So the following tribute to the life and work of Faruq Z. Bey is humbly offered as an esteemed token of my great love and respect for this wonderful man and the bedrock principles and values that his rich and compelling art as musician, composer, poet, thinker, and prophetic witness so clearly embodied and represented via the always fecund African American cultural tradition in the realms of sound, language, philosophy, and spiritual expression. This rich compendium of sounds, words, gestures, and other ritual offerings in the form of recordings, videos, writings, interviews, pictures, and philosophical musings by and about Faruq are taken from a number of treasured materials contributed from my own personal archive in addition to other sources. Enjoy....
The Visionary Consciousness Of Faruq Z. Bey and the Long Revolution of the Black Creative Music Tradition
by Kofi Natambu
"Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art. "
"What is there to say about the instrument? It's my voice--that's all it is."
"I recognize an individual when I see his contribution; and when I know a man's sound, well to me that's him, that's the man. That's the way I look at it. Labels I don't bother with."
"There are some intervals that carry that human quality if you play them in the right pitch. I don't care how many intervals a person can play on an instrument; you can always reach into the human sound of a voice on your horn if you're actually hearing and trying to express the warmth of the human voice."
"I say play your own way. Don't play what the public wants. You play what you want and let the public pick up on what you're doing--even if it does take them fifteen or twenty years."
"There is no such thing as an "avant-garde." There are only people who are a little late"
"Once you hear music, after it's over, it's gone, into the air. You can never capture it again."
"There is no music on paper because music is sound, wave form, vibration form. You can only refer to it. People mistake the symbol all too often, not only in music but in all walks of life they mistake the symbol for reality...If you mistake the symbol for the reality, you wind up with a two dimensional reality instead of the multidimensional reality that is given us at birth. This is our birthright, our spiritual birthright."
In the revolutionary panorama of global 20th and 21st century art and culture the endlessly dynamic and multivaried creative matrices, structural forms, and stylistic expressions known popularly as 'Jazz' have consistently served as a beacon for a very wide array of artists, cultural workers, and intellectuals throughout the world, including musicians, composers, painters, sculptors, scientists, filmmakers, dancers, architects, writers, poets, critics, and philosophers as well as regular connoisseurs and active supporters of the arts and sciences. The typically innovative character and critical expressiveness of this music has been--and remains-- an essential element of its complex and ever evolving identity throughout its history, and nowhere is this more readily apparent and central to our contextual understanding of its historical praxis and social reality than in African American aesthetic and cultural traditions (and its myriad diasporic extensions). These expressive and spiritual traditions, modalities, and structures are (ideally) never static, fixed, or reductive in either form or content but are resolutely dynamic, mutable, and transformative in their ongoing engagements with all given or received materials, conceptions, and creative orthodoxies. The individual musical artists and ensembles who consciously seek and work to maintain an experiential, (meta)physical and ideational/philosophical connection and fidelity to these principles and values (psychologically rooted in an ongoing quest for genuine self determination through arduous struggle, deep research, and personal discipline) are inevitably the artists and groups who provide us with a compelling musical/sound experience that imaginatively critiques or independently goes well beyond what we are conventionally accustomed to hearing.
Thus our knowledge, acceptance, and appreciation of these artists and their works constitute a history of an ongoing dialectical link between their music and our own individual as well as collective aesthetic and visceral desires and needs. In the specific history of the many different and varied vernacular styles that have emerged in this music since the early 1900s there have been a corresponding series of major individual musicians and composers who literally served as pivotal transformative forces in the music's extraordinarily rapid evolution and development. These pioneering revolutionary figures: Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie from the groundbreaking 1920-1945 period established the fundamental template that nearly all subsequent 'Jazz' artists and composers have followed since. Ironically, this template was also unavoidably deeply rooted in what was always considered an essentially 'avant-garde' sensibility and creative point of view in terms of modern art in Western culture--whether there was any actual outright affinity or bonding with other such self identified 'advanced' groups and aesthetic formations in Europe and the United States among these revolutionary African American musical figures or not.
It was this widespread perception of the music's advanced modernity intricately connected to its deeply rooted black vernacular themes and sources from its various globalized African diasporic identities throughout the West that has deeply influenced--and continues to impact--the general reception of the music's power and authority in both critical and popular artistic circles. Out of this ongoing tension between the contending (and contentious) interpretations and framing(s) of the music's aesthetic and thus philosophical relation to the largely Western societies and cultures it has grown up in since the late 19th century has emerged the virtual explosion of the many outstanding and clearly 'advanced' ensembles and individual figures within the music since 1945. These leading younger and later legendary (and equally revolutionary) black musicians and composers from the 'golden age' that defined the 1945-1980 era: Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Clifford Brown, Eric Dolphy, Max Roach, Horace Silver, Modern Jazz Quartet, Herbie Nichols, Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, Roscoe Mitchell, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Julius Hemphill, David Murray, and the World Saxophone Quartet etc. constitutes both the 'modern' and 'postmodern' foundation and launching pads for what became ironically one of the major and yet relatively unknown individual musician/composers (outside the local Jazz cognoscenti in Michigan and in certain 'avant-garde' circles in Europe) as well as one of the most important but largely unheralded groups in the country in the rich canonical history of the music since 1980.
That individual musician and composer was Faruq Z. Bey a Detroit born and bred saxophonist and music theorist. The group was a legendary Detroit based andso-called 'free jazz' musical ensemble that Bey founded in 1972 called Griot Galaxy. Over the next 12 years until a near fatal motorcycle accident in 1984 that put Mr. Bey in a coma for nearly a month, Faruq and his cohorts in the various incarnations of Griot Galaxy blazed a singular path of richly innovative and creatively independent approaches to the use and expansion of melodic ideas, harmonic structures, and polyrhythms that relied greatly on Bey's unique and highly idiosyncratic musical syntheses and extensions of conceptual modes pioneered by such major 'New Jazz' artists of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s as Coltrane, Ayler, Coleman, Braxton, the Art Ensemble, Roscoe Mitchell, Julius Hemphill, and Sun Ra. What distinguished Bey's individual contribution to this recent tradition was an equally committed and creative appropriation and extension of ancient traditional modes, expressive forms, and structures culled from North and West African sources as well as 'Middle Eastern' ideas and modes from Arabic and Islamic traditions. Through engaging in deep collaborations and creative exchanges with such important members of Griot Galaxy as the drummer and percussionist Tani Tabbal and bassist Jaribu Shahid as well as the other saxophonists and multi-instrumentalists in the band like Anthony Holland and David McMurray (as well as such earlier players in the group from the mid and late 1970s as the clarinetists, flautists, harpists, and percussionists Elreta Dodds, Kafi Nassoma, and Sadiq Muhammad), Bey created the basic compositional and improvisational template that subsequently became the structural and spiritual foundation of the powerfully original, hypnotic, and electrifying music that captured and enthralled listeners in hundreds of legendary SRO live music performances in Detroit clubs, bars, concert venues, theatres, and music festivals.
ALBERT AYLER: 1936-1970
BY FARUQ Z. BEY
they did not need you, Albert
they did not need and
we could not bear
the awful weight of
your song Albert
of Ancient Dynasties
of occult stellar
communities, of Ausars
& cosmic parody they
prefer to stare blank-eyed
into the god-damned maw
of instransigence, we
could not hold nor protect
we who are raw &
debauched would not
suffer for your
brutally olympian sweetness,
the invocation of power
ghosts, your untimely
candor, the burden of your
and so they come
loudspeakers in the nite
with jarring angular
voices comes red mists
& sulphiric yellow rains
so we sweat pus &
languid oils from the east
comes prophets unacquainted
comes the anti-cristo
comes in halting
arhythmic steps, & we're
to assume them dancers
they come with stones
& equations they claim
to love the brilliant imago
if you are the dali lama
then your light is dispursed
saxophonists under the
evasive streetlights of
As for Me I must forage
SOLID GROUND: A New World Journal
Volume 1 Number 1
Reprinted in Nostalgia For The Present: An Anthology of Writings (From Detroit)
Editor: Kofi Natambu
Faruq Z. Bey & GRIOT GALAXY--"Song Of The Khemti Nobles"--OPUS KRUMPUS, 1984
Drums, Djembe -- Tani Tabbal Percussion,
Djembe-- Panda O'Bryan
Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone -- Anthony Holland
Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone -- Faruq Z. Bey
Acoustic Bass, Electric Bass -- Jaribu Shahid
Recorded live July 1st, 1984 at Nickelsdorf Konfrontationen, Nickelsdorf, Austria.
AT THE BELCREST HOTEL
INTERVIEWED BY KOFI NATAMBU, EDITOR
SOLID GROUND: A NEW WORLD JOURNAL
Volume 1 Number 3/4
March 17, 1982: Part I
Solid Ground: We're talking to Faruq Z. Bey at the fabulous Belcrest Hotel (mutual laughter) here In the city of Detroit. We're going to be talking about music and life. Faruq, when you first got involved with the idea of music, what was your intention?
Faruq Z. Bey: (Pause) . . . I got involved with the "idea" of music before I knew what it was. I didn't have any intention, I was just affected by it. It was something that affected me. When I became involved with the idea of playing it in high school, I guess I just wanted to be a "jazz bass player." That's what I started on, string bass. Later on when I started playing the saxophone, music became a functional metaphor for a. way to live. And that's what I was trying to do then, affect life, my life and the life of people around me, using the music as a metaphor. Some kind of magical system of dealing with things.
S.G.: When you started playing instrumentally, did you find that music served as a scientific concept or was it a question of trying to express some personal values?
Faruq: Well, I don't see a real dichotomy there. I mean it was a scientific way of expressing personal values. Anything that you get involved in serious enough can be analyzed scientifically, methodologically or whatever. As a method of analysis, it can then be projected based on whatever principles you arrive at. So "scientifically speaking," it's a mode of expression. I guess any artist does that. He has his own or commonly agreed upon system of analysis. Either you're taught it by somebody elseoryou're fortunate enough to perceive it by yourself. More or less.
S.G.: You are described, along with many other people, in the media primarily, as being a "jazz musician." But there seems to be some confusion, from my point of view, over what "jazz" is supposed to be about. How would you describe what you do?
Faruq: Well, to begin with, and I've said this a number of times in the past. . . having a kind of passing acquaintance with the Arabic language, I came to find out that "jazz" itself is an Arabic word. And it seems that scholars and pundits here, for various reasons, a lot of which are social-political, tend to want to bury the etymology of the word under a lot of nonsense and myths, and they usually come up saying that they don't know where it came from. But it's obvious where it came from. The question is: How did it come to be here? It's obviously an Arabic word, and the Arabic meaning of the word JAZZ means to cut a thing short. Now applied to music, it means "to syncopate." The problem is socially, politically, you raise serious questions when you start asking: How was a music that was generated by black people come to be identified by an Arabic term, unless these people spoke Arabic rather fluently, and if so, then what does that mean? To me it means that a lot of people who were brought over here as slaves (so-called) were Muslims, and that has its own implications and ramifications. But getting back to what you were saying . . . "jazz" . . . I'm proud of the "jazz tradition," you know, the music that came to be called "jazz." But for what I want to do with music, to limit it to simply a "person who syncopates" seems rather dumb. I mean a lot of people syncopate. Some betterthan others. But then a lot of stuff I do Is not syncopated at all. I mean, syncopation is just one toolamong a number of tools or devices that I use. I guess I'm nit-picking, but I don't like definitions of any kind. I'm a musician. I'm trying to become a better composer. But that's it as far as I'm concerned. I'm a person. I don't even like the terms "art" or "artist." I don't think they define anything so why bother? But that's where we live so...
S.G.: So when you're doing what you do as a musician, what is the idea behind creative expression for you?
Faruq: For me? To communicate. Hopefully to communicate some positive forces in the environment. To hopefully reach some responsive chord in the people around you through the quality of your existence. Beyond that, it's a means of, in the kind of society that we live in and the way that the music has been turned into some kind of commodity, some kind of "thing" that you use to make money. . . I think that's beneath most intelligent people's efforts. To use something like that with those kind of possibilities, those kind of forces, an analog like music or any other so-called art form as a means of controlling the minds of other people to ends that may or may not be to their best advantage, I think that's beneath an intelligent person. Anything I would do, if I was a plumber I would try to use plumbing to improve my life and the lives of those people around me. I think any energy that a human has in this universe is to be used for that.
S.G.: Let's talk a little bit about the whole idea of the development of the music and the role of the artist in that development. When you look at the question of "evolution" in music, what does that mean to you?
Faruq: I question whether evolution is possible in music. I question whether it exists in music. You see, in order to have evolution as I understand it, there has to be some goal, there has to be some point where the thing that is evolving is completely what it can be. I think any piece of music is perfect as it is, as it's performed at that time, that's at any time. If the musicians, the performers, are conscientious and are doing the best they can at that moment, and they're taking into account all of the factors that are in the environment at that time, and they're using them to the best of their ability, then every performance is as perfect as it can be. So how can it "evolve"? A person can evolve as a person toward some goal that they may have in mind; for instance, I would like to be a better composer. Now what that means to me does not necessarily carry over to anyone else. That is a better composer for me. A better composer for me is one who has better control of the elements that I would have to express the metaphors that I'm trying to express. But in terms of the music itself evolving, I've heard music that they call "primitive" from Africa and other parts of the world, South India, the Aborigines, the so-called "primitive people," and in terms of the production of the music, in terms of the conception of the music, in terms of the emotional feelings that are expressed in the music and the response of the people, this is the most perfect music that you can conceive of. I think this attitude is another effect of the elitism of certain social groups to set up a hierarchy of standards and then compare the works of entire cultures to some arbitrary standards that were set up by people who don't even understand the cultures that they're commenting on. In other words, to say that this music is primitive and therefore substandard, say the music of the Bantu people, which is some of the most highly evolved harmonic, melodic and most definitely rhythmic music in the world or that the world has ever seen, and then to compare itto European symphonic music and say that.the Bantu music is inferior to European music is just sheer arrogance and racism, really.
S.G.: You've raised an interesting question that's often been raised throughout the history of the West, and that is the question of criteria, creative criteria or cultural criteria in this context. This whole idea of "standards." Do you think there is a need for standards, and, if so, what is its actual relationship to the music itself?
Faruq: Well, my feeling on that is that these human activities that have come to be known as "art," any of them, any of these analogs such as music, the visual and graphic arts, or poetry, or what is called poetry, is entirely too complex as a process to have these "standards" applied to them. Again, it gets back to in order to have a standard you have to have a goal. You have to have an objective. You have to have some concrete example of a thing by which to compare it. If you don't have that, then you can't have a standard, you can't have any way of measuring it; because most "critics," most "pundits," most so-called "scholars" have no idea of the composer's or the performer's or the improvisor's intent, have none whatsoever, and most of them are too arrogant to approach the performer and ask him what his intent was. But they still insist on applying these standards, whatever that means, to the works of other, and for all practical purposes, alien souls. They're alien because no one's ever bothered to find out what they really think about what they're trying to do. The only person you can really ask what his objective is in terms of something that is close to a person's entire life force, his whole soul, his spirit, the only person you can really ask and establish any kind of measurement is the person himself. If you aren't willing to do that, then you have no right to say anything about it, really, nothing at all. Because there are no standards for a person's spirit. There's only standards for things that are measurable like technological stuff, like you can measure an automobile; you can measure any number of things that are out there, but these things are by their own definition different than the activities of the spirit. Which in this part of the world is called "art."
The point is there is no standard that is applicable to creative work. Consequently, establishing arbitrary standards are the whims of people who have set themselves up as "critics" or "scholars," "pundits" and so forth. Those standards only apply to them and whatever they are trying to arrive at. Now, if people want to know what that's about, then they should ask them: "What are you trying to achieve?" But in order to understand what the artist is trying to achieve, you can only ask the artist. Because that whole process, as I said before, is too complex. There are too many factors that the artist or performer or composer has to bring into a certain relationship in his own mind and spirit in order to produce this thing for someone outside of that to have anything to say about it one way or the other. All they can say is whether they can respond to it positively or not, and that's subjective, that's open to everyone. I don't value the opinion of the scholar any more than someone off the street. Because I'm reaching at something deeper than a person's intellect.
But I think the whole thing arises out of this particular social and economic situation that we live in where there's a necessity to standardize in order to understand. But that leads to mediocrity as far as I'm concerned. That leads to everything being knocked to one bland level so that it can be marketed. That's what the whole thrust of the thing is. Marketing. In the first place. Because the people who merchandise things don't trust the average person to be able to ascertain things to their own understanding and concerns. So consequently they set themselves up as the arbiters of culture and art and creative works and so forth. But actually all they are are the arbiters of money. They decide who makes the money and who doesn't, who gets the social play. They establish who people will listen to. It's no accident that the cultural mobsters are the people that they pick as their knights errant so to speak also are the people who make the most money in their chosen fields. They're also the ones who nine times out of ten or more often than that, say, 99 times out of 100, are the ones who come closest to whatever the particular political party line is at the time.
S.G: So, looking at the Western world's perception again from the perspective of these self-appointed critics and arbiters of taste in these societies, when we look at the historical development of what is called Western Art Music, vis-a-vis "Jazz," "Pop" and other forms of cultural expression, why is it, do you suppose, that the development of what we call "jazz" in the 20th century has been denigrated from a cultural point of view? Aside from the obvious question of political control.
Faruq: Well, there's a number of factors involved in that, but they all stem from the same thing, that this is essentially a racist system to begin with. You have again a group of people who mostly out of their own ignorance insist that because they produced it or, rather usually they didn't produce it, they co-opted the people who did produce it, but because they had something to do with the production of a certain form of music or a certain approach to music that this is the superior form. Consequently, it doesn't matter what anyone else produces; it doesn't matter in terms of the real value of any form in relation to another form, they're going to insist that they're superior. It's like the whole situation about "jazz," the whole "up the river" myth, the whole New Orleans as the birthplace of the music blah, and all that. You see, part of that equation is that jazz was born in the whorehouses of New Orleans and so forth. However, if this is not a deliberate effort of certain people, then it's a case of a very deeply rooted bias against the cultural achievements of any people other than themselves. It's just tribalism grown large. But the point is, by saying that this music comes out of the whorehouses this makes it "unsuitable" for presentation in the world "culture markets" and so forth. The world concert halls, etc. This is saying that this music is a vulgar form, and that it's doomed to stay that way forever.
Personally, I think music that's structurally based in improvisation speaks more to the reality of the times than a music that speaks to conditions and an environment that existed four or five hundred years ago. Any musician who is sensitive to the nuances of the music can tell you that the notation system is a very shallow interpretation of music. Again, there's so many factors that go into it, and it's so complex, that the notation only gives you the skeleton of what the music really was. That music that was produced by Bach, Beethoven and those people is gone. It will never happen again. Any music that happens is gone and will never happen again, just like Eric Dolphy said. And what you got by the notation system is just a very meager reference to what happened, a very meager reference.
Because music is sound and not paper. There is no music on paper. There's no music on paper because music is sound, wave form, vibration form. You can only refer to it. People mistake the symbol all too often, not only in music but in all walks of life they mistake the symbol for reality. The symbol is merely the symbol and should never be mistaken for the reality. If you mistake the symbol for the reality, you wind up with a two-dimensional reality instead of the multidimensional reality that is given to us at birth. This is our birthright, our spiritual birthright. I just say all that to say I think music that is centered around improvisation speaks more to the necessities of the times. This is a music, if you could translate it into an analog in terms of your life style, then it would be more responsive to the conditions that you have to live with.
S.G: When you look at the whole tradition of "folk music" and the idea of "folk art" generally as a concrete form, what is your perception of folk elements, folk values in terms of the principle of sound organization?
Faruq: Well, I have problems with terms like folk music now, because, first of all, you have this world-wide media machine at work, and if representatives of folk culture had anything to do with it, had any kind of control over what went out over the airwaves, or what went out in the name of folk music, then that would be a valid term. But you have a media machine that is controlled again by an elite. A self-appointed elite who have set themselves apart from ,everybody, and they decide what even becomes popular. Usually folk music represents that music that came out of the so-called "vulgar" sources, the masses really. That music was identified as folk music, and it defined the aspirations and the needs of the masses of the people, most of the people. The majority of the people. But now with this media machine at work, you can't even say what defines what anymore! Because most of the stuff that we're hit with only defines what the merchants, working hand in hand with the political forces, people who are trying to manipulate the direction of the large majority of the people in the world who feel for some reason, "manifest destiny" or "divine right of slobs" (laughter) or whatever, that it's their right to determine for other people what their lives should be like. Or what symbols should represent their lives. And that's why we're being hit with so much garbage, I mean literally garbage! Because these people don't understand the forces that they're messing with to begin with. They don't care. The market is such that people will buy what is available. Especially when you've got a captive audience. When you have a captive audience like you do in this country, what the hell: you put it on the market, they buy it. What else are they gonna buy? Marketability is the whole name of the game.
S.G.: I remember one time you an I had a very interesting conversation about the whole idea of "crystallization." What do you mean by the concept of the crystallization of ideas in music and how does that affect our perception of process?
Faruq: The crystallization of a form to me represents the form at its least effective, because at that point the form itself has ceased to grow and change. It has ceased to be affected by other forces around it. So consequently it's locked in. It's dead. It's as simple as that. Life is motion, death is stasis. And once you crystallize a form then it's dead. Now that's not to say it has no value. A crystal has value. People love diamonds and diamonds are crystals (laughter). But in terms of being translated into working metaphors for living people, living forces, that is no longer useful except as a reference. In my estimation, since I'm alive and caught up in the thralldom of living, I'm only interested in those things that are alive. I will take time out to observe crystallized forms as reference, but I can't spend my life studying death.
S.G.: Can you give an example of what you mean by crystallized form in the Western context in terms of music?
Faruq: Most art in the Western context is crystallized. Because that seems to be the only way that the Western elite mentality, now I'm not talking about the average person from the West, I'm talking about the ones who decide that they want to run everything. That seems to be the only way they can understand things. I think it has something to do with the politics of it, in that it's the difference in building a house out of mud if you live in a tropical area, because it's cheap and it's functional and it's more efficient than bricks or wood because it keeps you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. As opposed to building a house anywhere or everywhere you go out of bricks because "that's the way you did it at home." And not only that but "bricks last a long time." It's a certain insecurity to me. If you ever notice banks were built out of granite . . . I mean formerly, now they're just built out of anything because I guess it reflects the state of the dollar (laughter). But they used to build them out of very rich material, these giant pillars, etc. They looked like Greek temples, and it was like an imitation of that as though it was what is known as "sympathetic magic." As if we put this thought out here, this thing, this system, and the thought that brought this about will last forever. Or as long as these rocks will. But the Great Depression proved that to be bullshit.
The point is what has come to be called "classical music" in this part of the world is a crystallized form. I knew this small European music ensemble of strings, and they had this one very talented violinist who insisted on interpreting the written music as though it were alive, and he stood out. It was immediately noticeable in the context of the group, because his music sang as opposed to everyone else's cold rendition of exactly what was written on the page. And this guy insisted on trying to playthis stuff with warmth and feeling. So, therefore, he didn't really work well with them, even though in my estimation he was a real musician, whereas the others weren't real musicians to me; they were more like technicians. A computer can do the same thing. As a matter of fact, if they keep going, computers might replace all of those people. But in my opinion what they call "classical music" is a crystallized form.
But the art institutes and museums and so forth are full of this crystallized art. Camera photography is a boon to artists because it released them from that necessity so that they could use that particular wave form, the graphic wave form, because all art is wave form manipulation. You can use the graphic wave form to express other things than what a camera could do. Because the camera will crystallize that instance of time in two-dimensional form exactly with the precision that no artist could ever approach. So that released man again to pursue other areas. Those sort of things are the value of technology. But to confuse that with the act of creation, the process of creation, is backwards. It goes against what the whole force is about. They're doing the same thing with what was called "Be-Bop" music. They've turned it into a classical, crystallized form. And consequently killing it. It can't live and grow, because every step you make toward locking the form in is a step toward killing the form itself because it's no longer spiritually alive.
S.G.: So that gets back to the whole question that scientists are mulling over these days. Physicists particularly. The idea expressed by mathematicians like Godel or scientists like Heisenberg of "indeterminacy" and its relationship to the very idea of creation. The process of creation as being informed by the notion of change occurring, that as you attempt to develop a particular form you run into the immediate question of the change of that form. It's constantly regenerating itself in another form...
Faruq: Right! That's the meaning of life itself. I don't know about indeterminacy. I used to think of (this process) as indeterminate, as I understand the term, but now I'm starting to think in terms of long and short rhythm cycles. I think that any pattern that exists in the universe is on a rhythm cycle; it's just that some are longer than others. It's just like any wave form. You have short wave forms, micro-wave forms, and then you have these extremely long wave forms. Then if you subscribe to this idea of the expanding universe, then for our purposes we're dealing with this one really long wave form (laughter) .. . You know that goes all the way from the "Big Bang" to the "Final Contraction." It'll probably happen again but we won't know about it. Whatever form we're in. The point is that I'm now toying with this idea or theory of long and short rhythm cycles, because as a musician I'm forced to be sensitive to these rhythm cycles. No matter how angular a pattern might appear, if you watch it long enough it will turn itself over and repeat itself. And dealing with the peripheral patterning cycles that I like, personally I find that as long as you deal with certain mechanisms, like the saxophone which is achromatic 12-tone instrument, there are a finite number of patterns on that instrument. That is something we can never get away from. These things (instruments) are machines. They are limited by definition. The patterns are long, don't get me wrong, but there will be a time when all of that will run out. We'll exhaust it. In my experience watching the short rhythm cycles, when that happens these patterns will repeat themselves. Now you can call that indeterminacy, it appears indeterminate to us because we don't know what's coming up next. But that's because the more we penetrate that area, the more we are exposed to ever longer and longer rhythm cycles. With longer and longer patterning systems and so forth. That's how I see it now.
S.G.: That has some very interesting implications for the concept of "function" and "meaning," because it appears that in African cultures, traditional cultures, etc., they have a different attitude toward and a perception of function and meaning in the spiritual communication of values. In terms of the idea of improvisation in relationship to what we've been talking about, how do you think function and meaning is expressed in terms of the idea of improvisation as a language form?
Faruq: Well, in the first place, improvisation is a term that only vaguely describes the process. Again, if you mistake the symbol for the reality, you're going to wind up in a cul-de-sac because it's two- dimensional in a multi-dimensional process. So you can only extend it as far as it will go. But it goes back to the objective of all humans, not only artists and so-called creative people, but all humans since we're all using the same process whether we know it or not, and we're all trying to achieve the same end. The objective is to attune yourself as closely as possible to those forces in the universe that make for the betterment of life. This is obvious to some people that you come into this life at point A, and the rest of your life from that point on is spent in trying to improve the quality of what you're doing. However you approach that. Some people think they can only do it by destroying the quality of someone else's life. Then some of us believe that that's not necessarily so, that it would get better and better for all of us if we all just work at it.
I see what is called "improvisation" as the process of making living music. I only see that asa metaphor, and the mere you can stretch that metaphor the more meanings you can give it in a positive way. The more people on one level or another in their own creative process can convert into what can be called concrete mechanisms for existing in the environment that we're living in now. In other words, if you voted the same way that you listened to music, then we'd have a different kind of government. Unless you listened to stupid music, then you'll wind up with the same kind of government you've got now (we both crack up).
S.G.: In having conversations with various musicians like Sam Rivers, Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman, etc., I've often tried to raise the question of how do they view the idea of environmental structures, which some people might generally refer to as social-political structures or hierarchies. How do these environmental factors affect the development of the music in terms of communication?
Faruq: (Pause) Ummmm...that's a good question. That's what people say when they can't think of an answer (laughter) . . . I see that any piece of music I write I try to make it a microcosmic equation for the macrocosmic equation that I'm living in. I try to have it reflect my own existence in terms of my environment. So all the forces in my environment are brought to bear on it. Consequently, in terms of the "classical" approach to composing music, I have to break a lot of laws. Because that approach to making music does not apply to the times that I'm living in. There are too many factors that are outside of that particular experience, that particular equation. There are too many factors that are brought to bear on me that have no analogs in that equation. So consequently my music is contantIy changing, and I hope that it continues to until I die, and that shows me that it's still alive and capable of responding to the environment itself as I live in it. But I guess that's a natural thing.
A lot of the forces are negative. The kind of environmental position I'm placed in forces me to struggle against forces that are for all practical purposes trying to stop what I'm trying to say. They perceive some kind of destruction of their own ends if I'm allowed to continue. That's the way they see it. I think they should relax and everything will be all right. But that's neither here nor there, because they're not going to do it. That's any artist's responsibility to attempt to reflect his reality as best he can. Now reality itself, as you know it if you're striving to attain the truth, then there's a universality involved because I don't believe in contingent truth. I believe that there is a truth that holds all of this together. The so-called "laws of science" that the scientists keep claiming for themselves are really just forces that we have all come to recognize at various points in time. To me that's the fallacy of the myth of super- technology that we're living under. That these suckers are claiming to have damn near invented singlehandedly these laws that actually govern the whole universe. When you leave earth, the same stuff is in effect; I mean, they didn't invent this shit, who are they?
S.G.: There seems to be a lot of speculation about the direction of what has been called contemporary creative music in terms of its impact on world culture. When you look at a concept that people like Anthony Braxton have advanced about the role of ideas in this part of the.world on what's going on outside of this context, how do you view the impact of the ideas that have been developed here on people's traditional view of music as an art?
Faruq: You know it's been said that black music and musicians, regardless of what form of the music they're playing, have always been considered in the avant garde of world culture. But that's probably because world culture itself is for the most part, without outside forces, stagnant. Consequently, you have North American black music representing a force throughout the world that is all out of proportion to the number of black people who occupy this part of the world. They're playing some form of black music in every nook and cranny of planet Earth at this point. But I'm not so sure about the prophetic implications that are placed on black musicians. When you analyze precolonial African culture, you'll find that this is the role that musicians and the bards and poets, wordsmiths and the graphic craftsmen have. It's a traditional role, so it's really in relation to the regular, mundane workaday routine. But you see, this whole dichotomy of art as opposed to common man is something that is peculiar to the Western experience anyway. Our whole struggle here has been to synthesize that. In trying to develop some kind of workable synthesis. There's no music on paper because music is sound, wave-form, vibration form. You can only refer to it. People mistake the symbol all too often for reality. Which is why on the one hand the musician is placed on some kind of pedestal in the minds of people, but on the other hand starve to death at the same time. Because it's a given that very few honest musicians or musical technologists "make it" into that rarified income realm of the super-wealthy. It's not those people who do it, it's the entertainers who are in a different field altogether. A lot of musicians have that peculiar talent to transform themselves into entertainers, but the two don't necessarily equate. Most musicians don't even see themselves as entertainers. That's not the point of it. So it's an uneasy truce; it's an effort at synthesizing something, trying to create some kind of real life out of all this, which has led to a lot of traditional misconceptions, basically.
I read this book called The Black Aesthetic (Doubleday, 1972). There was this essay by Ron Welburn that postulated that Charlie Parker was the first black American artist. I thought that was very interesting, because before that the cats didn't think of themselves as artists. "Artist" is a peculiar term. I mean, you can search around for the definition of art and artists and nobody really has one. But everyone claims they know what it is. But it's one of those paradoxical things where it can't be nailed down. Personally, I have little patience for that sort of thing. I just use it for the purposes of communication, but I don't think of myself as an artist because I don't know what an artist is. I don't know of anyone who does. If anyone does, please tell me. Write into the magazine, let me know (laughter)...
S.G.: Folks please write in 'c/o 'Faruq Z. Bey' (laughter). When you look back at some of the influences or rather some of the people that you've "experienced" in your own music, who are some of those individuals who have had an impact of your own thinking and perception of music?
Faruq: I guess that's a kind of inevitable question. I always cringe when I think of it because it's so hard to say, you know. For one thing it's always changing. I might be influenced by one person today, and depending on his output or my own personal changes, next year I might think it's horrible. And I have to make allowances for that. It may appear contradictory, but to me it's just motion; it's something that you have to put up with. But at various times, of course. At the risk of sounding redundant, the initial impact was Coltrane. I mean, he at that particular phase of my life, he affected me more deeply than anybody else. Then later on I came to appreciate people like Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, those kind of people. I'm trying to achieve a point in my own personal development where I realize that those people are just who they are, "influences" and nothing more. I would rather understand thei( motion, their process, rather than be affected by it. Of course, people like Charlie Parker, it can go on and on, but my development-since it isn't as linear as the chronological history. For instance, I heard Trane before I heard Bird, I mean heard inside. I mean I heard Coltrane because Trane affected me emotionally. While Charlie Parker's virtuosity and imagination were striking, I didn't hear him emotionally until much later. It's like a complex, everything is developing at different rates. Inside even myself. So one thrust might be valuable here and less valuable over there for me. That's why I sort of question "The Cat" concept. You know, the concept of "The Cat" that grew out of the Be-Bop thing. I'm hoping that the music itself will grow and diversify to the point where it won't be necessary to have "A Cat" anymore. A single, monolithic giant that everybody follows. Because I think that works to the detriment of the creative activity of the music. We should be at the point now intellectually and emotionally and spiritually where we can accept a person's output for what it is, on its own terms. I think that's the important thing. That goes back to the standards again. The "Cat" syndrome, the "Cat" system serves the merchants more than it serves the actual creative technicians who are the musicians or the audience. It doesn't serve either of us as well as it serves the people who sell it, because here they have all rolled into one a role model, a pre-packaged entity for everyone to pattern themselves after. So it makes it easier for them to sell again.
S.G.: When you look at all the experiences you have gone through with various manifestations of "Griot Galaxy" over the years and the kind of critical attention and popular attention that these various groupings under the banner of Griot Galaxy have garnered, what do you think has been the role of Griot Galaxy as a collectivity In terms of some of the ideas that you've been expressing?
Faruq: Well, Griot Galaxy has served as a means of making these ideas somewhat concrete. You begin with a perception or a concept, and you do the necessary work to bring this within the realm of your ability to project it, then you go through whatever changes are necessary to create an environment for that. To me that's what Griot Galaxy is. I mean not only for myself but for everybody that participates in it. I've always felt that's the most important thing about a band. That it be a vehicle for everybody's expression. But that has to do with my feelings about charismatic individuals and all that which I don't particularly hold with. It's a collective. And in any state that you see that collective in, it just reflects whatever that equation is calling for at that time. Because of the way we're trained, the way we're tuned, audiences tend to be rather whimsical in their tastes. Because we're all trained to look at externals rather than content. For example, at one point you see a band with two females in it, and it attracts all the people who are concerned with women's liberation and that sort of thing so they are cheering you on. Then the next moment you see five guys running around with silver on their faces, and then there is everyone who's caught up with that.
You see, my view of it is all African art takes place within a dramatic context, and they don't allow any aspect of it to go unused. So the thrust of the band is not the visual, but then we're not willing to neglect the visual at the expense of anything else. We realize that human beings generally have at least five senses to work from, and we try to get to all of them (laughter). So people get caught up in externals. We've lost gigs because we've painted our faces silver. But to me that's cool...
S.G.:. . . Because that's a statement in itself
Faruq: Right, exactly. But on the other hand, I think it's totally stupid. For someone to be so caught up with the fact that we do what we do. I mean, we could have been up there playing a recognized classical piece with "perfect" interpretation, but It's like "your face is silver so you don't work." People are distracted or attracted by externals, but the core of it is something else entirely.
S.G.: Griot obviously uses the idea of expression as, on one level, a totemic reality. How would you sum up or explain that totemic-ritualistic aspect of what you do?
Faruq: In the old sense, ritual is a form of sympathetic magic. We've become so tech noid that we tend to want to scrap all that stuff. But the only parts of tradition that I care to scrap are the parts that have proven themselves useless. Symbolic analog reality which gets diverted under the classification of art in this part of the world has very real functions in what is called the "primitive world." But I believe that the primitive world is the whole world. In that sense, the ritual is to remind the people of the analog nature of the world that we live in. Like the Hindu say: "All is Maya, or illusion." And we have to remember that: Everything is an illusion. And by remembering that and being conscious of that, then the illusion falls under our manipulation, it falls under our sway. We thereby gain a certain amount of control over the nature and the direction of the illusion. So we can use that analog to describe certain things. There will always be ritual in human existence, because ritual is the symbolic analog to an activity that's going on on another level. But if we become so cynical about our lives and our existence that we assume that our total reality is wrapped up In just these few cubic feet of saltwater and slush that we occupy, then we're lost. The reality is like an onion, it's layered. It has all these different layers from the microcosm to the macrocosm. And like these analogs hold throughout that whole structure and that whole hierarchy. This process of relating one level of concreteness to one level of metaphor until you arrive at the core of truth.
(End of Part I)
Griot Galaxy in its prime, from left: Anthony Holland, David McMurray, Faruq Z. Bey, Tani Tabbal and Jaribu Shahid. A taping at St. Andrews Hall by director Ken Schramm for a cable presentation of the 1984 Metro Times Music Awards.
Published on Jun 5, 2012 by metrotimes:
Detroit Metro Times' coverage of the passing of Griot Galaxy leader: http://blogs.metrotimes.com/index.php/2012/06/detroit-jazz-and-avant-scenes-l...
POEM BY FARUQ Z. BEY
Tales of Zinjanthropus
grey-brear on g-erz
roiling vapor mists
scudding across the face of the nascent sun rising as if from an electric
in gods shirt pocket
Sir-real counts dinars
as prayer beads contemplative the pilot of g-erz has
cursed this vessel
tho he be an unlikely
vain dark androgenous
toward singularity a saint absurd
Sir Real annotates vector rises
for instance under acceleration particles behave
assuming identity yinyangularities
the analog physique
washed pastel tonalities
witnesses dark osirian
nites of pulsing genetalia union of dissolution
g-erz prime myth drama
dark roiling masses
with no blue promise
today I saw a great “U”
in the sky
the sun too caught repose in that
well is it midnite yet
are our fears to go
when are the demons
to present themselves
the witches ride souls
where are the demons our fears
is it midnight yet
for this we abandoned
love & Chalie Smith
African to entrophy BIk oct dark roiling
masses harsh & hurting
DETROIT BLACK JOURNAL TV APPEARANCE (PBS): MAY 4, 1978:
Faruq Z. Bey, Griot Galaxy playing "Fosters"
Composition by Faruq Z. Bey
SOLID GROUND: A New World Journal
Volume 1 Number 3/4
CREATIVE ARTS COLLECTIVE CONCERT
HOLLAND & BEY EXPLODE THE "CLASSICAL CONCEIT"
LIVE MUSIC REVIEW
BY RAY WALLER
May 15, 1982: Detroit Institute of Arts
(A Review of "Music For Woodwind Quintet")
Creative Arts Collective in performance at the Detroit Institute of Arts: A. Spencer Barefield, guitar (left), Jaribu Shahid (bass), Tani Tabbal (drums), Anthony Holland (alto saxophone), Faruq Z. Bey, tenor saxophone (center)--"Music For Woodwind Quintet--Music of Anthony Holland and Faruq Z. Bey" May 15, 1982
Classical musician-composer-conductor-historian, Leonard Bernstein, wrote in 1962 in his essay "What Makes Music American?"1 that the first truly "American" music was jazz, and that jazz was "born" about the time of the end of the first world war. Of course it was about that time that jazz became commercially marketable or "whitewashed' to the point that it was suitable for the kind of mass consumption that made the American ruling class want to accept it, and thus it was at this point that jazz "became American."
But that Bernstein should consider this point to be the point at which jazz was "born" betrays a persistent conceit on the part of western musicology, music historians and western classical musiclans: the inability or unwillingness [to honestly deal with folk musical forms in general and with Afro--Amerjcan forms in particular. There Is in fact a tendency to ignore the : historical validity of folk forms, and this tendency manifests itself quite Strongly in the classical sphere. Thus, there is a tendency among American musicologists and American proponents of "art music" to ignore the extent to which "jazz" is a form deeply influenced by African folk traditions. Instead, the European contribution is played up more than it deserves to be.
The fourth and last chamber jazz concert in the "Creative Music at the DIA" series, "Music for Woodwind Quintet-Music of Anthony Holland and Faruq Z. Bey," was held May 15, 1982, at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
The compositions performed and the musicianship of the players themselves mocked Bernstein's words as simple conceit. Holland and Bey prove, through their compositions, that it would never be wise to forget the "jazz" is a hybrid of African and Western forms, and that the African gene is the dominant one.
Jazz can at least be partially defined as the African sensibility expressed via western instrumentality, or as "African form in the New World."2 Bernstein, whether he wants to admit it or not, is borrowing mainly from an African sensibility when he borrows from jazz (which he has often done in many of his most famous compositions). The May 15 performance featured Faruq Z. Bey on tenor and alto sax; Kamau Kenyatta on tenor sax; David McMurray on tenor, alto and soprano saxophones and flute; Anthony Holland on soprano and alto sax; and Wallace McMiIlan on baritone sax.
While Kenyatta, Bey and Holland displayed amazing power and depth of tone, David McMurray demonstrated remarkable versatility in a wide range of emotional stances; his more frequent movements from one instrument to another was done with a fine sense of demarcation, and the growling force of his sax solos were a beautiful contrast to his more subtle and flutteringly sharp f lute- which never got lost in the brawnier sounds going on around him but embellished them.
Wallace McMillan's virtuosity on baritone sax was also a standout: his solos typically rose to heights of melodic pathos and mighty, elephantine suspiration only to masterfully dissolve into more subtle ostinato background melody.
Faruq Z. Bey's solo on the first piece of the second set displayed ominous emotional undertones, and each of the players excelled in the ability to evoke powerful emotional states in every composition played. Most notable of the compositions played was "Steen," the second piece of the second set. It began with haunting intro, broke into a long process of embodying the "idea" of steam with its pitch and its "breathy" sectional repetition peppered with incipient homophony. There was a main theme, which was varied several times, and restated several times. McMurray embellishes, his flute floating in and around key phrases. During "Steen," the group made quite effective use of state visuals (standing for solos, standing to focus attention, standing or sitting to signal the end or beginning of a sequence), and near the middle of the piece is where this visual drama signaled a solo taken by McMillan on baritone. He ponderously puffed the simple, two-part theme, varying it and then laying it down as ostinato background. The others joined, playing the theme against itself, each instrument's voice "speaking" it in a unique way.
Kenyatta then took a solo, bringing back the suspirate tone, suggesting humid, escaping steam. There was next a hectic sequence of portamento and interlocking tones, very metallic in affect, almost cinematic in its evocation of images of steam escaping from pipes. Then the theme returned and was quickly covered over by wailing, interlocking tones. The sense of humidity now became a sense of heat, of building pressure. There was homophonic playing over McMurray's flute licks, then a fitful, chaotic interlocking, which suddenly ended the piece, almost like an explosion, or like a "gasp."
On the whole, the music of Holland and Bey relied heavily upon the elements of African form: group melody (what is known in western music as homophony), portamento, interlocking, microtonality, call and response, cross rhythms and improvisation-the hallmarks of jazz form itself. One could wish Bernstein might have been on hand to give his impression of the performance. The music of Holland and Bey explodes not only the Bernstein syndrome but several other western conceits:
CONCEIT #1: That "folk" music is characterized by melodic and rhythmic simplicity; that folk music is only "complex" and sophisticated in those cultures which also possess a strong tradition of "art music." Obviously jazz is African in its perception of time, scale and reality, and is by no means simple. The African element is revealed in interlocking, for example, which was used quite a bit in the Holland/Bey compositions. Interlocking eliminates pulse so that individual cross-rhythms combine into a rapid "cogwheeling" effect: the group as a whole is playing up to 600 or so beats per minute, the number of beats being divided among the players. Such a technique takes a very sophisticated sense of rigor and precision.
Clearly, to say that "complex" folk forms exist only in societies which possess "serious art music" forms is nothing more than the absurd "trickle-down" theory applied to cultural analysis.
CONCEIT #2: Some musicologists want to claim that jazz is American inasmuch as the negro slave was, after all, psychically American and not African. This is true to a limited extent, yet overlooked is the pivotal fact that the musical elements the negro slave had in his bones were decidedly African elements. Even when southern slaves took up western form and western elements (e.g. Irish inflection of song and speech pattern), it was always filtered through an African sensibility. Holland and Bey do use European instruments, but there is no doubt that the source of jazz form is, at least aesthetically, African.
CONCEIT #3: Western thought seeks to declare a false division between folk music and "art" music (classical). This kind of academic bifurcation serves only the conceit of the academy. The fact is that many of the major figures of western "art music" (among them, Rimsky-Korsakov, Dvorak, Bartok, Chopin, Debussy, Ravel, Brahms, Copland, Gershwin and Stravinsky) either borrowed heavily from various folk forms and elements or, as with Chopin's mazurkas, actually used the forms themselves. Antonin Dvorak, who used native American and Afro-American forms in some of his compositions (e.g. his "New World Symphony") was very vocal in his belief in the power and validity of folk forms, and very critical of American musicians for their elitist attitudes in classical composition.
In reality, as Holland and Bey show, "art music," or classical forms, are not much more than the intense intellectualization of folk music, in the same way that formal logic is simply the rigorous intellectualization/codification of common sense ("folk") intelligence. "Jazz" itself seems an ongoing evolution of an, at root, African mode of perception and expression. In some of jazz's historical incarnations (swing and ragtime, in particular), the European, Appollonian, critical, rational and more diatonic "parent" does dominate. But "New Music" is also one of the incarnations, and it is quite Dionysian, spontaneous, chromatic (the improvisational use of harmonies and melodic structures based on notes outside the key of the piece), and is clearly dominated by the African "parent." With "Music for Woodwind Quintet," Holland and Bey created a JAZZ ATMOSPHERE in which there was a direct projection of the psychesand emotional states of the performers into the performance itself, into the "voices" of the instruments. A controlled and structured improvisation. The spirit of Africa animating the body of Europe.
1. "What Makes Music American?" is from "Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts for Reading and Listening," 1962, by the Leonard Bernstein Foundation, Inc.
2. A definition given to me by Mr. Kofi Natambu ("African form in the New World").
Spring 1987 Volume 3 Number 2
Pages 17-20; 30
Editor: Kofi Natambu
NOTES ON TONAL PHYSICS
BY FARUQ Z. BEY
This thesis is an attempt to aid in the evolution of a logically consistent dialectic of musical aesthetics. The problem is, as it has always been, one of translation or transposition of the tonal language to the language of semantics. As usual much is lost in translation but our concerns should be instead with what is gained. The tonal language, like the verbal, is subject to evolutionary change and is possessed of a vernacular that ultimately affects the contour of the 'pure' or 'pristine' parent tongue. Much to the chagrin of certain idealists music is not a "universal language." It is as subject to the formative processes of isolated social and cultural forces as the verbal expression. Though there are points of congruence that cross cultural and ethnic lines these imply a pre-existing logic order common to human perception. This logic order can be expressed mathematically.
There is a measurable difference between what is 'natural' (an event that is the effect of pre-existing laws of physics) and traditional or habitual events that are the effect of an accrued past of social acceptance. Because of the primacy of natural law tradition or social habit often, but not always, exhibits points of agreement with the predicates of natural law. The meaning of evolution in the craft of music and its underlying theory is the degree to which said theory coincides with the pre-existing systems of law.
However, the traditional method of teaching music has not been based, for the most part, on these systems of law, or immutable principles of tonal physics. Rather, the traditional teaching has led students to mimic (imitate) the styles and forms of the past, and to perpetuate at the same time the psycho-social meanings attached to
various musical forms. For example, a "new music" method would introduce and nurture students' sensibilities to certain immutable principles.
There are still other 'immutable principles' - social ramifications - such as the assumption that so-called 'classical' or "intellectual" music was spawned in the rarefied atmosphere of European nobility while 'Jazz' gestated in the sordid whorehouses of New Orleans, that serve to distort or obscure the actual cultural value of certain forms and structures.
Thus the study of music today is purely predicated on the student's ability to mime alone. Ideally the next step in the evolution of applied tonal physics would be the study of relationships of concurrent tonal relationships as well as melody and rhythm (consecutive or sequential relationships).
To effectively postulate and structure a "new" music one must understand, if not execute, the premises of the old. Although improvised music is a fundamental part of the African musical history and its derivatives, the 'x' or change factor is an essential part of improvisation. This factor is a necessary component resulting in ever changing specificities, and ultimately, in spite of the retarding effects of tradition, form. The reluctance with which new forms and extremes are met is an example of the trial and error effects of the human mind. The scientific method or grounding in physics coupled with a thorough understanding of the empirically derived rules and physical tendencies should make the introduction or point of entry of such 'new' forms much less traumatic and accepted as natural evolutionary points in the development of the total sonic spectrum.
Of all the so-called 'art' forms music is the most ephemeral and least material in the fashion of the 'plastic' arts. Music is the study and manipulation of tonal and rhythmic relationships, none of which exist in any substantially 'tangible' sense but are instead the momentary frequency of the surrounding air plasma. I suppose that because of that sense of sheer intangibility along with the obvious complexity involved in creating music this joins to make for the 'spiritual' inferences that are often made about the 'essence' of music.
What must be developed therefore is a logically consistent dialectics of tonal aesthetics, a set of standards, for each musical genre, derived from such aesthetics and adhered to by musicians, teachers and critics alike. Those tone models (tunes) should only be allowed to persist and become part of the traditional literature that, upon analysis, are found to reflect the prime motives and ideals of the code of aesthetics.
II. OBSERVATIONS CONCERNING POPULAR TONAL AESTHETICS
In popular aesthetics there seems to be some sort of unholy alliance existing between the performers (composers etc.) and the audience. The performers, in an effort to achieve popular acceptance (a survival necessity in a capitalist ecostructure) accede to popular whim and become purveyors of the then acceptable devices of 'pop'thetics and the audience itself submits to the pervasive law of physics called inertia and is drawn to the least taxing forms. The human brain is surprisingly capable of recognizing and retaining both linear (melodic) and vertical (chordal) sequences. This was the entire thrust of early improvisatory efforts, the whole point of which being subtle linear (melodic) modifications over a recurring vertical (multi-linear) or chordal structure. Also subtle rhythmic modifications over the constant sequential occurences of the prime relationships, rhythmic and tonal, of the multiple known as chords. Of course the final arbiter of 'pop'-thetics is the marketplace.
What is called improvisation is actually constant and instantaneous composition, at best (at least at some points) being a logical and intelligent commentary on the preceeding (tone model), in fact if viable laws of composition are ever attained it may be found that some 'solos' may be more intellectually cohesive than the tone model or 'tune' they arise from.
The perfect curve is a Iogrithmic spiral and not a circle. "I am a spirilian in a circle world".
Each life is a parallel universe.
A French saxophone quartet is no longer a meaningful standard nor is their vaunted 'blend'. Any saxophone tone is a complex of partial overtones and subtones. The genius of modern music (jazz) is to establish an environment that can support a multitude of voices, after all a saxophone is only a tool or extension of the human capacity, in this case the voice. The European 'classical' inclination is to dispense entirely with individual propensities and to accept and perpetuate a 'standard' tone. The African inclination, on the other hand, is to celebrate the individual within a grand (musical) scheme.
By denying the psycho-scientific stance of modern music, we relinquish future developments by default.
Be-Bop is the latest and most vital permutation of the western song form. The so called 'Avant-Garde' is the latest and most personal development of Be-Bop.
"THE UNSTRUCK SOUND"
1. In Hindu cosmogyny the unstruck sound is the sound that can exist inside ones head without being generated at any external point. In other words the audial imagination.
2. There is an organ within the human ear that is crucial to our process of hearing. This organ is called the 'basilar membrane'. The ear may even manufacture sounds that do not exist.., as the loudness of a pure tone increases, the ear begins to hear a change of tone color, seemingly caused by harmonics which appear in the tone in increasing number and strength.
Yet an oscilloscope picture of the wave form of the sound shows no trace of these harmonics... These ghostly harmonics arise somehow in the ear itself. The sensitive basilar membrane, where sound is detected by a series of nerve endings, has been proved to respond to different frequencies at different positions along its length... as the same tone grows louder, new disturbances mysteriously appear at the points where the harmonics of this tone would be recorded.
Frederick A Saunders
3. There is a circumstance that can arise in wave form event physics wherein two sine waves of different frequences but existing within the same space plasma, can interfere with each other and so produce a third sine wave which is, numerically the product of the original two.
"THE STRUCK SOUND"
The "Equally Tempered" tuning system has been with us (in the West) for, at best, 500 years.
"As early as the sixteenth century musical theorists advocated slight alteration in the size of intervals so that the twelve semitones could be fitted into each octave."
While 500 years is quite a while to we human types, it is but the blinking of an eye in the life cycle of a world, and the 'natural scale' or harmonic overtone series has been with us since the first collision of stars in this sector of the galaxy.
The premise that there is a 'preexisting' logic-order or, in the case of tonal-frequency, ratio order can be supported by 'Bodes Law'.
Titius had noticed that all of the planets known to astronomers in his day possessed mean orbital distances from the innermost planet, Mercury, these orbits becoming progressively greater by the ratio of 2:1 as the planets increased in distance from the sun. That is, earth was twice as far from Mercury's orbit as was Venus, Mars twice as far from Mercury as was Earth, and so on it was as if the planets formed a chain of octaves, each next planet representing one octave. The distances involved were not exactly of the ratio 2:1, but were near enough to suggest to early European astronomers that a definite law of some sort might be involved."
"... There was a gap in the chain of octaves; there existed no planet between Mars and Jupiter where, according to Bodes Law, there should have been one. Then, in 1801, Giusseppe Piazzi discovered Ceres, a planetoid with a diameter of 480 miles which orbited almost exactly where Bodes Law. had predicted that a planet should."
Now, some cynics may say that the appearance of one ratio factor, the simplest, is merely one of coincidence.
The appearance of a second factor, one much more complex, common to both (tonal and planetary) sequences, should reduce the probability of coincidence sharply.
Neptune has sometimes been cited by reductionist materialists as evidence that the law is no law at all, since the planet does not fall upon an octave position. Yet in fact it is located almost exactly half-way between Uranus and Pluto, as though to fill in the half-octave (tritone) position.
The tritone or 'Neptune Interval' is not a simple ratio in the manner of the octave (2:1) or 5th (3:2) or even the Major 3rd (5:4) But instead one of the most complex ratios that does not appear in the overtone series or natural scale until the 11th point in the sequence.
CONSONANT OR LYRIC INTERVALS AND THEIR RATIO TO FUNDAMENTAL
PERFECT 5th 3/2
PERFECT 4th 4/3
MAJOR 3rd 5/4
Minor 3rd 6/5
MAJOR 6th 5/3
Minor 6th 8/5
(It will be noticed that neither the minor
3rd nor the perfect 4th occfur in the
natural overtone series sequence, but
are both instead mathematical postulants the products of inversion.)
"The concept of dissonance is always relative and always changing. A sound that is dissonant to one person might be considered consonant by someone else. . . Seconds, sevenths, and all diminished and augmented intervals have always been used as dissonances."
FROM A GIVEN
John Coltrane's use of the 'natural scale' i.e., the scale which is the product of tonal physics and mathematical ratio relationships (not the equally tempered scale) and its harmonic consequences, obviously received some popular acceptance because of its scientific and physical 'correctness', yet because there was neither a science of tonal aesthetics nor a codification of the principles thereof, there has been no transposition to semantics nor the evolution of a functional dialectic. The advances made by the logic of Coltrane's 'inner ear' and its acceptance by the 'inner ear' of his audience led not to any substantial advancement in tonal engineering, but the emulation of 'aspects' of his playing by saxophonists who sought only to mimic his popularity and deceive (cheat) an unsuspecting audience. The measure of John Coltrane is an increment on the scale of courage. The realities of the natural scale are implicit to the saxophone (as to the human voice). While it is unlikely that he was the first saxopho iist to hear these 'plateaus of congruence,' he was the first to make them a part of his 'public' expression.
"Fifths were to be made slightly smaller and major thirds a bit larger... . A cappella singing on the other hand, allows the sin gers to modify their pitch so that they can produce acoustically true triads which are slightly larger and brighter than those obtained thru equal temperment."
OCTAVE P.5th P.4th Ma3rd mi3rd Ma 6th mi6th Ma7th mi7th Ma2nd mi2nd
144 DISSONANCES OR"ALYRIC" INTERVALS AND THEIR RATIOS TO
A sample of this kind of analysis
for the lowest note on the piano
keyboard (an A) is given in the
illustration... It is evident that
"the partials of the real piano tonebecome sharper - that is, higher in frequency-compared with the partials of a pure harmonic tone. The 16th partial, for example, is a semi-tone sharper- half a step - higher than it would be if it were harmonic. The 23rd partial is more than a whole tone sharp, the 33rd partial is more than two tones sharp and the highest partial in the analysis, the 49th, is 3.65 tones sharp."
Again, the natural scale is a physical phenomenon and as such is subject to the laws of wave-theory no less concretely than the observed laws that govern gravity.1
Because of the physics of wave- theory the right diad will produce a third or unstruck sound within the natural or (physical) overtone scale. Speculation makes me think of the possible sounds or unstruck chords appearing within large emsembles playing a type of music wherein those diads are essential parts of the form. Though the diad can be produced by equally tempered instruments, the third or 'unstruck' sound, being a product of wave form interference (and therefore subject to physical law) will sound in the overtone scale.
The direction in jazz seems to be a sort of quasi-tonality. Not the rigidity of Schoenbergian rows, but a willingness to use the entire tonal and ratio (tension) spectrum. This system seems predicated on making the tonic statement in each chordal progression, and once having made such statement, launching into a series of patterns or sequences, which are rhythmically and intervallically consistent, while begin- fling tonally to diverge from the given chordal substructure. The logic of the pattern or sequence requires 'alyrical' ratios. In the jargon of the profession these are reffered to as 'substitutions'.
We can trace the evolution of this tendency from the early recorded improvisation efforts wherein the performer was found staying close to chordal (harmonic) information, thru the bebop period, that saw the introduction of uncommon, though consonant intervals (ratios) like 6ths, 9ths, 11 ths, and l3ths, to the apparently 'random access period' of 'avant-garde' and the use of alyric ratios and the popularization of methods of improvisation such as patterns and substitutions.
"Truth is a point of view."
As it developed this style brought about the use of one or more 'pedal tone' or fundamental (however transient) allowing the improvisor to utilize the entire psycho-aesthetic palette of the tonic spectrum.
The pentatonic mode is historically an older modality than its diatonic counterparts. In fact it has been suggested that the diatonic system is itself an evolution, or derivative of the pentatonic mode. This mode, the pentatonic enjoyed world-wide, tho limited European, pre- diatonic use.
"Some medieval Gregorian chants are primarily pentatonic. . . Because the scale was used in countries outside Europe, there has been no pattern for the harmonization of the tones of the scale. In fact, because of the lack of half steps in the scale, any combination of tones can be sounded together."
A mode is a logic.
As far back as Scott Joplin composers and improvisors have used both diatonic and non-diatonic modes in jazz to add interest to their compositions and performances. Players from Joplin thru C. Parker would use the diminished mode (or double diminished) as a deliberate compositional device or as an improvisational 'substitution'. I can only assume that the logic and appeal of this mode and its derivatives (half-diminished, double diminished) are inferred by the existance of thç diatonic sub-set modalities i.e. the prime tetrachord of the phrygian and locrian modes. It will be noted that these modes, phrygian-locrian and double-diminished, are located at the 'dark' end of the tonic spectrum, in fact because of the curious, sequential, grouping of semi-tones and whole- tones only the totally semi-tone sequence is 'darker'.
It will be noted, also, that because of the sequential configuration: 1) There is the presence of the 'Diabolos' (medieval European term) 'Neptune' interval or tritone.2 It is symmetrical. The tonally destabilizing effect of the tritone (complex ratio) and the symmetry of the sequence combine to infer polytonality. It can also be seen the ratio relationships can make the terms 'dark' and 'tense' almost synonymous and as such interchangable. Because, when using a common root, this mode diverges so radically (by minor 2nds or the 'maximum' tension interval) from the overtone scale resolution model (4,5,6, and 7).
The "Blues Scale" as it has evolved for equally tempered instruments is at least polytonal approaching atonality because the very elements (tone ratios) that re-enforce tonality i.e. the 5th, the Ma 3rd, and the 4th are called into question by the presence of those intervals that destabilize the tonal statement, the tritone (11th partial) and the minor 3rd (which does not show up in the sequence of partials at all). If not atonal the blues scale is at least polytonal because of the presence of the Dom. 7th (a close approximation of a segment of the overtone series sequence [4 thru 7]) and the mi.7th. The dominant 7th (with C as fundamental) the ??? V F Major and the minor 7th being the II of B flat Major.
"Harmelodics": Ornette Coleman is alledged to have introduced a system of poly-tonalism by simply not transposing from 'concert' for the transposing instruments (B flat and E flat). Though each instrument would be in a given key the total effect of the composition as performed would be one of poly-tonality, if not atonality, in view of the resulting intervallic tensions involved. This system has been called 'harmelodic", I suppose because of the inherent harmonic relationships (if all instruments are playing the same rhythmic and intervallic sequence). The intervals and their relationships would be, Mi 3rd consonant, Perfect 4th consonant and Whole-step dissonant.
Saxophonist / Poet / Cultural leader Faruq Z Bey founded the seminal jazz ensemble, Griot Galaxy, in the 1970's....he is one of the most innovative musicians to come out of Detroit. At the 2008 Concert of Colors, Faruq performed "Dragons" - a song from his album "Ashirai Patterns".
Faruq Z Bey - saxophone
Michael Carey - flute
Kenny Green - piano
Ed Colburn - bass
Ali Alan Colding - drums
For more information on Faruq, read Kim Heron's article in The Detroit Metro Times.
Performed Live at the
2008 Concert of Colors
Orchestra Hall, Detroit MI
July 20, 2008
Produced by DON WAS
Recorded by ANTHONY CAMPAGNA
Mixed by KRISH SHARMA
Video Directed and Edited by GEMMA CORFIELD
Produced by PAUL HANSEN
Faruq Z. Bey
By WILBUR MACKENZIE
May 23, 2010
All About Jazz
Throughout the history of jazz, Detroit has produced world-class jazz artists, iconic individualists and ubiquitous sidemen alike. Many have moved to New York or other cities to pursue their career. A handful of great artists remained in Detroit, keeping the creative energy alive there (and consequently Detroit continues to produce incredible talent). One artist who has remained in Detroit over the decades, overcoming social and personal disaster to continue his creative pursuits, is saxophonist and composer Faruq Z. Bey.
His story has many chapters and some unexpected twists and turns. Born Jesse Davis in 1942, Bey took much inspiration from an older cousin's musical activities and picked up the bass as a teenager, studying with esteemed jazz educator James Tatum: "I was interested in following Monk Montgomery's example to pick up the Fender bass, but everything changed when I heard John Coltrane's 'My Favorite Things.' That really showed me something new." This new sound resonated with Bey and finally, after he attended a Detroit performance by John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders in 1966, Bey's switch to saxophone took place—amidst the infamous 1967 Detroit riots.
Many historical accounts of the aftermath of the 1967 riots focus on the destruction and the flight from centralized urban life in Detroit. For the many who remained dedicated to the city, though, it was a time of heightened social consciousness and artistic innovation.
During this time of renewed cultural awareness, a group of like-minded thinkers gathered together and formed a collective—living together, making art and sharing ideas. They recreated their culture, adopted new names and new ideas. A family name of Bey was chosen and the Bey Brothers—Faruq, Jalil and Sadiq—each subsequently made their mark in Detroit and around the world as writers, poets and musicians. Formed in the '70s, Griot Galaxy was Faruq Z. Bey's main outlet for his interest in combining traditional elements of musical composition with the open-form improvisational ideas that had initially inspired his transition to saxophone. "There was a lot of great free playing going on, but I wanted to put that together with the traditional elements. I was influenced by what Roscoe Mitchell was doing; I wanted to explore new compositional forms," Bey recalls. Early Griot Galaxy members included brother Sadiq and guitarist Spencer Barefield.
A more consistent lineup came into place and flourished in the '80s, when drummer Tani Tabbal, bassist Jaribu Shahid and saxophonists Dave McMurray and Tony Holland all joined. This secure lineup combined formal rigor with conceptual fire, driven by Bey's charismatic iconoclasm and compositional inventiveness and grounded by the exceptional rhythm section of Shahid and Tabbal. AACM-inspired experimentalism and abstraction combined with a sense of groove and pulse that was uniquely Detroit. Though dancers and poetry had always been a component of Griot Galaxy's work, this version of the band significantly upped the ante, adopting futurist science-fiction imagery, wardrobe and theatrics. This look, combined with the blistering intensity of the playing and the futuristic vibe of Shahid's effects-laden bass, resonated with local audiences, drawing huge crowds.
Bey's own persona seemed larger-than-life, with a giant mane of dreadlocks and leather jacket. Bey's WDET radio show, "Met-Ezzthetics," was hugely popular. Northwoods Improvisers founder Mike Johnston tells a story about how one listener, Ron DeCorte, happened to catch a recording of Albert Ayler on the show: "DeCorte was a dedicated listener from then on. He ended up becoming a huge fan of Griot Galaxy and recorded tons of their live gigs. He set up the sessions for Kins." (This recording was the band's debut, which DeCorte released himself.) Two live recordings followed, including one from the group's European tour: "We went to Austria and played in Nickelsdorf and that became the Opus Krampus record, which came out on Sound Aspects," Faruq said. Recently, another DeCorte live recording was released on Entropy Stereo, Live at the D.I.A.
Sadly, just as success and much wider appeal became imminent, tragedy struck. Bey's adventurous lifestyle took a toll and he ended up in a motorcycle accident that left him in a coma. Griot Galaxy worked to continue in his absence during his long and difficult recovery, but something was missing. Tabbal and Shahid were finding it increasingly difficult to make a living in Detroit and, ultimately, both heeded the call to New York. After recovering, Faruq pursued various projects throughout the '90s, including the Conspiracy Wind Ensemble and Speaking In Tongues.
Then, in the late '90s, Bey was approached by members of the Northwoods Improvisers. "The trio version of Northwoods shared a bill with Griot Galaxy back in the '80s and Faruq and I played together on sessions once in a while," Johnston related. "When our friend Len Bukowski came to town, we encouraged him to meet up with Faruq for sax lessons and that led to Faruq and Northwoods gigging together." 19 Moons, the first cooperative release by Faruq Z. Bey and the Northwoods Improvisers, was released on Entropy Stereo in 2001 and since then the group has expanded to include saxophonists Skeeter Shelton and Mike Carey. More performances followed, along with further releases on Entropy and on vinyl-only label Qbico (including the recent Hymn for Tomasz Stanko, adding trumpeter Dennis González).
The upcoming appearance by the Northwoods Improvisers with Faruq Z. Bey at Issue Project Room promises to bring much of the intensity and colorful flare that the collective has developed with Bey. It will be a well-overdue opportunity for New Yorkers to hear Bey's distinctive approach to the saxophone and his unique blend of Detroit groove, melodic angularity and compositional intrigue.
Griot Galaxy, Kins (Black and White, 1981) Griot Galaxy, Live at the D.I.A. (Entropy, 1983) Griot Galaxy, Opus Krampus (Sound Aspects, 1984) Faruq Z. Bey/Northwoods Improvisers, 19 Moons (Entropy, 2001) Faruq Z. Bey/Northwoods Improvisers, Ashirai Pattern (Entropy, 2002) Faruq Z. Bey/Northwoods Improvisers, Journey Into The Valley (Entropy, 2004)
"After Death"--Composition by Faruq Z. Bey w/Dennis Gonzalez & Northwoods Improvisors
Faruq Z. Bey and the Northwoods Improvisers with Dennis Gonzalez.
The lineup for this video is:
Dennis Gonzalez - Trumpet
Faruq Z. Bey - Tenor Sax
Skeeter C.R. Shelton - Alto
Mike Gilmore - Vibes
Mike Johnston - Bass
Nick Ashton - Drums
Videography - Todd Treece
For information about purchasing music by Faruq Z. Bey and the Northwoods Improvisers, or Dennis Gonzalez, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
“THE MYTH OF THE RHYTHM OF THE TIMES”
BY FARUQ Z. BEY
Jose Buckstar lounged poolside under
the dingy roof of L.A. the dingy roof of L.A.
girl firmly in hand his pirates brain spun
the ice-blue device of tomorrows coup
lives of the music
the sunlit verandah
Four-eyed Freddie Jackson
dreams heself a glitstar hermophidite
would be that or “what else you got to offer” a media creature
was twice removed from his source victim of a waning fad
he posed at times as spirit-man
while his Ka choked to death
in coke dust
lives of the music
the shadow man
Captain Ra Bey alias Reggie Brown
he fly high over in ghetto myth wisdom
he be sourcery
his Ka be straight
he be Ma Akheru
he be Kun Fiya Kun
He hooked up straight baàk to Heliopolis
Possessor of the sho nuft magic
carpet ride the sunshine magic-child
ride low thru chaos big chops
& elephant ears he hear everythings & he don’t make sense
he lean hard against the tense
of the black bubble
could be four-eyed & ready.
lives of the music
the sun being
won’t be Buckstar
that drifting image him
Mister Melody the deadly avatar
he didn’t hear the “choon” but speaks
of the rhythm
of the times
we sought an informal god
all us scufflin
Baraka, Tolson, poets, painters
plumbers, pimps copped Out
to the grey worlds
to the mists all
of us scuffhin shufflin
again to the rhythm of the times
to dialectical mammyism
to uridialect anything... all that
scorin and capping of that movement past yesterday, ten years ago
Pharoah, Wayne, Miles
“we reserve the rite
to wear silver lame &
fag scarves & spout spiritchul
plaitudes, to dip around
the corner & snort P coke
in short to change our minds”
we all sought an informal god
for the form had betrayed us
so we tried to slide
heralded but unnoticed into
the rhythm of the times
“what a great sacrifice I’ve made
my brothers, to abandon the secret tongue that I might speak to the masses
only to find that I had nothing
of any consequence to say
except that I’m startled to find
I’ve become rich along the way”
lives of the music
the people undone
lives of slick New York niggas
huddled around fetid pools the “avant garde” talking bout the “saxolympics”
the fifty change dash
or the bloodless bash of memorabilia• time machine “mintons”
welcome to the isolation booth
forevermore quoth the raven
the rhythm of the times
the times alone
Captain Ray Bey alias Reggie Brown
copped a deep plea before
the god of informality rode a spirit down
Dexter Street banked a hard tight
right onto Joy Road & home
Jose Buckstar the primo the cream
jammed the glinting barrel of the .357 straight into the roof of his mouth
& blew off the tops of his skull
over & over & over
while Four-Eyed Freddie
well he got he myths
the rhythm of the times
the now of tomorrow
the myth of yesterwhen
“MIZIMU” BY FARUQ Z BEY
He is here
The one who looked beneath
The gleaming shell of ether
Behind the deceptive shade
Of the matrix
and saw there
The shining eye of God
He has arrived... we
have smuggled him in by night
Wearing the hateful garb
of your derision bearing
the awful weight of your
threats and boasts, in the dark
the morass we conjured
like fifty year old Brazilian
Pickaninnies huddled around the
making Gnagna the spirit
we make and we make
but we do not remake
and so we called him
the one you called the primitive...
and you worked other such
sad and hollow juju
and you bellowed, belching
anguishes and swamp gas
because he was not like you
But we called him anyway
and He came
Mizimu the watcher
Mizimu the wielder of past
and futures like great and fiery
Mizimu soul of glass
hard with this sheen
untouched by your grey
Mizimu we are here
in brilliant and florid death
we are Mizimu... here
NOTES: ON SEEING THE SCRAPBOOK OF A FRIEND
BY FARUQ Z. BEY
for R. & others
the hooded mask
beneath the carven
when time has deserted
the clocks hand turns
staggers in syncopatic
at the breakfast table
mulling over yes
dread the ailent encroachment
the misplaced I.U.D.
mysteries of the ching
heart reading songs
lay tangled at my feet
warm tho vapid memories
ghosts of needs
unfulfilled you in the photograph
stern, accusing defiant against crimes
as yet uncommitted
someone rails against
the covering fog
fog it is not yet green
the scrapbook of a friend
the tender rawnesses
BY FARUQ Z. BEY
To J.S. & Friend
This easterly expatriate
whose vocation purveys
other folks damnations
other howls & gibbering moans
lycantropic his face
a lithic grimace
from yellow pus &
still steaming juices.
This public symbol
it is a surrogate activity
for some cosmonode
of meaijing with
excOpt In the secret
then how shall we deal
with this trenchant metaphor
the public symbol
It Is a gong of awareness
shall we sound it?
“Yet ... the affiant sayeth, yet”
you . . . will see him high
riding crumbling yellow
[Cakewalk to Carla Bley]
Omuwale the son returns
you, will see him hi-ride
baroque stairways wid
flaking yellow gilt
the rot beneath
he courts the saints
Orisha, he thank he make
charisma he thank he make
Omuwale he be denizen
of crumbling yellow
"AND OF THE FIFTH DAY..."
BY FARUQ Z. BEY
I am the Babalowo
who awaits his fullness
I am the Ifa oracle
who rests in knowing
I am the terrible power
of Mizumu who waxes
with the fecund moon
I want to thank you
for makin me
be mahself . . . again
the primary obfuscation
of form the
the shrewd itities
the fores eeking
the ten shun
comes (again) the berserkers avoids charm and hex
deals the voidance
avoidance deals the
dalliance dilly dilly
chahmed I'm sure
wid beauty eyes behind
tiny silicone shields
is see king seek
seeking is all
is spirit concrete
is spirit concrete
is heart concrete
is heart concrete
is want understanding
without standing under
is the silent waiting
is the wrenched heart
of meat is wretched
in vain hope love. .
she would not understand love she would stand under not as priority but force . . (I wanta thank you
for makin me
make mahself again)
SOLID GROUND: A NEW WORLD JOURNAL, VOLUME 1 Number 2, Winter/Spring 1982
LOVE POEM #2 (or 3)
BY FARUQ Z. BEY
Acts of beauty or
there are glisses
like “my father
was a progressive
man of colour”
“a man of courage”
gestures of grace
shades of grace
shades of acts like
“I speak you nefer”
I speak you
& you are poem
I did not want
would I not open
garble the litany
and you walk up to me
at parties, stand waiting
when we have agreed
that being deep is just
a weight, Penumbra
when we have spoken
when we have acted
words of grace
words of grace
in your name
with these things
to sustain us
in the throes
Sherrif Sam (Sound by Law) - Faruq Z. Bey & Northwoods
"Mystery of Love" - From the Journey into the Valley concert DVD by Faruq Z. Bey and the Northwoods Improvisers. © Copyright 2005 - Timothy O'Brien and Andrew Bare (Diversified Media)
Faruq Z. Bey - Tenor
Mike Carey - Tenor
Skeeter C.R. Shelton - Tenor
Mike Gilmore - Vibes
Mike Johnston - Bass
Nick Ashton - Drums
Producers: Timothy O'Brien and Andrew Bare
Videography: Andrew Bare, Timothy O'Brien, John Shepherd, Ryan Stahl, Jay Shurtliff
Timothy O'Brien - Recording, Mixing, Mastering, Video Editing, Video Compositing and Effects, DVD Authoring, Camera Operator
Andrew Bare - Director of Photography, Video Editor, Lighting, Camera Operator
Jay Shurtliff - Still Photography, Camera Operator, Production Assistant
For information about ordering the DVD, please contact: email@example.com
Faruq Z. Bey and the Magic Poetry Band - "Albert Ayler"
by Faruq Z. Bey
Published on Jun 4, 2012 by jefreynolz:
OR: THE ROVING ENIGMA BLUES
BY KOFI NATAMBU
(For my close friend and brother Faruq Z. Bey)
So strangely we think we know
you. I've even heard it said after
Griot has lain waste to yet another
dying empire. We know this Myth that
calls itself Man. We know this man that
calls itself Musician.
But what is it we know? That the shining grey
mask you appear to wear Is an affirmation of our
fears? That the melodies you ponder and furtively
reveal are cultural readymades for us to wear then
discard when the houselights come on?
Is this our history you sing as your grinning groupies
crawl in for the delicious kill? What about the painters
who buy you too much beer as we finger that aching
sweating between sets in the corner?
Do the critics feel your rage when they go to sleep at night
And the poets, we of the nagging words, do we offer more than
fat platitudes as we stroke yr growling locks? The dreads that
bring revolutionary dope addicts to yr concerts and neoclassical
composers in search of the perfect rhythm
So strangely we think we know you.
As you beat despair away with a Song.
Fly down crooked avenues in metal wings kicking
yr spinning wheels. (Vaporize cynics with a sullen laugh.
Cut thru pretense with a wicked look.
What is it that we know?
That the beboppers shudder when you do something that
you're not supposed to do, something all yr own, and you do it so well
that they look away whenever your name is mentioned? That the
Youngbioods stand In Hart Plaza and give each other sly looks
as they recite every line from "Zinjanthropus" over the slashing
energy called the ScIence Fiction band? That you love to
hide and seek In public especially In
front of thousands of beings
who call themselves "lovers of Jazz?" That you shoot down
expectations whenever you feel like It (which is all the Time)?
That the men and women who say they need you and love
you also listen to and sometimes participate in
the ugly and beautiful gossip
surrounding yr name?
That we burst out chanting whenever Tani and Jaribu go Into their Groucho and
Harpo stage-act, and you bent
back chortle before breaking into that famous half-step of yours?
The one that undulates when the Music takes over completely and
we see just how strong yr Love really is as it defies the sentimentalists who applaud only when they
recognize some harmony they
think theyíve heard before (and will hear again)?
So strangely we think we know you.
So strangely we think we know you that we tell Zapman stories whenever
we get bored and wonder aloud why you always tell the best ones. That
the bodyguards of the flesh that houses your soaring spirit mistake their desires for your needs. That the
concrete and the metaphorical
merge in the space that surrounds sound and silence. You are that
space: a wandering Interval lost to our demands but loyal to that Instance of passion that sends yr soul
racing thru air
So strangely we think we know you
that we play games in the shadows
of yr pain and call it concern
that we stand In the dry well of
yr flight from us and call it fate
that we pay tribute to yr image
and call it compassion
that we cry and moan and thrash and curse and freak and
posture and grieve
waiting waiting waiting (Yeah) Waiting for yr return for the return
we swear we deserve
o so strangely we think we know you
so strangely we think we know you
so strangely we think we know you
that we would risk our heavy ignorance
to love you (Again ...
SOLID GROUND: A NEW WORLD JOURNAL, VOLUME 1 Number 2, Winter/Spring 1982
Mathematics of Melody
by Sadiq Muhammad
Solid Ground: A New World Journal
Editor's note: The interview originally appeared in
RENAISSANCE CITY MAGAZINE, July, 1980
Disc melody is an arrangement of single notes in succession, serving to express a musical idea; melody also named the principal part of air thus musically formed. Harmony names a combination of notes of different pitch produced simultaneously to form chords or the "concord of sweet sounds" thus created.
B.) Math'e-matics (GK mathemata) NSG. Science that treats of quantities magnitudes, and forms, and their relationship, by the use of numbers and symbols. ..perpetuate an experience laced with agony and delight and pronounce the wedding of man to music.
The tunesmith huddles in the cracks of an iconoclastic society that's bent on a do or die system of reasoning. Hardly moved to describe the amiable qualities of a lethargic and impotent recording industry until recently, most composer who have the creative ability to move the musical thinking of people towards a fresher overview, are shot down based on their ability to influence.
The mathematics of melody reflects the transformation ot creative energy to the ears of the listener. The composer is the musical mathematician, undertaking the tedious assignment of influencing people through music.
Melody and rhythm identifying the particularity of the composers intentions.
Stravinsky and Bartok are primary images of neoclassical composers whose mathematical genius rejuvenated the classical mind. John Cage, in a class of his own, crystalized a musical sentiment that appeared to be extemporaneous, but quality of content, and motivational force in his compositions reoriented the general tide of new composers.
Thelonious Monk, Charlie "Yard bird" Parker, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis and Cecil Taylor created a musical behemoth whose achievement has yet to be reckoned with. The creative power to influence the world was harnessed by these contemporary jazz composers and influence the world is exactly what they did. but like everyone who is touched, worse, attlicted by the overpowering urge to compose in the creative realm, they had to pay their dues, and in some cases, enormous debts.
The passion associated with creative music drove disagreeable parents to outrage in the late 60s and early 70s. In fact, composers who turned the tide were generally worshipped into popularity by their "new wave" of contemporary music rebels, reiterating the musical upheavel of the late 60's. can we trust that our composers guide us well, into the next century? All composers are intluenced by their environment, but specifics spell out the underlying content of their observations and beliefs. The poetry of their lives take different shapes in terms of music composition and performance. Obviously, all poetry is not sweet and pleasing to the ear, as the lives of even our most talented composers, like some poetry, are not agreeable to society at large. Griot Galaxy, led by Detroit's Faruq Z. Bey, is a group of muscian/composers mat nave survived the insurrection and pacification of contemporary music in the last decade. their force at times is something to contend with, their style is not reminiscent of any one composer, although an influence of several modern contributors is heard in their music. The power to incite the emotions to outright pleasure, pain, and indifference has erupted in the scientific writing of Faruq and Griot Galaxy. Before their performance, one notices galvanized garbage cans, buckets, assorted saxophones, and percussion instruments, scattered about the stage. But the silver painted faces that appear behind the instruments set the environmental mood for exploring human emotion. The listener is immediately grabbed up into the arms of griot galaxy and sped off into other worlds of innovation. Some call it jazz, some call it avant garde. some even (ambiguously) call it new wave... Space Music, and even garbage (which is how I feel some mornings) to describe this unit's expertise...
"l call it the logical extension of Urban folk music," says Faruq. Faruq explains, "While I'm not particularly carried away by designations, the term 'urban folk music' closely approximates what we're trying to do and has even more profound implications for the future. What has been termed 'new wave' may turn out to be a tired old ripple. Cornpositionally, we're more concerned with the essential thrust of influences of a tradition, rather than the concrete realization of 'the tradition', which is to say, you dig, that the note-for-note rendition of classical pop tunes (which is a contradiction in terms) is closer to the European classical tradition."
Q: Which leads to improvisation?
A: Yes. After all, it should be fairly obvious that a musical form whose primary energy is derived from improvisation would tend to resist the limitations of form which are, upon closer investigation, found to be basically whimsical anyway.
Q: How can a musical form resist the limitation of form?
A: I'm trying to quote Carl Jung who said, "Anything that's universally true, tends to give the appearance of paradoxy."
Q: Is improvisation a paradox?
A: Actually, yes. In order to improvise properly, one must bear in mind the original theme, as well as whatever new data one is trying to bring to the form. "Any note can follow another note" (Vincent Pesichetti).
Q: Do you think the term "music" needs to be redefined?
A: What do you mean, "music"?
Q: Should mathematics include music in its definition or should music include, etc., etc.?
A: First of all, all the old cultures never differentiated between music and mathematics. What we (Griot Galaxy) are trying to accomplish is a recognition of spiritual technology as well as physical.
Q: Who is your major, influence in terms of composing?
A: Seriously, the universe at large.
Q: Whose mathematical approach have you encountered that inspire your writings?
A: Spiritually, Coltrane, Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, and Roscoe Mitchell. Physically, Schillinger, Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud.
Q: What do you like about these composers?
A: In a word. ..audacity.
Q: Do you jog?
Q: Where do you buy your sunglasses?
A: Yes, I jog.
Q: Are you compelled to 18 hour music or do you party and eat hamburgers like everybody else?
A: Yeah. Well, of course, I party... like a (#%&#Zx'&) but a real musical craftsman, or any other so-called artist lives his art, The ideal is to live the poem... or whatever.
Q. Is improvisation based on impulse and is it purely intuitive?
A: Obviously it's impulsive. Equally as obvious is the fact that it is predicated on one's total experience. Of course, intuition plays a great part, in that intuition is the facility that synthesizes apriori knowledge with the unknown.
Q: Are you trying to say it's a spiritual experience?
Q: What kind of rewards do you hope to gain with your work?
A: Do it and die.
Q: How old are you?
A: On this plane, I'm 38, but...I honestly believe in pre-existence.
Q: What else do you... do?
A: I'm into sailing, Grand Prix international auto racing and science fiction.
Q: Do you have a mathmusical system?
A: It has to do with the tension that exists between tonal intervals. This includes both linear (melodic) and concurrent (harmonic) relationships. What I have encountered to do is establish a constant numerical value system that indicates the tension relationship that exists between tonal, intervals. In this way I hope to be able to "engineer" a composition in such a way as to have more precise control over the emotional state of the audience
Q: How do you measure audience control?
A: In the short term it's irrelevant. In the long term by response.
Q: What do you mean by response?
A: I mean their total response, which is to say how they come to live or whether they buy our records!
The present personnel of Griot Galaxy is Tani Tabbal, Drums and percussion, Anthony Holland, Reeds, Jaribu Shahid, Bass, and Faruq Z. Bey, Reeds. For the maximum experience in musical science fiction and an alternative to visiting your analyst, it may be expedient to give a listen to these musicians...
Sadiq Mohammed (interviewer)
Faruq Z. Bey (interviewee)
Griot Galaxy Discography
Phil Ranelin - 'Vibes From The Tribe'
contains 1 track w/ Griot members
1976 Tribe Records
Griot Galaxy - 'Kins'
1981 Black and White
Griot Galaxy-Live at the D.I.A.
1983 Entropy Stereo
Montreux Detroit Collection Vol. 3
contains 2 tracks w/ Griot members
1983 Montreux Detroit
Griot Galaxy - 'Opus Krampus'
LP and CD release, CD has 2 bonus tracks
1984 Sound Aspects
SOLID GROUND: A NEW WORLD JOURNAL
Volume 1 Number 3/4
By Faruq Z. Bey
yo for big life
the parrafin faces
cop postures of sanguinity
dzyo for big life
Leroi lies buried
under tomes & dust
diatribic & besides
whats a neruda anyway
dzyo for big life
in my tyme lye conferred
wid frayed dames miztresses
of the Arcane
hence the ma-thematics ergo
the ma-at equations
dzyo digit ergo sum
I've seen the violences
the slathering the vicious maw
the palsied frenzy of bitches
Wagner in the Cotton fields
Nietzsche in the dives
I've seen the violences
cogito ergo dizzy
"Ripe for a Vision" - Faruq Z. Bey/Northwoods/Dennis Gonzalez. Composition by Faruq Z. Bey
Dennis Gonzalez - Trumpet
Faruq Z. Bey - Tenor
Skeeter Shelton - Soprano
Carl Smith - Alto
Mike Gilmore - Vibes
Mike Johnston - Bass
Aaron Gonzalez - Bass
Nick Ashton - Drums
Stefen Gonzalez - Drums
Videography - Todd Treece
For information about ordering CD's, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
“MY MAN FRIDAY”
BY FARUQ Z. BEY
Funny, but haven’t we had
this conversation befo?
you’re obviously irked
a strangely graceful harlequin
with well-honed myths
a riffian of Azure knowns
the stuff of your eyes.
thick-set & black-skinned
warlords, driver-men of
plot minor intrigues/beneath
we are not essential
to the casual drift of history
we are pivotal tho anxious fares
our past seeks us out
devours us & shits
like any other healthy animal
I, only want you to entertain
that past as a ravenous
but slightly well-meaning beast
whose bind & halter
are epiphanies of the absurd
funny . . how we deem outselves
sate from our own judgements
funny, how we seem to have had
this convesation befo
I turn to squash a roach
a star was built as soulkeep
a phallic icon of daring
we turn on the corroded/axis
words the mishappen/shell
hard work this end
less feeding of stars
this dude is loved/by his following
he is their sensor
he is their Interpretor
who is no longer comfortable
under their eyes
who no longer breaths
like soft russet husks
who has lost the ghost
of his grandmother to Kansas
who loves tales of hollowed
bones the beseeching stared
of statues rhapsodic
as bat gwano
like the soft-bodied scuttlers
that live in the corpses of trees
e , whose eye carelessly violates
mendacity funny, but
are you near yourself?
are you on speaking terms wid
the miasmic spirits that habit
‘ your head?
e •3 have you chosen them?
ie do they love you?
ie Is your arrogance a crafted
armor, a juju, a medicine
for the witches of this dark
town ... do you care?
could you be singer
burnisher of slightly
who should you aspire to?
who should aspire to you?
“If they saw the primacy of rhythm, they wouldn’s need a dictionary”
by Faruq Z. Bey
sho he was a homemade
sho he be self
das why they shrunk away
in revulsion sometimes
at his handicraft
das why dey grunt
in uncommitted apathy
the curious snarls & kinks
arabesques of his half seen
cause dey was duh
lectrons with a certain destiny
even Eshu would have
no part of this
so sometimes he spirit
wept for loneliness & I guess
he pizened hisself by
slow degrees &
his world was blinding bright
& deep space black
by shocking sudden turns
and you know he gon be unstable
so what else he gon be
but kinda rough around the edges
& all his acts & artifacts
was a kind of spastic code
a searching for his tribe-mates
& soundings for his home
sho he was a homemade wholly man
& the others were designed
am no comfort In it
Pages 107-110; 165
by SADIQ MUHAMMAD
Am I Dreaming?
The Crocodile jaws sprang open like a grease/mud fetish shocked open, alive and overwhelming. Music like sound emerges and forks its wax into the smoke-filled cubicle. It is black smoke. The fangs of the Lizard are visibly making this grim sound. The heat in its death darkness, becomes wavey. Feeling becomes seeing. Hearing. Knowing.
Without notice or alarm, I'm reaching to answer the telephone. Urn, a larger cooler space; now undreaming. Never realized how automatic we are. We respond to external messages without hesitation. It was a familiar voice somehow, through the thickness of slumber. Out of darkness. A darkness much like being. Yet full of static, abstract thought. To myself in a flash I say, "It must be late. It must be late." I Seek my discarded watch. I've slept on the living room floor again? Why do I do that? I ask myself. I haven't slept in my bedroom for over a month now. It's 3:55 in the tucking morning!
"Hello," I said in a sandpaper voice.
"Coodeelc?" It's Fairy."
"Yea, what's wrong?"
"Well I'm at the hospital."
"Hospital?! What hospital?! What's wrong?!"
"Well we've been in an accident. Jesse is still unconscious." "What?!" By now I've been shocked awake "What hospital are you at?"
"I'll be there as soon as possible!"
0 shit! He's tried to ride that damned bike over the tops of houses, I bet! What am I going to do now? My very best friend has forsaken me.
(Selfish ain't it?)
I stand there in a Stupor trying to get the thought wheels to turning.
Get dressed. Get in the car and go pickup Lorro the Deep. Wait a minute! I don't have a car! How am I going to get there right away? I guess I'll have to call around at 4:00 in the morning, to see about a way down to the hospital. Let's see. Tani might still be up and about, maybe he'll take me.
BRRRR... BRRRRR ... BRRRRR... BRRRRR... BRR "Hallo," it was Tani, half asleep.
"Tani, this is Coodeek. Jesse's been in an accident. Fairy just called and said they were at Receiving Hospital. He's still unconscious."
"Yea. Do you have a car? I need to get down there to see what I can do."
"Naw man, I don't."
"OK, as soon as I can get a ride down, I'll call you back and let you know what happened."
"OK, I'll see you later."
We hung up and I stood there in a tog about who to call so late. After a while, I came up empty handed. The last resort was a cab. Fortunately I had some money in my pocket so a cab wouldn't be a problem. The cab came to the house sooner than (thought it would. Normally, one has to call, the taxi company twice in order for the damn thing to show up. As it turns out, Lorro the Deep was still awake when I got to their house. (guess she knew something was up when I rang the doorbell at damn near 5:00 in the morning without Jesse. He would have a key, of course.
"We're here to see about Jesse Davis. Is he OK? What happened?" Thenurses at the Emergency desk looked at us, with obvious compassion, as though Jesse had died or worse, was almost dead.
"He's still unconscious, but he has no broken limbs, as far as we can see. I'll let the doctors know you're here. . . You're?" "I'm his brother."
"I'm his wife," we lied.
"Come with me please," the nurse said. She escorted us over to a very small, but neat waiting room near the entrance of the observation room. We were separated by two huge electric doors. To the left we could see a group of men in white smocks hovering over someone in a roller bed. Somehow, I knew it was Jesse. The nurse went over and spoke to one of the men. He shook his head as though he'd agreed to something he didn't like. She then returned to us through the sliding doors and said, "The doctor will see you in a minute, have a seat please." More than small talk, Lorro the Deep and I said nothing. We just paced and stood near the electric doors awaiting the verdict. The clean white coats pondered the condition of my best friend. I knw he was lying there in another zone of existence.
Unlike it being just yesterday, it seemed that I'd known Jesse, the hickory head, for an eternity. The first instance, in the memory room, was when Naima took me to his apartment on the west side. It was 1968. Spring. What a hoot it was. There had to be no less than a dozen people in two adjoining roomswhen we arrived. It was like a small festival. There was woman sewing a garment on a sewing machine. A couple of women were in the kitchen cooking something that smelled like ummm, I want to stay for din-din. The men in the apartment were busy playing a whole battery of conga drums. I felt like I had just come home from the war or something, but like any new kid on the block, I was small and inconspicuous. At least (tried to be. After awhile, the living room swung open and in walks Jesse and some nondescript character. I had no idea he was as tall as he is. Naima never said he was a basketball player. He was greeted by one of the women. The greeting seemed to be sarcastic and genuine at once. He appeared to be lit up on Bennies or something.
"Jambo my sweet husband," the woman said, "Jambo to the man of my stars and dreams." He looked at her with disdain and muttered something in reply. He peered about the room to see who was in his apartment. When he looked at me, he immediately looked at Naima and smiled. She in turn jumped to her feet and introduced us in a manner befitting a Fell/ni script. We became fast friends from that point on . . . well actually it was after the all night poetry sessio? at Charles Solomon's pad. It was cultural fierceness after that. So many anecdotes to pass on to children. Scenes that translate to wisdom.
A blond kid emerges from the observation station behind the electric gates. He walks towards us and sits down in the waiting room. He just says, "Jesse Davis?"
"Yes," we said in union, petrified at what he was going to say. "We're sending him to cat-scan now, and we'll put him through the blue dye test to see If he has any internal injuries. Basically, the guy is lucky to be alive. It's a miracle. Actually his helmet saved his life. You see, when your head is banged up like this, your brain is sloshed around against you skull wall and it's so sensitive, it bruises."
"Is he in a coma?" Lorro the Deep asked.
"Well, he's knocked out. We don't know how long he's gonna be out; we have no way of predicting that. It's hard to say." "How is Fairy, the girl on the bike with him?" I asked.
"Oh, she's line. No serious injuries that we can tell. She has a few bruises in all," he replied.
"May we see them?" asked Lorro the Deep.
"Sure, c'mon back." He motioned towards the sliding gates. Upon entering the observation room I saw Jesse sprawled on the roller bed. His dreadlocks like scattered black yarn over the pillow. There was a majestic, regal quality about him. He jerked and struggled a little, almost like he knew we were there. It must be too painful to imagine, I thought. Pain. Something we reluctantly get used to. Like television ads. Rock & Roll Playtime. But this pain is the compounded result of years of pain. Pain has a ruthless intelligence. It ignores the small stuff and goes for the neck. The hard on. Rips out the hair on the chest bit by bit. A pain that eventually stares up at you from the bottom of a glass at Alvin's Bar. The Haunting pain of absent sires. I could no accept the reality of my best friend yanking at the bedsheets. Twisting his torso in unseen pain. I stood there pretending for the moment that everything was gonna be alright. Eventually. Was I just fooling myself? He had every imaginable tube and needle in his body. A fucking Frankenstein Monster sniffing the flowers of death. A 6'4," 185 lb. black grass eater reduced to a sleeping menace. A menace to our love for him.
"Where's fairy?" I asked an intern (standing nearby in a state of ignorant helplessness.)
"Fairy?" he asked.
"The girl that came in with him?" (you idiot!)
"Oh! She's right over there." He pointed to a roller bed that was surrounded by a flimsy curtain. I walked over to see how she was making it. As I approached her, I could see an innocence, the content of which would be difficuLt to describe. It was a sad situation after all. Evidently, she got up from the accident without much damage. She just lay there blinking. Superficially, she was a non-emoting individual.
You know, an attempt at maintaining a rational existence.
"Have you called your mother yet?" I asked.
"No," was the placid reply.
"Well give me the phone number and I'll call her and let her know that you're here and that you're OK."
"No, I don't want her to know," she demanded.
I smell a rat, I thought. "What?"
"She gets upset over the slightest thing. I mean she'd have a heart attack if I told her I was lying here in a hospital bed. I mean she's really concerned about me. That's all." She complained. "So you don't think it's best that someone call her, so at least you won't be alone when they allow you to leave. Let's face it, big things grow out of small things. By the way, how are you going to get home?" I asked. She sat up and blinked.
"OK I'll call her," she capitulated.
Lorro the Deep came up with the idea to call Jesse's relatives. His sisters and brothers. I guess, even though I posed as his brother in the emergency room, I knew Lorro the Deep could sign any documents or consent forms. Consent forms would allow the white coats to cut into Jesse's body, his skull. (Bloody rubber gloves gripping instruments of the Gods. Only in the world of heaven is a God allowed to enter a person's skull with hammers and knives. Heinous laughter rippling through the Amphitheatre. Somehow it just doesn't make any sense, this miracle of medicine.)
Little did we know, at this point Lorro the Deep, Jesse, Fairy and myself, what a valley of worms had to be traversed. Barefoot! Never in my life did I have an inkling of thought that such a mess would be stirred up about a local antihero-saxophonist-biker. But, by Allah! If ever an avalanche of bile could fall from the mountains of existing shit, it occured while Jesse lay majestically comatose. Jess, one simply doesn't get smashed on Martell and jump on one's scooter and zip up and down dark streets at 55 MPH. Its power is the cross/dagger/death. Miserable fiend baring fangs of mortitude. Popping like corn. It preys on carnality. Everything is farcical. The bloodbeast monster neatly preaches Swastika Surrealism. Outdistancing frail images of Satan. Jesse was out there alone on his scooter, engulfed in a fictitious ease. Charging the black night a black knight on the black steed. The monster transforms itself into an ambiguity to fool Jesse. An illusion. An Invisible wall. A panorama hung from the sky. Bang! In slow motion the Motorcycle rips through the paper vision. From darkness to blackness. Jesse broached the aimless myth...
B'ber and Sadie just happened to be good friends that worked at the hospital. I was sure that they would be helpful. Great folks. Helped me with some of my projects over the summer. In fact, they were the ones responsible for the volunteer nurses first aid tent at the festival. They could stir up some concern at the hospital. Alert the best people. Each step had to be thought out. Damn it! I still couldn't come to grips with the fact that Jesse was in a coma! Does this mean he'll vegetate? A mercy killing story? Hell No! He's as strong as acid. Ain't no nigga as aunery as Jesse gonna lay there in a sleep state for long! I mean, he's a tucking biker! (He lived artistic juxtaposition.)
After making it past the preliminary hurdles towards earth plane, Jesse was left in the capable hands of the IOU staff. So be it I thought. (The madness of familial disquietude danced around his sick bed until his release.) There must be huge waves of grief from those who care and are of the same blood. A patient where stood a slender, muscled pirate of the cosmos. Ahhhh, Krumpus (that's what they called him on his last trip to Austria with the band) the Millenia does not betray you. Simply begs the creator to spare your exotic head. Outside of IOU, where Jesse was found sighing and keening by all, the commotion of a whirlwind o the streets of New York, came into the lives of Jesse's family. That is, his blood relatives and his closest friends, were awakened to the endlessness of waiting for the comatose to quicken and see the joy of living. The endless string of phone calls in the middle of the night. Mere acquaintances demanding answers. It caused quite a fire fight eventually. Nerves worn threadbare. Imagine children scrapping over the carcass of a chocolate cake. Brown smudges all over the place. Chocolate finger prints discovered years later. A mess. And so it passes on with many nights. Chocolate spots hardening for the clean up.
What no one expected had to happen in the murphy legal tradition. Anything within the confines of mayhem (bulging perimeters) occured without delay. For instance: shortly after Jesse was received by the ICU staff, the open lounge comforted the first shift of mourners. No, taxidermal ravens resting in the parlor. The grief stricken party consisted of Bee and Beat-it, Jesse's fraternal twin sisters, Scofield, a poet of note, Mama Hoodoo, Percussionist, Lorro the Deep, and myself.
We were sneaking beers back and forth within the circle of chairs. Everyone sat under a cloud of cigarette smoke. (Thought captured and mangled everybody's faces. We sat there as though we were trying to figure something out. We all took turns sighing. We all took turns glancing at one another.) There were plenty of people wired up on the Jesse Davis Situation by now. (It had to be 6:30 P.M) The front desk was complaining by the first evening of his incarceration. They said he was getting too many visitors and phone calls and people in comas don't usually answer the phone. Actually, friends and neighbors began to come out of the walls. No one anticipated the subsequent onslaught of "People Who Cared." What the first shift came to realize was.. . this would be the start of something big. Annex, a close personal friend of Jesse's, came to the weeping room lounge, where we all set pining. She greeted and spoke briefly to Scofield. She nodded at the fertility twins and sat next to me. She was a personal friend of Jesse's, like many others, but suddenly I realized that no one in the immediate family knew. It was evidenced in the subsequent priviledged visitors list that Beat-it took it upon herself to develop. Weel, she was forced to do it. It was the practical thing to do at that point. Jesse wouldn't know they were there anyway. . . truth is, nobody knew how many admirerers Jesse had. In some cases, worshipers.
Soon after Annex arrived and settled, Beckett showed up. Absolutely no one but Jesse and I knew who Beckett was. She was another personal friend. Beckett immediately, after greeting me, marched over to the double doors that secured my best friend. My brother. My fallen brother. Everyone looked at me and then Beckett and then each other for a few seconds. Mama Hoodoo was the first to break the curious silence. "Who the fuck is Beckett!?" she said loud enough for Beckett to hear her.
"I don't know who she thinks she is. . . said Beat-it, "I guess everybody and his Mama are gonna walk dey asses in here." O Shit! I thought. The Fan is on! Scofield looked at me and then turned sarcastically to the ceiling.
You see, to get in the ICU, one simply presses one's face against the tiny glass window until an attendant noticed. At which time they would have you in (the door was locked) and then ask, "Who are you here to see?"
One would reply, "Davis" or "Jesse."
"Well, you can only stay for a moment." They would then return to their work like good little androids.
With Beckett, it was a situation that, if not properly handled, could turn sour swiftly.. The idea of a white woman coming to see Jesse was one thing that didn't wash, but having the audacity to parade before the grief committee unannounced and, without permission, carried a maximum sentence, I'm sure. What Beckett caused, essentially, was the development of the guest list to see Jesse, and didn't know it. Later on, just before visitor's hours were over, it was announced that there would be a privileged "Visitor's List." It would be a rotating list because only two or three were allowed up in the weeping room lodge at a time. Neither Annex nor Beckett made the list (the first list that is. Later on in the story of dark comedy, the visitors had a war over who was who in Jesse Davis' life. It was totally insane). They didn't have a chance. There were even more wrinkles than Beckett and Annex that had to be ironed out.
One big one was the Gospel according to Elbow. If one did not abide by this senseless manifesto, doom was just the beginning. Elbow was a friend and brother to Jesse for 17 years. Elbow is at once a menacing hulk and sensitive poet. And wouldn't you know it? His name was not on the list. Boy, was that praying for rain! "Nobody is gonna tell me that I can't come and see my brother!" he said. "I've been more of a brother to Jesse than his own family. Fuck that goddamned list!" I don't think anyone noticed that Jesse had no idea who or what anything was. Especially the fact that someone would eventually have to become the legal guardian for Jesse; a factor in the War of the Visitors. There were rumors that Jesse and Lorro the Deep were feuding, and that he was planning to ride away to Florida or somthing. So the question arises: "Who will be his legal guardian?" "Whose house will he go to when he's released from the hospital?" Elbow did not help the situation by brow-beating me about having control of the friend side of the visitors' list. (Beat-it it had the family side.) There were also rumors that Annex was vying for the position. I thought in my male centered universe for a moment and asked, "Where is his brothers in all of this shit?" Jesse has two brothers, Peach Melba and Cosmos. Cosmos, the youngest of the three brothers, and in my estimation the one who should have taken care of the whole situation, instead of Beat-it, was in Arkansas somewhere and for some strange reason could not return. At a high rate of speed, the interaction surrounding Jesse's accident turned into a werewolf. A seven foot werewolf. I knew Jesse was reaching star status. And he'd be the last to know. In fact, the dailies and the rags did pieces on Jesse in the "Guess What?" columns. Yea, Cosmos would have handled everything. I can still see Elbow now.
Elbow: He's damn near frothing at the mouth.
"Why wasn't my name on the tucking list Coodeek!? I've know Jesse for 20 years! I'm closer to him than his own blood brothers! No one consulted me! You damn right I'm offended."
This Hospital scene fades with Elbow threatening the camera. It's a wide angle lens and distorts his face even more. He's waving his fist at the camera, hence you and I. The sound of a Hawaiian steel guitar is heard
. . . FADE TO BLACK.
"Set scatters my bones and hides them with Keb."l
The chain of events ran parallel with a much more ancient series of events. Somehow it had the makings of a modern day Osiris tragedy. Only the heroes and antagonists, with all their inclusive regiments in coats of mail, switched identities from time to time, depending on the circumstance.
Jesse becomes Osiris, fallen, tortured, and pulled apart by members of his own family. All the time he was in a state of "Otherness." A secluded state where other (metaphysical) occurances take place. The assignment of Set is shared by Peach Melba and Elbow. Because of their sheer lack of sensitivity, they both qualify. Manifesting the character of Set, who slayed his own brother, Osiris, in a jealous rage, severing his limbs and dissecting his body, and hiding the bloody pieces all over the earth (Keb), takes quite a bit of doing. To this day, I still can't believe some of the atrocious things that they (he) did to Jesse/Osiris. In the spirit of caring.
Soon after Jesse had regained consciousness (it took three weeks), he had trouble remembering not only how the accident occured, but everyone was standing around his bed. It took tremendous courage and effort on his part; accepting his near- death tragedy, his smashed-up motorcycle, and life had in store for him.
He was transferred from Receiving to Harper/Grace Hospital (Enter Dr. Gudici; white, female, rich, caring. Took the case under her wing. An expert on closed head injuries. A Humanitarian). He began to recount what occured in his state of otherness. It came to be that Jesse visited his parents (both of whom had passed into the otherness much earlier on) and described the "place" as "Almost like this, but it's a little different."
"It was just like they were sitting right here," he said. "It was very nice. Being with them. They spoke to me and told me things. Things that I cannot say right now, but things that make complete sense." (I took it to mean thatwords of power were given to him intravenously. One is nourished, but can't see how. Yes, I believe his sires gave him words of healing, words of consolation). Set as Peach Melba did not accept Jesse's story about the parents. He strenuously challenged it as per the advice of Neichebet (Dr. Gudici) and said,"Look Jesse, our parents are dead and you didn't see them. So, don't even try it." I knew the scrimmage lines were being drawn up for the battle. Jesse said, "No. Listen. I told my father, 'This world is just like the one I live in,' and he said, 'No, it ain't.'
"Look, Jesse, you're just gonna have to realize that you didn't see Mama and Daddy. They're dead," insisted Set.
"Wait a minute Peach," I said, "He could have had the experience while he was asleep. You weren't there so how would you know?"
"Coodeek, we have to help Jesse remember things in the real world, we can't let him believe shit like this!"
"It's not shit!" I said. "There is something of value to be gained from his experience."
It seemed that what Jesse experienced was insignificant to Set as Peach Melba and the fertility twins, that he had a message from the unseen. Perhaps they couldn't accept a message from the other world. Perhaps they envied Jesse's experience. Perhaps it was pure selfishness. I mean, after all, everybody had to take off from work to take care of things in Jesse's behalf. With the exception of Set as Peach and Bee the here-to-fore little mentioned other half of the fertility twins (more like futility twins). In fact, neither one of them showed up for the magnificent benefit held to raise some money for Jesse's medical expenses. They of course really cared. How much was the hospital tab going to be? Who's going to pay for it? Jesse had no insurance and no hospitalization plan. Few musicians do. Lorro the Deep as isis, took care to get all the necessary papers and forms for whomever was going to act as the legal guardian. Not to mention working with the white coats from day one. She was the source of information for everybody. Even the news media. Fact is, it took all of six weeks for members of the immediate family to even speak to the doctors on any specific level.
Lorro the Deep becomes isis; Mama Hoodoo becomes Nephthys. (Oddly enough, in the Osiris tragedy, OsIris, Set, Isis and Nephthys are all brothers and sisters. Analogically, Jesse, Lorro the Deep, Peach Melba and Elbow are all Aquarians. Mama Hoodoo is a Libran, but Annex is also an Aquarian, all of which are Air signs.) Isis as Lorro the Deep and Nephthys as Mama Hoodoo run around trying to get all the pieces back together again. isis beseeches Thoth (Tehuti) and eventually Horus, the son of Osiris (who avenges his father's demise), to help her. Thoth passes the wisdom and words of power to isis. The purpose was resurrection at any cost, from any angle. Set and his henchment try desperately to prevent this from occuririg. They hate Isis. Horus and Thoth are Cosmos and Coodeek, but by Cosmos being absent in the scheme of things, Coodeek transforms himself (without knowing it) into Cosmos hence Horns, while already functioning as ThoTh. Prayers, incantations, and strategies, soundly represented a Holy War.
Jesse was like a baby in ways that are difficult to define. He was very sensitive yet remembered enough of his previous existence to maintain his tough-as-nails demeanor. Anyone with an Eye to see, knew it was a resurrection. That is, regaining consciousness for Jesse was like a resurrection. Things were almost the same. Needless to say, Set's conduct opened the book of realization for me. There was still more to be learned from Osirls' sojourrr through the ethereal. Information first hand, from someone who's strong proclivity towards spirituality, would not be challenged by his ilk. Unfortunately Blood is sometimes too thick.
One day, Jesse called me at my job from Harper Hospital. He had cheer in his voice. He was feeling fine. Osiris had returned from the dead. He had cheer in his words, laughing and joking like before. But there were no tears of joy that wet the rims of my eyes. A sad confusion best describes the feeling. The rigor and intensity of traveling through the underworld carried its triumphs and disappointments. The boat of Osiris, although armored with truth, powered by justice and guided by knowledge, sustains its casualties. it is said that Osiris becomes Re (the Sun) upon leaving the underworld and rising peacefully in the East from the tumultuous season of polarity. Re is hiding something on a cloudy day. And what of rain? How sad Ra must be. Healing has its own power, however, and the scales seemed tilted in Jesse's favor.
I stopped by the hospital that day, on my way home from work, only to find Jesse visiting with Annex. Then I knew how Jesse remembered my work number. Annex was doing the dialing. At this point he hadn't been conscious for long. So there was a weakness in his enunciations. Ostensibly I was worried that he was improving too fast. I was uneasy about outside interference as soon as I had heard he came back to earth plane. I was not a part of the welcoming party. There was really no way that he could be warned. One just doesn't interrupt healing with bullshit. Someone should have told his enemies that. The hyenas were circling the bed, the hospital. Rumors had him amputated, blind in one eye, dead. We do face strange things here on earth plane. Things seem one way, but the opposite lurks somewhere beneath the skin. People who "cared" about Jesse began to argue and fight. There were evenings when friends and relatives came close to blows. Cloudy days for Osiris.
That same evening long after Annex had left, Jesse tried to leave the hospital. He was adamant about packing his things. Nekhebet had to be called in to calm the quake. Jesse was rocking the boat. Peach Melba and Elbow were there. Nekhebet was trying carefully to explain how Jesse was not well enough to leave (and he wasn't) the hospital. She seemed adequate, but that was all. He agreed to stay (for a little while) so she left the room. At that point Osiris broke down and wept. I realized, more than ever, that he needed help. Not a half dozen advisors. He cried because he thought he had hurt the doctor's feelings. That was astounding.
I figured Jesse/Osiris was without his KA (Spiritual Double) and therefore was only half there. It's almost like having use of only half of one's faculties. The KA can be responsible for that feeling of dejavu. Dispatched to Astral travel. A spy in the crowded corridors of the unseen world, and the visible world for that matter. He cried and we closed the door to his room. Only Elbow/Set and I were left with him. Peach Melba/Set could not bear it and left to speak with Nekhebet. Elbow/Set said nothing. I (as Horus) tried to be reasonable in my plea for Osiris to take it easy, "Jesse you have to take your time now."
"Was I being rude?" he asked.
"No. No. You're only becoming more of your terrestrial self again. That's all. But you have to realize that everyone is not going to believe you and how you feel about yourself. You have been through a lot of pain and suffering and that's all they can see. They don't know who or what you were before the accident. They can't. Even if all of your friends came in here and told them," I lectured. He seemed to begin to think about it. "Furthermore, all they care about is doing their jobs. You're a patient here. A body, a room number. They only feel good if you recover properly and what yqu have to realize is that they didn't expect you to recover so fast. So soon. In fact, they predicted that you would be unconscious for four months and boom! You're on your feet inside of a month. I mean it's virtually a miracle! You have to be a little more tolerant of the doctor." I was hoping I was getting through to him, then the nurses barged in. "You're going to have to leave real soon," one of them said. "OK, give me five minutes," I begged. They left. "Jesse, I really believe you saw your parents in the unseen. I feel they gave you words of power to help you on your journey back to earthplane. But you'll have to use that experience to get you out of here. Don't tell anyone anymore about it. We're praying for you because we love you. Look at all those cards on the wall. People do love you. But you have to be more patient." He just looked bewildered. The nurses put us out of his room soon after. We said our farewells and left.
On the way down the hail towards the elevators I told Set/Elbow, "Jesse's accident Is a sign to all of us, don't you think? I mean we're all abusing our bodies to the hilt." He at least agreed to that.
We ran into Beat-It and Peach Melba in the lobby. They were not very pleasant at all. Set/Peach was running down the latest incident to Beat-it. I felt they were more concerned about themselves than they were about their brother. I was sort of ashamed for them.
Ultimately, things got worse. On the outskirts of the Osiris sick bed, that is. Suddenly no one believed isis. She became the enemy out in the open. Set was obviously hostile. Everyone was making plans for Jesse without discussing it with him. Plots and plans were heard in the streets. They were treating him like a child.
Elbow/Set, Peach/Set, the fertility twins, and Annex were On the same team. They all hated isis with a passion, not to mention Thoth/Horus. It must have been guilt, because she never left Osiris' side until Set/Peach made sure that Annex had equal time. Equal time? I couldn't believe it. The battles and skirmishes that took place over Osiris' body were hard to swallow. So I stop coming to the hospital. I would only check with Isis to see how Osiris was progressing. Each Set back was due to Set (both manifestations), the fertility twins, Beckett and Annex, and Nekhebet (Dr. Gudici). They refused to let him heal. It seemed that they were trying to keep his KA away from him. They didn't want him to be whole. They didn't believe he would be whole again. Is Love strange?
Osiris (as Ra) eventually rose from the dead and saw his light shining upon the globe. A brighter vision resulting from words of power received from the unseen. The demons cannot discount this. The boat of Osisirs finds its shore in the Alysian fields. The clouds are gone away.
Eventually Jesse escapes with his life and no one knows where he is to this day...
1.From the poem:"Laser's Edge (For Blood Ulmer)" published in Solid Ground: A New World Journal (Winter, 1982).
His Name Is Alive w/ Faruq Z. Bey - Zrii
Recorded at the UFO Factory, New Detroit 2009.
Dion Fischer - moog synthesizer
Noah Eikhoff - bass
J Rowe - percussion, gong
Steve Nistor - drums
Warren Defever - guitar, keyboards
Faruq Z. Bey - soprano saxophone, bells