January 9th, 2011 / 7:47 pm
Craft Notes & Film

Ornette Coleman on Writing + B/W Films on B/W = Sweet(forgive)ness

Ornette has been writing a book on harmolodics but it’s yet to be published.
Someone should really turn the tables on that one.

From an interview with Jacques Derrida
via ubu via wire:

Repetition is as natural as the fact that the earth rotates.

I don’t know if it’s true for language, but in jazz you can take a very old piece and do another version of it.

… you don’t need the alphabet to understand music.

The music that I’ve been writing for thirty years and that I call harmolodic is like we’re manufacturing our own words, with a precise idea of what we want these words to mean to people.

I truly believe that whoever tries to express himself in words, in poetry, in whatever form, can take my book of harmolodic and compose according to it, do it with the same passion and the same elements.


From an article in The Wire:

If you are touched in some way, you are in with me.

I’ll take the Wiener schnitzel and the spare rips and a beer and a coke.

Three things I refuse to worry about — that’s black or white, rich or poor or having enemies.

I took a cab out here from the airport and the driver was listening to the radio, a song about some woman with blonde hair and blue eyes who had taken away the singer’s man. I could see that the driver, a white person, could see that image in his mind. He was probably thinking ‘I wish I had a woman like that’. As a black person I recognised the theme as a blues but if it had been, the guy wouldn’t have recognised it as the same story. You know what I mean? But, listen, whatever race I was I wouldn’t want to have that song as my spiritual. I don’t know why any race should want to cling to the images of suffering.

I don’t. These concepts – racism, rich or poor, having enemies — have all been designed for people to react upon each other in a survival manner. Either for the sake of money or just plain I-don’t-like-you. Something makes you take that concept as your personal vendetta against society.

I’ve never believed that you had to destroy to be better than the next person or that you had to be poor to be creative. Human beings, regardless of race, are more important than categories.

But do you know what I find? I find that women don’t have the problems as much as men. You know why? If you’re married to a black woman and she has your baby and then you divorce her and I marry her and she has my baby — she’s gonna love both those babies. But you and I might not even speak to each other. That’s the difference.

From his “Harmolodic Manifesto”
via this French blog:

I play pure emotion.

Chords are just the name for sounds, which really need no names at all, as names are sometimes confusing.

There is a music that has the quality to preserve life.

Blow what you feel — anything. Play the thought, the idea in your mind — Break away from the convention and stagnation — escape!

My music doesn’t have any real time, no metric time. It has time, but not in the sense that you can time it. It’s more like breathing — a natural, freer time. People have forgotten how beautiful it is to be natural. Even in love.

When we were on relief during the Depression, they’d give us dried-up old cheese and dried milk and we’d get ourselves all filled up and we’d kept this thing going, singing and dancing. I remember that when I play. You have to stick to your roots. Sometimes I play happy. Sometimes I play sad. But the condition of being alive is what I play all the time.

I was out at Margaret Mead’s school and was teaching some kids how to play instantly. I asked the question, ‘How many kids would like to play music and have fun?’ And all the little kids raised up their hands. And I asked,’Well, how do you do that?’ And one little girl said, ‘You just apply your feelings to sound.’ She was right – if you apply your feelings to sound, regardless of what instrument you have, you’ll probably make good music.


The abstract from an article in The New Yorker:

Talk story about avant-garde jazz legend Ornette Coleman, 70… Mentions his new apartment in the garment district… His conversational style is diffuse, wandering from idea to idea, a little spicy— less like one of his solos than a rehearsal for something. He’ll be talking about “the human condition” or “the idea that ninety per cent of music, except classical music, is race music,” and the next thing you know, mid-sentence, he’s ditched that thought for something else…. There’s no doubt that Coleman could book himself into the Village Vanguard or the Blue Note anytime and hold forth for a week or longer, but he has grown completely uninterested in playing clubs… Coleman’s notion of “free jazz” is rooted in what he calls “harmolodics,” and although he spent some time at his portable electric piano trying to explain it, it really is a hard theory to follow. What’s clear is that Coleman is not interested in traditional ideas of melody and harmony as the singular basis for his music, nor does he believe in using traditional tunes as launch pads for his improvisations… Thelonious Monk, who was himself an explorer in sound, once remarked of Coleman, “Man, that cat is nuts!” Writer listens to a thrilling new recording he’s made with his son, Denardo, who plays drums; an Asian singer; Indian percussionists; and a bassist—an ineffable blend of India and bebop and funk. That music will be part of a program Coleman will put on Thursday evening in Battery Park…

I highly recommend seeing The Cry of Jazz, a black independent film from 1959,
preserved by the Library of Congress in 2010. Soundtrack by Sun Ra. It’s rad.

And it’s totally on the youtube. So are these others down theres.


And then Luis Buñuel‘s The Young One says like, Oh by the way.


Woah and also Cassavetes’s Shadows comes in with an interesting contribution to this discussion. From a sweet angle: entirely improvised. Free jazz, man. Free. Fucking. JazzZ.


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  1. nationalheadquarters

      That last video is a real gem.

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