parody by nacrowe
ever since i became aware of him in graduate school, ive long been fascinated by the PIONEERING and ICONOCLASTIC FREE JAZZ musician ORNETTE COLEMAN. at the time i was studying to become an english teacher and i remember being tasked in a class with an assignment asking us to derive an analogy for who we were as educators. mine was something along the lines of "if my classroom was a JAZZ ensemble, i was ORNETTE COLEMAN." my professor appreciated it because embedded within it was this NOTION that classrooms (and by extension any mass gathering of people) were inherently COMPLEX, MESSY and UNSTRUCTRED things, but that order emerges from such.
COLEMAN of course is synonymous with the RADICAL FREE JAZZ movement of the late 1950s which sought to confront long-held conventions within the genre, most famously on the CELEBRATED album THE SHAPE OF JAZZ TO COME (ATLANTIC, 1959). traditionally ensembles would be assembled by a leader would walk the players through a tentative roadmap of where the recording session or live gig would venture through in terms of musical elements like TEMPO, KEY and basic CHORD PROGRESSIONS. COLEMAN did away with all that and empowered each participating musician to instinctively play what they felt in real time. free rein. no holds barred. this resulted in DISCORDANT clashing of NOTES and INSTRUMENTS, but often the players would resolve into each other and come to a mutually derived-at UNSPOKEN UNDERSTANDING and ARTISTIC EQUILIBRIUM. the musicians would listen intently to one another.
an ORDER would rise out of CHAOS.
that PHENOMENA is such a SEDUCTIVE IDEA that expands way beyond music. oftentimes as a teacher i would over-prepare and spend sleepless nights worried about how a lesson would land with my students the next day. in essence i was worried about CONTROLLING the situation instead of letting it happen and taking advantage of opportunities as they naturally emerged. towards the end of my first semester of student teaching at an NYC public high school that INSIGHT was what drove my UNDERSTANDING of pedagogy. i always came prepared (maybe even a little over-prepared), but entered each room knowing that i can only control what i can control and that people are MESSY with their own agendas and that groups of people take on their own COLLECTIVE PERSONALITY and what works well in one classroom has no bearing on the next one.
you just have to take it as it comes. same with WRITING, ART, MUSIC or any EXPRESSIVE MEDIUM. for me that was the lesson i derived from ORNETTE COLEMAN and it really impacted my sense of IDENTITY and PERSONA during my brief teaching career, especially when i was abroad in UNFAMILIAR locales.
embedded below is a recent DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC that includes a playlist celebrating the career of the LEGENDARY FREE JAZZ icon ORNETTE COLEMAN. enjoy!