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19 November 2008

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Dan Johnson
1.

Y'know, I used to think this was true, too? Until I started working at a record store with a sizable black clientele. Come to find out, "they" actually still listen to jazz, and old-school hip hop! It was just the black people on TV who listened to nothing but R&B and gangsta rap. Who would have guessed that my small-town presuppositions about black culture were nothing but half-truths and stereotypes! (Answer: Anyone who might have stopped to think about it for a goddam minute.)

Would I be so annoyed if the latest SWPL post hadn't make assumptions like these about what sorts of music black people like along the way to their usual moment of counterfeit racial self-awareness? Yes, probably. This white person HATES Stuff White People Like. So, grain of salt.

DJA
2.

Dan,

You are taking SWPL far too literally. The whole point is to riff (cleverly, I think) on some broad stereotypes in order to poke (gentle) fun at certain aspects of liberal white culture that liberal white people tend not to think of as racial signifiers.

That said, WRT the black audience for contemporary jazz, it has been dwindling for a very long time, as has the proportion of young black musicians who are becoming seriously involved in jazz. This is not an imaginary phenomenon, and it's been cause for a certain amount of concern for a lot of people.

As for white people only really being into the hiphop they grew up with, or the stuff that's deliberately retro -- okay, uh, guilty as charged. I feel like a curmudgeon, but sweet jeebus, the T-Pain-inspired autotune on everything... it hurts us, it does. The fact that older black people feel the same way (something that is referenced in the post) doesn't make the generalization untrue.

matt fee
3.

funny stuff.

a few years ago i started listening to some of the music from the hip hop label def jux. mostly white artists but definitely some black artists too. i checked out a def jux show from the bowery ballroom on youtube and it was all white kids. mr lif who is black was on stage and i couldnt help but wonder what he must think about all of this. i know i felt a tad uncomfortable...

miles went through the same thing and then we got the first electric miles. (this switch was obviously more complex than that but it was an issue from what i understand.)

on that note here's another website

blackpeopleloveus.com

very very funny.....

matt fee
4.

does anyone know if miles was able to reignite interest in the black community in the late 60s and 70s?

Dan Johnson
5.

I'm sure you're right. I don't know why SWPL consistently rubs me the wrong way! I don't think it's my great love of white people (seriously, we're horrible). As for why I went into Humorless Liberal mode when I read this latest... I'll blame the caffeine.

MSK
6.

Funny stuff, and guilty as charged. My only defense is that I hardly listen to any music white people currently like, either.

The key is "current." I've always had the hardest time keeping up and sifting through what's out there for the good stuff.

Chris Becker
7.

"That said, WRT the black audience for contemporary jazz, it has been dwindling for a very long time, as has the proportion of young black musicians who are becoming seriously involved in jazz. This is not an imaginary phenomenon, and it's been cause for a certain amount of concern for a lot of people."

I'm going to speak in general terms here - I'll put myself on the spot but I'm not going to call out specific bands, composers, etc. I just want to throw out some questions.

How then do we as composers integrate our collaborative networks and audiences so they aren't representative of one skin color, one economic class, and/or academic pedigree?

I've heard this complaint from white friends who play in Latino rock bands, black friends who play progressive rock and roll, black friends who sing classical avant-garde...and I've come to think of this as a creative challenge i.e how do you broaden your palette as a composer and revitalize your audiences? Sometimes, it simply means you've got to reach out beyond your culture, your neighborhood, your comfort zone. It should be simple. But color is - for many stupid insane reasons - a barrier even artists acknowledge and fear.

As artists, we are in a unique position to change up this shit.

Our passion for music takes us beyond class and color. But do our ensembles reflect this passion? Do our audiences? Does that matter?

And does thinking about all of this somehow poison the well? Why be frustrated if the ten people who happen to show up to your gig are all white or all black? Shouldn't you just be glad SOMEBODY showed up?

DJA
8.

Why be frustrated if the ten people who happen to show up to your gig are all white or all black? Shouldn't you just be glad SOMEBODY showed up?

Sure, but (without wanting to speak for anyone, this is just what I've heard from a few people) if you're a black artist who grew up in a scene where live jazz was an important social experience in your community, it's understandable you might feel the lack of that acutely.

Chris Becker
9.

Right. But going back to the concerns you have expressed with seriousness (the quote I excerpted at the top of my previous post) - what then must we (i.e. artists) do?

I don't think there's a simple or "right" answer by the way...


Michael
10.

Sooo many false dichotomies...
I don't buy the fundamental premise of the division of white/black culture. That isn't to say that the experience of a white or black person of similar age and economic class in the same city will be the same. And I certainly believe that racism (in the sense that favors whites and almost requires a black counter-reaction) still runs rampant. But in so many areas of life- art, cooking, fashion, sex, consumerism, there's a huge cross-pollination that would be fruitless to ignore. Even if certain concepts might be viewed as reactions of one "culture" against the other. "White culture" and "black culture" in the U.S. don't exist in separate vacuums. Beyond that, I think great music/art/food/sex can be enjoyed as such by pretty much anybody, and we don't have to all agree about it (tastes will differ).

I'm willing to guess that the over/under representation of whites and blacks either on stage or in the audience for certain music styles at any point in history has WAY more to do with over-exposed role models and mass marketing than some inherent race-based difference in taste. The internet at least makes grassroots and/or subversive marketing possible without some money-movers' stamp of approval.

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