereby revealing a sense of detachment to their own egos that is extraordinarily rare, both in
music as in life.
Despite the success and all the praises his music received (more in Europe than in the United States), Ornette
remained focused on his artistic experiences. He dropped the second horn and began playing in trio because he
felt the need to personalize his music. That change was again misunderstood. He then began to play trumpet and
violin, besides saxophone, in order to explore the timbric diverseness already present but still incipiently
developed in his quartet's music. Ornette was still trying to discover new blank spaces where he thought his
music could flourish and thereby converted into a multi-instrumentalist. His personal struggle was driven
against routines, boredom, all the common-places arising from the assimilation, imitation and repetition of the
formulas discovered in the past.
Don Cherry explained that what brought him close to Ornette was the feeling of isolation and solitude they both
shared and which triggered the notion of improvisation as a way to bring people together in spiritual terms. It
was, Don Cherry says, “as if only love could exist”. His work “Complete Communion” was no more, no less than
an exaltation of the importance of communication in music.
Meanwhile, other musicians were reacting to the forms of individual “isolation” within the modern world by
developing new ideas about free improvisation. The artistic creation was their specific way of acting critically and
responding to the oppressive routines imposed by the new post-industrial society. In that sense, jazz expressed
the same emotion of denial of all rules and formal conventions through young musicians who followed and
deepened Ornette's lesson and musical discoveries. In the United States of America, we may refer the names of
Archie Shepp and Roswell Rudd, John Tchicai's New York Art Quartet, Milford Graves, Reggie Workman and
Albert Ayler's quintet; in Europe, Peter Brotzmann's trio, Han Bennink, Fred von Hove, Keith Rowe's AMM, John
Steven's Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Alexander von Schlippenbach's trio, Evan Parker, Paul Lovens and
Manfred Schoof's quintet, among others.
In the late 1960's, the movement inaugurated by Ornette had increased extensively and was now a genre under
its own right. In England appeared a new system of free improvisation with a distinct and unique approach
towards free music. This tendency was appropriately entitled insect music. Its musical structure, more complex
than that of free jazz, was based on the principles of speed and metamorphosis. Evan Parker or Derek Baley's
groups and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, for instance, played a decisive role on the conceptualization of this
innovative musical system. This music did not obey to free jazz's main principles, and this fact would be of great
importance, exerting a huge influence upon the second and third generation of real time improvisators, both in
Europe as in the United States of America. Surprisingly enough, one may say that in a sense Europe returned
Ornette's musical legacy to the America where he was born, adding energy, vitality and sophistication to it.
New artists and bands would emerge from the North-American jazz landscape; in 1971 Henry Threadgill, Fred
Hopkins and Steve MacCall founded the group Air, in which all elements were part of an extremely balanced
unity. “Acient the Future” became the key-concept and slogan of this tendency.
In the mid 1970's jazz rock was predominant within the international jazz scene, and the influence of free
improvisation was gradually weakening. Miles Davis released the album “Bitches Brew”, which achieved great
success, suggesting that in the future jazz would blend with rock music and become a popular and commercially
successful musical genre. The future of free improvisation, on the other hand, was unknown.
The album “Dancing in your Head”, released in 1977, was Ornette Coleman's response to what was going on in
music. He switched direction and invented a new language that would transform the way how the audience
perceived his work. The sound of Ornette's saxophone is still the same but it was now integrated in the midst of a
musical mantra composed of complex themes and phrasings insistently repeated with minor structural
variations, and supported by a mixture of rhythms from different musical styles (rock, free jazz, African music).
The critics found the right designation to this kind of music, entitling it free funk. Nonetheless, it was not before
the 1980s that Ornette's subliminal message contained in this album would be fully understood, having been
assimilated and developed by other musicians. New projects became followers of the Prime Time's (the name of
the group) harmolodic sound, namely Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society, James Blood Ulmer,
Jamaaladeen Tacuma, among others. At the same time, other musicians, who had never collaborated with
Ornette, began to explore the path he had open with his musical experiences: Steve Coleman and his M-Base
system, Ray Anderson's Slickaphonics, Joseph Bowie's Defunkt, Gary Thomas and Greg Osby, just to name a few.
In the late 1980's other groups associated with the AACM and the Black Artists Group were redefining and
reconstructing free jazz, converting it into a wide and outstretched movement, thereby surpassing its original
concept, profiting from both the talent of free jazz's pioneers and the higher education of the new musicians, who
were now beginning to study in prestigious universities.
The 1990s was the period during which all the experiments in jazz reached its zenith. Several styles and idioms
were explored simultaneously, the tendencies exploded and expanded, the sound was fragmented and atomized.
All hierarchies and classification systems collapsed. The avant-garde disappeared and left at times chaotic blank
space behind. The creative processes were much faster now. Therefore, the promise of commitment and loyalty to
certain concepts, styles or movements had ceased to make any sense. The musical practices expressed a
continuum line travelling freely through time (past, present and future), creating connection points between all
temporal stages and establishing a sort of continuity within a chaotic world. The jazz's tendencies of the 90's was
potentiated by technology and the new media, and seemed to live in an eternal present, where everything was fast
and hybrid. Musicians were now dealing with a wide open musical universe and transposed it to a collective
context, in a vertiginous process of expansion and deconstruction of its means of expression in which the feelings
of unrest, anxiety, confusion and bewilderment were the motors of a reactive over-excitement. The notions of
disruption, denial, refusal, protest and irreverence were replaced by those of lightness, acuteness, control,
knowledge and rationality.
However, the changes that took place in jazz during the 1990s were not fully understood because jazz was still
analyzed through an historicist perspective. It may be important to refer some its most distinctive features:
combination and intersection of all stylistic tendencies; refusal of all categories; assimilation of jazz within a
personal territory; exemption of all codified genres, idioms and styles. Led by a third generation of highly
educated musicians, the downtown movement of New York (formed by musicians of undisputable importance
such as John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Marc Ribot, Uri Caine, Bobby Previte, Bill Frisell and Joey Baron, among
others) was the symbol of this new paradigm. These are some of the principles on which their musical ideas were
based: multiple concepts, heterodox methods, provocative techniques (such as the cut-off), stylistic juxtaposition.
This phenomenon gave birth to several important groups, such as Naked City, Dave Dougla's quartet and The
Tiny Bell Trio, who blended klezmer, Balkan music, soul, rock and free jazz. They were followed by Tim Berne's
Bloodcount, Steve Bernstein's Sex Mob, the Jazz Passengers, Ben Alison's Medicine Wheel and the band
At the same time began to appear some musicians and projects more interested in preserving and exploring jazz's
more traditional legacy, such as Wynton Marsalis and the so-called Young Lions. Their musical style was based
on an open and creative process of evaluation of jazz's heritage. A genre which, comprising classical elements
from the blues, standards, American songbook and swing, is considered too conservative by more intolerant jazz
lovers. These musicians developed interesting ideas about jazz's historical patrimony that is now fully available
on digital platforms. From this immaterial reality emerged creative musicians and skilled instrumentalists who
control every musical processes. It is impossible to deny or to ignore the past; therefore, the knowledge of music is
acquired through a permanent dialogue with tradition, both in free jazz as in mainstream jazz. The only way to
add something relevant to what has already been done is by overcoming the limits of the work developed by
brilliant musicians from the past - the search of originality by simply inventing something new is not enough to
justify an artistic creation.
To limit our understanding of jazz's phenomenon to a clash between free jazz improvisers on one side and
followers of the tradition on the other is too simplistic. Creative musicians survive in a limbo between guidelines,
working simultaneously in several musical projects. There are artists who choose to move within frontiers and
division lines, with incursions both in free jazz as in tradition, pursuing a more intimate and existential quest
across an eternal present. Everyone moves in a common space and experiments different styles. Despite the
clichés and imitations, some instrumentalists considered conservative developed some remarkably relevant
projects playing a coherent and solid music that may fit in the category of Neo-hardbop. In this context, all
excesses of opinion are perceived as a tyranny of the prejudice expressed by those critics who aspire to an
unachievable ideal of purity.
Musicians are all alike; on the ground level, they all respect tradition, despite the different paths they choose.
Some are influenced by a common heritage and work upon that material, reinventing it; others, more attached to
the past, emphasize jazz's universal dimension. In conclusion: the more uncompromised improvisers bypass
history, focusing on the disruption, while more traditionalist musicians explore jazz's historical references.
The implosion of musical categories was beneficial to European jazz and to its geographical and cultural
diversity, allowing several musicians inspired by their local backgrounds to emerge within the jazz scene; those
are the cases of Terje Rypdal, Jan Garbarek, Enrico Rava, Tomasz Stanko, Arild Andersen, John Surman, Kenny
Wheeler, Henri Texier, Pino Minafra, Gianluigi Trovesi, Django Bates, Louis Sclavis, Joelle Léandre, Agustí
Fernández, Ramon Lopez, Paul Rogers, Paul Dunmall, Paal Nilssen-Love, Mats Gustafsson, Per Ake Holmlander,
Axel Doerner and Carlos Actis Dato, among others. The most important feature of contemporary jazz continues
to be its dialogic and collaborative spirit.
Nowadays there are few solid and stable projects developing consistent and original ideas. On the other hand, the
majority of today's instrumentalists are technically very skilled and possess a wide musical culture, but these
qualities favor a more individual and self-centered body of work. The great musicians of contemporary jazz are
equally comfortable working on their own projects as in projects led by other artists. Such dispersion hampers
the development of groups with a regular and artistically consequent artistic activity. The musicians, who work
exclusively for a “working band”, perceiving it as a laboratory for their musical ideas, are rare.
Despite these changes, some bands were able to achieve a meritorious level of artistic relevancy and cohesion.
Among these, we may refer the projects led by Bill Frisell, John Scofield, Joe Lovano, Paul Motian's Electric
Bebop Band, Charlie Haden's Quartet West, Wayne Shorter's quartet and James Carter's quartet and, on the free
improvisation's side, those of Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Mat Maneri, Joe Morris, Barry Guy, Keith Tippet,
Vijay Iyer, Peter Evans, the ICP Orchestra, the Italian Instabile Orchestra, the band The Thing (featuring Mats
Gustafsson, Paal Nilssen-Love and Ingebrigt Haker Flaten) and Magnos Broo's Atomic group.
Other more rock-oriented projects base their musical practice on a research open to all kinds of influences an on
the intersection of different styles. Those are the cases of Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog, Jeff Parker, the Medesky,
Martin and Wood band, Steve Coleman's Five Elements, Henry Kaiser, Nels Cline, Nils Petter Molvaer, Erik
Truffaz and Bugge Weseltoft's New Conception of Jazz, among others.
Everything that was written above allow us to draw some conclusions regarding the sociological characteristics of
contemporary jazz. When something is repeated, preserving its fundamental identity and the intensity of its
message, people are surprised. Nowadays, the meaning of art is shattered and fragmented, dispersed in multiple
idiomatic variations, making it hard to discern a coherence narrative. The lack of a gravitational center favors an
attention drawn almost exclusively upon the surface manifestations. Nothing is sufficient, definitive, decisive or
consistent anymore; art lacks depth. Cultural manifestations float in the air like dust particles, moving erratically
through the void.
The understanding of reality presupposes its division in multiple representative segments. In his book “Time's
perfume: a philosophical essay about the art of waiting”, Byung-Chul Han writes: “When one narrates time, the
latter decomposes itself on a shallow chronology devoid of events. The narrator is no longer capable of
assembling the events around him. Temporal dispersion utterly destroys any effort to compile history. Hence, the
events narrated do not possess a stable identity. Dispersion must be abruptly interrupted, and such an
interruption always arrives too late, replacing its end.”
Therefore, it is necessary to avoid a temporal fragmentation in order to reassemble the facts within an enclosed
unity of sense - we must avoid all oscillations. To capture the essence of the facts presupposes focusing our
attention on the painful limitations and difficulties that force us to improve our survival skills. Our life may be
long and healthy but, on the other hand, extremely boring if all the irregularities, cuts, divisions, conflicts,
doubts, uncertainties and insecurities remain unaddressed and unsolved. All incongruities, internal
contradictions, crisis, accidents and upgrades are the result of a vital dialectic; all changes and new inventions
are generated by these insoluble tensions. The defining factors of an event should reflect dissatisfaction, risk,
persistence, unrest and suffering, but the superficial narratives produced by the mass media render everything
flat, erasing all edges and perforating ends.
Without thinking and research, the events fall asleep, an entropic sleep, thereby breaking into pieces made of
ordinary facts. Moreover, the impossibility of creating an independent event in a global and mechanized reality,
based on the shameless exploitation of the “new”, converts it into an historically irrelevant moment. The
spectacle of capitalism, which absorbs and homogenizes everything, renders communication artificial and
curtails our narratives of their own meaning.
Nonconsensual, provocative, dysfunctional or merely bold ideas tend to disturb people. Without conflict, things
become too tamed to induce surprise, fascination, curiosity and knowledge. Conformist spirits tend to agree with
the majority and lead an endless and random journey towards a territory devoid of connection points. Sailing
rough a sea of permanent incompleteness, where all efforts of differentiation are perceived as if they were mere
novelties or pleasantries, most of the events are condemned to an utter irrelevance. The lack of boldness inherent
to the abandonment of higher values and in favor of the benefits of critical refusal and denial of the system's
impositions compels people to choose comfort, easiness and well-being. We must accept what is difficult,
uncertain or complex in order to absorb the notion of travel; without it, life disappears or arrives too late.
One of the main problems in contemporary culture is the fact that it lacks substance. Real time communication
generates news that dissipates within the immense cloud of daily occurrences. People are overwhelmed by an
unstoppable chain of events emphasizing the power of innovation and originality, and are deceived by the here
and now of entertaining stimuli. Therefore, each event is made of its own destruction, since it subtracted of its
own dialectic. The different stages of time become indistinct and all events merge chaotically in a nebulous
The lack of project causes the acceleration of reality and we have no time to pay the necessary attention to daily
facts. Such a dynamic, based on consumerism and hyper-individualism, is supported by communication devices
and hampers critical thinking. The incapacity to establish solid and longstanding commitments creates a general
sensation of bewilderment instead of freedom. It is impossible to decode the reality when one is not consistently
connected to the past and the present and, therefore, the notion of time as a composite matter divided in well-
marked stages is essential to our understanding of life. We must slow down time in order to perceive reality
Cultural events adopted many of the strategies used by global capitalism. Profit's speculative drifts pushed
financial flows to the limit; in a world running towards infinity, each monetary movement is conceived in order
not to endure too long. When events happen so fast like this, we have no motivation to seek any explanations or to
draw any conclusion from them. What is important is to benefit from them with less effort, and this objective
must be achieved at any prize and as soon as possible. A situation that implies commitments and lacking any real
connections with the difficulties of life favors opportunist strategies, exploiting the circumstances of the present.
The advantages of such economic system are the result of the immediacy that rules reality and are nothing more
than statistics. That is why we value the number of participants, visitors, entries, sold tickets, reviews, television
appearances, “likes”, references on the social networks and internet in general - mere accountancy. It is the
event's dynamic which produces its promotional strategy. Chain impact, or viral, phenomena define their main
objectives and the event's evolution. Moments are mimetic and any creation made with this kind of volatile
elements, in an acritical and claustrophobic environment, generates an absolute proximity and simultaneity,
thereby compressing the notion of time. Each moment succeeds another one within an indistinct amalgam of
facts full o repetitions, imitations and accessions; therefore, what cannot be captured by the present simply does
not exist, which means that we have only access to two time dimensions: the nothing and the now. The narratives
engendered in result of the lack of temporal space are light, frivolous and mundane, directed towards
entertainment. When there is no identity, planning, thought or conceptualization, things make no sense.
The substance of an event is always incomplete, fragile and powerless before the media's hostility. The most
important thing is to avoid irreversible damages by protecting it against the excess and futility of frivolous
promotional rethoric. Any event is made of a magmatic and shapeless matter, susceptible of being perceived
under many different points of view. However, the most interesting perspectives are those which signal the
ambiguous nature and analyze its conflictual dimension and its dichotomies. Each of these devious tropisms are
like declarations of war against the system and its study enables the full comprehension of its survival
mechanisms. Negativity generates a complex web of contradictions which cannot be explained merely by
spontaneous and ephemeral narratives. The fractures, collisions, conflicts and debates are all parts of a fertile
dialectic epitomizing struggles of influence and interests. The juxtaposition of different ways of thinking
composes a fundamental structure that must be preserved at any cost.
More important than to simply apprehend the present is the attempt to understand how past decisions gave birth
to new forms of self-preservation. Conceiving a project presupposes the development of rational strategies and
mental diagrams and systems, as well as the recreation of a utopic vision with an uncertain future. This effort
will only make sense if our plans are consistent with our interpretations of reality. Virtually everything can be
used in order to create art or to think about the world we live in; all ideas must coexist, but we have the
responsibility of adding something to what has already been said or done.
Consensual and reasonable narratives, avoiding any controversy or crisis situations, perceive the event as an
extinct volcano. Only negativity is capable of informing us about the dysfunctions, the collisions of magmatic
forces and the soil's hidden energies. The apparent normality enfolding history's incandescent matter feeds the
event with dialectic vitality. Favorable or unfavorable judgements about the event cause the phenomenon's
mutations by generating the inevitable conflicts that arise from subjectivity. In short: events need conflicts to
The most important thing to highlight about cultural events is the effect caused by the ambiguity of the feelings
and interests at stake, which lead to endless and inconclusive discussions. Our duty is to question all consensuses,
to abandon the security perimeter of unanimous and to choose facing a chain of dangers. We must antagonize
the artistically correct, routines, consensus and predictability, obeying to an imperative of refusal. In art, the
opinion of the majority usually leads to decadence.
Freedom is a relational concept deriving from the tension between opposite sides.
Ornette's lesson lasted more than fifty years. Its simplicity travelled across time through an unprecedented
creative process. Based on an experience of communication between musicians, the ideas behind it were being
constantly reconfigurated and the musical movement led by a small group of improvisers in the late 1950s
enabled the evolution of several other concepts. In a world where everything ages and becomes obsolete too fast,
Ornette's vision was capable of slowing down time, even though it was often very close of complete forgetfulness.
Nowadays, our attention is constantly stimulated by new products, and nothing remains attractive for too long.
Good ideas need to breathe within time in order to prevail, and depend on the audience's knowledge in order to
multiply themselves. Consumerism devalues creation and high culture has been gradually replaced by volatile
and entertaining products. Ornette, and some other jazz musicians, was able to make his ideas endure
throughout time against all odds. Its survival is a mystery and the secret behind its longevity urges us to meditate
upon his work. Therefore, all jazz lovers have the duty to think about the reasons why his musical concepts
survived and were disseminated through all music styles, even if the circumstances we live in nowadays are so
ruthlessly hostile to meditative contemplation and waiting.
TRANSLATION: MANUEL NETO