Jazz and Emergence--Part One


Jazz and Emergence--Part One
Inflexions: A Journal of Research-Creation
This two-part essay inquires into the history of jazz from Be-Bop composing practices of the 1940’s, to the development of Free Jazz in the 1960’s, in terms of the concepts of “complexity” and “emergence” in physics and cognitive science. Thus, it continues my past attempts at cross-disciplinary investigations, which drift from the relationship between complex systems and art into the realm of philosophy, by addressing the transgressive and yet inevitably complicitous nature of avant-garde art and its posture towards dominant cultural formations.

Much of my early work on the avant-garde demonstrates how Deleuze and Guattari ground the concepts of nomadology and micro-political aesthetics to a great extent in the discourses of complex systems in physics and cognitive science, as those discourses have evolved throughout this century, but especially since the 1960’s. Since the late 1980’s, I have argued, along with Manuel Delanda, that many other concepts such as the refrain, multiplicities, territorialization and de-territorialization, difference and repetition—recently discussed by Deleuzean scholars with reference to music--also share these grounds. We need to justify this venture into the careful forging of alliances among scientific disciplines, the philosophy of science and contemporary aesthetic philosophy, in order to reflect on the following five main lines of inquiry (or what Deleuze and Guattari would call “lines of [conceptual] flight”) traversing the realms of science, philosophy and jazz aesthetics:

How do assumptions about duration or time shape the very different creative processes in classical and jazz music? I refer specifically to the western tendency to spatialize time since the 17th Century when both calculus, and standard music notation with even temperament and bars and time signatures, emerged.

How dependent are John Cage’s compositions, by foregrounding the interdependence of music and noise, upon a carefully considered deconstruction (in the Derridean sense) of the calculus of music notation dominant since those 17th Century innovations in contrapuntal composition. We will then notice how he adopts models of music notation that look uncannily similar to phase space diagrams of such complex irreversible processes as attractor states in thermodynamics.

How did the Be-Bop composing practices of Charlie Parker and others engage directly in the calculated yet spontaneous deconstruction of spatialized time, in order for new, hybrid processes of musical expression to emerge? Reminiscent of Bergson’s stages of “creative evolution,” these processes, enable song structures, as the vehicles for improvisation, as well as the conceptual/linguistic musical content (harmony, melody and rhythm) of those songs, to evolve into increasingly subtle and abstract forms at breath-taking speed.