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by
Robert Spencer

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February 15, 2013 - 8:00 am
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For jazz is not jazz if it doesn’t contain a considerable element of improvisation, and improvisation is an expression of the individual soul par excellence. A musician who is improvising has nothing to fall back on except his own inner reservoir, and that is why jazz at its best is so immediate, so personal, and so affecting. Miles Davis and John Coltrane improvising on the same piece couldn’t sound more different from one another, not just because one plays trumpet and the other tenor sax, but because they are so very different from one another as human beings, and in their improvisations, one can hear into their very hearts and souls. One may learn their solos note-for-note (as I did back in the pre-9/11 days when I played a bit of saxophone myself), but this is just a musical exercise; the music itself can be copied but never replicated, for their individual expression is inherent and essential to it.

Totalitarian collectivists hate that individual expression. They are only interested in the individual not for the expression of his own soul, but as a cog to fit into their great machine that is marching toward the worker’s paradise, or the Sharia state, or whatever the outcome of their reign of terror is called today. As such, jazz music, a unique product of the nation that has enabled a flowering of the individual spirit unparalleled in human history, is a rebuke to collectivism, and a defiant and joyful reassertion of the one thing that totalitarians fear most: the individual.

Now wait a minute, you will say: what about all those Muslim jazz musicians? There have certainly been a lot of them. The formidable drummer and bandleader Art Blakey was known to his friends as “Bu,” short for Abdullah ibn Buhaina, his Muslim name. Ahmad Jamal, Sahib Shihab, Idrees Suleiman, Yusef Lateef, Rashied Ali – the list goes on and on. The tenor and soprano saxophonist Pharoah Sanders actually titled his marvelous album Summun Bukmun Umyun after passages of the Qur’an that say that the unbelievers are “deaf, dumb and blind” (summun, bukmun, umyun, 2:18 and 2:171). The liner notes say that the album’s purpose is pure dawah (Islamic proselytizing): “This album is predicated on spiritual truths and to the future enlightenment of El-Kafirun or The Rejectors of Faith (non-believers).”

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But there is such a wealth of music in the Arab and Persian world. Who cares what some cramped, neurotic religious freak has to say? It will never diminish the sheer grandeur of the Persian santur. I listen to modern (and classical) Farsi and Arab music all the time. I think it's a feature of their cultures worth celebrating.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Chairman Mao banned most forms of music. Ayatollah Khomeini banned western music. Plato, the grandfather of totalitarianism, said the Philsopher King would ban musical instruments capable of changing keys. Dogmas that believe in thought control also believe in controlling music.
http://www.jochnowitz.net/Essays/Plato.html
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
When do we get to start raining stones down upon the Muslims?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
To answer the question posed in the headline, perhaps Lenin and Muhammad couldn't even play with themselves.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Music brings joy, and joy is the opposite of terror."
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Music not only brings joy. It can bring despondency and grief. It can exhilarate. It can depress. It can make you weep. It can put you to sleep.

Music is a catalyst for emotional feelings. It is a trigger. It is very mysterious how that works. But I think the closest analogue would be narcotics or amphetamines. Music can have the same effect.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Actually you guys come close, and I suggest you reread 1984.

What you absolutely have is a calling of one person to another, for any reason, because communication brings trust, in time.

Can't have anything you can't control.

I do wonder too what RickMZ's point is: he would be better gone.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So, Mr. Spencer, anyone yet made an Islamic ruling on whether hip hop is Islamic and hence bannable?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I mean, whether hip hop is music, hence banable
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
One more proof that collectivism in almost all its forms is elementary evil personified.

Teamwork and cooperation for mutual benefit? Hell, yeah! Suppression of individual spirit and creativity? Bah, humbug!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Make a joyful noise to the Lord.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Now this is fun.

Truthfully, these ideas are by no means limited to Jazz. As you noted, all music is a form of individual expression – though the classic American traditions of Jazz, Blues & Country are perhaps the most free in doing so. It is one of those historical truisms that during the Cold War it was our Rock & Roll culture that was our strongest weapon against the Commies.

I worked in the music industry for ten years, and for me, nothing was more expressive for me than Blues. In fact, while all genres encourage the learning of ‘the classics’ – you know, those old standards everyone loves – Blues encourages you to avoid mimicking said classics as much as possible.

Jazz always held a special place for me too, though there was never a strong market for it here in the South. Personally, I always preferred Swing – the big orchestras led by Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. I’d be curious to see your opinions of blues and swing, Mr. Spencer.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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