Improvised Music and Musical Aesthetics

Norman Lebrecht is know for his divisive, often conservative views, but he surpassed himself recently with a blog post which lambasted Arts Council England for funding a concert by Supersilent. Supersilent are an improv group whose publicity states that they do not rehearse, in order to keep each concert experience as fresh as possible. That the musicians have developed musical affinities throughout their long collaboration, and that they each practice, study, research and so on on their own seems to have eluded Lebrecht. In any case, the comments below the post are worth reading, for the many pertinent points they raise about varying musical value systems.

From a comment by Jack Davies:

The only scandal here is your breathtaking ignorance and arrogance, Norman. Jazz and improvised music is abysmally poorly funded here in the UK (just over £1m in total for the entire genre from ACE). You should be writing blogs decrying this failure of ACE’s instead of taking poorly researched, bigoted pot shots at a genre you clearly don’t understand. In general the level of work, commitment and knowledge jazz and improvised musicians have is at the highest level of any musician working in any genre…In short, we suffer enough from this kind of short sightedness and simple mindedness at the top of the arts council. We can do with out bloggers and journalists shoring up their uneducated position.

And Sam Wooster:

The smallest amount of research will tell anyone that Supersilent formed in 1997, have toured extensively since then and recorded and released 9 albums. I personally would say that is a little more than a ‘scratch session in an airport lounge’ which you claimed they couldn’t even be bothered to do. The band is comprised of three of the most renowned and respected improvisers in the world who are generally considered to have made huge contributions to the advancement of this art form. A band that has been active for 15 years may choose not to rehearse immediately before touring to achieve true spontaneity during live performances. This comes only from experience and years of hard work leading up to that point, not laziness. It is unsurprising to me that this blog has been met with ‘warm abuse’, as you have chosen to belittle an underfunded, often misunderstood art form that many of us dedicate our lives to. It is hurtful and ignorant.

Published on 9 July 2012

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