The Last Gig of Lenny Breau


Preface: In Search of The Lost Chord; Three D’s in Music: Deus, Dominus, et Diabolus in Musica.

Breau’s Polychordal Deity: To B or Not…to BOP; Is Jazz a Four Letter Word; Jazz and Modernity;
Schenker’s Ursatz; Discordant Ditties; Joni’s Sympathy for the Flatted Fifth; Art Nouveau;
The Divine Image; Hip Hop and My New Equality Rap; Transvaluation of Western Values;
White Boy Lost in The Blues; Lenny’s Love for the Flatted Fifth; Tensional Symbols; The Chord of Cohen.

The First Vision of Breau; The First Jig of Lenny Breau; The Last Vision of Breau;
Jazz Queen; 2 Prayers, 2 Loves, 2 Ways, 2 Wills; A Sketch of the Artist as a Hipster.

Preface: In Search of The Lost Chord

I have a unique perspective on the life and music of Canadian guitar legend Lenny Breau (1941-1984) as I taught literature, philosophy, and theology in colleges and universities for several years, wrote an academic thesis concerning the history of music and metaphysics (parts of which are included on the webpages Baroque Muse and Romantic Muse), and am a professional musician.  Breau liked to mix things.  A problem with what I have written on this webpage is that it mixes my attempt at an objective analysis of Breau’s musical vision with elements of my personal journey.  The aim of my research is to arrive at as objective a perspective as is possible, while conscious of personal limitations. 

I may incorporate my research into Breau’s musical vision into a prospective book called The Greatest Guitarist in the World (denoting the Maker), which would explore the musical visions of Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, Lenny Breau, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton.  A synopsis of this work in progress is found on the webpage, The Greatest Guitarist in the World, which I invite the curious reader to explore.  I toured a musical show with that title in which I portrayed these six guitarists.  A personal benefit in performing this show was that it clarified my own musical vision.  A benefit to audience members is that it allowed them to choose which musical visionary they deemed to be the greatest, and perhaps to reflect on why they made such a choice.

In wrestling with various issues on this webpage and website I am in search of a beatific portrait of a disjointed world and a concordant resolution to those whom Martin Luther King Jr., in his I Have a Dream speech, described as “the jangling discords” of humanity.  It would take a megalomaniac to undertake such a quest as an activist or a politician, but it is perfectly acceptable for a visionary artist, whose concern is with the hypothetical and possible, rather than the real and actual.  In the following passage James W. Perkinson describes a cultural quest in racial terms.  “In the operations of the racial imagination, whiteness emerges, in one sense, as the social artifact of a cultural quest for ‘clarity,’ ‘definiteness,’ ‘intelligibility,’ ‘order,’ ‘form,’ ‘freedom.’  It gains force as an elusive index of identity whose substance is largely that of a silent negation of imagined ‘darkness,’ a kind of lived denial of many of the social conditions imposed on communities of color.  As the ‘color’ of a psychic gesture, whiteness abreacts ‘away from’ the formless fact of mortality, the beginning of life in dark intimacy, the reproduction of life in a merging that muddles boundaries between bodies.” (Rap as Wrap and Rapture; from Noise and Spirit, 138)  Philosopher Eric Voegelin describes the quest more abstractly as “an effort to attune the concretely disordered existence again to the truth.” (Search, 39)  However, Leonard Cohen qualifies this quest when stating, “A state of grace is that kind of balance with which you ride the chaos that you find around you.  It’s not a matter of resolving the chaos, because there is something arrogant and warlike about putting the world in order.”

Sometimes when a man is with a woman the woman seems like the whole world to him, and the rest of the world seems surreal by comparison; John Donne’s poem, The Canonization, comes to mind.  This may be how Breau envisioned his starlit Stella, yet it’s a subjective paradise, William Blake’s state of Beulah, and the universal ecclesia must dawn on the consciousness of the lunatic lover for him to discover his authentic self.  Two aphorisms of Greek philosopher Heraclitus come to mind: “The waking have one world in common, whereas each sleeper turns away to a private world of his own;” “Although the Logos is common to all, most men live as if each of them had a private intelligence of his own.”  David Horowitz: “It is precisely this perception of the world’s heroic potential that gives Don Quixote the capacity to live heroically….Who is Dulcinea?…she is the symbol of his vision of the world, a world which under the impress of his passion has momentarily become this vision – the scene of authentic ‘golden’ nobility by virtue of his golden deeds.” (Left Illusions, 21-22)  Malachi Martin describes priests in the 1960s “with lovebeads strung around their necks…strumming guitars and singing ‘To Dream the Impossible Dream.’” (The Jesuits, 250)

Sufi mystic Inayat Khan, in his essay, Spiritual Development by the Aid of Music, states: “Music is a miniature of the harmony of the whole universe, for the harmony of the universe is life itself, and humans, being a miniature of the universe, show harmonious and inharmonious chords in their pulsations, in the beat of their hearts, in their vibration, rhythm and tone.  Their health or illness, their joy or discomfort, all show the music or lack of music in their life.”  E. Michael Jones notes that composer Peter Jona “Korn claims a correlation between higher rates of illness among orchestra musicians and the amount of twelve-tone music they play.” (Dionysus Rising, 155)  Maria Schneider (“disappointedly”): “’Sometimes I feel like, in the world of jazz, people think that more chromaticism all the time is going to make their music hipper.’” (The Jazz Ear, 82)  Baroque music theorist Andreas Werckmeister perceives a “presentation” of divine wisdom in the “three-note chord; it is indeed ‘unitrisonus.’  Could any clearer likeness be imagined, in which the threefold unity of God’s being were better mirrored than in this?  Would to God that all good Christians understood music thus; they would find heartfelt joy in this symbol.” (from Godwin, Spheres, 297)

“Jazz is the expression of protest against law and order, the bolshevik element of license striving for expression in music. – Anne Shaw Faulkner, Ladies Home Journal
The ‘jazz mania’ has taken on the character of a lingering illness and must be cured by means of forceful intervention. – Boris Gibalin, Izvestia
What a terrible revenge by the culture of the Negroes on that of the whites! – Ignace Paderewski
Jazz opposes to our classical conception of music a strange and subversive chaos of sounds…it is a fashion and, as such, destined some day to disappear. – Igor Stravinsky
Jazz is only what you are. – Louis Armstrong” (Gary Giddens, Visions of Jazz, vii)
“’I’d rather hear Louis Armstrong play ‘Tiger Rag’ than wander into Westminster Abbey and find the lost chord.’” – Edward, Duke of Windsor (83)
“doubtless it pleased Duke Ellington to have the future King Edward VIII sit in on drums at a party for his band in London.” – Eric Hobsbawm (Uncommon People, 271)
“My father [King George V] was a strict disciplinarian.  Sometimes when I had done something wrong, he would admonish me saying, ‘My dear boy, you must always remember who you are.’”  Duke of Windsor
A member of rock royalty’s tops [sic] guitarists…is a huge fan of Lenny’s [see Breauian harmonics at 1:45 of Can’t Stand Losing You]….Did you [k]now Prince Charles is a Lenny Breau fan?”  Emily Hughes
“’there’s a story about the [church] sisters who were talking about the pastor, and only one sister could appreciate the pastor.  She said, “If he’s good, I can look through him and see Jesus.  If he’s bad, I can look over him and see Jesus.”  That’s the way I feel about music.’” – Louis Armstrong (from Louis Armstrong Loves Guy Lombardo; in Jazz/Not Jazz, 31)
“On stage for the last time.  Charlie Parker in his bronze coffin, before the ridiculous funeral oration by Reverend Licorice, a sentimental organ playing of The Lost Chord, the coffin juggling by honorary pallbearers drafted from booking agencies and trade journals, and other incidents of the final act in the theatre of the absurd at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, Harlem, 1955.” – Ross Russell (Bird Lives, note to photo 32)
“There was an organ playing ‘The Lost Chord.’  Well, a friend of Bird’s and mine said, ‘Bird never lost a chord in his life.’ (laughs)” – Chan Parker
“Coltrane’s….music was in a constant state of flux, as if he were in continuous search of some cosmic lost chord.” – Eric Nisenson (‘Round About Midnight, 192)
“Some guy asked Luther Perkins [Johnny Cash’s guitarist], ‘How come you just go [E major chord with alternating 1 and 5 bass note] and everybody else goes [fast, sloppy, descending scale]?  He said, ‘They’re huntin’ for it – I’ve found it.” – Glenn Campbell (Half Mile A Day, 15:20)
Doyle Dykes: “What Luther Perkins was doing was basically the bass pattern of the Chet Atkins style.”
Colin Escott: “when Hank Garland came to town and proved himself the most technically adroit picker in country music, Hank was dismissive. ‘Aw,’ he said, ‘he’s still searchin’ for it. I’ve found it.” (I Saw the Light, 129) Williams: “‘A song ain’t nuthin’ in the world but a story with music to it.'” (209) Minnie Pearl: “‘He was all hunkered down, looking out of the side of the car singing. He was singing, ‘I Saw the light,’ then he stopped and he turned around, and his face broke up and he said, ‘Minnie, I don’t see no light.’” (216)  

Three D’s in Music: Deus, Dominus, et Diabolus in Musica

Deus in Musica

The three notes of a major chord, forming the ‘perfect’ chord of nature, are traditionally associated with the three persons of the Christian Trinity.  From its inception in music theory the term “triad” was imbued with metaphysical associations.  Joel Lester notes: “the term triad (trias harmonica) was coined by Johannes Lippius…because, like the Holy Trinity, it is a unity born of three separate parts – three pitches and three intervals.”  (Compositional Theory in the Eighteenth Century, 11, 97)  Joachim Burmeister, in his Musica autoschediastike, published in 1601, expresses this analogy in a poem, which begins: “Who would deny that from the one divinity of the Triad, You, noble Music, derived your beginning?  You represent the mystery of the divine Triad.” (from Rivera, 144).  Athanasius Kircher, in his Musurgia universalis, states that, just as the musical triad combines “‘into a harmony of three notes, so also the Spirit is the bond uniting the Father and the Son, beginning and end, into one incomprehensible harmony.  Through this ineffable harmony of the richest Triad is to be explained how every harmonic concord in nature is propagated'” (from Rivera, 151).     

Philosopher Louis Claude de Saint-Martin describes the relation between the harmonic triad and the fundamental idea of his book, Des Erreurs et de la Vérité, in the following passage: “In the first place, that which we know in music under the name of the common chord [accord parfait] is, for us, the image of that first unity that embraces everything and from which everything comes forth.  This chord is single and unique, entirely self-contained without need of any note other than its own; in a word, it is unalterable in its intrinsic value, like unity.”  To this description of the triad, Saint-Martin adds the observation that, “Secondly, this common chord is the most harmonious of all; it is the only one that satisfies the human ear and leaves nothing else to be desired.”  More recently Dane Rudhyar observed that Western “tonality took the form of a harmonic system providing order, direction, and the resolution of tension into the ‘perfect chord,’ the major triad (C, E, G),” which is a reflection of “the divine Trinity, Father, Holy Spirit, and Son.” (The Magic of Tone, Chapter 9)  Heinrich Schenker states that “every system is part of a higher system; the highest system of all is God himself, God the creator” (FC, xxiii).  Rudhyar: “In music, the perfect chord of the C-major tonality, C, E, G, is a consonant harmony, because the compound notes are harmonics of a lower fundamental C.  If this fundamental C has a frequency of 100, the three notes of the perfect chord will have frequencies of 400, 500 and 600.” (Chapter 11)

The above quotes inspired me to write a lyric called Triads: The tones of a major chord are three: do, so, and thirdly mi; / Corresponding in the key of C to C, G, and thirdly E. / G is the opposite of C, E binds them in harmony: an image of the Trinity; / The Son is the opposite of He, whose Spirit forms a unity. / Natural laws of harmony offer an analogy / Of how the Triune Deity coexists for all eternity.

The ‘perfect’ chord is a static harmonic entity which becomes dynamic as it unfolds in a piece of music.  As a dynamic being, God is analogous to the music which unfolds from a major triad, and not to the static triad itself.  Oppositions and tensions among the three persons of the Trinity are tolerated provided that they are resolved, as music resolves in a cadence.    Hans Urs von Balthasar, the favorite theologian of the previous two Popes, perceives a “polarity in God” (Theo-Drama, III, 510), consistent with Bray’s reference to von Balthasar’s recognition “that the mutual relation of the Father and Son is a coincidence of opposites, in which opposition (conflict) is replaced by self-determination in love (Spirit).  It is the Son, in particular, who represents the eternal reconciliation which extends beyond the Godhead, and is symbolized above all in the crucified manhood of Christ, which he has united to himself” (187-188).  

Saint Augustine: “our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”  Analogously, Levy and Levarie state: “In musical terms, we can identify consonance with a perfect balance of forces, with a condition of rest, with the potential of finality.  Analogously, we identify dissonance with a struggle of energies, with unresolved tension, with the promise of continuation.  In this sense, there is only one perfect consonance between two tones: the unison; and there is only one perfect consonance among chords: the triad.  All other intervals and chords are more or less dissonant, varying according to the energy with which the participating forces ‘pull apart.'” (Tone, 198-199).  Levarie and Levy: “Among the many theories, there is hardly any disagreement concerning the inherent consonance of the triad.  The senarius and the overtone series both point to the same conclusion.” (Tone, 208)

Dominus in Musica

The noun dominant was first recorded in 1819, earliest in the musical sense.  Joan Ferris observes that for Jean-Philippe Rameau there were “two fundamental chords, the perfect major triad and the chord of the seventh.  The most perfect progression of these two chords proceeds from the less perfect to the more perfect, from tension to repose.  One calls the first chord of this perfect cadence the dominant-tonic, ‘because it should always precede the final note, and therefore dominate it.’  One calls the final chord the tonic, ‘because everything begins and ends on it.’”[43]  This progression is known as a perfect cadence, which, Neubauer notes, “is in Rameau’s scheme the elementary and archetypal musical structure.”[44]  Rameau describes this structure as follows: “‘the perfect cadence alone is…the origin of the principal varieties introduced into harmony.  One inverts this cadence, interrupts it, imitates it, avoids it – this is what [harmonic] variety consists of’.”[45]  Rob Kapilow: “A dominant-seventh chord is the virtual opposite of a final chord.  It is a chord that is defined by its need for resolution.  It is ‘The’ of ‘The End,’ and ending a song on it is like ending a movie with The.” (All You Have To Do Is Listen, 213) 

Levarie and Levy note that the Western tonal system “is defined by the three triads of tonic, dominant, and subdominant.  The scale is the melodic projection of these three chords; it contains the different tones of the chords and only these” (Tone, 215).  In the tonal scale the tonal center, or 1, could be accessed by either 2 or 7.  Schenkerian music theorist Victor Zuckerkandl describes the function of the dominant (V) chord in relation to the tonic (I): “both tones 7 and 2 are component parts of the V triad” (Sense, 195).  This tonal fact explains why “in the chordal cycle the tonic, or I, can only be accessed in counter-clockwise motion from the V, and not from the IV.  In the chordal motion from I to V the tonal center is conspicuously absent due to the presence of 2 and 7, which combine to powerfully invite the presence of the I.  Although the chordal motion from IV to I forms a plagal cadence familiar in the closing Amen of many church hymns, the tonal center is present throughout.  The IV is analogous to the ever-present elder son of the parable, jealous of the favor granted his prodigal brother, the V chord” (196).  “Since V is the only chord audibly directed towards I, it is by virtue of V only that I can effectively establish itself as the center of action.  Any harmonic motion, in order to express the rule of I, must be ultimately channeled through V.  In this role, then, as the chord that dominates the access to I as I, and on which I depends for the manifestation of its power, V seems quite appropriately called the dominant chord” (195-196). 

Zuckerkandl’s description of the function of the dominant chord in relation to the tonic chord is analogous to the function of the Son in the redemption of humanity to the Father.  Just as the dominant chord “dominates the access to I” in tonal music, so the Son is “the gate” (Jn. 10:9) through whom humanity must enter in order approach the Father.  Christians “come to God through” the “one mediator between God and men”, Jesus; through him believers “have access to the Father” (Heb. 7:25; 1Tim. 2:6; Eph. 2:18). Thus Jesus states: “I am the way…No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). 

This metaphysical interpretation of the perfect cadence has some affinity with the following statement of Luther: “In music, the leading tone is the Gospel, the other notes the law, and as the law is softened by the Gospel, so the Gospel dominates the other tones” (from Luther, 95).  The leading tone is the major third of the dominant chord.  Luther’s spiritual analogy of the function of the leading tone suggests that redeemed humanity relates to the Son in his human nature as distant harmonies relate to a dominant chord, and that the Son in his human nature relates to the Father as a dominant chord relates to a fundamental tone.  Jesus’ prayer, “not as I will, but as you will” (Mt. 26:39), is an expression of his human will and center of consciousness submitting to its divine counterpart, in a dynamic that is analogous to a dominant seventh chord resolving to a tonic chord in a perfect cadence. 

The flat seventh of the dominant seventh chord has been interpreted as a manifestation of the human nature of Christ, as opposed to his divine nature.  Joel Lester notes that eighteenth century music theorist Georg Andreas Sorge invokes “the ratio 1:7 as the origin of the minor seventh (Sorge [1745-1747], Vol. 3, Chapter 4).  This exemplifies for him how music reflects God: the chord seventh must resolve because false intervals like 1:7 represent depravity in need of redemption (ibid. Chapter 22).”  Sorge’s metaphysical interpretation of “the chord seventh” (by which he indicates the dominant seventh chord, including the flat seventh tone relative to the fifth, rather than to the fundamental) influenced succeeding writers to further develop its association with redemption.  Allen Forte describes the tonicization process in his interpretation of “the meaning of the cadence”, whereby the seventh tone of the dominant chord is represented “as a corrective, depriving V (the dominant) of its independence and pointing it back in the direction of its origin.”  

Nineteenth century Romantic writer Bettina Brentano described the flat seventh tone relative to the dominant chord as “the divine leader, – the Mediator between sensual and heavenly Nature…and if it were not, all tones would remain in limbo….As it is with Christians, so is it with sounds: every Christian feels the Redeemer within himself, each tone can elevate itself to Mediator, or seventh, and thus perfect the eternal work of redemption from the sensual to the heavenly; as only through Christ we enter the kingdom of Spirit, so only through the seventh, the benumbed kingdom of tone is delivered and becomes Music…and as redemption extends itself to all, who, embraced by the living spirit of the Godhead, long after eternal life, so the flat seventh by its solution leads all tones, which pray to it for delivery, in a thousand different ways, to their source – divine spirit” (Correspondence, 143). 

Brentano interprets the role of the seventh tone of the dominant chord in relation to the tonic triad in a perfect cadence as an analogy of the role of Christ in the redemption of humanity to the kingdom of God.  Brentano was probably influenced by Saint-Martin’s second metaphysical principle, of separateness, which he associates with the seventh chord.  “This chord of the seventh tires the ear, holds it in suspense, and demands (in aesthetic terms) to be saved.  It is therefore through the opposition between this dissonant chord and all those derived from it, and the common chord, that all musical works are born: for they are nothing other than a continuous play – not to say a combat – between the consonant common chord and the seventh chord, or all dissonant chords in general.  Why should not this law, thus shown us by nature, be for us the image of the univer[s]al production of things?  Why should we not find therein the Principle, as we have found above the assembly and the constitution in the order of intervals of the common chord?  Why, I say, should we not touch with finger and eye the cause, the birth, and the consequences of the universal temporal confusion, since we know that in this corporeal nature there are two Principles which are ceaselessly opposed, and since nature could not survive without the help of the two contrary actions from which proceed the combat and the violence that we see: a mixture of regularity and disorder which harmony represents to us faithfully by the assembly of consonances and dissonances of which all musical works consist?”  

Saint-Martin’s reference to the “chord of the seventh” suggests the influence of Werckmeister, who described the “seventh” in the context of metaphysical symbolism.  Godwin describes the tonal manifestation of the second principle when stating that Saint-Martin “obviously has in mind the note which changes a perfect major chord into a ‘dominant seventh’, thereby disturbing its harmonic equilibrium and demanding a particular resolution.” 

Two intervals of the dominant seventh, or blues, chord, the flat seventh and the major third, form a tritone.  Mark Levine, in The Jazz Theory Book, states that the presence of the tritone “defines a dominant chord.  A tritone is a very unstable interval.  It sounds as if it wants to go someplace, which is why V chords want very much to resolve (often to a I chord).  If you play just two notes of the tritone, they sound like a V chord, incomplete though the chord may be.” (262)  Kutso’s guitarist plays these notes at 1:14 of Why Don’t We Do It in the Road.  Were he to raise the seventh to the keynote the chorus might also be elevated, perhaps to Why Don’t We Sing Unto the Lord, in concert with St. Paul’s counsel: “Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:19) 

Daniel J. Levitin: “Interestingly, if we divide the octave precisely in half, the interval we end up with is called a tritone and most people find it the most disagreeable interval possible.  Part of the reason for this may be related to the fact that the tritone does not come from a simple integer ratio, its ratio being 43:32.  We can look at consonance from an integer ratio perspective.  A ratio of 3:1 is a simple integer ratio, and that defines two octaves.  A ratio of 3:2 is also a simple integer ratio, and that defines the interval of a perfect fifth.  This is the distance between, for example, C and the G above it.  The distance from that G to the C above it forms an interval of a perfect fourth, and its frequency ratio is 4:3.” (This is Your Brain on Music, 72)

Diabolus in Musica

In orthodox Christian theology Jesus has two natures and two wills, or centers of consciousness.  These two centers may be analogous to the big and little heads of men.  Farrell relates a “male-bashing joke”: “When God created Adam, She explained, ‘I have some good news and some bad news…  ‘First, the good news: I’ve given you a penis and a brain.  ‘Now the bad news: You can use only one at a time.’” (Women, 207)  Alice Notley: “A clitoris is a kind of brain.” (from Bad, 156)  Poet Muriel Rukeyser: “Whoever despises the clitoris despises the penis.” (156)  Sander Gilman mentions “The image of the genitalia as the independent force that is out of control of the rational mind, or under the control of Satan.” (Sexuality: An Illustrated History, 79)  Jesus’ sacrifice has some relation to the rite of circumcision.  Freud: “Circumcision is the symbolical substitute of castration” (Moses and Monotheism, 192).  Karl Menninger: “circumcision is a sacrificial offering tendered in lieu of the entire genitals.” (Man Against Himself, 311)  Rene Girard: “The word ‘sacrifice’ – sacri-fice – means making sacred.” (Hidden, 226)  Krin Gabbard: “DiPiero makes the important distinction between castration as ‘bodily mutilation restricted to males’ and the ‘psychic alienation all subjects undergo upon access to the symbolic order,’ pointing out that a great deal of psychoanalytic writing has conflated the two (113).” (note 7, Signifyin(g) the Phallus; in Representing Jazz, 126)  

Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen recognizes a polarity in the human body consisting of “a sexual center…and a suprapersonal center” (Interview I: Gesprach mit hollandischem Kunstkreis, Kurten, June 2, 1973, in Karlheinz Stockhausen, Texte zur Musik 1970-1977, vol. 4, Cologne, DuMont, 1978, pp. 501-2, 506-10, 512-12; from Music, 289).  “I can set my sexual center in vibration with a certain sort of music, but with another music I can set my supranatural center in vibration.  And I will add to that: have you perhaps gone far enough yet to discover which parts of a type of music, or which pieces of music, set which of your centers especially in vibration?  There is also music that goes through all the centers: hence there are moments in which you are addressed in a purely sacred, a purely religious way; and other moments in which you are addressed purely sensually, purely erotically” (from Music, 289).  

Stockhausen concludes that “it is naturally better if one hears music that draws one up higher than one is by nature.  We are all mostly pretty physical sacks, are we not – all of us?  Most of us spend most of our time on feeding ourselves, taking care of clothing and shelter, copulating and sleeping: primarily satisfying physical desires, then.  Now and again one reminds oneself: ‘We are spirits, and spirits should be connected with the superhuman, with the Cosmos, with God.’  Much music also serves for that!  But such music is very rare today, extremely rare.  Most music is just physical, and speaks to centers in us that belong more to the animal than to the superhuman (I mean here by ‘superhuman’ what we are as spirits, when we are freed from flesh and bones)” (289).  “Music should above all be a means to keep awake the connection of the soul with the other side.  Through religion, music has for a long time been given to people as an atmosphere; the musicians were employed by the Church.  Then it was gradually secularized and became more and more a means of cultivated amusement, whose most recent variant is the training of psychological self-knowledge through music.  Today there is however a new branch which is becoming more and more popular: music-therapy.  People are experiencing music not only as a mirror that tells them who they are; they are also learning that music can heal.  If for instance one is sick – say, we are too nervous or fearful or aggressive or tired of life – , one can cure such sicknesses with music” (291).

“Then naturally comes the next step, which religion also originally strove for, namely to bring ourselves through music into relationship with…God, the Spirit who holds everything together, all the galaxies, all the solar systems and planets, and also every single one of us on this little planet” (291).  “We have forgotten that once all music composed was sacred music.  That is the greatest problem today: to make music that does not smell of church (so that most people would immediately say ‘I have nothing to do with that’), yet which is experienced quite obviously as spiritual music, without allying itself to specific forms of religion.  Then it is a matter of finding forms which make it impossible for someone to sit in a concert-hall and, when something is played up there on the stage, to say ‘I have nothing to do with that.” (292).

Nineteenth century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer regards man as “the principle object of poetry”, and the “Idea” of man, the polarity of corporeal and spiritual inclinations, as “the great problem of poetry,” “the summit” of which is tragedy (World as Will and Idea, 140, 144).  Analogously, I regard the polarity described by Stockhausen, above, as the great theme of music, the summit of which is symphonic (sonata) form.  Oswald Spengler: “The polarity of original sin and Grace is the final meaning of music from Bach to Beethoven.” (Decline)  While acknowledging the inherent suffering of the human condition, Schopenhauer dismisses “the demand for poetical justice,” (145) in which a tragic hero’s punishment fits the crime he has committed, for he believes that this demand for “poetical justice rests on an entire misconception of the nature of tragedy, and, indeed, of the nature of the world itself.” (145)  According to Schopenhauer, “the true sense of tragedy is the deeper insight, that it is not his own individual sins that the hero atones for, but original sin, i.e., the crime of existence itself: ‘Pues el delito mayor Del hombre es haber nacido’; (‘For the greatest crime of man Is that he was born’;) as Calderon exactly expresses it” (145-146)   Northrop Frye mentions a similar expression: “the Ionian philosopher Anaximander suggests that birth itself is a disturbance of balance, and that death is its inevitable nemesis.”(Code, 120)

Analogous to the death of the tragic hero, symphonic heroes – in the form of derivative tones, particularly the fifth – must undergo a sacrifice of tonal will and consequent spiritual rebirth to conform to the harmonic cadence.  Beethoven’s immortal beloved, Bettina Brentano, describes “symphonies of the divine spirit, [which] become tones of a heavenly freedom within the bosom of man.  The joyful dying of these heroes is like the eternal sacrificing of tones to a lofty common end.  Thus the musical tendency of the human race may gather itself as an orchestra and fight such symphonies of combats.”  Brentano may have been influenced by Saint Martin’s statement, cited above, that “all musical works…are nothing other than a continuous play – not to say a combat – between the consonant common chord and the seventh chord, or all dissonant chords in general.”  

The efficacy of the guitar in conveying Brentano’s “common end” is suggested in Beethoven’s description of the six-string as “a miniature orchestra in itself” and in Miles Davis’ comment on Gil Evans: “He made that orchestra sound like one big guitar.”  Global guitar as will – blind striving – and idea – enlightened transcendence.  Richard Wagner: “As in Music the Idea of the whole World reveals itself, so the inspired musician must necessarily be included in that Idea, and what he utters is therefore not his personal opinion of the world, but the World itself with all its changing moods of grief and joy.”

It may be that the diminished chord, with its flatted fifth and minor third, stimulates the sexual center, whereas the major chord, with its perfect fifth and major third, stimulates the supranatural center.  The tones of a major chord form different intervals in relation to one another.  The third is a major third from the fundamental, the fifth is a minor third from the major third, and the first octave above the fundamental is a perfect fourth from the perfect fifth.  The tones of a diminished chord form equal intervals in relation to one another.  Each diminished tone is a minor third from its neighbor and a tritone from the most distant chordal tone; tritones are equidistant from one another.  

Rock producer Bob Ezrin comments on the interval of the tritone/flatted fifth: “It apparently was the sound used to call up the beast.  There is something very sexual about the tritone.”  The intro to Hendrix’s Purple Haze is a litmus, or acid, test of Ezrin’s opinion, as is the tritone riff following rapper Ice T’s statement, at 2:43 of the song Evil Dick, “when evil dick has his way it sounds a little like this.”  Ice displays his skill as a musical rhetorician when setting the word “dick” in the chorus over a flatted fifth.  Were this note raised a semitone to the perfect fifth the chorus might likewise modulate, perhaps to lovely feet.  Such an euphonic modulation would accord with the Epistle of James, 3:2: “if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.”

The tritone, the interval of a flatted fifth (as between B and F), is traditionally called the devil’s interval – diabolus in musica.  Tritone, from Wikipedia: “The name diabolus in musica (“the Devil in music”) has been applied to the interval from at least the early 18th century.  Johann Joseph Fux cites the phrase in his seminal 1725 work Gradus ad ParnassumGeorg Philipp Telemann in 1733 describes, “mi against fa”, which the ancients called “Satan in music”, and Johann Mattheson in 1739 writes that the “older singers with solmization called this pleasant interval ‘mi contra fa’ or ‘the devil in music'”.  Although the latter two of these authors cite the association with the devil as from the past, there are no known citations of this term from the Middle Ages, as is commonly asserted.  However Denis Arnold, in the New Oxford Companion to Music, suggests that the nickname was already applied early in the medieval music itself: It seems first to have been designated as a “dangerous” interval when Guido of Arezzo developed his system of hexachords and with the introduction of B flat as a diatonic note, at much the same time acquiring its nickname of “Diabolus in Musica” (“the devil in music”).  Because of that original symbolic association with the devil and its avoidance, this interval came to be heard in Western cultural convention as suggesting an “evil” connotative meaning in music.  Today the interval continues to suggest an “oppressive”, “scary”, or “evil” sound.”

Levarie and Levy: “The tritone appears as the strongest possible dissonance in our twelve-tone system, remote from the rest, a real diabolus in musica.” (Tone, 202)  Levarie and Levy note the absence of the tritone from the harmonic series: “The devil in music as elsewhere seems to have been cast out from the established order, emitting his threatening sound from the bottom of the hierarchy.” (Tone, 205)

Andreas Werckmeister states that “‘spiritual tempering’ is associated with the deed of Christ, which guided what Lucifer had led astray into a[n] infinite nothingness back to unity in its original source in the Father” (181).  This conception of spiritual tempering may have influenced the following observation of Heiner Ruland: “What makes the tritone a diabolus, which is how J.S. Bach experienced it, is that it dissolves the threshold between inner world and outer world and permits the untransformed inner world to work into the outer world….The impulse of my untempered inner nature to realize itself in the outer world arrogantly and without undergoing transformation is one side of the devil.” (96).  

The only raised fourth/diminished fifth in the melody of Luther’s hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, falls on the penultimate syllable of the following phrases: “For still our ancient foe,” “Dost ask who that may be,” “The Prince of Darkness grim,” and “Let goods and kindred go.”  The term Prince of Darkness was used to signify both Milton’s Satan and Miles Davis, who evokes this term when hitting a flatted fifth on the downbeat of the first four bars of his solo on Prince of Darkness (:33).  Davis was also dubbed “the coolest man on the planet;” similarly, Luther’s hymn states of the Prince of Darkness, “on earth is not his equal.”  This phrase derives from the description of Leviathan in the Book of Job: “Nothing on earth is its equal—a creature without fear.  It looks down on all that are haughty; it is king over all that are proud.” (41:33-34)  In Paradise Lost Milton describes “that sea-beast / Leviathan, which God of all his works / Created hugest that swim the ocean-stream.” (i, 200-203)  David Rosenthal and ‎Saryn Chorney include Leviathan in The Penis Name Book.  Gilman: “The penis is a ‘monster,’ a force out of the control and beyond the boundaries of rationality.” (Sexuality, 197)

Quincy Troupe: “’Besides the magisterial, deep-cool hipness of his musical language, the aspects of Miles that affected me most were his urbane veneer and his detached sure sense of himself as royalty, as untouchable in a touch everything world.’ (80).” (The Sight of Jazz; from Representing Jazz, 40)  Krin Gabbard refers to Davis as “the most prominent inheritor of the Armstrong/Gillespie legacy….Many phallic elements persisted in Davis’s playing, including spikes into the upper register, fast runs throughout the range of the instrument, and an often exaggerated feel for climaxes.” (Signifyin(g) the Phallus: Mo’ Better Blues and Representations of the Jazz Trumpet; in Representing Jazz, 110)  Gabbard: “Stage deportment and the musician’s clothing can also become part of a phallic style.  Consider the pelvic thrusts that Dizzy Gillespie performed during the 1940s and 1950s or the ’Prince of Darkness’ mode in which Miles Davis clothed himself during his final two decades.” (108). Michael Levin: “Negroid dancing involves pelvic thrusting and other mimicry of intercourse absent from Caucasoid dancing.  Nelson George (1992) generalizes these differences to a distinctive black ‘athletic aesthetic’ common to activities as disparate as jazz, basketball and ‘sermonizing,’ involving improvisation, aggression, intimidation, arrogance, and the will to humiliate an opponent. (George concedes that this behaviour can appear ‘untutored, undisciplined and immature;’ see 1992; xviii.)” (Why Race Matters, 73-4)

Eric Nisenson: “Consistent with his image as the ‘Prince of Darkness,’ he always kept his home dark; it was hard to tell whether it was three in the morning or three in the afternoon.” (Kind of Blue, 20)  Nisenson: ”There was an undeniably cruel streak in his nature…there is a decidedly cruel streak in his music.” (103)  Nisenson ends his book on a reflective note.  “I realize that many people think of Miles as a kind of ultimate ‘Mr. Cool,’ a jaded and cynical man with little emotion invested in life.  That was the (apparently convincing) front he put up in order to protect himself from those who did not understand the complex life he lived.  He believed so passionately in life that he continued to put beauty into this world almost to his dying breath.  He once said to me, ‘If you don’t have anything to put into the world, you ought to get out of it.’

There have been others who referred to Miles as ‘the Prince of Darkness.’  In reality, he was our angel of light.  He illuminated our lives with his beautiful music in the second half of the dark and bloody twentieth century and gave many of us that rare commodity: hope.” (217)  The phrase “angel of light” seems an honorable epithet until one considers 2 Cor. 11:14: “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”  Nisenson: “I still looked at Miles…as an idol, a god.  And I did what this god wanted me to do….the fact that this musical genius has brutally abused women – and this was very well known throughout the jazz community – has apparently not been thought worthy of mention….I really think it is time to view such activity for what it is  – sick and evil….It amazes me how people like Miles can scream about [xxv] the evils of racism – rightly so – and then continually abuse women.  What utter hypocrisy.” (Midnight, xvi, xxv)  

According to Stanley Crouch, Davis’ “dislike of women…began with his mother” and extended to a “Negro woman thrown out of his house nude and covered with cigarette burns.” (Considering Genius, 47)  Santana recalls an incident during an evening with Davis: “On the way to the men’s room he saw a [394] woman and stopped and started talking to her and then whispered in her ear.  When he was gone, she turned to me and said, ‘You’re a nice man.  Why are you hanging around this filthy-mouthed guy?’” (Tone, 394-95)  Santana refers to Davis as an “angel” with “feet of clay,” and “a divine rascal.” (252, 396)  However, Ralph Ellison refers to “that poor, evil, lost little Miles Davis.” (Trading Twelves, 193)

The interval of the tritone is prominent in the diminished seventh chord.  Ruland comments on the metaphysical significance of this harmonic structure in the works of Bach: “This tonal structure plays such a central role in the works of J.S. Bach that it could be called the Bach chord.  It is no accident that when this great musical mystic seeks to present the crucifixion on Golgotha musically in his two passions, his deepest and most individual works, he repeatedly employs the chord that forms the cross in the cyclic system” (147).  The four notes of a C diminished chord – C, Eb, F#, and A – form a cross in both the chromatic scale cycle and the cycle of fifths; C is at the top, F# is at the bottom, Eb and A are half way down on either side.  Edward Said: “The rules of counterpoint are so demanding, so exacting in their detail as to seem divinely ordained; transgressions of the rule – forbidden progressions, proscribed harmonies – are specified in such terms as diabolus in musica.”  (48; “The Music Itself: Glenn Gould’s Contrapuntal Vision”.  Glenn Gould Variations: By Himself and His Friends.  Ed. John McGreevy.  Toronto: Doubleday Canada Limited, 1983.)  Levitin finds “that there is a bit of Gould’s compulsive drive for the perfect sound in all of us.”  However, Gould described himself as “the last Puritan.”

Bach’s symbolic use of the diminished seventh chord as a metaphysical symbol accords with the second principle of Louis Claude de Saint-Martin, who regards “the opposition between this dissonant chord [the dominant seventh] and all those derived from it [including the diminished seventh], and the common chord [the tonic triad]” as a representation of “the opposition which reigns in all things”, be they physical or metaphysical; this accounts for Saint-Martin’s reference to music as “one of the productions of that true language” of metaphysics. 

The use of the diminished seventh chord in the sacred music of Bach was later adapted into the secular context of Romantic opera as a leitmotif, a recurring tonal element associated with a particular character, image, setting, or theme.  In the course of this adaptation Ruland notes that, “Significantly, after Bach’s time the diminished seventh chord ceased being used to express a self-sacrificing cosmic being.  It became more the expression of the forces which led this cosmic being into death.”  The diminished seventh chord accompanies the appearances of the evil Samiel and his seven supernatural bullets in the opera Der Freischütz (The Freeshooter, or, more colloquially, The Magic Marksman) by Carl Maria von Weber.  A Rock Opera adaptation of this work, entitled The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets, was created through the collaboration of theatre director Robert Wilson, musician Tom Waits, and writer William S. Burroughs.  A number of younger fans have learned of the original opera through the use of its music in the Anime Hellsing, or possibly through the use of its translated Japanese title for the character Xigbar in Kingdom Hearts.

Although some German critics attribute the birth of German romantic opera to Der Freischutz, which was first performed in 1821, a majority credit Hoffmann’s opera Undine, first performed in 1816, with this distinction.  Weber wrote an enthusiastic review of  Undine, concerning which Schafer notes: “Weber, however, had two minor complaints: ‘the predilection for little short figures which tend to lack variety and obscure the melody’ and ‘the partiality for … diminished-seventh chords’ – a valid criticism, though Weber was scarcely the one to point it out.  One interesting feature of the opera – perhaps what Weber was referring to as the ‘short figures’ – was the use of the recurring themes to identify characters or situations, a principle Weber was later to employ himself, and one which was to be fully developed into the leitmotif principle by another Hoffmann admirer, Richard Wagner.”  This last comment is justified by Thomas Grey’s observation that “Wagner was perfectly well aware of Weber’s use of recurring ‘characteristic motives.’”  It is therefore unsurprising that Weber’s use of the unstable and ambiguous diminished seventh chord as a leitmotif for Samiel anticipates Wagner’s use of this chord as a leitmotif for Tristan in the opera Tristan und Isolde, on account of which the diminished seventh, according to Bryan Magee, “remains the most famous single chord in the history of music.”

Breau’s Polychordal Deity 

Or Breau’s Re-lydian; the lydian scale includes a raised fourth: in Breau’s musical religion this note is not the devil in music or the herald of the fifth tone of the regal triad, but is an equal member of his polychordal deity.  I think that Breau’s obsession with integrating this most dissonant note in his music is the key to his creative vision.  

“human kind / Cannot bear very much reality.”  T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton, Four QuartetsEph. 2:26:12.

To B or Not…to BOP

Country fiddler Buddy Spicher recalls his first meeting with Lenny Breau: “‘I went to Lenny’s house and he got out a [jazz violinist] Stuff Smith album and played it for me and said “You hear that?  That’s a flat five [a musical interval common in blues and post-1945 jazz].”  That was one of Stuff’s signature licks.  He liked the flat five….The only time I ever seen Pine aggravated was when he and the band would be singing a song and Lenny would throw in a flat five or something,’ says Spicher.  ‘He’d get a dirty look from his dad.'” (Forbes-Roberts, 19)  Lone Pine‘s aggravation may relate to the rally noted by William C. Banfield: “White suburban parents in the late 1950s and 1960s rallied to keep white American children from listening to black American music.” (The Rub: Markets, Morals, and the ‘Theologizing’ of Popular Music; from Noise and Spirit, 179)  Hal to Lenny Breau in 1960: “‘Don’t you ever play that kind of music behind me again,’ [and he slapped him].”  Breau received no such rebuke when fretting a flagrant flatted fifth at 2:00 into There’s a Boat Leaving Soon for New York, a song from the musical Porgy and Bess. 

Trumpeter Jonah Jones recalls working in Smith’s popular sextet in 1939.  “’I was with Stuff Smith, I was drinking whiskey and smoking pot, and I got sick….Stuff would say that you didn’t sound right [123] unless you were filled up with whiskey.  One night after we had played our first number, Stuff said “That don’t sound right.  Jonah, are you high?“  I said “No, I decided to cool it tonight.” …Stuff said “That’s no good.  Anybody who ain’t high on the next set gets a ten dollar fine.”  So the only way I could get away from that was to join a band that didn’t do a lot of drinking, as the doctor had given me a year to live if I didn’t give up.  This is why I left Stuff and joined Cab Calloway.’” (from The Life and Times of John Birks Gillespie, 123-24)

The third note of Smith’s I’se a Muggin’ is a flatted fifth.  Flatted fifths are prominent in Smith’s solo on Here Comes the Man with the Jive, at 1:58 of Joshua, and there is a striking flatted fifth played over the root chord at 1:27 of his You’se a Viper.  This latter “song captures some of the slang and culture surrounding marijuana smoking in the US jazz scene in the 1920s and 1930s.  “Viper” was Harlem slang for a pot smoker at the time and the song has numerous marijuana references.  Edward Jablonski wrote that the term viper was inspired “by the hissing intake of smoke” and Russel Cronin wrote: “Conjure the image of the hissing viper for a second: taking a swift, sly suck on a skinny little joint.  A viper is a toker, which practically all jazz musicians were, and the viper songs celebrated a new social hero.”  “A 2006 article in the Austin Chronicle about the history of American marijuana songs is titled “If You’re a Viper” and refers to the eponymous tune as ‘the king of all pot songs.'”  In this song Smith sings “You’ve got to get high to have that swing….You high if you’se a viper.”  The final “high” is sung over a flatted fifth.  

Wikipedia: “The song’s lyrics also point to the way interest in jazz music and black culture more generally were slowly breaking down cultural barriers in early 20th century America.  Though later recordings often render the first two lines of the song as Think about a reefer, 5 feet long / Not too heavy, not too strong both Smith’s original recording and Fats Waller‘s more famous 1943 cut have the second line as Mighty Mezz, and not too strong.  “Mighty Mezz” refers to Milton Mezzrow, a Jewish saxophone and clarinet player who became enamored with black American culture while playing in the speakeasies of prohibition-era Chicago.  The self-described “voluntary negro” moved to Harlem after prohibition ended, and in his early years there was known more for his drug-dealing than his playing.  

The stronger Mexican marijuana that he introduced to the jazz scene in Harlem came to be known simply as ‘Mezz.’  As Mezzrow later put it: ‘Some of our musician pals used to stick these hip phrases into their songs when they broadcast over the radio, because they knew we’d be huddled around the radio in the Barbeque and that was their way of saying hello to me and all the vipers.  That mellow Mexican leaf really started something in Harlem.’  Mezzrow was also known as the ‘Muggles King, the word ‘muggles’ being slang for marijuana at that time; the title of the 1928 Louis Armstrong recording ‘Muggles refers to this.”  Nisenson: “Louis Armstrong, who greatly enjoyed Mezz’s goods, used to send out greetings to his dealer over the radio, which only other musicians in the jazz subculture would understand.  He would say, ‘Just want Mezz to know how much I dig his Mezz, yeah, man!’” (Blue, 72)  Dizzy Gillespie on Mezzrow: “‘Man, he had me so bad they named it after him, they called it Mezz.'” (It’s Not About a Salary, 226)  Camille Paglia: “pot may be great for jazz musicians and Beat poets, but it saps energy and willpower and can produce physiological feminization in men.” (Free Women, Free Men, 231)

“Mezzrow praised and admired the African-American style.  In his autobiography Really The Blues, Mezzrow writes that from the moment he heard jazz he ‘was going to be a Negro musician, hipping [teaching] the world about the blues the way only Negroes can.’  (18)  Mezzrow married a black woman, Mae (also known as Johnnie Mae), moved to HarlemNew York, and declared himself a voluntary Negro.'”  Frank Kofsky regards Mezzrow as a racial stereotype.  “There have been in every generation a handful of white dissidents who in one way or another have repudiated their society’s racist institutions and values…in the 1930s he could, like Mezz Mezzrow, turn his back on co-racialists and become an expatriate to Harlem…the existence of these ‘deviant’ types indicates that the Negro ’cause’ will always attract a scattering of white adherents.” (Black Nationalism, 132)  Phil Rubio represents Mezzrow as an “‘exceptional white’”, which he defines as one “who prefers the culture of the oppressed to his or her own.” (Crossover Dreams: the ‘Exceptional White’ in Popular Culture; from Race Traitor, 151)  Rubio concludes his essay by asking, “when and how will the ‘exceptional white’ become the rule?” (161)

The word hip in the sense of “aware, in the know” is first attested in a 1902 cartoon by Tad Dorgan, and first appeared in print in a 1904 novel by George Vere Hobart, Jim Hickey, A Story of the One-Night Stands, where an African American character uses the slang phrase “Are you hip?”.  The term hipster was coined by Harry Gibson in 1944.  By the 1940s, the terms hip, hep and hepcat were popular in Harlem jazz slang, although hep eventually came to denote an inferior status to hip.  According to Malcolm X‘s 1964 autobiography, the word hippie in 1940s Harlem had been used to describe a specific type of white man who “acted more Negro than Negroes”.  In Greenwich Village in the early 1960s, New York City, young counterculture advocates were named hips because they were considered “in the know” or “cool”, as opposed to being square.  In a 1961 essay, Kenneth Rexroth used both the terms hipster and hippies to refer to young people participating in African American or Beatnik nightlife.  

Nisenson: “In the late fifties, when interest in the Beats and the existentialists was growing, Miles Davis suddenly found himself at the height of fashion.  He didn’t have to look too far to see so-called hipsters dressing like him, scowling and cursing like him, and even trying to talk like him with the raspy whisper that was for him an embarrassing affliction.  These types, especially if they were white, were often sarcastically dubbed ‘hippies’ by the musicians – a term that took on a different connotation in the middle and late sixties.” (Midnight, 132)  Davis: “’White people….want to be hipper than any other race.’” (198)  Stanley Crouch: “Traditional whiteness is the enemy in nearly every way to whites who consider themselves hip.” (The Artificial White Man, 196). George Carlin @ 1:45: “White guys…you’re never going to be as cool as black guys.  It’s not going to happen.  You’re white and you’re lame.”

Kofsky’s phrases, “a handful of white dissidents” and “a scattering of white adherents,” cited above, underestimate the popularity of the hippie movement at the end of the sixties.  Ira Gitler notes that “jazz musicians had always had an image as wild livers – boozers and marijuana smokers (it was called ‘tea’ and a gang of other things then).  It was the beginning of a drug culture that later was to spread more widely through another music – rock.” (Swing to Bop, 175-76)  Griffin and Washington: “jazz clubs sustained a prewar marijuana subculture that eventually gave way to heroin use.” (Clawing at the Limits of Cool, 83)

The association of swing music with marijuana parallels an association of be-bop with heroin.  In 1969 Leslie B. Rout, Jr. wrote that “the be-bop panorama” included “an apparent acceptance of ‘horse’ (ie., heroin) as a necessity for existence.  It is undeniable that musicians had been heroin users prior to 1945, but a frightful number of bop’s leading figures were hopeless addicts.  To both young bopper and fan, if the heroes were hooked, a ride on the ‘horse’ was for them, too.  Only since a growing number of youths have become users of psychedelic and other drugs has it become possible for many to realize how heavily the nuances of fad, curiosity, or the weight of social pressure can weigh on immature minds.  Some misguided souls thought that, through heroin, peaks of performance could be reached which nonusers could never hope to arrive at.  Others became addicted because this was a means of rebelling against family and/or society.  Some died, some ruined their health and a few men broke the habit; but only the ‘pusher’ (i.e., drug supplier) rejoiced on his way to the bank.” (149, Reflections on the Evolution of Post-War Jazz, The Black Aesthetic)  Dizzy Gillespie: “Jazz musicians, the old ones and the young ones, almost all of them I knew smoked pot, but I wouldn’t call that drug abuse… Dope, heroin abuse, really got to be a major problem during the bebop era, especially in the late forties, and a lotta guys died from it.” (To Be or Not to Bop, 283)

A.B. Spellman: In “the bebop revolution….for the first time, a black artistic vanguard assumed whole styles of comportment, attire and speech which were calculated to be the indicia of a group which felt that its own values were more sophisticated than, if not superior to, the mores of the American society at large.  The music and the manner developed concommitantly [sp], which indicates that the musicians were aware that each musical innovation was a new way of commenting on the world around them.  Their alienation was cultivated to the extent that many of them, emulating Charlie Parker, adopted a drug (heroin) which blots out all interaction of self and outer world.  When the high hipster played ‘Out of this World,’ he wasn’t just whistling ‘Dixie.’” (Not Just Whistling Dixie, from Black Fire, 166)  Frank Kofsky: “The widespread use of addictive narcotics by musicians of the bebop generation can probably best be interpreted as yet another kind of antiracist protest, the flight from an unbearably hell-[271]ish reality into an anxiety-free and nonracist, drug-produced nirvana.” (Black Nationalism, Note 17, 271-2)  Dick Hebdige: “Charles Winnick attributes the ‘cool and detached’ feel of be-bop and ‘progressive’ jazz to the use of heroin amongst musicians.” (Subculture, 147)  Nisenson: “Being an addict was, in the words of Dexter Gordon, ‘part of the [jazz] social scene at the time.’  In the bebop subculture, drug addiction was almost mandatory for admission.” (Kind of Blue, 36)

Breau confessed: “Bebop was my first kind of jazz I ever played.”  He learned jazz theory from George Russell’s Lydian Concept.  Griffin and Washington call Russell “jazz’s most important theorist.” (Clawing at the Limits of Cool, 178)  Ingrid Monson interviewed Russell in 1995 and she states that while formulating his book “Russell recalls thinking intensively about two issues.  The first was a statement made by Miles Davis that his highest musical goal was to ‘learn all the changes.'” (Freedom Sounds, 287)  Monson cites Russell: “‘The more I thought about that, the more I felt there was a system begging to be brought into the world.  And that system was based on chord scale unity, which traditional music had absolutely ignored.  The whole aspect of a chord having a scale that was really its birthplace.'” (288)  What came first, the chord or the scale?  It is the chord.  The second issue was Russell’s acknowledgement that his Concept “was inspired by the tendency of the jazz artists of the late 1940’s, the so-called ‘Be Boppers’ (Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, et al), to end their compositions on the flatted fifth tone of the key of the music.”  The word scale derives from the Latin scala, meaning ladder; in the chromatic scale the flatted fifth is the bottom rung.

In his Autobiography Miles Davis states: “’Another thing I found strange after living and playing in New York was that a lot of black musicians didn’t know anything about music theory …A lot of the old guys thought that if you went to school it would make you play like you were white.  Or, if you learned something from theory, you would lose the feeling in your playing’” (from Loren Goldner, The Only Race; in Race Traitor, 277)  This thinking is evident in Monson’s reference to Russell’s suspicion “of formal education: ‘I always dreaded the small life, the small mind, which I sensed controlled the educational system….The streets would be my school and food for my art.’  The rebelliousness of formulating a musical philosophy that inverts traditional understandings of harmony by placing the ‘devil’s interval’ (the tritone) at the center of musical understanding is also of significance.” (Freedom Sounds, 293)  In this interview Russell describes the motivation of beboppers: “‘I think the driving force for bebop coming out of swing was the dissatisfaction of black intellectuals and especially after the return from WWII.  They felt they were coming back to the same old thing, and they were.  And this whole feeling of blacks as an inferior intellect….I think it was a very muscular drive that bebop represented.  To convince – to try again to convince – small-minded people that, if you have any kind of sensitivity at all, you can see that this music does not come from someone who lacks complexity.’” (296)  

Toni Morrison: “Jazz always keeps you on the edge.  There is no final chord.” (The Story of Jazz, 69)  Griffin and Washington note the absence of “the logic of tonal resolution” among “many players schooled in bebop.” (Clawing at the Limits of Cool, 196)  Miles Davis: “’I never resolve any of my phrases.’” (Midnight, 253)  Songs ending on the flatted fifth include Gillespie’s Oop-Pop-A-Da and 52nd Street Theme, Clifford Brown’s Sandu, Mingus’ Chazzanova, Fats Navarro’s Half Step Down, Goin’ to Minton’s – pianist Tadd Dameron plays the flatted fifth, as in Eb-Pob – Calling Dr. Jazz, Fats Blows, The Skunk, and Boperation, not to mention Dameron’s Good BaitRifftide, and Our Delight, also recorded by Navarro, and Howard McGhee’s Rifftide.  Woody Shaw’s There Will Never Be Another You ends with a flatted fifth and a major seventh; Chet Baker’s The More I See You has a similar ending.  Jack Klugman ends A Passage for Trumpet on a flatted fifth at 5:25.  In Sid’s Ahead, from Miles Davis’ 1958 recording Milestones, the second melody note of the song, in the key of F, is a flatted fifth, B, as is the final note of the melody; also from Milestones Straight, No Chaser and Dr. Jackle have the F keynote B tritone ending.  The trumpeter ends on the same interval on Tune UpVenus de Milo, The Man I Love, and Rocker.  Horace Silver’s Strollin’, in the key of Db, ends with trumpeter Blue Mitchell fulfilling his nickname when playing the blue note G, the flatted fifth.  Chet Baker emulates this ending in his version of Strollin’.  Mitchell uses the same ending note to evoke the “dubious character” mentioned in the introduction to Filthy McNasty.  The version of Charlie Parker’s Now’s the TIme, from a video titled Jazz is My Religion, ends on the flatted fifth at 1:50, as does Bill Barron’s version.  Mark Murphy’s guitarist slides to a flatted fifth at the end of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, similar to the final note of Dan Hicks’ guitarist on Milk Shakin’ Mama.  Gerry Mulligan’s Igloo has a hip ending, as does Reinhardt’s Django’s Blues, Chet Atkins’ Siesta and Night Train, and Norah Jones’ Everybody Needs a Best Friend.  Bob Dorough finds the flatted fifth on the fourth and final ending of the original version of I’m Hip, whereas John Pizzarelli and Ana Gasteyer locate it the first time.  Blossom Dearie shows her status as a square when ending on the keynote, unlike Emilie-Claire Barlow on What a Little Moonlight Can Do.  Flautist Anne Drummond ends But Beautiful with a flatted fifth.  Breau ends a live version of Bluesette on a chord with a flatted fifth on the highest string.  It becomes an overworked cliché when Breau ends live versions of Secret Love (17:46), Killer Joe (28:50), the following tune (37:10), and Misty (44:06) with flatted fifths.

Listening to CBC in my car after spending an evening with my dance partner I caught the final flatted fifth of Wes Montgomery’s West Coast Blues followed by Robson Strut, where Mike Allen’s concluding flat fifth is raised a half step to its perfect counterpart in the last second, resulting in a melodic resolution that calls into question the hipness of that Vancouver street; there may be a moral to this resolution.  Allen’s (not to be confused with Mike Allen, former politician and jazz musician) was the last jazz act at O’Doul’s on Robson.  The Flat Five was the name of a Vancouver jazz club in the early 60s.  

Davis’ recording of If I Were a Bell from the 1956 recording, Relaxin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet, is in the key of F and ends with an E major chord (E, G#, B) superimposed over the implied F major chord.  Davis plays the G#/Ab, John Coltrane plays an E, and Red Garland plays a B (the b5 of the keynote, F).  The Quintet’s Live in 1961 version has the same ending.  McCoy Tyner’s version from his 2007 album Afro Blue has a similar ending; he seems to end with an E minor chord (E, G, B) superimposed over the F root.  Something similar occurs at the end of Davis’ Two Base Hit, whose arrangement of If I Were a Bell may well have influenced Breau’s Five O’Clock Bells.  Breau seems to end Oscar’s Blues, in the key of F, with a superimposed G major chord – G, B, D, or 9, b5, 6.  The discordant endings of these songs contrast with the melodic resolution of Robson Strut.  Eric Clapton ends Presence of the Lord with a flatted fifth.

Donald Maggin: “Diatonic harmony, the prevailing system of the Swing Era, is based on seven of the twelve available notes… Dizzy and the beboppers found this very limiting and turned to chromaticism… The path into the chromatic universe was discovered by moving up into the second octave… There one found the ‘higher intervals’ – the ninth, the eleventh, and the thirteenth – of the chord… The crucial interval for Dizzy, [Charlie] Christian, [Charlie] Parker, and [Thelonius] Monk – the key that unlocked the door to chromaticism – was the eleventh, which to avoid dissonance, was sharpened.  The sharp eleventh…can be called a sharpened fourth; for reasons lost to history, Dizzy and his colleagues habitually used the note’s other name, the flatted fifth.” (The Life and Times of John Birks Gillespie, 94)

Maggin continues: “The flatted fifth divides the octave exactly in half; for example, a G-flat is equidistant from the two Cs that frame its octave.  It is three whole tones away from both the C below and the C above, and is commonly referred to as a tritone.  Slotting a chord from the scale of the flatted fifth into a tune’s sequence is called a tritone substitution.  The beboppers discovered that any major scale built on a note a flatted fifth away from another contains all five of the chromatic notes missing from the first scale and vice versa, and using the scales in partnership makes fully harmonic the five notes that were nonharmonic in the diatonic system.  In other words, using the flatted fifth to find two scalar routes to the same resolution enables the improviser to build chords on all twelve notes of the octave instead of just seven.  The improviser now had a full rainbow of musical colors to work with instead of just the basic hues.” (95)

The egalitarian relation of scalar tones in bebop matches the relation of beats, whereby the one, or first beat, is shorn of its preeminence.  Maggin: ”For Dizzy and his cohorts all beats were equal, including the upbeats – the ‘ands’ in the one-and-two-and-three-and-fourand cadence.  They achieved equal status with the downbeats – the one, two, three, four – and frequently served as the downbeats; the beboppers were fond of beginning and maintaining melodic statements on the ‘ands.’  (The Life and Times of John Birks Gillespie, 90)

Louis Armstrong satirized Gillespie’s bebop in his revision of The Whiffenpoof Song: 
”From the tables up at Birdland to the place where Dizzy dwells, with those beards and funny hats they love so well, all the boppers are assembled and when they’re really high they constitute a weird personnel.  All the riffs these cats are playing are crazy cool and gone so let them beat their brains out till their flatted fifths are gone, and they’ll pass and be forgotten like the rest.  They’re poor little lambs who have lost their way; they’re little lost sheep who have gone astray.  Dixieland music they all condemn, but every wrong note that they play they think is a gem, so Lord have mercy on every one of them.”  Gillespie responded with a satire on Armstrong’s I’m Confessin’.  

Eric Lott: “Louis Armstrong never really made peace with bebop, ‘that modern malice’ (Stearns 219); more than once Gillespie unfairly dismissed Papa Dip for tomming.” (Double V, Double-Time; from The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, 461)  However, Gillespie acknowledged of Armstrong, “No him, no me….He was the Messiah of our generation.”  Krin Gabbard: “Louis Armstrong was only the first of many African American jazz artists to attract international attention by establishing phallic authority with that most piercing of instruments, the trumpet.  Dizzy Gillespie, a celebrated musical descendant of Armstrong who frequently spoke of the ‘virility’ of black jazz, may have been Signifyin(g) on the phallic nature of his instrument when he bent the bell upward as if to simulate an erection.” (Signifyin(g) the Phallus; in Representing Jazz, 105)

Armstrong advocates the aesthetics of Guy Lombardo as an antidote to the apostasy of bebop.  “’Lombardo!  These people are keeping music alive – helping to fight the damn beboppers.  You know, you got to have somebody to keep that music sounding good.  Music doesn’t mean a thing unless it sounds good.  You know, this is the band that inspired me to make ‘Among My Souvenirs.’  They inspired me to make ‘Sweethearts on Parade.’  They’re my inspirators!’” (Louis Armstrong Loves Guy Lombardo, in Jazz/Not Jazz, 32)  Armstrong: “’I dug that band when they first came from Canada and I used to go out many nights where they were on Cottage Grove in Chicago.  People would say, surprised like, “You sitting in with them?”  I’d try to tell them, music is music.  Anytime I walk up on that stage with Guy Lombardo, I’m relaxed.’” (34)  Armstrong: “’We tried to get our sax section to sound like Lombardo – listen to our records of ‘When You’re Smiling’ and ‘Sweethearts on Parade.’” (35)  Critic George Simon was unimpressed: “’What an incongruous sound it was, that virile trumpet backed by those simpering saxophones!’” (35)

Gunther Schuller finds an antecedent for Gillespie’s musical eccentricity (literally outside of tonal and rhythmic centers) in trumpeter Roy Eldridge’s 1935 recording, It’s Too Hot for Words: “’In just four bars – the introduction to the song – Eldridge calls forth a new melodic/harmonic world that [Louis] Armstrong could certainly not have envisioned….Melodically/linearly Roy’s intro is laden with tritones which fellow musicians found “eccentric” or “weird.”  And in truth, not only were they entirely new as melodic or intervallic material, but they landed at odd places in the phrase, creating strange little harmonic collisions and unexpectedly sharp-cornered contours.  Even more significantly, they were “flatted” notes, a tendency which Eldridge was to develop into a distinctive hallmark of his style, and which players younger than Roy, like Howard McGhee and Gillespie, were to take up and eventually develop into an entire tritone-dominated new language.’” (from The Life and Times of John Birks Gillespie, 55)  Monson: “While employing African American artists, many white bandleaders found they had much to learn about the pragmatics of Jim Crow, as Roy Eldridge’s painful experiences on the road with Gene Krupa and Artie Shaw illustrate.  In 1951 the trumpeter returned from a year in Europe and vowed to Leonard Feather that there would be ‘no more white bands for me….It’s not worth the glory, not worth the money, not worth anything,’ he concluded.” (Freedom Sounds, 34-35)

Gabbard: “there was a libidinal energy in Armstrong’s solos that could create a kind of foreplay leading up to climaxes.  Accordingly, members of his band are said to have referred to their accompanying figures on Armstrong’s 1931 recording of ‘Star Dust’ as ’the fucking rhythm’ (Radano).  Most of the important trumpeters who came of age in the 1930s and 1940s – Roy Eldridge, Buck Clayton, Frankie Newton Hot Lips Page, Charlie Shavers, Dizzy Gillespie – were the aesthetic progeny of Armstrong, all of them adopting styles with phallic elements.  In fact, almost all of Armstrong’s disciples relished the opportunity to establish their authority, regularly taking on challengers in ‘cutting contests.’” (Signifyin(g) the Phallus; in Representing Jazz, 110)  Kenny Clarke: “’One night [at Minton’s], after weeks of trying, Dizzy cut Roy Eldridge.  It was one night out of many, but it meant a great deal.  Roy had been top dog for years.’” (from Bird Lives, 198)  Gillespie: “’All I ever did was try to play like [Roy Eldridge], but I couldn’t get it.  So I tried something else.  That has developed into what became known as bop.’” (Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff, Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya, 347)

Donald Maggin uncovers the emotional/spiritual root of Gillespie’s eccentric musical language when describing how Gillespie’s father “whipped his boys with a belt every Sunday on the premise that they had done something bad during the week even if he did not know the details….Dizzy later commented on the fractious streak engendered by his father’s thrashings: ‘He treated us that way because he wanted us all to be tough and he turned me into a tough little rebel, very early, against everyone but him.’  The upside of this contrary spirit was Dizzy’s rebellion against the musical materials he inherited to create two revolutions that fundamentally changed the course of jazz.” (Life and Times, 24)

Maggin elaborates on these two revolutions when stating: “Dizzy’s place in musical history rests firmly on his crucially important role in two upheavals that radically changed and enriched the art of jazz: the bebop revolution and the Afro-Cuban revolution.” (73)  Concerning the former revolution, Maggin notes that in 1934 “the rebelliousness inculcated by his father surfaced in a desire to improve on the harmonic materials he had inherited, and he spent countless hours experimenting with chords (three or more notes played simultaneously).  He discussed this in 1990: ‘I can play only one note at a time on the trumpet, but I can play as many as ten on the piano and hear the beautiful sound they can make together.  I must have worked through every chord sequence in western music on the Laurinburg piano.  Even invented a few myself.  And with gusto I dissected individual chords, turned them inside-out, upside-down.  I gradually began to realize that the harmony in our [39] popular music was pretty limited…and I started to think that I could create something much richer than that.’” (39-40)  

Gillespie’s inversions of Western harmony may exemplify Martin Stokes’ comment: “Subcultures borrow from the dominant culture, inflecting and inverting its signs to create a bricolage in which the signs of the dominant culture are ‘there’ and just recognizable as such, but constituting a quite different, subversive whole.” (Ethnicity, Identity, and Music, 19)  Kofsky: “Whereas Negro intellectuals and artists in other fields must for the most part appropriate the canons of European culture, there are no such canons on which the Negro jazz musician can draw.  On the contrary, the source of such inspiration can stem only from his or her ‘racial’ subculture.” (Coltrane, 178)  Ira Gitler describes the result of such a canonical absence: “’I don’t know, by any stretch of the imagination, how the music I heard that night could be called musical….I think we’re getting away from musical values that have been established for centuries.’” (“From the transcript of a colloquy…, ‘The Jazz Avant Garde: Pros & Con – A Discussion’ in down beat Music ’65;” Kofsky, Coltrane, 137) 

In 1920 Hubert Harrison was convinced “that the idea of a Negro candidate for President presupposes the creation of a purely Negro party.” (A Negro for President, from Speech and Power, 47)  George Lipsitz describes Gillespie’s parodic campaign for president in 1964, “proposing to change the name of the White House to the Blues House, vowing to appoint bass player Charles Mingus as minister of peace (‘because he’ll take a piece of your head faster than anybody I know’), naming band leader and composer Duke Ellington secretary of state (because ‘he’s a natural and can con anyone,’), and designating Malcolm X as his attorney general (because ‘he’s one cat we want on our side’).” (The Possessive Investment in Whiteness, 160)  Canadian bluesman Big Dave McLean campaigns for his incestuous candidate in Muddy Waters for President: “the father of the blues is Muddy Waters and he’s still sniffing round her hole.”  Santana recalls an anecdote from the encore of a Muddy Waters concert: “’Right now I want to introduce you to a very special person – please give my granddaughter a nice hand!’  He would bring out a lady who was in her twenties.  Big applause.  ‘Okay, now I want you to give a hand to my daughter.’  Of course, everyone was expecting a woman in her fifties, but out came this little six-year-old girl.  Everybody would suddenly get it, and with perfect timing Muddy would go, ‘Now you see I still got my mojo working…one, two, three, hit it!’  And he’d go into his last number.  You can’t make this stuff up.  I have so much love for the mentality and spirit of that dude.” (The Universal Tone, 371)  Wallace Fowlie: “’Mojo’ is a black slang word for sexual potency.” (Rimbaud and Jim Morrison, 91)

William Farrell notes: “Like professor, ‘Daddy’ used to be a word that connoted respect.  Yet by 1980 Kiss Daddy Goodnight was one of the best-selling books in the United States on incest.” (227)  Kaja Silverman cites Claude Levi-Strauss’ view that “mating is unregulated” in nature, whereas in culture “it is subordinated to certain rules.  The essence of the incest taboo is its regulatory status, and that status makes it virtually synonymous with culture.  Indeed, the simple imposition of the incest taboo transforms a state of nature into a state of culture: [178]…’If nature leaves marriage to chance and the arbitrary, it is impossible for culture not to introduce some sort of order where there is none.  The prime role of culture is to ensure the group’s existence as a group, and consequently, in this domain as in all others, to replace chance by organization….[(Elementary Structures of Kinship,) 32]’” (The Subject of Semiotics, 178) 

In 1995 Stanley Crouch offered a theoretical justification for the candidacy of a bluesman: “The blues…have much to do with the vision of the Constitution, primarily because you play the blues to rid yourself of the blues, just as the nature of our democracy allows us to remove the blues of government by using the government….The Constitution is…a blues document.” (The All-American Skin Game, 10, 11)  Crouch refers to “the fact that the New Testament contains perhaps the greatest blues line of all time – ‘Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?’  In essence, the harsh insights of the Bible were perfectly compatible with the cold-eyed affirmation of the blues….we fail our mission as a democratic nation whenever we submit to any sort of segregation that would remake the rules and distort the truth in the interest of creating or satisfying a constituency unwilling to assert the tragic optimism so intrinsic to the blues and to the Constitution.” (44)  In 2004 Cornell West riffed on Crouch’s ideas when describing “tragicomic hope” as one of the “moral pillars” of “democracy.” (Democracy, 21)  West: “This tragicomic hope is expressed in America most profoundly in the wrenchingly honest yet compassionate voices of the black freedom struggle; most poignantly in the painful eloquence of the blues; and most exuberantly in the improvisational virtuosity of jazz.” (16)

Crouch: “Barack Obama is actually a bluesman from Chicago whose big stage is not in a nightclub or a concert hall but the [280] huge national podium on which politics are argued.  Obama knows that the blues always presents the unvarnished problem and provides a solution through the rhythms and tones of engagement.  It is, as the writer Albert Murray has observed, a music of confrontation and it is presented in what amounts to a purification ritual….by building a blues- and glory-bound train….Obama dismisses superficial differences as confidently as scientists do the superstitions of bigotry and blood libel.” (The High Ground; from Best African American Essays: 2009, 281-82)  Pat Buchanan: “The day after Obama’s inaugural, television host Larry King blurted out to an uneasy Bob Woodward a secret desire of his son.  ‘My younger son Cannon…is eight.  And he now says that he would like to be black.  I’m not kidding.  He said there’s a lot of advantages.  Black is in.  Is this a turning of the tide?’” (Suicide of a Suuperpower, 125)

Kevin Gaines: “Gillespie articulated his politics as an extension of his Baha’i faith and insisted that the abilities of improvising jazz musicians resulted from their being in tune with God and nature.” (Artistic Othering in Black Diaspora Musics, from To Be or Not to Bop, 452-61, 473-75, `in Uptown Conversation, 213)  Gillespie’s tonality may relate to his Bahá’í faith, its many messengers recalling the many seekers of Coleman’s “higher consciousness.”  Wikipedia: “In the Bahá’í Faith, religious history is seen to have unfolded through a series of divine messengers, each of whom established a religion that was suited to the needs of the time and to the capacity of the people.  These messengers have included Abrahamic figures as well as Dharmic ones—KrishnaMosesBuddhaJesusMuhammad, and others.”  On a sexual level Gillespie may have felt that his marriage “was pretty limited” as well when playing around with various women in extra-marital affairs, but this didn’t prevent his wife Lorraine from remaining faithful both to him and to Catholicism, even helping to bring Mary Lou Williams into the fold.  

Catholic writer E. Michael Jones contrasts “sexually disturbed musical systems [that] are dependent on the twelve-tones of the chromatic scale” with “matrimony and the diatonic scale.  Just as matrimony, which was raised to the status of a sacrament by Christianity, is the natural ordering of sexual desire so that it can flow productively into offspring, the care of offspring, and the continuation of society, so the diatonic scale is an ordering of sound that is both reasonable and dynamic….The diatonic scale with its irregularly spaced half-intervals has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It is intrinsically dramatic, which means it strikes a balance between human emotion, which it does not crush, and human reason, which orders that emotion, and thereby creates a cathartic effect in the listener.  In the diatonic scale, emotion[s] gets aroused and resolved, as is evident in virtually every piece of tonal music.  This ever-[127] increasingly sophisticated development of tension and resolution lies at the heart of Western music as its crowning achievement….Diatonic morality is….a ‘natural’ order and, so, incapable of being destroyed.  Since the human will is free, we can ignore that order and create others that ignore it, but to that extent we will stop doing music.  The price one pays for ignoring nature is the abolition of all order and, as both the music and the politics of the twentieth century have shown, self-annihilation as well.” (Dionysus Rising, 127-128)

When jazz pianist John Mehegan writes, “’Jazz is and always has been a tonal music employing the diatonic scale as its frame of reference,’” Darius Brubeck believes “that his real targets are Gunther Schuller, [180] George Russell, and John Lewis.” (1959: the beginning of beyond, 180-181)  Russell: “’Since the bop period, a war on the chord has been going on.’”  (from The Cambridge Companion to Jazz, 192)  Darius Brubeck: “The Lydian Chromatic Concept meant liberation from the obsolete concerns and dictates of ‘legit’ academic theory which is based on a different tradition of tonal organization.  Even back in 1959, the ‘war on the chord’ escalated to thermonuclear proportions with the advent of free jazz and [Ornette] Coleman’s harmolodic theory, which he has not systematically defined.”  (1959: the beginning of beyond, from The Cambridge Companion to Jazz, 193)

According to Jon Garelick, “Ornette has invented his own term, ‘harmolodic,’ to describe not only his music but a way of being. (‘You can think harmolodically, you can write fiction and poetry in harmolodic,’ he has said.)  Giddins notes: “‘Unison is a tricky word in the Coleman lexicon.  ‘You can be in unison without being in unison,’ he once told me.” (Visions, 469)  Stephen Rush: “In [saxophonist Ornette Coleman’s] Harmolodic theory, Unison can be understood to mean that the notes C and F# are equivalent.  Jazz musicians, such as George Russell in particular, have been pointing this out for years, talking about the ‘Tritone substitution’ – the relationship between C and F# is, indeed, called the interval of a Tritone.  In harmolodic theory though, these notes are not substitutes for each other.  They are the same.  How is this possible, and what does this mean on a deeper level?  It means that we can call notes by many names [for example, the tritone was called diabolus in musica], but in the end they are all Sounds, and they are messengers of the Holy.”  (Better Get it in Your Soul: What Liturgists Can Learn from Jazz, 14)  Compare with Mick Jagger’s “as heads is tails.”  The chorus of Topsy Turvy is sung over a flatted fifth at 1:20 and 3:52.

Canadian guitarist Steve Dawson associates Coleman with the tritone: “I might put some kind of tritone, open-string lick into a ragtime-style tune because I’d been listening to an Ornette Coleman record.” (Georgia Straight)  Coleman depicted his harmolodic concept on the covers of his 1976 album Dancing in Your Head, which features a stylized African mask, and his 2005 live album Sound Grammar, the first jazz work to be bestowed with the Pulitzer Prize.  Harmolodics and sound grammar are synonymous for Coleman: “I’ve been calling it sound grammar and for a better technical part I call it Harmolodics.”  The relation of the mischievous smiling jester and the pensive, robed wise man with a full beard on the former album is analogous to the relation of F# (or Gb) and C in both the cycle of fifths (the model of Northrop Frye’s cycle of mythoi) and the chromatic scale cycle, recalling lines of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “You would pluck out the heart of my mystery.  You would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass: and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ.”

coleman  renaissanceman

soundgrammar   cycle  scalecycle  frye

A.B. Spellman: an “observation that Ornette [Coleman] made from his experiences on the bandstand – one that I’ve heard confirmed by several other jazz musicians – is that the relationship be[138]tween the performer and the audience is largely sexual: ‘Jazz musicians also get a screwed-up sex life, and that sucks up a lot of their energy.  When the musician goes out and plays for the public on a bandstand, ninety percent of his audience in the nightclub is sexually oriented, you know, basically.  Ninety percent of them.  It’s like the guy will sit there, and if they’re really digging you, he’ll start feeling the girl, you know.  Or if the girl digs you, he gets up and takes her away.  So therefore, it ain’t music.  It’s sexual attraction.  And then when the musician gets this idea, the first thing he’s going to do is he’s going to forget what he’s up there for and he’s going to start saying, “Wait man, where’d that bitch go that I had my eye on when I was cooking?”  You don’t know how many times I’ve come off the bandstand and had girls come up to me and hand me a note with their address on it.  And all those other things.  Sometimes I say to myself, “Well, shit, if this is what it’s all about, we should all be standing up there with hard-ons, and everybody should come to the club naked, and the musicians should be standing up there naked.  Then there wouldn’t be any confusion about what’s supposed to happen, and people wouldn’t say they came to hear the music.”  I’m telling you, the whole sex thing has more of a negative effect on the music than drugs, I’m sure of it.  So you see, the jazz scene hasn’t really changed that much since it left the New Orleans whorehouses.  The nightclub is still built on the same two things: whisky and fucking.’” (Four Jazz Lives, 139)  The pillars of the jazz club – “whisky and fucking” – may be regarded as a parody of the bread and wine of the Eucharist, the body and blood of the Savior.

David Ake notes: “The extreme degree of Coleman’s aversion to the sexual overtones in the jazz environment was made clear when he inquired about the possibility of castration, an action that his doctor dissuaded him from pursuing.” (Jazz Cultures, 77)  Coleman: “’I think black people in America have a superior sense when it comes to expressing their own convictions through music.  Most whites tend to think that it’s below their dignity to just show suffering and just show any other meaning that has to do with feeling and not with technique or analysis or whatever you call it.  And this to me is why the black man has developed in the field of music that the white man calls jazz.  And basically I think that word, the sense of that word, is [142] used to describe music that the white man feels is really inferior.  But if you analyze the music itself, just from music for music, from notes for notes, it is a superior music as far as individual expression is concerned, jazz is.’” (142-3)

Scott DeVeaux’s analysis of Coleman Hawkins’ approach to the song Body and Soul exemplifies the sexual “relationship between the performer and the audience” described by Ornette Coleman, above.  DeVeaux cites Hawkins: “’You greet the song, then you slowly get closer to it, caressing it, kissing it, and finally making love to it.’  Hawkins used his recording of ‘Body and Soul’ as a point of reference.  Of the climax, he said: ‘that’s when you’re having the orgasm’; of the unaccompanied coda – ‘well, now that’s the satisfaction.’”  DeVeaux: “Hawkins was a notoriously successful ladies’ man, and like many other male musicians, he undoubtedly relied on a demonstration of musical mastery onstage to project the promise of sexual potency after hours.  (As James P. Johnson once observed, a jazz pianist’s music was designed to ‘put the question in the ladies’ minds: “Can he do it like he can play it?”’)  But the fact that Hawkins performed pieces like ‘Body and Soul’ not just occasionally but on a regular basis to anonymous, paying customers suggests something rather different.  In Hawkins’s mind, the average, unhip listener (the ‘people you’ve got to please’) came to popular music expecting to hear ‘the melody.’  His job, therefore, was to draw their patronage by touting his specialized services as a professional purveyor of pleasure.  In place of [103] romantic popular song – product – he offered process, a way of playing that privileged the virtuoso over the composer.” (The Birth of Bebop, 103-04)

DeVeaux implies a relation between eroticism and the flatted fifth in his reference to audience responses to Hawkins’ Body and Soul.  “If the general audience was attracted to ‘Body and Soul’ by its hint of erotic drama, musicians came away deeply impressed by Hawkins’s erudite use of chromaticism.  ‘Body and Soul’ was, if not the first, then certainly the most famous jazz solo to use the device now known as a tritone substitution….’Body and Soul’ contributed other seminal musical ideas to bebop.  Such advanced chromatic harmonies as the flatted fifth were in the air, but Hawkins demonstrated their usefulness to solo improvisation more convincingly than anyone else.” (104, 110)  

The erotic nature of the flatted fifth is also evident in the diminished riff purportedly played by actor Robert Wagner when approaching actress Natalie Wood in a scene from the film All the Fine Young Cannibals.  Wagner ascends the melody and replaces the flatted fifth with a gaze fixed on Wood.  John Szwed mentions “the Hollywood jazz trope in which sexual impotence is symbolized by missed high notes on a horn in movies such as Young Man with a Horn or Mo’ Better Blues.” (The Man, in Uptown Conversation, 171)  Krin Gabbard: “Hollywood has…consistently [cast] jazz trumpeters as vulnerable to castration.” (Introduction, Representing Jazz, 5)  Gabbard: “the phallic symbolism of the jazz trumpet has not been lost on Hollywood filmmakers.  For example, when Robert Wagner in All the Fine Young Cannibals (1960) reencounters his lover after a long absence, he thrusts the bell of his trumpet into the air and executes a long glissando into a high note.” (114) 

“It ain’t music.  It’s sexual attraction.”  Coleman’s perception that this characteristic of the nightclub scene has “a negative effect on the music” is transvalued in the following discussion from Buddy Guy on Strombo concerning “the greats” which illustrates the importance of being seductive in the contemporary music ethos.  George ‘Strombo’ @ 9:35: “The rooms that you were in and the people that you played with.  Basically you were part of what is history, when people talk about the greats.  At the time were you aware that this was happening?”  Buddy Guy: “No.  We didn’t think about that because we wasn’t making any money.  I would make enough money to get to New York and to get back.  But to look at all those good looking womens watching me play I was getting paid.  I felt like I was getting paid, you know.”  

Giddins: “In 1996, [Sonny Rollins] confessed to Gene Santoro, ‘I hate recording.’  Commenting on his uneasiness with virtual reality, he said, ‘Playing live is like having sex live, as opposed to recording, which is like having cybersex.’” (Visions, 419)  Nisenson: “In Rollins’s own phrase, he recorded ‘promiscuously’ during the first half of the 1950s.” (Blue, 160)  Trumpeter Cootie Williams: “’a girl is jazz music.  They throw something into the mind to make you produce jazz.’” (Wilmer, As Serious As Your Life, 199)  Nisenson recalls, Miles Davis “said that the third-stream movement [“a fusion of jazz and classical music”] made him think of ‘looking at a naked woman that you don’t like.’” (Kind of Blue, 70)  Does jazz represent her nakedness and classical her unattractiveness?  Such questions invite a gender based analysis on the impacts of musicians on the communities that they perform for. 

The erotic inspiration of the jazz improvisers cited above may relate to Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette’s description of the Mama’s Boy archetype: “the boy under the power of the Mama’s Boy is what is called autoerotic….Some men under the infantile power of the Mama’s Boy aspect of the Oedipal Child have vast collections of pictures of nude women, alone or making love with men.  He is seeking to experience his masculinity, his phallic power, his generativity.  But instead of affirming his own masculinity as a mortal man, he is really seeking to experience the penis of God – the Great Phallus – that experiences all women.” (King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, 36)  Moore and Gillette refer to this experience as “the ultimate and continuous ‘orgasm.’” (136)

Duke  University professor Jeremy Begbie adopts an Afrocentric approach to education (see Horowitz on “made-up history” and Crouch on “the power to define,” below) when professing, “it’s a matter of record that jazz emerged out of spiritual roots.  There’s no doubt about that.”  During a course that I attended in 2001 Begbie taught that the blue notes are in tune with the natural harmonic series.  However, Iain Chambers refers to “the ‘illegitimate’ musical ladder of the ‘blues’ scale….the heart of black American sonorities were ultimately linked….to a sense of songs being ‘out of tune.’” (Urban Rhythms, 65)  Regarding jazz and spirituality, John McLaughlin (15:00) states: “Coltrane had such an impact on me when A Love Supreme came out in 1965, because with one single record he integrated the spiritual dimension into jazz music, and prior to this it never existed.”  However, Art Blakey recorded Moanin’ in 1958 and Mingus recorded Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting in 1959; I Hope Gabriel Likes My Music came out in 1936.

Nisenson professes: “Jazz was born as a voice of rebellion, a rebellion against the Jim Crow laws, which segregated New Orleans society.” (Blue, 49)  Nisenson: “those who attacked jazz for undermining the morals of [51] America’s youth actually did understand in some crude way the visceral nature of the music.  Those churchmen and politicians who thought they detected in jazz the unmistakable sound of sexual license and miscegenation had a point….Jazz writers have often expressed disdain for those who insisted there was a relationship between jazz and sex.  Partially this disdain comes from the suspicion that such a belief arises from racism; the stereotype of black people, after all, depicts them as being ‘closer to the earth’ and as far more sexual than whites.  That is one reason so many critics and fans in the jazz world [not to mention some professors] disavow the music’s sexuality: it seems inherently racist to claim that at least to some degree sex is an element in the making of jazz.  So a clear-headed discussion of sex and jazz has never been encouraged in the jazz world.  Yet denying the element of sex in jazz is simply avoiding reality.” (Blue, 51-52)  D’Souza notes the perpetuation of this racial stereotype: “A College Entrance Examination board manual on affirmative action recruiting advises university officials to treat black and Hispanic candidates differently from other students: ‘Talk in simple, down-to-earth language.’” (Illiberal, 48)

A clear-headed exposition of sex and jazz is attempted on CBC Music’s visual snapshot, from brothels to seduction tips.  To reconcile this snapshot with the fact that the only times I have heard CBC broadcasters announce the time and place of church meetings it concerned jazz vespers services, I interpret this jarring juxtaposition as a transvaluation of traditional ecclesial culture, resulting in the conversion of Puritan prudes to cool dudes.  God is dead and Bird lives?  Douglas Rushkoff describes “The reinvention of Judaism as ‘cool’….making Judaism look more hip to modern audiences, even if this means resorting to the tactics of a soft drink advertiser.” (Nothing Sacred, 59)  Rushkoff: “Mightn’t spirituality best be a relief from the endless pursuit of cool instead of a celebration of its most intimidating features?” (61)  Rushkoff: “The most enlightened Jewish leaders….organized trips to Israeli kibbutzim….where children were supervised by young, hip, pot-smoking Jewish college students.  Sex, drugs, and Zionist programming.” (78)

A similar tactic is apparent on a cover of the Vancouver weekly Georgia Straight titled Hastings Reborn, which features a caption concluding with reference to “entrepeneurs turning an east side corridor into a hip new hub.”  The juxtapositioning of the concepts hip and reborn seems to me as incongruous (a born again hipster?) as CBC’s jazz and church.  The Jimi Hendrix shrine is located at Main and Union, where there are “big plans” to erect a 32-foot statue of Hendrix, a stone’s throw from Thornton Park, where an Irish group plans to erect a 10-foot Celtic cross

Jon Michael Spenser, in his book Sacred Music of the Secular City, cites “rock music critic Jim Curtis, ‘Thus the covenant reappeared in sixties rock ‘n’ roll as a secularized version of the Puritan obligation to self-examination: a hip covenant.  Now, of course, the obligation involved sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, and doing your own thing, not soul-searching.’  It is from this critical preview that Curtis interprets Jimi Hendrix’s dissonant guitar rendition of the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ performed at the 1969 Woodstock festival: ‘The raw, strained, metallic sound expresses better than anything I know the American sense that the covenant with God is broken.'” (Rock Eras; from Rock Introduction, 230)  Compare with Job 31:1: “I made a covenant with my eyes.”  Critic John Morthland refers to Hendrix as “the flower generation’s…golden calf, its maker of mighty dope music, its most outrageous visible force.” (Bane, White Boy Singin’ the Blues, 197)  Hendrix: “The background to our music is a spiritual-blues thing.  Blues is a part of America.  We’re making our music into electric church music — a new kind of Bible.”  Morthland’s reference to the golden calf seems justified by Hendrix’s depiction as a deity on his second album cover, and his fans as devotees on the original and banned third album cover, matching the lyrical content of Axis Bold as Love and Electric Ladyland, respectively.  

axiscover  jimi1  jimihendrixs-electric-ladyland-album

Harold Bloom to Charlie Rose: “We have an American Jesus and an American, pentecostal, Holy Spirit which has not much to do with European Christians and their view of Jesus…American Christianity, I repeat, has very little in common with European or traditional Christianity.”  “There is no Yahweh in the United States.  I mean God the Father is just about gone.”  U2’s Bono may have arrived at a similar conclusion when writing The Wanderer: “I stopped outside a church house where the citizens like to sit.  They say they want the kingdom, but they don’t want God in it.”  James Davison Hunter: “The mass media…define reality in a society – by selecting which events ‘deserve attention’ and are, therefore, ‘important,’ and which events are ignored and, therefore, unimportant, by depicting individuals and communities in particular ways; and by presenting what is acceptable and unacceptable.” (Culture Wars, 174)  

Perhaps a jeremiad is justified.  Paul Ricoeur: “Jeremiah, perhaps more than anyone else, felt with terror the evil inclination of the hardened heart (3:17; 9:14; 16:12); he compares it to the savage instinct, to the rut of beasts (Jer. 2:23-25; also 8:6).  This inclination is so deeply anchored in the will that it is as indelible as the blackness of skin of the Ethiopian or the spots of the leopard (13:23).” (The Symbolism of Evil, 88)  Winthrop Jordan notes: “Elizabethan dramatists used the stock expression ‘to wash an Ethiop white’ as indicating sheer impossibility.” (White Over Black, 15)  Patrick Arnold: “every time a man [156]….points out the deception in an ad or the fallacy of an argument, can’t stomach ‘going along to get along,’ resists an institutional theology foreign to his experience of God, or takes a criticism leveled at himself to heart, the archetype of Prophet springs to life, and Jeremiah lives.” (Wildmen, 156-57)  However, Leon Podles notes that by 1971 “psychobabble had replaced prophetic language as the koine of the clergy.  Everything was seen in psychological terms; old-fashioned jeremiads were passé.” (Sacrilege, 95)  If not a jeremiad, then at least a joniad: “Acid, booze, and ass; Needles, guns, and grass; Lots of laughs, lots of laughs.  Everybody’s saying that hell’s the hippest way to go.  Well I don’t think so.” (Joni Mitchell, Blue)  While driving home from a hike up Cypress Mountain I was interested to hear a discussion concerning the community covenant at Trinity Western University on CBC radio (compare with Pardy @ 18:25).

The following comment on jazz musicians by Hawkins indicates that his musical world was not confined to one genre.  “If they think they are doing something new, they ought to do what I do every day – spend at least two hours every day listening to Johann Sebastian Bach and, man, it’s all there.  If they want to improvise around a theme, which is the essence of jazz, they should learn from the master.  He never wastes a note, and he knows where every note is going and when to bring it back.  Some of these cats go way out and forget where they began or what they started to do.  Bach will clear it up for them.”  The clarity perceived by Hawkins in the music of Bach is evident in Hans-Heinrich Eggebrecht’s reconstruction of Bach’s putative intentions as an expression of Lutheran thought, imagining Bach to be saying, “I am identified with the tonic and it is my desire to reach it….Like you I am human.  I am in need of salvation; I am certain in the hope of salvation, and have been saved by grace.”   Thelonius Monk, whom Nisenson notes “had been termed ‘the high priest of be[h]op’…And this was true in more than one way – Monk’s love for a variety of illicit substances was notorious” (The Making of Kind of Blue, 24), was less certain of the direction of modern jazz: “Where’s jazz going?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s going to hell.”  Metheny may have had Monk’s statement in mind when stating, “in some ways jazz isn’t a destination for me.  For me, jazz is a vehicle that takes you to the true destination – a musical one that describes all kinds of stuff about the human condition and the way music works.” (The Jazz Ear, 15)

According to Ornette Coleman’s harmolodic theory the jazz improviser does not identify with, or desire to reach, the tonic, for each note is regarded as a tonic.  Coleman’s former bandmate Don Cherry: “’If I play a C and have it in my mind as the tonic, that’s what it will become.  If I want it to be a minor third or a major seventh that had a tendency to resolve upward, then the quality of the note will change….In the harmolodic concept, you’re reaching to the point to make every note sound like a tonic.'” (Litweiler, Ornette, 148)  A. B. Spellman: “Cherry recalls that during one set at the Malamo they were playing “The Song Is You,” and that while he was playing his solo, Ornette ‘whispered in my ear and told me about playing a flatted ninth from a flatted fifth and that put me a half step above the key I was playing in.” (Four Jazz Lives, 121)  Bobby Bradford mentions Coleman’s practice of modulating a half step above the keynote in 1954: “’Bird and Sonny [Rollins] would use the device of playing half a step above the key for one phrase, just to add that little taste of piquancy, but Ornette would go out and stay there – he wouldn’t come back after one phrase, and this would test your capacity for dissonance.  I was very impressed with the fact that he had the courage and audacity to test Charlie Parker’s law.’”  (Litweiler, Ornette, 46)  A half step above the tonic (1) is also a flat five substitution of the dominant (5).  

Monson notes Baraka’s description of “blues and bebop” as “‘beginnings,’ defining the various kinds of Afro-American music coming after them.  The brilliance of the young vanguardists, in Baraka’s view, was their extension of the melodic and rhythmic profundity of these genres to say something new: ‘Ornette Coleman uses Parker only as a hypothesis; his…conclusions are quite separate and unique.’” (Freedom Sounds, 263)  In a Downbeat interview with Leonard Feather, Mingus acknowledged Coleman’s relevance.  “I’m not saying everybody’s going to have [to] play like Coleman.  But they’re going to have to stop playing Bird.”  Francis Davis: “In Thomas Pynchon’s first novel V., there is a character named McClintic Sphere, who plays an alto saxophone of hand-carved ivory (Coleman’s was made of white plastic) at a club called the V Note: ‘He plays all the notes Bird missed,’ somebody whispered.’” (Jazz and Its Discontents, 17)  Pynchon has Sphere write lyrics for his band’s signature tune, ‘Set/Reset:’ “Gwine cross de Jordan / Ecclesiastically: / Flop, flip, once I was hip, / Flip, flop, now you’re on top, / Set-REset, why are we BEset / With crazy and cool in the same molecule.” (293)  As Giddins put it, Coleman “played Einstein to Charlie Parker’s Newton.” (Visions, 471)  Monson: “For Baraka, the music of Ornette Coleman…represented the fruit of ‘the Negro’s fluency with [259] some of the canons of formal Western noncomformity, which was an easy emotional analogy to the three hundred years of unintentional nonconformity his color constantly reaffirmed.’” (259-60)  Coleman: “’Harmolodics means transposing any sound whatsoever into your own playing, without having to give up your own identity in the process’…(to Ralph Quinke, 1987).” (Peter Niklas Wilson, Ornette Coleman: His Life and Music, 87)

Leonard Feather describes “a typical bop melody based on the twelve-bar blues pattern.  Note that the first note of the first bar is the flatted fifth of the B Flat chord and is used as a passing note to the F (fifth).  The C Flat and E Flat with which Bar 1 closes are actually the tonic and third of a B Natural chord, suggesting a passing chord half a tone above the key in which the theme is written.  It is a common device of bebop to suggest this half tone raise without actually having the rhythm section play it; for instance, a soloist may run an entire G flat arpeggio while the band is in F; but as you see here in bar 2, the resolution into the regular key makes the overall phrase euphonious.” (Inside Bebop, 53)  

Feather later offers another example of this half step modulation in bebop.  “On the last two beats of Bar 1 the soloist plays a D Flat chord against the rhythm’s C chord.” (69)  This melodic modulation exemplifies the use of a passing note, which Feather describes as “one which does not belong in the chord, but which is used to pass up or down onto one of the notes of that chord.” (68)  However, Feather states, “if you know how to place them and in what order to use them, there is no such thing as a ‘wrong note’ or a ‘note off of the chord!….It is because passing notes are used by bop musicians without resolving to the notes to which they are supposed to ‘pass’ that people think they hear wrong notes in bebop.  In Ex. 25, the first bar shows how, followng the D Flat, which is [69] ‘off the chord’ of G Seventh, you would naturally expect to pass to another note which is either in the G Seventh chord, or else in another chord that follows logically after a G Seventh – in this case, a C in the chord of C Seventh.  But in the second bar you see how a bopper stays on the D Flat, which thus becomes a ‘dissonant’ note – in the chord of G Seventh it is the flatted fifth. 

The more you listen to bebop, the more you will be impressed with the change that has been effected in the whole character and sound of jazz improvisation by the acceptance of this flatted fifth as a ‘right’ note instead of a wrong one.  When you reflect what a large proportion of chords in any jazz number are sevenths, (or ninths) and how many variations can be produced by the inclusion of the flatted fifth in your ad libbing on each of these chords, you may will [sp] understand why the flatted fifth has become practically synonymous with bebop.

Obviously the flatted fifth is nothing new in music as a whole, but it is relatively new in jazz [in 1949].  When Oscar Moore, striking a final chord on the original King Cole version of Sweet Lorraine in 1940 (Decca), played a ninth with a flatted fifth, it seemed to many listeners like a delightfully novel way to end a performance.  Today, flatted fifths as a concluding chord are the rule rather than the exception.” (70)  

Feather cites an example of bitonality in Dizzy Gillespie’s 52nd Street Theme.  “While Dizzy plays the two-bar riff theme in the key of C, Milton Jackson plays the same melody on vibes in the key of G Flat – i.e., a flatted fifth away from the rest of the band.” (71)  This bitonality may relate to the social phenomenon described by Miles Davis: “‘A lot of white people, though, didn’t like what was going on on 52nd Street… They thought that they were being invaded by niggers from Harlem, so there was a lot of racial tension around bebop.  Black men were going with fine, rich white bitches.  They were all over those niggers out in public and the niggers were clean as a motherfucker and talking all kind of hip shit.  So you know a lot of white people, especially white men, didn’t like this new shit.’” (from Considering Genius, 254)  Davis’ negative perception of “racial tension around bebop” contrasts with Gillespie’s perception, noted by Marsalis: “Dizzy Gillespie told me, ‘Bebop was about integration.’” (Moving to Higher Ground, 96)  

Bill Barron’s Back Lash has a similar bitonal melody, as does the opening theme of the film The Intruder.  These inharmonious transpositions exemplify Coleman’s concept of harmolodics.  Coleman: “When you play the piano you’re playing in the G clef, that’s the treble clef, but the soprano, alto, tenor, and the bass clefs are independent of the treble clef. If you take the soprano C, which is on the E line, you take the bass C, which is on the second space, the alto C, which is on the third line, and the tenor C, which is on the fourth line, you’ll have A, B, D, and E.  Now, the B natural that’s on the treble clef is totally independent from those four notes, therefore most people transposing those voices to the treble clef are not transposing the natural notes of the unison.  That’s why you have harmony, changes, and improvising, because the treble clef doesn’t transpose, it’s only for range.  If you have A, B, D, and E in the bass clef, you would be reading C, D, F, and G. In the treble clef, when you play A, B, D, and E, that A is C, the B is a C for alto, the a C for the tenor, and the E is the C for the soprano. So, it’s not really four different notes, it’s the same four notes. So, therefore it’s deceiving to believe that the piano is the transposed clef for all voices. What it really does is uses those four words to make harmonies, keys, and chords. The treble clef does not have a pure voice.  If I asked you to play the soprano G natural on the piano, that’s C natural for the treble clef. C natural for the soprano would be E.  You can’t hear those as voices, so you call them chords and keys. In harmolodics, those four voices are transposed into one voice.  For instance, the A, B, D, and E would be B, C, E, and F on the alto clef, and G, A, C, and D on the tenor clef.  The same notes.  So, you have a different unison for the same notes.”

Gunther Schuller is of the opinion that harmolodics “is apparently based on the untransposed performing in varied clefs and ‘keys’ of the same musical materials (lines, themes, melodies), thus producing a simplistic organum-like ‘polyphony,’ primarily in parallel unrelieved motion.” (Ornette Coleman, 79; Musings: The Musical Worlds of Gunther Schuller: a Collection of His Writings)  This basis is confirmed by Nate Chin.  “Coleman was puzzled by the adjustment in key required by his E-flat alto, and in his autodidactic way, he decided to turn the concept on its ear.  One of the fundamental tenets of Harmolodic Theory—the concept formally introduced with the premiere of Coleman’s 1972 symphony Skies of America, and exemplified throughout the ’80s by his free-funk band Prime Time—is the conviction that it shouldn’t matter what key an instrument plays in, if intervallic relationships are preserved.  (Or even, in many cases, if they aren’t; for an aesthetic code, Harmolodics is stubbornly resistant to absolutes.)

In conversation, Coleman is fantastically and sometimes frustratingly discursive, but on the topic of transposition he gets both animated and specific.  ‘Say you have C natural,’ he says, ‘and it’s on the third space in the treble clef.  That same note is E natural [in the bass clef]. That same note for a saxophone is C sharp, and for the trumpet, it’s a D.  The violin is getting away with murder!’  Like many Coleman propositions, this one makes sense only with a bit of interpretative effort. [String instruments such as the violin don’t have the transposition issues of winds and brass.]

But he extends the idea, gesturing with his hand to indicate an imaginary piece of sheet music.  ‘C natural, if you put it upside down, it’s an A.  But it’s still the same sound.  The only thing that can change sound is emotion.  Other stuff just gets in the way and makes it sound like noise. But emotion actually changes sound.  Which means that emotion is ten times more pure than sound.’

The idea of emotional inflection is not new to Coleman’s process, though it now seems to play an especially crucial role. ‘I just lately started using that phrase “Sound Grammar,”’ he says, ‘but it’s been in my mind ever since I’ve been playing music. Although I do know that in the emotion of human beings, sound is growing: in revolutions, in purpose, and most of all, in freedom.  A person can say a word that they know what it means without you knowing what it means, and speak to you in a way that you get a meaning from it.’” (Ornette Coleman: In His Own Language; Jazz Times)

Coleman: “’music isn’t a style; it’s an idea….I would like to have the same concept of ideas as how people believe in God,’ he said.  ‘To me, an idea doesn’t have any master.’” (The Jazz Ear, 56)  Compare with Jordan: “’Castration of Negroes clearly indicated a desperate, generalized need in white men to persuade themselves that they were really masters and in all ways masterful.’” (White Over Black, 156; from Cultural Bases of Racism, 65)  Ratliff: “Unison is one of his favorite words; he puts an almost mystical significance on it, and he uses it in many different ways. ’Being a human, you’re required to be in unison: upright,’ he said. [57]  

Coleman draws you into the chicken-and-egg riddles that he asks himself.  These questions can become the dark side of Bible class….Though he is fascinated by music theory, he is suspicious of any enforced construct of thought.  Standard Western harmony is the big dilemma, and particularly the fact that the notation for many instruments (including two of his three instruments – the alto saxophone and trumpet, but not the violin) must be transposed to fit the ‘concert key’ of C in Western music.

Coleman talks about ‘music’ with care and accuracy, but he talks about ‘sound’ with love.  He doesn’t know how we will ever properly understand the power of notes when they are bossed around by the common Western system of harmony and tuning.” (57-58)  Ratliff: “any rule begins to lose relevance around Coleman.” (61)  Coleman: “I think it’s all natural and it’s all healthy to do.  The one thing that’s really amazing is that I think of music as being sound that is improvised.  Which means that there’s no fixed moment where one thing is more important than another, like a play or something, because sound has no parents.” 

Coleman: “’Basically, the only thing that I believe, truly, is that there’s only two destinations: one is life, and one is [61] death.  And it seems to me that when death dies, the world is gonna be incredible.

‘But let’s talk about life,’ he said, cheerily.  ‘There must be something eternal that has existed before anything any other person could see or touch or smell.  I’m not talking about the sky.  The quality that we call human has never not existed.  I mean, we say Adam and Eve, right?  But whoever found Adam and Eve?  It says that they existed,’ he said….’It’s impossible for you never to have existed at all, because when you didn’t know that you existed, you did exist.  I’m sitting here speaking to you; humanly, we are alive and talking.  But the quality that we’re talking about, that quality doesn’t have a beginning or end.  It is never not existing.’” (61-62)

Coleman: “’I’m at the point now where modulation is the closest thing to pure improvisation.’  Coleman has thoughts, of course, on how to define the ideal of pure improvisation.  ‘No key, no rhythm, and no time,’ he quickly recited, like the answer in a catechism.  ‘Just the idea itself.’” (64) 

Ratliff: “He told me a childhood story about his mother, who, as he kept reminding me, was born on Christmas day.  After he received his first saxophone, he would come to her after learning how to play something by ear.  ‘I’d be saying, “listen to this!  Listen to this!” ‘ he [68] remembered.  ‘You know what she’d tell me?  “Junior, I know who you are.  You don’t have to tell me.” ‘” (68-69)

Guitarist Pat Metheny celebrates Coleman’s transposed persona: “Ornette is the rare example of a musician who has created his own world, his own language, his own reality.”  (Foreword, Wilson)  E. Michael Jones’s comment may be applicable here: “To paraphrase Milton – it is better to reign in an atonal hell than to serve in a diatonic heaven.” (Dionysus Rising, 147)  In Book V of Paradise Lost Milton describes Satan as “Affecting all equality with God.”  However, Metheny insists that Coleman’s harmolodic approach “doesn’t imply chaos or lack of respect for the power in a diatonic scale.  Fact is, Ornette plays diatonic to the key most of the time, phrase by phrase.  He modulates a lot and he does have an unexplainable way of playing diatonic to the key without ever outlining chords.  It’s sort of like defying gravity.”

Coleman’s melodic defiance may relate to his image of the crucified jazz artist, recalling Breau’s bloody vision of Coltrane.  “’In jazz the Negro is the product….This has been my greatest problem – being shortchanged because I’m a Negro, not because I can’t produce.  Here I am being used as a Negro who can play jazz, and all the people I recorded for and worked for act as if they own me and my product….They act like I owe them something for letting me express myself with my music, like the artist is supposed to suffer and not to live in clean, comfortable situations.  This is the worst kind of suffering.  This psychological [130] suffering of knowing that you’re being exploited.’” (Spellman, 130-1)  “’The performer is the man on the cross.’” (149)  “’I’m a Negro and I’m a jazz man.  Performer or composer are secondary.  And as a Negro and a jazz man, I just feel miserable’” (150)  

Metheny describes Coleman’s obsessive relation to his horn, reminiscent of Coltrane.  “I recall on the tour (all one-nighters across the U.S., a fairly grueling schedule) that we would check into a hotel at noon or so, Ornette would immediately go to his room and start practicing, playing right up to the soundcheck at four pm.  He would then play all through the soundcheck (I remember at one point asking him to stop for just a few minutes so I could work on a technical thing with a volume pedal or something without having to shout over the music to the sound crew!).  He would then stay at the gig, and practice right up till the first note of the concert, play so beautifully (and long!) for the gig (we were averaging 2 to 2 and 1/2 hour sets), and then stay afterwards and play some more after the gig.”  (Foreword)

As an arranger Coleman may not have felt miserable, but still less than fully satisfied with his arrangement of a Bach Prelude, as it is just shy of a ‘European’ resolution, with Coleman ending on the leading tone, C#, a half step from the tonic, D.  This arrangement distills the essence of Coleman’s harmolodics.  “When I was putting together a new Prime Time band, I went to the Manhattan School of Music and they told me about Chris Rosenberg the classical guitar player.  So, I met with him and asked him what was his favorite classical piece, and he said the Bach Prelude.  I asked him to play it and then I asked him to play it again, and I improvised on my horn, harmolodically.  So, you can hear the true essence of harmolodics in the Bach piece.  Chris plays the identical notes, the same thing, twice, back to back.  But, when the whole band comes in, it sounds like he’s playing some kind of harmony or changes.  Yet he’s playing the same melody.  The melody hasn’t changed; it’s been heightened so that you can compare how new information makes the use of a form more clear.”  (JazzTimes Volume 25/Number 10, published December 1995.)

tone dialing album   harmolodic logo 1996

Coleman’s harmolodic (ir)resolution in his Bach Prelude, in contrast to his What a Friend We Have in Jesus (however the bassist reharmonizes Coleman’s keynote by ending in the relative minor key – an example of harmolodics), is consistent with his harmolodic logo and with the graphic of the album the Prelude appears on, Tone Dialing, the first release of his Harmolodic label.  In place of ten numbers from one to zero the phone features ten words, suggesting the solipsistic experience of a tonal existentialist: hearing, equality, smell, taste, present, sight, action, receiving, touch, and territories.  Territories?  Coleman: “The Theme you play at the start of a number is the territory, and what comes after, which may have very little to do with it, is the Adventure!”  Theme from a Symphony, from Dancing in Your Head, exemplifies Coleman’s Theme and Adventure.  This melodic theme, called The Good Life on the album Skies of America, outlines a harmonic cadence; however, the guitarist ends the song with an un-symphonic flatted fifth.  

Giddins comments on this album: “The Harmolodic theory would permit every member of the orchestra to improvise range at will, that is, transpose notes to any octave or key while retaining the composed intervallic relationships.  This method would allow the musician to have creative input even though each part is notated.” (Visions, 472)  Giddins marvels “at how his privileged ear resisted the laws of harmony, melody, rhythm, and pitch, all of which he ultimately revised in the abracadabra of harmolodic.” (468)  Coleman indicates his humanistic motivation: “‘You can always reach into the human sound of a voice on your horn if you are actually hearing and trying to express the warmth of a human voice.'” (469)

Coleman on Skies of America: “’I grew up in Texas, in the South, where there was lots of discrimination, lots of problems for minorities.  Sometimes the sun is shining and beautiful on one side of the street, and across the street, just maybe three feet apart, there’d be big balls of hail and thunderstorms, and that reminded me of something that happens with people.  In America you see them all enjoying themselves and next moment they’re all fighting.  They’re the same way as the elements.  When I titled that piece, it was to let me see if I could describe the beauty, and not have it be racial or any territory.  In other words, the sky has no territory; only the land has territory.  I was trying to describe something that has no territory.’” (Litweiler, Ornette, 143)  Coleman: “I didn’t have in my mind, `I’m gonna write Skies of America and everybody gonna start screwing.'” 

Litweiler: “CBS insisted that the album be released by its jazz division, not its classical music division, and that the LP be banded into separated ‘songs,’ each with its own title, allegedly to encourage radio airplay – ‘but basically,’ Ornette later said, ‘they were trying to keep it from having the image of a symphony.  I realize now that it was another social-racial problem.’” (145)  New York Times reviewer John Rockwell described Skies of America as a “’rambling, 90-minute suite in which jazz ensemble passages and sym-[186]phonic interludes mostly alternate….Mr. Coleman thinks of the two forces, jazz group and symphony orchestra, as dramatically opposed forces that attempt but fail to merge.  But if the marriage must fail, why try to make art out of a doomed union?  Still, the orchestral portions, full of grittily polytonal, hymnlike string chords and piercing brass writing, had a real personality, and the Prime Time sections sounded positively inspired.’” (187)  Francis Davis questions Coleman’s claim that, in Skies of America, he had “transcended racial distinctions and stylistic divisions,” when describing him as a “man who seems bent on proving Bob Dylan’s axiom: There’s no success like failure, and failure’s no success at all.” (No Success Like Failure; in Jazz and Its Discontents, 24, 25)

Coleman responded to interviewer Bill Shoemaker’s query concerning the promotional materials for Tone Dialing, which reads, “remove the caste system from sound.”  “America builds a caste system in the business concept.  It’s a way to avoid relationships with other races and enjoying creativity from outside their identity.  The puzzle covers more territory than just sound, but that’s its meaning in dealing with music.

BS: How does harmolodics take on this caste system in sound?

OC: Harmolodics is a base of expanding the melody, the harmonic structure, the rhythm, and above all the free improvised structure of a composition beyond what they would be if they were just played as a regular 2-5-1 structure….What I’m trying to express is that everyone has used those keys and chords and everyone that plays a melody that uses a 2-5-1, even if it’s a new melody, it doesn’t sound like it has gone anywhere.  It just sounds like a sequence.  When I’m speaking to you about the caste system, it’s not just a racial point or a musical point, I’m really talking about a civilization concept….Buddha, Christ, Confucius, Mohammed, and Moses….were looking for a higher consciousness.  If music and art has a consciousness, it shouldn’t be from a caste point of view.

Think of the word “minority,” not in terms of race, but in relating to information.  There are more minorities than there are people who control information.  That’s why I’ve written a theory book about harmolodics.  I’ve finished it about ten times and it’s time now to close it down and get it out.  Someone may tell you that B and F are a flatted fifth apart, but they’re also the major seventh of C and F#.  But, they don’t sound like that when you play them back to back.  Your information may be limited, but the way you use the information doesn’t have to be limited.  Your tone will cause you to change any note to the way you hear it.  Your relationship to your tone is based on your emotions.  If it wasn’t, everybody would sound the same.  When you play something and you hear you own tone, that’s tone dialing.  That’s you.  If you create music just from the concept of your own tone, you will be doing something no one else has discovered.”

Coleman’s Buddha Blues may manifest his “higher consciousness,” its pantonality, like that of Coltrane’s innovative Om [Giddins: “Om (long rumored to have been recorded on LSD) may not be the worst record Coltrane ever made, but it’s a contender.” (Visions, 488)], providing a stimulating contrast to the single-minded consciousness expressed in the monotonal aum mantra of Buddhist monks.  John Miller Chernoff: “In a musical ensemble, singlemindedness of purpose would be equivalent to poverty of expression.” (African Rhythm and African Sensibility, 158)  Note 10: “Western notions of purity of heart as ‘to will one thing’ are perhaps the spiritual and moral antithesis of the African approach, in which purity of heart is manifest in mediation and the balancing of differences.” (219)

There seems to be a contradiction between Coleman’s graphic and group name – Ornette Coleman & Prime Time – which consists of the first and last name of the leader preceding the group name proper.  The leader’s first name is personal, distinguishing him from his son and drummer, Denardo Coleman.  The group name – Prime Time – indicates a classification of temporal periods, as Coleman’s “higher consciousness” indicates a stratification of spiritual states, and his description of jazz as “a superior music” indicates inferior genres.  Similarly, the notion of a keynote speaker is consistent with the preeminence of the letter A in the alphabet – as in alphabet or alpha male, A team, A list, and straight A student.  However, Coleman’s touch tones are implicitly equal, whereas the one, or tonic, or fundamental, is traditionally the most significant tone to ‘dial’, as in the diatonic melodies of songs such as Watoto Children’s Choir’s Telephone to Jesus, Adriana Bond’s I Talk with JesusNicole C. Mullen‘s Call on Jesus, Jim Reeves’ In the Garden, The Oak Ridge Boys’ Just a Little Talk with Jesus, Johnny Cash’s I Talk to Jesus Everyday, Willie Nelson’s Tell it to Jesus, Carl & Pearl Butler’s Jesus is the One, Roy Buchanon’s Thank You Lord, and Van Morrison’s Have I Told You Lately, covered by Rod Stewart (this last song came to mind after paddling on Indian Arm in my surf ski).

By contrast, Stevie Wonder uses blue notes and a blues chord structure to Have a Talk with God, as in the Negro spiritual Jesus on the Mainline, covered by Reverend Timothy Flemming and Ry Cooder; Kirk Franklin’s bluesy Call on the Lord may fit in the this category as well.  Blues tonality also characterizes Elmore James’ I Can’t Hold Out, Wilson Pickett’s 634-5789, The Band’s Long Distance Operator, John Mayall’s Telephone Blues, Siegel-Schwall’s Bring it With You When You Come, and Ray Charles’ Hallelujah I Love Her So, which ends with a flatted fifth from the horn section.  Blue notes are conspicuously present in Jelly Roll Morton’s Dr. Jazz

Miles Davis’ statements about cars, synthesizers, boxing, sex, Jesus, music, and prayer suggest a solipsistic musical experience.  Davis likens the sound of car accidents to that of synthesizers: “‘If you’re a thinking musician, like I am, you’re aware of your surroundings, like cars.  The metal and plastic changes, [so] accidents don’t sound the same.  My music is influenced by today’s sounds.  With synthesizers, there’s always something new.  Keyboards have something added every year.  Horns are being used less on dates.  All this influences and changes your sound – the texture of the music and the arrangements.’ [274]  Not that Miles is completely happy with synthesizers.  In the Dec. ’84 issue of DownBeat, he told Howard Mandel, ‘Hey, talk about prejudice, dig this: The synthesizer sound for trumpet is a white trumpet player’s sound.  Not my sound, not Louis’ sound, or Dizzy’s sound – a white trumpet sound.  It is!  And the only way I can play it is to play over it with my trumpet….They have to get that sound together; you should have a choice on a synthesizer between a black and white sound.'”  (Robert L. Doerschuk, from Miles on Miles, 274-75)  

Davis’ distinction is evident in Gabbard’s description of “the phallicism of the jazz trumpet….By contrast, we may not choose to characterize the Eurocentric virtuoso who can play high and fast as necessarily phallic; what a symphony player might call bad technique – an extremely wide vibrato or a ‘smeared’ note for example – can become a forceful, even virtuosic device in the hands of a jazz trumpeter.  Stage deportment and the musician’s clothing can also become part of a phallic style.” (Signifyin(g) the Phallus; in Representing Jazz, 108)  Nisenson: “Miles commented that ‘all those white tenor players sound alike to me.’” (Midnight, 62)  Davis: “’I made up my mind to outdo anybody white on my horn.  If I hadn’t met that prejudice, I probably wouldn’t have had as much drive in my work.  I’ve thought about that a lot.  Prejudice and curiosity have been responsible for what I’ve done in music.’” (Eric Nisenson, Kind of Blue, 22)  Davis said he would rather be alone on a desert island than be there with a white person; he also said, “If I knew I had only one hour to live, I’d choke a white man, nice and slow.”

John Szwed: “Before performances, Miles stayed away from others and often drove away anyone who might approach him.  Like a boxer, preparing for a fight, he denied himself food and sex before playing, believing that a musician should perform hungry and unsatisfied…Like a fighter, he tied his shoelaces as tightly as he could bear, on shoes that were already a size smaller than his size 7 feet, so he could feel firmly in place.”  (So What: The Life of Miles Davis)  “Davis: ‘You give up all your energy when you come.  I mean, you give up all of it.  So if you’re going to fuck before a gig, how are you going to give something when it’s time to hit?’  [Jimmy] Saunders: ‘This might be somewhat far-fetched, but are you a religious cat, Miles?  Are you into God and Jesus?’  [153]  Davis: ‘Ain’t no fucking Jesus, man.  Get out of here.  Shit.  Do you believe in God and Jesus?  I believe in myself.  I believe every man is Jesus and God.  If there was a Jesus, and he came down here, he’d get put in jail – drinking wine, beer, smoking shit.  White folks fill you up with all that shit about Jesus.'” (Miles on Miles, 152-53)  “People know me by my sound, like they know Frank Sinatra’s sound.  Got to keep my sound.  I practice seventh chords.  Practicing is like praying.  You don’t just pray once a week….I pray in my way.'”  (314)  Santana asked: “’You pray, Miles?’ [393] ‘Of course.  When I want to score some cocaine I’ll say, “God, please make that mother fucker be home.”’” (Universal Tone, 392-93)  Davis: “I’m gonna call myself on the phone one day and tell myself to shut up.” (liner notes to Sketches of Spain)

Chernoff: “In Africa the individual and the Creator God seem to have very few direct dealings.” (African Rhythm and African Sensibility, 157)  Janheinz Jahn: “The highest ruler of all loas [voodoo gods] is Bon Dieu, the good lord.  He is the creator of the world, but so high above man that he is not concerned with him.  He is so far away that he only laughs at the sufferings of men.  One says ‘If God wills’ (Si die vle) and resigns oneself therewith to one’s fate, but one does not pray to Bon Dieu.” (Muntu, 41)  The main character of the British satireThe Ruling Class, exhibits the opposite problem when answering: “How do you know you’re God?”…”Simple, when I pray to Him I find I’m talking to myself.”

Russell: “The major scale probably emerged as the predominating scale of Western music, because within its seven tones lies the most fundamental harmonic progression of the classical era…the tonic major chord on C…the sub-dominant major chord on F…the dominant seventh chord on G – thus, the major scale resolves to its tonic major chord.  The Lydian scale is the sound of its tonic major chord.”  (iii, iv)  Contrary to this last assertion, the Lydian scale comprises seven notes, including a raised fourth, which forms a tritone in relation to the fundamental; its tonic major chord has three notes forming a perfect harmony.  Therefore, the Lydian scale is not the sound of its tonic major chord.

From Russell’s book: “The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization…is based upon a theory that a major scale does not completely fulfill, agree with or satisfy the tonality of its tonic major triad.” (i)  “The tones of the Major and Blues Scales may be combined and used together quite freely as one (Major Blues) Scale.  The Blues Scale is simply a funky version of the Major Scale.  The Blues Scale occurs when the 3rd, 5th and 7th degrees of the Major Scale are flattened.”  (38)  According to LeRoi Jones “the adjective funky…meant to many Negroes merely a stink (usually associated with sex).” (Blues People, 219)  Therefore, Russell’s association of the flatted fifth with the adjective funky accords with Ezrin’s opinion that “there is something very sexual about the tritone.” 

Breau’s knowledge of jazz theory influenced his metaphysical ideas, for he persisted in a spiritual vision of a colored deity.  In 1977 he belligerently informed a church pastor, “Music is my god.”  The following excerpts from a 1981 seminar, Lenny Breau Talks Part 4, typify his insistence on the inclusion of the flatted fifth (called augmented eleventh in a harmonic context) in his music: “A straight C major seven is used so much it’s like an old fashioned C chord.  I try and color up that C.  I add one note to the chord.  I’ll make it a C major ninth.  Anytime you want to fatten a chord up add the next note of the scale to it.  There’s more color to that one.  If you want it to be a C major seventh that’s even got more in it then you play a C major nine and you add another note to the chord.  Say the melody note is F#.  That could be written in a plain C, but the melody is F#.  Instead of C play C major nine and add the augmented eleven.”  

Breau seems to associate tonal color with harmonic tension, for the more colorful his harmonies become the more tension they have, and the more remote they are from the fundamental in the harmonic series.  He describes major seventh chords as “plain,” “old fashioned,” and “straight,” whereas chords with more tension, a ninth or sharp eleventh, are described as being more colorful.  A direct link between harmonic and metaphysical color is Breau’s statement: “to the musician that’s really serious it’s the fastest way to God.  When I’m playing my music, when I’m doing stuff like [playing an F7 #11 impressionist chord (his term for chordal harmonics)] I hear that and it inspires me.  It makes me feel close to God.”  (Lenny Breau Talks Part 1, 5:30-40)  Breau’s statement begins with allusions to McCoy Tyner – “Music’s not a plaything – it’s as serious as your life” – and to Hazrat Inayat Khan: “Music is the shortest, the most direct way to God; but one must know what music [is] and how to use it.”  Breau’s polychordal or misceharmonic music mirrors his miscedeistic vision.  

It is insightful to compare Breau’s use of the word straight in references to his music and his life.  In 1978, the night before Breau was due to give a speech to honor his father, Lone Pine’s, induction into the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame he broke into a liquor store and drank stolen liquor.  When his friends found him there Breau taunted them, saying, “You cats think you’re gonna keep me straight?  Well good luck!  Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.”  Upright bassist Dan Hall recalls a gig Breau performed hours before giving this speech when he “got into his Hendrix mode, tied a bandana around his head and was doing this anguished stuff.”  Breau’s friend, Stephen Anderson, recalls his response to his father’s death in 1977: “He’d break down and cry and talk about his dad and how he’d let him down, sometimes during gigs.  He’d been expected to follow in Hal’s footsteps and he felt that he’d disappointed his dad for not being his little sidekick, for not staying as little Lone Pine, Jr., for making that split.”  Shortly after his father’s death Breau accompanied his friend Buddy Spicher to a church service.  Spicher recalls Breau’s conversation with the minister: “He asked Lenny about his relationship with God and I’ll never forget it: Lenny said, ‘music is my god.’  But he went to church with me rather than hurt my feelings by saying no.  Still, he didn’t worry about hurtin’ this fella’s feelings when he said music was his God.  It kinda broke my heart to tell you the truth.  Still, Lenny was a beautiful soul.”

Breau first heard what he called an impressionist chord in Chet Atkins’ version of White Christmas, recorded in 1961.  This song represents Atkins’ first recorded use of chordal harmonics.  Atkins begins and ends his arrangement with a C major pentatonic scale followed by a Db pentatonic scale; Breau would call these structures a C 6/9 and a Db 6/9 impressionist chord.  Atkins ends a later live version of White Christmas at 4:55 with artificial harmonics over a C major scale followed by a C major chord.  Atkins’ arrangements perpetuate what D’Souza refers to as “white ‘symbol imperialism'”: “An Afro-American Studies professor at Temple University gives an exhaustive listing of ‘white norms’; even Santa Claus, he maintains is an example of white ‘symbol imperialism’ which oppresses blacks.” (Illiberal, 207)  Breau challenges such norms with his live in 1976 jazzy Santa Claus is Coming to Town, where, after ending the second song with a ninth and a flatted fifth at 15:32, he introduces himself as “Gene Autrey” (16:50) and cites Camptown Races and Jingle Bells at 20:40 before ending with a flatted fifth at 26:09.  At 27:27 Breau ends an un-Autrey-like lightning fast blues ‘break’ song with a jazz-inspired flatted fifth, followed by a country riff concluding on the major chord.

Breau would regard Atkins’ use of harmonics in White Christmas as plain, straight, and old-fashioned, relative to his own complex impressionist chords featuring a sharp eleventh, influenced by Russell’s lydian theory.  Breau’s use of harmonics on his live RCA album recorded in 1969 have “more color,” to use his phrase, than Atkins’ harmonics.  This album begins with Tuning Tune, featuring harmonic clusters with raised fourths/flatted fifths.  The album also ends with a harmonic cluster and the final note is a raised fourth/flatted fifth.  Breau’s live recording of Stella by Starlight, with Brad Terry on clarinet, begins with a harmonic cluster outlining a lydian scale, including the raised fourth.  Forbes-Roberts refers to this song as the “apotheosis” of Breau’s output. 

Is Jazz a Four Letter Word

Breau’s choice of the adjective “straight” for relatively consonant harmonies and his association of the raised fourth/flatted fifth with color is echoed by trumpeter Miles Davis.  “Jazz is an Uncle Tom word.  It’s a white folks word.  I never heard that shit until I read it in a magazine….It’s social music.  There’s two kinds — white and black, and those bourgeois spades are trying to sing white and the whites are trying to sound colored.  It’s embarrassing.   It’s like me wearing a dress.  Blood, Sweat and Tears is embarrassing to me.  They try to be so hip, they’re not.  They try to sing Black and talk white.  I know what they do: they try to get Basie’s sound with knowledge . . . put some harmonies in it — instead of a straight sixth chord, they’d use a — shit, I can’t call chords anymore — a raised fourth or some shit like that, with the tonic on top.  It was done years ago.” (Interview with Don DeMichael, Rolling Stone Magazine, December, 1969)  

Davis associates whiteness with the image of himself “wearing a dress” and the sound of “a straight sixth chord.”  He associates blackness with hipness, “a raised fourth,” and a four letter word.  Davis describes his musical rapport with bassist Michael Henderson: “Like if he’s in E-flat and I play an A chord or maybe a C or a D he doesn’t get ruffled anymore, like he used to.  He sticks where he is.  He’s used to all my stuff by now.” (Miles on Miles, 137)  Eb and A are a tritone apart.  Herbie Hancock begins his musical portrait of Davis with a tritone.  Paul Berliner: “Miles Davis recalls his early rigorous training in the language of bebop, which included the exploitation of tritone pitch relationships.  ‘We really studied….If a door squeaked, we would call out the exact pitch.  And every time I heard [164] the chord of G, for example, my fingers automatically took the position for C# on the horn – the flatted fifth – whether I was playing or not.’” (Thinking in Jazz, 164-65)  Rubio: “Miles Davis, who often included whites in his band, pointed out the style difference, in Quincy Jones’s recent documentary on his life: ‘I could tell a black band from a white band.  I don’t know why – how I could tell it, but I could just tell.  ‘Cos it [the white band] wouldn’t go in my body.’” (Crossover Dreams; from Race Traitor, 150)

Davis’s rejection of the label jazz as “a white folks word” is echoed by Ron Maulana Karenga, who created Kwanzaa as a black alternative to Christmas.  Despite its recent invention in the 1960’s Kwanzaa is represented as a symbol of African culture in the documentary, The Black Candle: A Kwanzaa Celebration.  Monson states that in “Karenga’s US Organization (to which Baraka and many others were drawn in the late sixties)….whites were viewed as less capable of tuning in to the universal energy and as an active obstacle to the formation of a truly self-aware blackness.” (Freedom Sounds, 265)  However, Brian Ward notes: “Karenga contemptuously complained that ‘The “Negro” has more records than books and is dancing his life away’.” (Just My Soul Responding, 409)

In his essay, Black Cultural Nationalism, Karenga writes on behalf of Afro-Americans when stating: “we reject the word jazz, for jazz is taken from the white word, jazzy, i.e. sexy, because that is what he thought our music was.” (35, from Black Aesthetics)  Monson: “Sidney Bechet states…that jazz is ‘a name the white people have given to the music’ (Peretti 1992, 133).” (Saying Something, 102)  Krin Gabbard: “Davis explicitly associated the word jazz with slavery (Davis and Troupe 1989, 325).  Quoted in 1944, Duke Ellington expressed a preference for the term ‘Negro folk music’ (Tucker 1993, 218).  Much later, writing in his autobiography, Music Is My Mistress (1973), Ellington wrote, ‘”Jazz” is only a word and really has no meaning.  We stopped using it in 1943’ (452).  Beginning in the 1960s, some of the more militant African-American artists insisted that they were playing ‘black music’.  In 1970 Max Roach ruefully observed that ‘Don’t give me all that jazz’ is synonymous with ‘Don’t give me all that shit’.  He continued, ‘Personally I resent the word unequivocally because of our spirituals and our heritage; the work and sweat that went into our music is above shit.  I don’t know whether anybody else realizes what this means, but I really do, and I am vehement about it.  The proper name for it, if you want to speak about it historically, is music that has been created and developed by musicians of African descent who are in America’ (A. Taylor 1983, 110).”  (The Word Jazz, Cambridge Companion to Jazz, 6) 

The racial disdain that blacks perceived in the use of the term jazz by whites is confirmed by Kofsky.  “So far as the white-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant dominated ruling-class Establishment is concerned, serious black art is beneath consideration….After all, the Establishment seems to be saying, jazz, when you come right down to it, is the music of blacks and belongs in whorehouses, bars, dives, and other appropriately sleazy surroundings.  What would we want to have to do with a music like that?” (Black Nationalism, 10, 11)  Kofsky laments the “working conditions for musicians in the dingy toilets known as jazz clubs.” (Coltrane, 153)  According to Kofsky, “the most glaring reality of jazz society is that of black creation versus white control.” (Nationalism, 14)  Kofsky: “The easiest way to summarize the status quo in jazz is with the two words white supremacy.” (Coltrane, 152)

Eric Nisenson: “Using the word ‘jazz,’ originally a slang term for sexual intercourse, was part of the same syndrome as ‘riding in back of the bus,’ Charlie Mingus once said, a way of segregating and diminishing the accomplishments of blacks.” (John Coltrane and His Quest, 158)  Mingus was interviewed on the street as he was being evicted from his New York City loft and later was arrested when a hypdermic needle was discovered in his possessions.  The interviewer asked him if he thought he was being persecuted for being a jazz musician, and Mingus replied (sarcastically?): “No, I think I’m really being helped…People get to see what’s going on in a so-called jazz musician’s life.”  (Mingus, 7:10)  Mingus: “If you and I, Bird, or any lover of the arts wants the music to survive then we must denounce the word ‘jazz.’” (What is This Thing Called Jazz, 146)  Lester Bangs: “Mingus made a point on the front, back, and inner sleeves of The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady: where the usual logo read, ‘The New Wave’ – that’s what they called it! – ‘of Jazz Is on Impulse!’ Mingus saw to it that all over that album the word ‘jazz’ was deleted and ‘Ethnic Folk-Dance Music’ emblazoned instead.  A trifle clunky, maybe, but it gets at least part of the point across.” (Mainlines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste, 366)

Mingus in 1962: “’White little unknowing boy, no black man chooses jazz [as I had maintained in a down beat review], when the white man ties up all other music with cliques, mafia, and unions that are biased to black’s, there’s nothing left, for us but jazz.  Fuck Jazz, it is the same sick meaning as Negro in a so called free world society of the white mans America, Negro meaning second class citizen and third and none in some cases, and jazz meaning the same thing considering the position the black musician is forced to work under when he performs music even if its what’s left over….Jazz means Jim Crow music.  That Agents, critics, managers, record companies, everybody but the cotton picking musician share profit from; or did you think Billy Holiday, Pres [Lester Young], Bird [Charlie Parker], Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, Jimmy Lunceford, Sid Catlett died rolling in their money.  Even before they died if they didn’t make that next gig, they’d go hungry….’  Charles Mingus to Frank Kofsky, no date.” (from Frank Kofsky, John Coltrane, Note 10, 132)  Mingus’ trumpeter Jack Walrath recalls: “’Sometimes people in the band would act stereotypically, that whole “Jim Crow” thing about a black man’s penis being longer than anyone else’s.’” (from Todd Jenkins, I Know What I Know, 144)

Kofsky: “Arthur Davis, a virtuoso New York bassist fluent in a wide variety of idioms, worked extensively with John Coltrane’s groups when the saxophonist was using two basses to give his music a polyrhythmic texture.  ‘Sickening’ is the word he employs to describe the kind of discrimination that black musicians of his caliber routinely encounter:

‘I am denied the opportunity to play in a symphony orchestra…to play in a staff orchestra or any other jobs that have dignity.  I have more than ample qualifications.  There are less than five non-whites in all the symphonies [in New York City].  We took a survey.  There are NO Afro-Americans on any of the steamship lines or any…of the society orchestras.  These people have been visited by us…without success.’” (Coltrane, 203)

The denial experienced by Davis may be better understood in context of the following comments and interviews.  Joshua Kun: “For [Paul] Whiteman and [David] Quixano, the symphonic form was a mode of silencing cacophony and discord – sonic terms that had by then been thoroughly racialized – and refining them into the civilized strains of what Whiteman so memorably referred to as ‘the wilderness tamed to the ballroom.’” (Against Easy Listening, Audiotopia, 45)  Daniel Belgrad: “Bebop musicians….refused to concede the superiority of the Anglo-American symphonic tradition.” (The Culture of Spontaneity, 41)  Patrick Arnold believes that “the Melting Pot ideal proved to be an attempt to impose White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant values on groups that seemed to threaten WASP culture.” (Wildmen, 22)  Robert Bone: “Becoming middle class is precisely the process of eradicating one’s ‘Negro-ness.’  Jazz is replaced by Beethoven.”  However, from an analysis of the 32nd piano sonata (op.111) Gary Giddins describes Beethoven as “an impassioned improviser who knew heavy blues.” (Visions, 9)  

Ingrid Monson: “Michael Carvin spoke of this process [“of categorizing musical types” (100)] from the perspective of a jazz insider: ‘So there are all kinds of cakes.  But they’re all cakes.  A symphony is to me a plain cake.  But a lot of people like plain cake….Upside-down cake with brown sugar, now that’s improvisation….You cook it upside-down but you eat it right side up.  Now that’s improvisation….But it’s still a cake.  It’s all music.’” (Saying Something, 101)  Similarly, Robin D. G. Kelley likens improvisation in Afro-American music to “the raw, natural smell of burnt sugar.” (Beneath the Underground, in Uptown Conversation, 414)

Monson comments on Carvin’s metaphors.  “[W]hat universities mean traditionally when they talk of a ‘music department’ is a ‘Western classical music department.’  This form of music, which has typically been accorded the highest status in intellectual circles and American institutions, is thus made to stand metonymically for all music.  When musicians who play the music called jazz talk about ‘the music,’ they are turning this usage on its head – like the upside-down cake with brown sugar mentioned by Carvin.  Within jazz communities, ‘the music’ means jazz and other African American musical genres.  This usage inverts the hegemonic presupposition that Western classical music can stand for all music, setting African American varieties on an equal footing with other forms and asserting pride in an aesthetics of improvisation that expects those who come within its orbit to interact on its terms.” (Saying Something, 101)

One of these terms seems to be an ironic perception of whiteness.  Monson: “The salience of irony in the expression of cultural identity was noted by Don Byron when asked what he thought were the most important elements of African American musical aesthetics.

‘There’s irony all over, irony everywhere…It’s definitely that balance…between totally opposing aesthetics…the conflict between being serious and avant, and just play-[104]ing swinging shit…a polar pulling between cleanliness and dirtiness, between knowing rules very well and breaking them.  There’s a certain kind of pull between opposite impulses that you…see in any good black anything…a certain kind of inventiveness outside of…what is acceptable.  And I think that comes from being in the society in that role…just the fact that you’re not quite an accepted member of society gives you a certain distance from the way things usually go.’ (Byron 1989)

Byron’s discussion is organized around a series of oppositions: being serious/playing swinging shit; cleanliness/dirtiness; rules/the breaking of rules; and the confrontation of ‘opposing aesthetics,’ which he interpreted as ‘black’ and ‘white.’  One might at first see Du Bois’s idea of two warring ideals deeply embedded within this entire chain of association, yet a close examination of the musical embodiment of these oppositions reveals, if anything, a far more complicated situation.  The tensions that this musician cites co-exist and often are emphasized selectively in one direction or another according to context.  This is more like the dialogic situation described by Bakhtin than an irresolvable conflict.” (104-05)

Robert Penn Warren refers to “that split DuBois speaks of – the tension between the impulse to Negro-ness, the mystique noire, and the impulse to be absorbed into the white West European-American culture – and perhaps blood stream.” (Who Speaks for the Negro, 97)  James Baldwin advocates an ironic response to living in “a white country, an Anglo-Teutonic, antisexual country,” with its “brave and sexless little voices….In all jazz, and especially in the blues, there is something tart and ironic….White Americans do not understand the depths out of which such an ironic tenacity comes, but they suspect that the force is sensual, and they are terrified of sensuality.” (Letter from a Region in my Mind)  Abbie Hoffman wrote Woodstock Nation “while lying upside down, stoned, on the floor.” (back cover)

woodstock   anniversary-james-baldwin-1191-1200-11135421   james baldwin 4 allan warren

Monson observes that “music is an arena in which the taken-for-granted hegemonic presumptions about race have been turned upside down by the leadership of African American music and musicians in defining and influencing the shape of American popular music.  The zeal with which white Americans have taken up black musical styles in the twentieth century while at the same time failing to address the cultural implications of this process is a striking American cultural paradox.” (103)

Nisenson mentions “The idea that to be taken seriously, music must be either classical or like classical.” (Blue, 47)  Similarly, Monson states: “The appreciation of musical humor in the African American tradition conflicts with the preference in Western classical music for more ‘serious’ means of musical expression.  In jazz, humor and artistic seriousness are not incompatible.” (124)  Monson: “categories such as the jazz community, African American musical aesthetics, European American musical aesthetics, and so forth are significant but [125] not clearly bounded.  There is much room for overlap and difference between any two individuals within and between categories.” (125-26)  Marsalis told the audience at the debut of his Blues Symphony: “It’s been a long struggle to fuse jazz and the blues, our African American vernacular music, with classical music.  And we continue to struggle.”

Kun: “in 1941….Ellington…[described] African American music as central to the song of America, but also as something that always voices its difference.  In an interview at the Dunbar Hotel on Central Avenue, while listening to a collaboration of his with Puerto Rican musician Juan Tizol on the record player, Ellington said that African Americans sang America, too, but did so with dissonance.  ‘That’s the Negro’s life,’ he said.  ‘Hear that chord!  That’s us.  Dissonance is our way of life in America.  We are something apart, yet an integral part.’” (Against Easy Listening, Audiotopia, 39)  Compare with Louis Farrakhan: “Music is a universal language.  Every note has a different vibration.  Human beings are like this – different shapes, different colors, different sizes, different vibrations.  But what the world needs now is a composer so that we don’t vibrate creating dissonance and discord, but vibrate creating harmony and unity and peace.”  Compare again with Stokely Carmichael: “’ We’re no longer reflecting or vibrating to the white-energy principle.  The point is: we know who we are.  We have a whole history of music in this country. (Sidran 1971: 143)” (from Jon Panish, The Color of Jazz, xxi)

Ellington on jazz: “‘We stopped using the word in 1943, and we much prefer to call it the American Idiom, or the Music of Freedom of Expression.'” (Music is My Mistress, 309)  “‘The word “jazz” is still being used with great success, but I don’t know how such great extremes as now exist can be contained under the one heading.'” (453)  “I agree, incidentally, with something that William Grant Still said in a letter to Music Journal in February 1971.  I quote: ‘In actual fact, American Negro music (which is indeed a fusion of African and various European elements) encompasses a great deal more than jazz, and any teacher who claims to teach the subject should be aware of all its forms, from the Negro folk product to the advances now being made in serious music.  The only reason there has been such great emphasis on jazz is that it has been pushed by commercial interests, and this doesn’t mean that it is the only – or even the most important – form in existence.'” (471)  

A similar sentiment is expressed by Alain Locke.  In an essay from his unfinished book, The Negro in American Culture, he denies that jazz “is spiritually representative….jazz represents Negro life in its technical elements.” (from Black Voices: Literary Criticism, 524)  Locke contrasts “the pure and serious forms of Negro art, which are less known, with the popular vulgarized forms which, with the modern vogue of jazz, are world-known.  The serious folk art of the older Negro generation is best represented by the so-called ‘Spirituals,’ a body of real and genuine folk-song of great musical and spiritual importance.”  However Locke had earlier (1935) written: “’Jazz in its most serious form, has also become the characteristic musical speech of the modern age….It incorporated the typical American restlessness and unconven-[145] tionality, embodied its revolt against the drabness of commonplace life, put pagan force behind the revolt against Puritan restraint, and finally became the western world’s life-saving flight from boredom and over-sophistication to the refuge of elemental emotion and primitive vigor.’” (The Negro and His Music, 90; from Gilroy, Darker Than Blue, 145-46)

In A Night in Tunisia: Imaginings of Africa in Jazz, Norman C. Weinstein perceives “a parallel between the ascent of the drum as an independent and distinctive jazz ensemble voice and the ascent of the African Americans in a white-ruled society.  African Americans, like Africans under colonial rule, learned to exist in the background, their rhythms as common laborers supporting society, yet rarely were allowed to assume ‘stage center.’  This metaphor offers a plausible way to understand Roach’s increasingly intensive political statements in music [120] beginning with the Freedom Now Suite.” (120-121)  Weinstein comments on a song from this suite.  “In ‘All Africa,’ Roach moves out of his stage center role to allow African drummer [Babatunde] Olatunji to engage in a call-and-response exchange with [Abbey] Lincoln.  Lincoln chants the names of various African tribes while Olatunji answers with drum rhythms and chanted Yoruba maxims about freedom, forging an explicit link between American and African liberation struggles.” (124)  

Lincoln’s lyrics were often connected to the civil rights movement in America.  Monson: “The album photo was adapted from widely distributed photos of the lunch-counter sit-ins in early 1960.” (Freedom Sounds, note 2, 360)  “The Greensboro sit-ins have attained a mythical status in the accounts of the civil rights movement.” (161)  “In the two and a half months prior to the Greensboro sit-ins, the jazz world buzzed over the New York debut of Ornette Coleman….In the United States, the debate over the value and meaning of avant-garde expression in jazz consequently began as the political drama of lunch-counter sit-ins unfolded on TV screens and radios and in newspapers.…Over the next few years many avant-gardists claimed a direct relationship between a musical modernism free of chord changes, compulsory tonality, timbral orthodoxy, and the obligation to swing and a radical, assertive, political consciousness.  An ‘outside’ musical approach consequently came to signify for many a political critique of racial injustice” (160)  Stanley Crouch: “’Music with melody, harmony, and instrumental control was considered the art of repression and the symbol of the enslavement of black people, while the opportunists of the ‘avant-garde’ were celebrated as the voices of freedom.’ (Notes 248).” (Note 26, Scott Deveaux, Constructing the Jazz Tradition; from The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, 510)

Nisenson on Coleman: “Through his music he was asking a very simple question: if we jazzmen are supposed to improvise our music spontaneously, why should we be tied to some kind of harmonic structure?…And why should we be anchored to the tempered scale?  Why not use the kinds of nonmusical effects that have been heard in jazz since its earliest days?  Scream, honks, bleats, all sounds were possible in such a liberated atmosphere…This same questioning of basic assumptions [“of Western music”] occurred simultaneously in the black community: Why should black people attempt to be part of a society that has treated them so inhumanely?  Why try to play the game set up by those who have created deliberate barriers for [165] African Americans in their quest for first-class citizenship?  And can one ever be truly free playing by their rules?” (165-66)

Weinstein notes that “Lincoln’s is the voice vehemently communicating suffering and protest.” (111)  This insistent and passionate message in Roach’s Suite accounts for modern blue notes (flatted fifths), which are also evident in Ellington’s A Drum is a Woman.  Weinstein notes a further commonality between these works when stating that Roach’s Suite “has been presented as a dance-drama on several occasions (linking it to Ellington’s A Drum is a Woman).” (123)  The subject of the third song in Ellington’s work is “a man who lived in Barbados.  He saw a pretty woman one day.  He took her home and when they got there she turned into a drum.  It isn’t civilized to beat women no matter what they do or they say, but will somebody tell me what else can you do with a drum.”  Ellington represents this man, named Caribee Joe, with a melodic leitmotif outlining a diminished chord – 1, b3, b7, b5; the flatted fifth is set over the first name proper, Joe (A Drum is a Woman, 5:33; Caribee Joe, :57, 1:26, 2:41).  

Ralph Ellison describes the cover of The Drum is a Woman as “a blond in a red union suit…with her flat ass spread all over a little bitty talking drum!” (Trading Twelves, 162)  Monson notes that “the title [of Art Blakey’s] Orgy in Rhythm delivers on the stereotyped associations of drums, Africa, and sexuality” and mentions “the scantily clad black female dancer on the cover of [Perez] Prado’s Voodoo Suite.” (Freedom Sounds, 138)  Such associations account for Giddins’ insistence that “swing is, as a matter of fact, high on the evolutionary scale and not merely the elemental force it was taken for in the teens and ‘20s, when Stravinsky equated drums with pagan rites and Ellington was said to lead a jungle band.” (Visions, 512)

Jayne Cortez, who married Ornette Coleman in 1954, responds to the abusive implications of Ellington’s song in a song of her own, If the Drum is a Woman.  One topic the couple had disputed before their separation in 1957 “was his dedication to his original music: ‘My wife would start in, “People say you’re crazy,” and she sounded as if she agreed.’”  (Litweiler, 60)  Coleman: “Everyone expects the musician in some way to be just naturally out of his mind, whatever it is.  I mean some people say, ‘Well, man, you might not smoke or drink or nothing, but music is your high.’  You know.  Even if you haven’t had nothing, not even a drink of water, they’d say, ‘Well, baby, you know, even if you ain’t high on nothing, just that shit you’re playing is high.'”  Eric Nisenson corroborates Coleman’s complaint: “jazz musicians used to be thought of as being eccentric or even crazy (there is even an old expression, ‘Crazy as a jazz musician’).  Because through jazz they came to accept the far side of their selves and to be unafraid of being exactly who they were and not what society said they should be.” (Blue: the Murder of Jazz, 246)

Weinstein follows comments concerning Ellington’s A Drum is a Woman and Roach’s Freedom Now Suite (which ends with a minor key modal piece) with his conviction that “the celebration of the beauty of slave songs offered by W.E.B DuBois still speaks to peoples of Africa and African descent at the close of this [twentieth] century: ‘Through all the sorrow of the Sorrow Songs, there breathes a hope – a faith in the ultimate justice of things.  The minor cadences of despair change often to triumph and calm confidence.  Sometimes it is a faith in life, [115] sometimes a faith in death, sometimes assurance of boundless justice in some fair world beyond.  But whichever it is, the meaning is always clear: that sometime, somewhere, men will judge men by their souls and not by their skins.  [Is such as hope justified?  Do the Sorrow Songs sing true?]’” (W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: The New American Library, 1969), p. 274.  From Weinstein, 116)

Weinstein follows this quotation with a reference to the “dream of an Afrocentric counter-academy.” (116)  This phrase points back to the Introduction to Weinstein’s book, where he identifies what he calls “’the Afrocentric imagination,’ [10] manifest through jazz recordings celebrated in this book, [as] a counter-racist imagination: an imagination that has been informed by the writings and other activities of such seminal thinkers and artists as W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Sterling Brown, Amiri Baraka, and others.  The term ‘Afro-centric’ was coined by cultural analyst Molefi Kete Asante, who defines it in The Afrocentric Idea: ‘…it suggests a turnabout, an alternative perspective on phenomena.  It is about taking the globe and turning it over so that we see all the possibilities of a world where Africa, for example, is subject and not object…The crystallization of this critical perspective I have named Afrocentricity, which means, literally, placing African ideals at the center of any analysis that involves African culture and behavior.’

Asante’s perspective is timely not only for African Studies in general, but also for study of the arts produced by citizens of the African diaspora.  While not denying the American invention of jazz, it enables us to begin to hear and view jazz through an Afrocentric vantage point. 

In amplifying Asante’s ideas, I am linking the word ‘Afrocentric’ with ‘imagination’ in dealing with jazz.  Any piece of music might inspire various imaginative images in listeners.  But I am suggesting that African-American artists produce art in the context of combating centuries of racist-constructed imaginations of Africa.  Faced with centuries of distorted visual and written accounts depicting Africans as uncivilized ape-men inhabiting a savagely dark continent, faced with the horrors of the slave trade and European colonialism and neo-colonialism, Africans and many African Americans have developed a counter-racist imagination of Africa.  This unique form of imagination can best be understood by looking at the specialized definition of ‘imagination’ offered by the philosopher and critic Gaston Bachelard.  In contrast to the commonly used notion of imagination as [11] representing a whimsical escape from reality, Bachelard’s understanding of imagination highlights its engaging and constructive function: ‘Imagination…is essentially a rejection of the tyranny of forms, primarily of forms given by reality but also of forms evoked by the imagination itself – of all these fixed images which offer themselves to imagination.’

Applying Bachelard’s use of imagination to this study suggests that African-American artists in search of their African connection must initially deconstruct the fixed body of distorted African imagery that racists have historically disseminated in multitudinous forms.  After these images are deconstructed, various elements can be recombined so that new perspectives can be gained, materialized through the energetic movements of artists under the spell of Afrocentric imagination.” (11-12)  

Francis Davis thinks that Sun Ra’s “songs about rocket ships taking off for Saturn were as Afrocentric as those about mythic sunsets on the Nile.  Both came across as expressions of his conviction that he was from somewhere else and had little in common with most of those around him – a sense of cultural displacement shared by many African Americans, but taken to extremes by Ra.” (Jazz and Its Discontents, 206)  David Remnick mentions Asante’s success “in imposing dubious Afrocentric programs on the City College of New York and Temple University…such ideas have trickled into school systems as far-flung as Portland’s and Atlanta’s.” (Visible Man, from Conversations with Ralph Ellison, 399)  Kevin Brown: “The use of Afrocentric curricular materials in urban school systems is on the rise.  School systems in Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Portland, and Washington, D.C. have approved their use.  An Afrocentric curriculum is an emerging educational concept and educators will determine what passes as truly Afrocentric over the course of time.  In general, an Afrocentric curriculum teaches basic courses by using Africa and the socio-historical experience of Africans and African-Americans as its reference points.” (African-American Immersion Schools; from Critical Race Theory, 423)

The “teaching philosophy” of the introductory course in “Afrikan American Studies” at Temple University includes the following: “We are building Afrikan communities…the reading materials are our map, and Afrikan consciousness is our guide.  Let us continue the process of Afrikan liberation!”  David Horowitz comments on this philosophy: “This is the program of a political and racial movement (replete with the old spelling of ‘African’), not the description of a course of academic study, which would necessarily include different and conflicting perspectives on Africa and on the descendants of Africans.  Forging a blood community across continents and historical epochs is not an academic or scholarly enterprise and has no place in an institution of higher learning, particularly one funded by the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.  

The Department of African American Studies at Temple has long been notorious for its ideological narrowness, its racism, [77] and its lack of credible scholarship – all present from the moment it was conceived as a department.  But it has always been protected by the Temple administration, fearful of applying credible academic standards to this racial fiefdom.  Several books have been written about the travesty of Temple’s African American Studies Department by eminent classical scholars from across the political spectrum.  These books have demonstrated the fraudulent nature of its scholarship and of its central doctrine of ‘Afrocentricity,’ which has been exposed as a racist idea based on made-up history….The curriculum of the African American Studies Department at Temple does not merely feature a course in Afrocentric theory.  By its own account, this department is devoted to [78] promulgating Afrocentric theory, its mythologies, falsehoods and racist ideas, and credentialing the next generation of professors to spread its cult to other schools.  This is not intellectual diversity and it is not education; it is indoctrination.” (Indoctrination U., 77-79)

Crouch refers to “the ethnic sentimentality of Afrocentric propaganda.” (The All-American Skin Game, 12)  Crouch: “Afrocentrism has little to offer of any intellectual substance….What Afrocentrists almost always want is power – the power to define, no matter how flimsy their cases might be….when an Afrocentrist is charged with shoddy scholarship, the retort is that his or her purportedly revolutionary [35] work arrives through means of research and assessment outside ‘European methodology.’” (35-36)  Crouch: “Dismissing objectivity as ‘culturally determined,’ Afrocentrists also ignore educated consensus, since education is seen as no more than ‘Eurocentric indoctrination.’” (37)  Crouch: “Afrocentrism – like all of the protest versions of study that are actually extensions of soap operas in which the stars are paid to emote the effects of injustice – is about achieving the respect held for traditional disciplines while not measuring up to the standards of traditional research.” (38)  

Crouch argues, “none of the Afrocentric arguments – all of which are rooted in nationalism, pluralism, and cultural relativity – are original to Africa; they all have their origins in the Western tradition of critical discourse. This is something that is often missed when discussing this phenomenon.  Afrocentrism is absolutely Western, no matter the name changes and costumes of its advocates.” (39)  Similarly, D’Souza describes “the ultimate irony of Third World and minority oppression theory – it is entirely Western in its conception and formulation.  Few have carefully considered to what degree it resembles the [88] authentic convictions and aspirations of the peoples of Asia and Africa, even if it is exploitatively used by elites in those countries to justify their policies.” (Illiberal Education, 88-89)

Crouch continues: “A central component of the Afrocentric argument is that Egypt was black and that Greco-Roman civilization was the result of its influence.” (38)  Crouch accuses Afrocentrics of “eschewing the fact that Negro Americans came from the west coast of Africa, whether or not some of the Egyptians were black.” (42)  Jared Diamond: “While American blacks of African descent originated mainly from Africa’s west coastal zone….Whites, ranging from Egyptians and Libyans to Moroccans, occupied Africa’s north coastal zone and the northern Sahara.  Those North Africans would hardly be confused with blue-eyed blond-haired Swedes, but most laypeople would still call them ‘whites’ because they have lighter skin and straighter hair than people to the south termed ‘blacks.’” (Guns, Germs, and Steel, 378)  

D’Souza: “Historians generally agree…that Egypt, although geographically located on the African continent, developed a distinctly Egyptian civilization.  This civilization was influenced by immigration patterns from the European north and from southern Africa, although there is no question that most of the philosophical and scientific cross-fertilization occurred with the northern countries.” (Illiberal, 119)  D’Souza: “In Egypt, ‘Negro slaves were far more numerous than in the Roman Empire,’ David Brion Davis writes in his Pulitzer prize-winning study, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture.  The political attempt to credit Greco-Roman ideas to the Egyptians is thus decidedly bizarre.” (118)  Such an attempt is evident in Harrison’s assertion that “Aeschylus’s Oresteian Trilogy points to the remnants of African influence on the moral structure of ancient Greece which, by this time, had been overcome by the values of the nomadic Aryans.” (The Drama of Nommo, 8)  Also Camille Paglia: “the origins of Greek Apollianism were in Egypt.” (Junk Bonds) 

D’Souza: “University administrations and faculty also permit, and sometimes encourage, minority students to develop myths about their own culture and history, such as the ‘black Egypt’ industry evident at Howard and elsewhere.  This cultural distortion is routine in multicultural and Third World studies – the case of Stanford is typical.  Bernard Lewis, professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton, describes what he calls ‘a new culture of deceit on the campus,’ and adds, ‘It is very dangerous to give in to these ideas, or more accurately, to these [248] pressures.  It makes a mockery of scholarship to say: my nonsense is as good as your science.’  But even university officials who agree with Lewis say they aren’t sure what they can do to counter these distortions, since the ideological forces behind them are so strong.” (248-49)  

Kenneth B. Nunn argues “that law is a Eurocentric enterprise….A contrasting point of view, sometimes know as Afrocentricity, requires the scholar to interrogate knowledge from a position that is grounded in African [429] values and the African ethos.  An African-centered perspective reveals the normally hidden relationship between white supremacy and law in the Western cultural context.” (Law as a Eurocentric Enterprise; from Race and Critical Theory, 429-30)  Horowitz: “By denigrating the rule of law as merely a mask for injustice and oppression, the left destroys faith in the very system that makes democracy possible.” (Hating, 89)  

Compare with Arthur M. Schlesinger: “If some Kleagle of the Ku Klux Klan wanted to devise an educational curriculum for the specific purpose of handicapping and disabling black Americans, he would not be likely to come up with anything more diabolically effective than Afrocentrism.” (The Disuniting of America, 94)  Afro-American writer and film producer Reginald Hudlin seems to agree: “There is a confusion between Afrocentricity and ghettocentricity, which is very unhealthy for black culture.” (Independent Means; from America Behind the Color Line, 277)  Page locates the source of this confusion: “’Ghettocentricity’ is the pointedly appropriate term coined by pop culture critic Nelson George.  ’If Professor [116] Molefi Asante’s philosophy of Afrocentricity means placing Africa at the center of one’s thinking, then ghettocentricity means making the values and lifestyle of America’s poverty-stricken urban homelands central to one’s being,’ George wrote in Buppies, B-Boys, BAPS & Bohos: Notes of Post-Soul Black Culture (1992).” (Color, 117)  After acknowledging this conflation of concepts, Page notes: “David Bositis, JCPES research director, points out[,] that most blacks…favored…more Afrocentric education (83 percent),…equalization of funding across black and white school districts (86 percent), free condom distribution in schools (78 percent), and free needle exchange programs (53 percent).” (201)  However, Shelby Steele thinks that Afrocentrism “suppress[es] black individuals with the mark of race just as certainly as segregation did, by relentlessly telling them that their racial identity is the most important thing about them.” (A Dream Deferred, 61)  William Henry notes that Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah of Harvard’s Afro-American studies department “dismisses most American versions of Afrocentrism as ‘Eurocentrism upside down.’” (In Defense of Elitism, 87)

Leonard Steinhorn and Barbara Diggs-Brown mention “a growing and ideologically diverse swath of the black community, from supporters of Afrocentric schools to spurned integrationists resigned to a separate America.  We have thus come full circle, from an era in which the skeptics of integration stood outside the mainstream to a present in which the mainstream – like it or not – resembles the prophesies of these skeptics.” (By the Color of Our Skin, 118)  Steinhorn and Diggs-Brown conclude “that integration is an illusion.” (250)  Benjamin De Mott, in The Trouble with Friendship, arrives at similar conclusions: “In urban America belief in black-white sameness would seem hard to sustain.  The ineluctable facts – the look of the streets, wretched housing conditions, the predominance of blacks among homeless men and women, the sight of pregnant black children – chide fantasy.” (146)  DeMott: “White Americans won’t be shamed out of the fantasy into which they have fallen; they will have to be reasoned into abandoning it.” (189)

What “can be gained” from the “new perspectives” of these spellbound artists?  DuBois mentions “minor cadences of despair [which] change often to triumph.”  Garvey refers to “the doctrine of imago dei: all men, regardless of color, are created in the image of God.” (Speech, :36)  In defiance of this traditional perspective of the divine image manifest in a cadence, Hughes and Baraka seem to be truly “under the spell of Afrocentric imagination,” in Weinstein’s ironic phrase.  Hughes describes bebop jazz as “mad, wild, frantic, crazy.”  In a notorious poem of the mid-sixties Baraka writes: “I got the extermination blues, jewboys.  I got / the hitler syndrome figured.”  Baraka represents Charlie Parker as a musician who “would’ve played not a note of music if he just walked up to East Sixty-seventh Street and killed the first ten white people he saw.”  In his Introduction to Black Music, Baraka cries: “Down with the popular song!  Down with regular chord changes!  Down with the tempered scale!  The Afro Asian, microtonal, modal emphasis was ubiquitous.  They would play free!  Free?  You bet, it has been our philosophy, our ideology, our aesthetic, since slavery began.  And at this point in our history, we shouted it again.  Free Jazz!  Freedom Suite!  Freedom Now!” (13)  

Coltrane exemplifies for Baraka this musical revolution.  “Coltrane’s salvation will only come as a murderer, an anarchist, whose anarchy seems so radical because references to the ‘old music’ still remain.” (124)  He represents Coltrane as one who “showed us how to murder the popular song.  To do away with weak Western forms.  He is a beautiful philosopher.” (198)  Paradoxically, Baraka/Jones concludes this chapter stating: “New Black Music is this: Find the self, then kill it.” (201)  Is it the white song or the black self that is to be sacrificed?  To be or not to bop?  This was perhaps a Coltranean concern.  According to William J. Harris, “[F]or Baraka, to ‘kill the self’ means to kill the white Western self, the overly assimilated self, not the black individual self purged of whiteness.” (How You Sound, in Uptown Conversation, 321)

Kofsky finds that a “unity underlying the ‘new black music’ – a name bestowed by poet-playwright-critic LeRoi Jones, who himself functions as an unofficial spokesman for the musicians – is a rejection of Western musical conventions.  Such a rejection….mirrors the larger decision of the Negro ghetto to turn its back on an exploitative and inhumane white American society.  Thus tenor saxophonist Coltrane draws on the nonwhite world, especially Africa and India, for inspiration (his compositions bear titles like Africa/Brass, Dahomey Dance, India); while alto saxophonist [Ornette] Coleman explains to one interviewer: ‘I came up with a music that didn’t require European laws applied to it,’ a ‘revolutionary breakthrough’ for jazz.” (Black Nationalism, 140)  

It seems to me that both Baraka and Kofsky create Coltrane in their own image, for his words are moderate.  “Kofsky: Do you think that the musicians are more interested in Africa and Asia than in Europe, as far as the music goes?  Coltrane: Well, the musicians have been exposed to Europe, you see.  So it’s the other parts that they haven’t been exposed to.  Speaking for myself, at least, I’m trying to have a rounded education.” (230)  Similarly, Coleman distanced himself from black extremism when one of his gigs in 1960 in Chicago “coincided with the annual convention of the Nation of Islam, led by the charismatic Elijah Muhammad.  Ornette, no longer a devoted Jehovah’s Witness since the separation from Jayne [Cortez], went to the convention but was not attracted to the religion: ‘I could hardly play for all the hate around me.’”  (Litweiler, 81)

Kalamu ya Salaam: “In his seminal 1965 poem Black Art, which quickly became the major poetic manifesto of the Black Arts literary movement, Jones declaimed “we want poems that kill.”  He was not simply speaking metaphorically.  During that period armed self-defense and slogans such as “Arm yourself or harm yourself’ established a social climate that promoted confrontation with the white power structure, especially the police (e.g., “Off the pigs”).”

Roger Kimball notes Susan Sontag’s “declaration that ‘the white race is the cancer of human history in the mid-Sixties.’” (The Long March, 30)  David Horowitz: “Sontag eventually expressed regrets about her remark, not because it was a racial smear, but out of deference to cancer patients who might feel unjustly slurred.” (Hating Whitey, 7)  Debra J. Dickerson: “In response to a white woman who asked if there was any way whites could help [American blacks in the 1960s], Baraka replied, ‘You can help by dying.  You are a cancer.  You can help the world’s people with your death.’   The absence of much black-on-white movement violence makes clear that blacks were too civilized to consciously want whites dead, but having someone say they did was immensely cathartic.  In the 1960s Baraka and his ilk were a purgative that blacks sorely needed, as rap is today….Such ranters filled the role that modern members of the Black Politburo do today – they keep whites guessing.”   (The End of Blackness: Returning the Souls of Black Folk to Their Rightful Owners, 234)

However, Dickerson later reverses this positive view of the Black Politburo, which becomes the object of her attack.  “To follow the Politburo’s anti-intellectual, perverse construction to its logical conclusion, blacks should have cultivated no manners, created no art, pursued no knowledge, expended only the minimum energy at their tasks, [250] and avoided any kindness or heroism that could not be confined to the black community.  They should have actually been sub-human.” (250-51)  “Blacks have long described themselves as speaking truth to power, when what they really mean is white power.  Now it’s time for blacks to speak truth to black power, the source of racist and preconceived notions far more pertinent in many blacks’ lives than would ever be forthcoming from Republican National Committee headquarters.“ (282)

“I withdraw my consent for allowing the morally bankrupt, intellectually spent, racist rabble to tell the world, let alone the country, what black people think.  There is solidarity, and there is capitulation; if they (whom I call the Black Politburo) want a battle for the soul of the black community, they’ve got one.” (284)  “I am not only justified but required to speak truth to black power, especially knee-jerk black power.  I feel dangerous as hell, and I’m strapped….The End of Blackness is my gauntlet thrown down to the black powers that be.  Pick it up if you dare, but you’d better come correct.” (285)  Dickerson thanks her publisher and her editor “for not only paying me to write this book but also for pushing me to the honesty and leadership required to say what must be said.” (283) 

I interpret Weinstein’s title, A Night in Tunisia, as a way of distancing himself from the new Afrocentric views researched in his volume.  Weinstein begins his book acknowledging: “Once considered beneath the dignity of scholars, jazz has spawned a vast literature as this [twentieth] century draws to a close.” (vii)  He ends the book stating: “African ancestors are speaking to us through restylings of their original rhythms.  And unlike the Ooga Booga Hollywood version of African talk, certain jazz rhythms might unlock the meanings encoded in their faraway voices.  Why not begin with a peculiar set of polyrhythms, pulsing on bass and drums, sparked by trumpet, a tune you heard on record that was unforgettable.  ‘A Night in Tunisia’ will suffice.” (183)  Yet this is not Weinstein’s last word on the subject, for, in an appendix, he represents himself as having “found his hands full dealing with one musical style [jazz] fertilized by Afrocentric imagination.” (226)  This image is consistent with Weinstein’s self-representation as “an enthusiastic booster of many jazz styles.” (Preface, ix)

Weinstein describes Yusef “Lateef’s opening critique of Cadence magazine’s masthead” as “illuminating in revealing his musical ancestry.  Noting that Cadence calls itself ‘The American Review of Jazz and Blues,’ Lateef informs editor and interviewer Bob Rusch: ‘I’ve written and performed blues so I’m familiar with blues form.  But jazz, I’m not acquainted with the term, it’s an ambiguous term.  So if you should ask me somethng about jazz, I wouldn’t really know what you mean.’  Lateef is far from alone in rejecting the hegemony of the term ‘jazz.’  At various times, Ellington, Roach, Weston, and [149] Shepp have taken strong exception to it in public statements for a variety of reasons often linked to racism and the white commercial exploitation of black music.” (149-150)

Nisenson: “Almost every major jazz musician has spurned the word ‘jazz,’ including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and, in his own quiet way, John Coltrane.” (Midnight, 242)  Eric D. Jackson: “many musicians during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s showed some reluctance to use the term ‘jazz.’  Herbie Hancock and Yusef Lateef are two that come to mind.” (Somebody Please Say, ‘Amen!’; from John Coltrane and Black America’s Quest for Freedom,  177)  Jazz musician Ed Byrne offers a little anecdote re: Yuseff: “When I was writing my dissertation, I called him up to ask for an interview about his history with “Modal Jazz.”  In spite of the fact that he knows that I am a personal friend of his buddy Archie Shepp, he refused to talk to me because I had used the term “jazz.”  Conversation OVER.  I wanted to ask him why then he works every year for “Jazz in July” at U Mass Amherst.  I guess when money’s involved, he doesn’t mind so much.”

Valerie Wilmer: “the majority of today’s musicians reject the word for the same reason they refuse to be known as ‘Negroes’.  ‘It’s not a word that we made up, it’s a word where we were told what it was,’ said Lee Morgan, the gifted trumpeter who was killed in 1972 at the age of thirty-three.  In a symposium held during the 1973 Newport Festival, saxophonist Archie Shepp said: ‘If we continue to call our music jazz, we must continue to be called niggers.  There, at least, we know where we stand.’” (As Serious As Your Life, 23)  Wilmer: “In common with the majority of contemporary Black musicians, Morgan felt that the word ‘jazz’ is frequently used to block the exposure given to the music.  ‘I think racism comes into this,’ he said, and pointed out that the efforts of musicians’ collectives are influenced by the idea of a deliberate conspiracy to inhibit the music’s progress.” (218)  

Hazel Scott: “I object to the term jazz, because it’s a euphemism for something else….Our form of music is erotic, there’s no way of getting around it.”  Miles Davis: “’I don’t like the word because the record companies don’t push it when it’s called that, because white people want to protect their daughters’ ass.  They think all jazz musicians want to seduce their daughters – and white people have told me that.  That word has been worn out and never been used right anyway.  It meant, “Let’s get these people to march for us and entertain us the way they did in New Orleans.”  Nobody paid attention to the music.  It was just the smiling and the shining of teeth.  Now they’re trying to clean it up, build monuments to jazz and all of that shit, but it’s too fucking late, man.’” (Jazz and Its Discontents, 193)  To drummer Tony Williams “jazz is such a bad word….there’s another sound that’s going to happen and that’s what I want to be a part of.”  (Emergency! Race and Genre in Tony Williams’s Lifetime, 1)

Mtumishi St. Julien: “Through prejudice jazz has been equated with rowdy, dirty, ‘devil music.’  Yet jazz is an expression of a very sensitive human being.  To call it rowdy, dirty music is to call Mary Lou, Duke, Ella, Bessie, Billie, Trane, Bird, etc., rowdy and dirty human beings.  This is to call them ‘nigger…..’  The so-called jazz artist hates the term ‘jazz’ because of its derogatory connotations.  (It was a white man who named and thus defined the music as jazz; probably the same man who named us ‘nigger.’)”  (From the Heart: A Reflection on the Essence of Jazz, from Sacred Music of the Secular City, 163)  “Because the term [jazz] was born from the prejudice of whites and its development was through exploitation, black musical artists generally dislike the term.” (Note 1, 162)  Miles Davis (1:45): “When they [Europeans] say jazz, they mean a concept that a person has that’s not straight as legit, white composers, all composers, Russian or whatever, have.  Here [in America] it means that you’re a nigger and you’re playing an instrument that you didn’t study.”  Ellington: “European-based music is still the only respectable kind in this country.’” (from Free Speech for Me-But Not For Thee, 225)

According to Joachim Berendt, bebop “seemed to mirror the vocalization of the then best-loved interval of the music: the flatted fifth.  The term bebop came into being spontaneously when someone attempted to ‘sing’ these melodic leaps.  This is the explanation that trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, one of the main exponents of the new style, gave for the origin of the term bebop….The flatted fifth became the most important interval of bebop….Until then, this device would have been felt to be erroneous, or at least ‘wrong’ sounding, although it might have been used in passing chords or for the special harmonic effects that Duke Ellington and pianist Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith liked to use as early as in the twenties.  But now it characterized an entire style, as the narrow har[14]monic base of earlier jazz forms was constantly broadened.  Within ten or twelve years (as we shall see) the flatted fifth was to become a ‘blue note,’ as common as the undetermined thirds and sevenths familiar in traditional blues.” (Joachim Berendt, The Jazz Book, 14- 15)  

Berendt notes the continuity of bebop and modern jazz: “The new bebop had become a major style at the end of the seventies, and, in the classicism of the eighties and nineties, became so definitive that ‘bop’ essentially became synonymous with ‘jazz.'”  (Jazz Book, 120)  Berendt: “All the important new straight-ahead musicians (including trumpeter Wynton Marsalis in his early work, saxophonists Donald Harrison and Bobby Watson, trumpeter Terence Blanchard, pianist Mulgrew Miller, drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, and bassist Charnett Moffett) were united by the certainty that bebop is the foundation of modern jazz.” (48)  However, Gabbard distinguishes some of these musicians from their bebop predecessors when describing “The emergence of a post-Davis, post-phallic style in the 1980s.” (Signifyin(g) the Phallus; in Representing Jazz,112)  Monson: “This golden age of modern jazz [“between 1950…and 1967”] established the aesthetic standards by which succeeding generations of jazz musicians have continued to measure themselves in the early twenty-first century.” (Freedom Sounds, 4)  Mark Miller: “Once in place, bebop would be the foundation of modern jazz in Canada, as elsewhere, for the next 50 years.” (The Miller Companion to Jazz in Canada, 16)  Miles Davis implied the ultimate status of bebop when stating, “‘You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong.  Charlie Parker.’” (Clawing at the Limits of Cool, 237)  In 2008 Griffin and Washington concurred: “Mainstream jazz today is bebop-based.” (247)

A similar view was expressed by critic Ira Gitler in his comments to the following statement of saxophonist Dexter Gordon concerning the birth of bebop: “’We knew that we were in the midst of something new and something was being created and everybody had a kind of esprit de corps.  Very proud, very excited about this.  In a sense the cats were thinking this music was so great and so wonderful and putting all their hearts and souls into it, talking about a new and better world, and more colorful, more interesting, offering all this, and it was accepted to a degree and then again, there was always somebody putting it down, ”All those funny notes,” you’d hear that shit all the time, and there were a lot of people, older musicians who were putting it down.  I really think it was the start of the revolution, the civil-rights movement, in that sense, because that’s what the music is talking about.’” (Swing to Bop, 311) 

Gitler comments on Gordon’s words, stating that bebop “‘was not just an expression for the ’40s.  In various permutations it became and remained the main language or a major component of most contemporary styles short of the non-chordal and/or “freedom” players.  The harmonic base of the musicians who embraced the modal may be different but even their [311] phrasing and vocabulary can be traced directly back to Parker and Gillespie.'” (311-12)  Gitler repeated this view in 1982.  “Many young musicians have made bebop [ix] part of the modern mainstream.  In fact, short of the ‘freedom’ players, most contemporary jazz players are using the contours and articulation of the language Parker and Gillespie invented in the Forties.” (Introduction, The Masters of Bebop, ix-x)  A recognition of the relation between modern jazz and the flatted fifth may account in part for Berendt’s musical defection.  After writing the world’s best-selling jazz book and being regarded as the West German “Jazz Pope” Berendt declared jazz dead.

Berendt’s declaration is disputed by Billy Harper: “’When they say ‘jazz is on the way out’, isn’t that like saying the Black man is on the way out?’” (Wilmer, As Serious As Your Life, 129)  Graham Haynes (son of jazz drummer Roy Haynes): “You can’t really say that jazz exists now.  It can’t be what it was because those days are gone.  The social settings that made Coltrane’s music, that made the Jazz Messengers, that made Louis Armstrong simply don’t exist.  We are in a different time and place.” (Beneath the Underground, in Uptown Conversation, 414)  Francis Davis is of the opinion that Marsalis’ “emergence supposedly proved that jazz wasn’t yet ready for the morgue.” (Jazz and its Discontents, ix)  Gabbard mentions that “a post-phallic style has become the norm among a group of young musicians who have taken the fantastically successful Wynton Marsalis as their model.” (Signifyin(g) the Phallus; in Representing Jazz, 111)  Giddins feels that Marsalis’ “advocacy is a welcome response to the jazzmen who have complained bitterly of the demeaning implications of the word ‘jazz.’  The fastidiously tailored Marsalis even looks like a performer from jazz’s glory days….his stance resembles that of the legendary King Oliver.” (Rhythm-a-ning, 158)  

However, Paul Gilroy notes: “Marsalis’s assertive, suit-wearing custodianship of ‘jazz tradition’ was dismissed by [Miles] Davis as a safe, technically sophisticated pastiche of earlier styles.  This was done not on the grounds that it was inauthentic, which had been Marsalis’s critical charge against Davis’s ‘fusion’ output, but because it was felt to be anachronistic: ‘What’s he doin’ messing with the past?  A player of his calibre should just wise up and realize it’s over.  The past is dead.  Jazz is dead!…Why get caught up in that ‘old’ shit?…Don’t nobody tell me the way it was.  Hell, I was there…no one wanted to hear us when we were playing jazz…Jazz is dead, God damn it.  That’s it.  Finito!  it’s over and there’s no point apeing the shit.’ [(from Giddins & DeVeaux, Jazz, 562)  Davis: “So What or Kind of Blue were done in that era, the right hour, the right day.  It’s over; it’s on the record.”  Downbeat Magazine: “Jazz as we know it is dead.” (Oct. 1967)  Frank Zappa: “Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny.”  John Scofield in 1998: “I’m at a point now where I’m bebopped out.”]

There are many good reasons why black cultures have had great difficulty in seeing that the displacements and transformations celebrated in Davis’s work after ‘In a Silent Way’ are unavoidable and that the developmental processes regarded by conservatives as cultural contamination may actually be enriching or strengthening.  The effects of racism’s denials not only of black cultural integrity but of the capacity of blacks to bear and reproduce any culture worthy of the name are clearly salient here.  The place prepared for black cultural expression in the hierarchy of creativity generated by the pernicious metaphysical dualism that identifies blacks with the body and whites with the mind is a second significant factor.  However, beyond these general questions lies the need to project a coherent and stable racial culture as a means to establish the political legitimacy of black nationalism and the notions of ethnic particularity on which it has come to rely.  This defensive reaction to racism can be said to have taken over its evident appetite for sameness and symmetry from the discourses of the oppressor.  European romanticism and cultural nationalism contributed directly to the development of modern black nationalism.”  (Black Atlantic, 97)  

This last assertion accords with the following statements of Robert Bone: “Negro nationalism is the polar opposite of assimilationism.  There is also an urge to blackness within the race, which is essentially defensive in character.”  “Antiwhite sentiment provides the psychological impetus of Negro nationalism.  A negative attitude toward all things white is accompanied by a positive valuation of blackness.” (The Negro Novel in America, 5, 6)  Bone wrote this in 1958, whereas in 2004 James W. Perkinson’s dis-ease with whiteness sees him subscribe to the black nationalist transvaluation of whiteness when defining it ironically as “the racial inverse of blackness, a negative conviction that ‘whatever else I might be, at least I am not that, not black.’”  “Whiteness is the hidden offspring of white supremacy, which was itself the visible offspring of Christian supremacy.” (White Theology, 153, 154) 

The denials of racism mentioned by Gilroy are evident in historian Arnold Toynbee’s assertion, “The black races have not contributed positively toward any civilization,” and in Hegel’s notorious exemption of blacks from the processes of historical development in his Philosophy of History, where he writes: “It is manifest that want of self-control distinguishes the character of the Negroes.  This condition is capable of no development or Culture, and as we see them at this day, such they have always been.”  In this same work Hegel also states that among the Negroes of ancient Egypt “moral sentiments are weak, or more strictly speaking, nonexistent.”  In his Lectures on the Philosophy of World History Hegel states: “The only significant relationship between the Negroes and the Europeans has been – and still is – that of slavery.”  Hegel: “’The Negro represents the Natural Man in all his wildness and indocility: if we wish to grasp him, then we must drop all European conceptions.  What we actually understand by ‘Africa’ is that which is without history and resolution, which is still fully caught up in the natural spirit, and which here must be mentioned as being on the threshold of world history.’” (from Repetition as a Figure of Black Culture, James A. Snead; in The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, 65)  However, Cornell West insists: “The blues…should unsettle and unnerve whites about the legacy of white supremacy….the blues is a great democratic contribution of black people to world history.” (Democracy Matters, 20)  West praises “the expressive force and improvisatory genius of the blues/jazz tradition…forged in the night side of America and defying the demeaning strictures of white supremacy.” (22)

Willie James Jennings discovers such strictures in the imagination of the 17th century Church: “black and white add precision and definition in discerning peoples’ salvific possibilities….Black indicates doubt, uncertainty, and opacity of saving effects.  Salvation in black bodies is doubtful, as it was in (Christian) Jews and Moors.  White indicates high salvific probability, rooted in the signs of movement toward God (for example, cleanliness, intelligence, obedience, social hierarchy, and advancement in civilization).  Europeans reconfigured Christian social space around white and black bodies.” (The Christian Imagination, 35)  Jennings mentions “intelligent and affable ‘white’ Asians.” (35) 

Perkinson focusses on spiritual denials of racism when mentioning that, “given Calvin’s limitation of the precept of salvation to those who had some alliance or affinity with Christians, white culture, in effect, became identified with both the defense of the faith and the demographics of health.  It established the borderline of both spiritual and material certainty.  Only within whiteness was one’s existence secure.  Bastide characterizes the consequences succinctly: ‘In this way, dark skin came to symbolize, both in Africa and in America, the voluntary and stubborn abandonment of a race in sin.  Contact with this race endangered the white person’s soul and the whiteness of his [or her] spirit.  The symbolism of color thus took on one of the most complicated and subtle forms, in both Protestantism and Catholicism, through the various steps through which darkness of color became associated with evil itself. (Bastide, 281)’” (1970, Color, Racism, and Christianity; in White Racism: Its History, Pathology, and Practice; from White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity, 59)

Perkinson offers four comments on this passage from Bastide.  “Bastide’s discussion is not limited only to Protestant configurations of race.  He argues that color symbolism articulates with social practice differently in contexts dominated either by Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, tending to show up in the latter not so much in severe strictures of segregation between black and white as in various forms of color hierarchy that govern ‘racial interbreeding’ (Bastide 276).” (note 11, 254)  “Bastide notes the Christian justification of slavery in which the claim was made that ‘black skin was a punishment from God’ (Bastide, 272).” (note 12, 254)  “Bastide argues, e.g., that although black and white ‘have taken on other meanings,’ the ‘”frontier-complex” between two conflicting mentalities has held firm’ (Bastide, 285).  And these other meanings then ‘still follow…the basic antithesis founded centuries before on the white purity of the elect and the blackness of Satan.’” (note 13, 254)  “In tracing the ramifications of the black/white symbolism through ‘the double process of secularization in America and of de-Christianization in Europe,’ Bastide claims[,] that in America, ‘Calvinism remained just under the surface, ready to be revived at the slightest opportunity’ (Bastide, 282).” (note 14, 254)

Perkinson locates a counter rhythm to the moral march or white walk of frozen chosen American Calvinists in Afro-American author Kristin Hunter Lattany’s habit of off-timing.  Perkinson notes: “Afro-diaspora populations have regularly used ‘time’ and ‘timing’ as a resource to displace their oppression through white control of space (of land, of residential mobility, of institutional life, etc.).  Making innovative use of West and Central African modalities of ‘off-timing’ and polyphony has been a primary tactic in bending dominant codes (of language, of culture, of gesture, of dress, of music, etc.) to an alternative meaning (controlled by communities of color).” (Shamanism, note 5, 207) 

Lattany: “As long as, and to the degree that, white America was Africanized by African Americans – as long as whites were dancing to the rags of Scott Joplin in the Jazz Age or to the music of Little Richard and Chuck Berry in the 1960s; absorbing some of the sermons of Martin Luther King; talking the talk of street folk and musicians – there was hope for America’s redemption.” (Lattany, 164).  Lattany represents these ‘redemptive’ acts as a way of surmounting Du Boisian double consciousness, in her essay, ‘Off-Timing’: Stepping to the Different Drummer, where she describes this term.  “I use off-timing as a metaphor for subversion, for code, for ironic attitudes toward mainstream beliefs and behavior, for choosing a vantage point of distance from the majority, for coolness, for sly commentary on the master race, for riffing and improvising off the man’s tune and making fun of it….Off-timing, I learned in my youth, was the subversive attitude we had to maintain if we were to survive in the man’s society….and was more a skewed, but single, ironic consciousness than a double one.”  (from Lure and Loathing: Essays on Race, Identity, and the Ambivalence of Assimilation, 165, 166)  

The major key parody of country music after five minutes of minor key jazz improv in Bobby McFerrin and Richard Bona Part 2 is an entertaining example of off-timing.  The same tonal/racial association, in reverse order, is found in Steel Pulse’s Not King James Version, where a major key parody of classical music is followed by minor key reggae.  Similarly, their live in Paris version of Soldiers moves from major key Western military march to minor key reggae.  In Hooray for the Salvation Army Band the minor pentatonic blues riffs of Purple Haze off-time the major key melodies of the titular band.  Breau off-timed his father at a country gig: “l’m supposed to be playing ‘Little Brown Jug,’ but I’m playing bebop licks and the people were just square dancing.  I just had to try it out.”  Glenn Miller’s arrangement off-times the major key melody with blue notes.  

Breau off-timed ecclesial bells with a Cuban clave rhythm in Five O’Clock Bells.  Louis Jospeh Papineau: “Our people…never want to go beyond the sound of their own Church bells.” (from Alien Nation, 228)  Compare with Asa Carter: “The left-wingers so much wants to make our history a shrouded nothingness of confusion; to twist the songs of our fathers into be-bop rhythms; and to degenerate our morays into a cacophony of chaos.”  Or with Doug Collins: “traditional Canada [“or if you like, White Canada,”] is dying….So do not ask for whom the bell tolls.  It tolls for thee….The hippie philosophy now rules the roost.” (Here We Go Again, 77-78)  Iain Chambers refers to “the mockery of ‘normal’ society implicit in the American hippy alternative.” (Urban Rhythms, 101)

Lattany goes on to describe off-timing as “a mockery of white folks and their madness….using a white voice to talk their talk at work and slipping fluidly, instantaneously, into the race vernacular one minute after quitting time.” (172)  Another example is the response to the ballad Titanic “that used to be off-timed by blacks with the shout of ‘Hallelujah!’ following ‘It was sad when that great ship went down’” (174)  Wilson J. Moses contextualizes: “I also learned black folklore.  My Aunt Mary believed that God had sent the iceberg to sink the wealthy bigots on the Titanic.” (Ambivalent Maybe, 281; from Lure and Loathing)  Louis Farrakhan: “America is like that great ship.  Unfortunately, at the helm may be a proud captain.  And black people could become the iceberg that causes the sinking of this great ship called the United States of America.”  There are no examples of work in Lattany’s off-timing.  “To me a ‘Negro leader’ was a grim, Calvinist martyr who [169] worked hard and never enjoyed life.  I wanted to have fun and laugh.  I wanted to avoid being like such people.” (‘Off-Timing’, 169-170)  Paradox is a possibility.  “God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Gal. 6:7-8)  “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” (Ps. 126:5)  See De Niro/Mission and Dreyfus/Panther.

Lattany denounces “the man’s music” in no uncertain terms: “We must slip off his deadly beat to a rhythm of our own, and step right out of his gloomy cadence, sideways if necessary, into our joyous life-affirming dance.” (165)  However, Lattany deconstructs off-timing in her final image, a pair of old slippers, a metaphor for “the mainstream beat,” which she dips “into” before “slipping out of”: “’Amen,’ and as the church ladies also say, ‘Yay-us.’  It’s Saturday night.  My favorite FM disk jockey, Bob Perkins (WHYY-FM, Philadelphia) just played Cannonball Adderly jamming on ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,’ and, automatically, I got up and slipped into a comfortable off-time as easily as I would a pair of old slippers.  It’s a floating, gliding set of moves that can be done to all music and at all ages; you make it up as you go along, dipping into and slipping out of the mainstream beat, and it feels good.” (174)  

The image of dipping into the mainstream slipper deconstructs Lattany’s representation of off-timing as “more a skewed, but single, ironic consciousness than a double one.”  She hasn’t surmounted double consciousness after all.  To Northrop Frye an ironic consciousness implies a norm that renders it ironic.  Levy and Levarie call the major chord a harmonic norm.  Mercy, Mercy, Mercy (Breau recorded it in 1969) is founded on an unresolved dominant seventh, or blues, chord, in contrast to what Lattany calls the “gloomy cadence,” a symbol of death and resurrection.  Amen is a type of cadence.

Compare with DuBois’s reference to “‘the minor cadences of despair [which] change often to triumph and calm confidence,’” cited above, and with Saint Martin’s statement, also cited above: “This chord of the seventh tires the ear, holds it in suspense, and demands (in aesthetic terms) to be saved.  It is therefore through the opposition between this dissonant chord and all those derived from it, and the common chord, that all musical works are born: for they are nothing other than a continuous play – not to say a combat – between the consonant common chord and the seventh chord,” the chords forming a perfect cadence.  Is this harmonic cadence, among other things, an aural image of a white burden to save black souls?  Gilman: “The ‘white man’s burden’…becomes his sexuality and its control, and it is this that is transferred into the need to control the sexuality of the Other.” (Sexuality, 307)  Shelby Steele: “In the late sixties…guilt had changed the nature of the white man’s burden from the administration of inferiors to the uplift of equals, from the obligations of dominance to the urgencies of repentance.” (Content, 78)

Lattany’s practice of off-timing recalls the syncopated accents of bebop described by Maggin, above, and is in sync with Bob Marley’s One Drop: “Feel it in the one drop; And we’ll still find time to rap; We’re makin’ the one stop, The generation gap; Now feel this drumbeat As it beats within, Playin’ a riddim, Resisting against the system.”  Wikipedia: “One Drop, an outgrowth of the ska and rocksteady, became the foundation for reggae music.”  “[Marley’s drummer Carlton] Barrett popularized the one drop rhythm, a percussive drumming style created by Winston Grennan.”  According to Urban Dictionary, “on a ‘one drop’ beat, the bass drum is used only on the 3rd beat, leaving an open space on beat one, hence the name ‘one drop’.”  The peak of the rhythmic wave falls on the first beat, associated by Marley with “the system.”  The trough or valley of the wave falls on the third beat, which Marley identifies with the “we” of his lyric (the second and fourth beats fall between the first and third).  Marley’s ‘low’ rhythmic identification invites irony to his refrain, “I know Jah never let us down.” (emphasis mine)  

The repeated chant of the word ‘dread’ in Marley’s One Drop (at 1:20 and 3:00) gains significance in the context of Chambers’ reference to “the displayed tokens of the Rasta’s devoutness or ‘dread’ – the long plaited ‘locks'” – as “an imagined tribute to the syle of East African tribesmen.” (Urban Rhythms, 169)  Further, Perkinson notes “that Jamaican Rastafari have developed an implicit ‘theology of dread’ that informs their religious practice.  ‘Dread’ becomes, in part, something they associate with their own experience of ‘Babylon,’ the white Euro-world-structures that enslaved Africans and now oppresses their diaspora descendants.  Babylon dominates for the present, but faces in the future a ‘dread’ judgment and downfall.  ‘Dread’ locks, the long natural curls worn by Rastafari men and women, symbolize a certain ‘leonine’ presence that is also embodied at times in their silent defiant presence in white society, reflecting both their own certainty of coming judgment and a kind of congealed opaque testament of all of the dead who have suffered Babylon in the past and now await vindication.  ‘Embodied dread’ is thus significant of living power for black sufferers and of an impenetrable apocalyptic exclusion of white oppressors.  It is the sign of the irresistible end of exile and a return to the glories of ‘Ithiopia’ (Africa) that requires no comment from blacks and brooks no response from white Babylon.” (White Theology, note 35, 255)

Embodied dread brooks a fashionable, if not theological, response from some whites, as Perkinson notes: “The fickleness of fashion finds piquant comeuppance in white ‘dreads’. (Shamanism, 138)  Wikipedia describes an antecedent of West Indian Rastas in East Indian “sadhus who wear their hair in thick dreadlocks called jata….A popular characteristic of Sadhu ritualism is their utilisation of marijuana (known as charrus) as a form of a eucharist in line with their worship of Shiva who was believed to have an adoration or affinity for the leaves of the plant.”

Chambers: “The limited tolerance and respectability that the Rastas have won for themselves in Jamaica, a fitting recognition of their almost direct descent from Marcus Garvey, Jamaica’s national hero, has found no echo in British public life.” (Urban Rhythms, note 22, 247)  However, a newspaper article recounts a royal echo: “’The Queen Mother swayed in a gentle dance when one of three steel bands began playing a lilting reggae tune.  Five yards away, swaying with her, were a group of Rastafarians wearing the red, yellow and green tea cosy hats which are the badge of their pot-smoking set (Daily Mail, 21.4.83).’” (There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack, 43)  Despite the monarch’s swaying in sync with ‘dreads,’ Canadian Rastafarian Simone Topey believes that Queen Elizabeth is the “Queen of Babylon” and that swearing the Canadian oath of allegiance would “deeply violate her religious belief.”  Similarly, Farrakhan speaks for black Muslims: “We believe that ancient Babylon is a symbol of a modern Babylon, which is America.”

The One Drop of QQ and Venomous drops deeper and falls farther than Marley’s song of the same title: “You gi man heart attack when yo go down an kotch likkle gyal; Come up gyal do the one drop.”  The abundance of buttocks in QQ’s One Drop follows a cultural tradition described by Afro-American author, feminist, and activist bell hooks, who notes that Josephine “Baker called attention to the ‘butt’ in her dance routines.  Phyllis Rose, though often condescending in her recent biography, Jazz Cleopatra: Josephine Baker In Her Time, perceptively explores Baker’s concentration on her ass:

‘She handled it as though it were an instrument, a rattle, something apart from herself that she could shake.  One can hardly overemphasize the importance of the rear end.  Baker herself declared that people had been hiding their asses too long.  “The rear end exists.  I see no reason to be ashamed of it.  It’s true there are rear ends so stupid, so pretentious, so insignificant that they’re good only for sitting on.”  With Baker’s triumph, the erotic gaze of a nation moved downward: she had uncovered a new region for desire.’ 

Many of Baker’s dance moves highlighting the ‘butt’ prefigure movements popular in contemporary black dance.

Although contemporary thinking about black female bodies does not attempt to read the body as a sign of ‘natural’ racial inferiority, the fascination with black ‘butts’ continues.  In the sexual iconography of the traditional black pornographic imagination, the protruding butt is seen as an indication of a heightened sexuality.  Contemporary popular music is one of the primary cultural locations for discussions of black sexuality.  In song lyrics, ‘the butt’ is talked about in ways that attempt to challenge racist assumptions that suggest it is an ugly sign of inferiority, even as it remains a sexualized sign.  The popular song, “Doin’ the Butt,” fostered the promotion of a hot new dance favoring those who could most protrude their buttocks with pride and glee.  A scene in Spike Lee’s film School Daze depicts an all black party where everyone is attired in swimsuits dancing – doing the butt.  It is one of the most compelling moments in the film.  The black ‘butts’ on display are unruly and outrageous.  They are not the still bodies of the female slave made to appear as mannequin.  They are not a silenced body.  Displayed as playful cultural nationalist resistance, they challenge assumptions that the black body, its skin color and shape, is a mark of shame.  Undoubtedly the most transgressive and provocative moment in School Daze, this celebration of buttocks either initiated or coincided [63] with an emphasis on butts, especially the buttocks of women, in fashion magazines.  Its potential to disrupt and challenge notions of black bodies, specifically female bodies, was undercut by the overall sexual humiliation and abuse of black females in the film.  Many people did not see the film so it was really the song “Doin’ the Butt” that challenged dominant ways of thinking about the body which encourage us to ignore asses because they are associated with undesirable and unclean acts.  Unmasked, the “butt could be once again worshiped as an erotic seat of pleasure and excitement.” (Selling Hot Pussy, Black Looks, 63-64)  

“Baker’s triumph” of the butt is evident in Horace Silver’s I Love Annie’s Fanny, Fred Wesley’s Funk for Your Ass, LL Cool J’s Big Ole Butt, Nicky Minaj’s Anaconda, may have inspired Spinal Tap’s Big Bottoms, and led to what Afro-American cultural critic Nelson George describes as a “triumph for Afrocentric a[s]sthetics”: “The booty, which has always been the focus of African Diaspora carnality, became (pardon my pun) even bigger in the 21st century.  From Southern crunk to ditties by Nelly’s St. Lunatics to bountiful beauties [215] such as Beyonce, Britney, and J-Lo, the quivering, undulating, delightful posteriors of shaken and stirred butts filled MTV, BET, and People magazine.  That the rear ends of Lopez and Knowles were as objectified as Jayne Mansfield’s breasts had been in the ‘50s was a kind of triumph for Afrocentric aesthetics….Tied into this trend was the introduction and popularity of low-riding jeans that made displays of thong tops, elaborate lower-back tattoos, or just plain ass crack a typical sight on American streets.” (hip hop america, 215-216)  

Stanley Crouch agrees: “writers shouldn’t be surprised to find that the national appreciation of full, round buttocks is not only new but may be the only significant cultural contribution to come out of rap (which puts high value on, as L.L. Cool J said years ago, ‘a big old butt’).  This has always been true in what Langston Hughes called ‘the quarter of the Negroes,’ but now it has been nationalized (perhaps internationalized!) by those ignorant, misogynist knuckleheads down there with their gold teeth and their updated minstrel outfits.  No matter what we might say about them, they have surely expanded what is considered beautiful in this nation.” (The Artificial White Man, 220)

George’s booty-ful representation of Afrocentric aesthetics provides grist for composer George Antheil’s anatomical reduction of Negro music: “Rhythmically it comes from the groins, the hips and the sexual organs and not…from the breast, the brain, the ears, and eyes of the white races.”  (The Negro on the Spiral; from Nancy Cunard, ed., Negro: An Anthology, 214)  Chambers concurs: “Afro-American popular music in general…contributed a missing, physical, sexual ‘funk’ to disembodied European-inspired popular music….Richard Dyer has noted of the sinuous rhythmic subtlety of soul and disco that the music works to restore ‘eroticism to the whole of the body for both sexes, not just confining it to the penis’ (Dyer 1979b, p. 22).” (Urban Rhythms, 148-49)  Chambers mentions “the usual reduction of soul music…to a musical version of phallocentricity.” (148)

hooks’ divine representation of the butt evokes lines from Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise: “Does my sexiness upset you?  Does it come as a surprise that I dance like I’ve got diamonds at the meeting of my thighs?  Out of the huts of history’s shame I rise.”  hooks’ description of the “triumph” of “the ‘butt’” inaugurated by Josephine Baker seems at odds with the complaint with which she begins her book: “Opening a magazine or book, turning on the television set, watching a film, or looking at photographs in public spaces, we are most likely to see images of black people that reinforce and reinscribe white supremacy.  Those images may be constructed by white people who have not divested of racism, or by people of color/black people who may see the world through the lens of white supremacy – internalized racism.” (Black Looks, 1)  hooks finds an example “on a recent episode of Law and Order [in which] a white lawyer directs anger at a black woman and tells her, ‘If you want to see the cause of racism, look in the mirror.’” (Teaching Resistance; Killing Rage, 112)  Horowitz thinks that “most of the negative stereotypes of blacks in today’s popular culture are the work of black stars and directors like Martin Lawrence and Spike Lee, not to mention the infamous gangsta rap industry, which celebrates black sociopathic behavior.” (Hating Whitey, 80)  

To Abbie Hoffman, “LAW and ORDER….is simply a more polite way of saying ‘Kill those fuckin hippies.'” (Woodstock Nation, 20)  Karl Menninger’s “The Crime of Punishment” argued that “law and order” was an “inflammatory” term with racial overtones.  “What it really means,” said Menninger, “is that we should all go out and find the n–– and beat them up.”  This definition accords with George Jackson‘s statements in Blood in My Eye: “’Law and Order’ is their [“The enemy culture, the established government”] objective.  Ours is ‘Perfect Disorder.’” (59)  Jackson mentions “nine armed men who are fascinated with damaging my private parts!!” before stating: “The ultimate expression of law is not order – it’s prison.” (99)  Jackson: “Revolution is against the law.” (176)  A. Robert Lee mentions “the South’s White Citizens Councils (first established in Mississippi in 1954) and their camouflage of ‘States Rights’ and ‘law and order’.” (Black Beats; from The Beat Generation Writers, 161)

The image of black students ‘doin’ the butt’ in Lee’s School Daze invites a comparison with comedian Chris Rock’s simile: “Community college is like a disco with books: ‘Here’s ten dollars; let me get my learn on!'”  However, the final line in the chorus of Doin’ the Butt, “Ain’t nothing wrong if you wanna do the butt all night long,” is rebutted at the end of School Daze when the main character repeatedly shouts, “Wake up,” recalling both James Joyce’s line from Ulysses, “history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake,” and Malcolm X’s response to Rev. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech: “While King was having a dream, the rest of us Negroes are having a nightmare.”  

The ending of School Daze may have been influenced by the following words of Malcolm X: “They [whites] feel that someday the Negro is going to wake up and try and do unto them as they have done unto us….There will come a time when black people wake up and become intellectually independent enough to think for themselves as other humans are intellectually independent enough to think for themselves.  Then the black man will think like a black man, and he will feel for other black people, and this new thinking and feeling will cause black people to stick together, and then at that point you’ll have a situation where when you attack one black man you are attacking all black men, and this type of black thinking will cause all black people to stick together.  And this type of thinking also will bring an end to the brutality inflicted upon black people by white people.  And it is the only thing that will bring an end to it.” (University of California, Berkeley) 

In 1960 Mingus recorded Fables of Faubus, where he refers to “Governor Faubus” as a “sick and ridiculous” “fool,” for “he won’t permit integrated schools.”  Dr. Aaron Henry, president of the NAACP at Clarksdale, Mississippi, discovered, “’wherever you have Western culture, why I don’t know, there is always with it the existence of white supremacy.’” (Who Speaks for the Negro, 78)  Similarly, in 1963 Malcolm X stated, “the [American] educational system perpetuates white supremacy.”  The following year he changed his tune (“Only a fool would allow his enemy to educate his children.”) when declaring that “the segregated school system…is absolutely destructive, in every way imaginable, to the minds of the children who have to be exposed to that type of crippling education.” (The Ballot or the Bullet, Malcolm X Speaks, 43)  More recently Alex M. Johnson, Jr. concluded: “Most African-Americans who choose to attend predominantly white institutions of higher education are….subjecting themselves to alien institutions in which their minority status puts them at a degree of risk not faced by white students.  The resulting dynamic significantly impacts….African-American students who have, to that point, been ‘sheltered’ in the African-American community.  The students are forced into a hostile environment whether they are ready for it or not.  This hostile environment has a detrimental effect on African-American students’ performance at college.

‘The racial dynamic – arising out of occasional blatant racism, recurrent subtle remarks or unconscious behavior, and an ever-present white norm that is the foundation of institutional racism – conspires to create a cognizable injury to black students in predominantly white schools.  It alters students’ conditions of education just as courts have recognized racial harassment on the job alters conditions of employment.  Racism adds to the stress and anxiety that diminish any person’s ability and desire to excel in an academic environment, especially one leading to a professional world known to contain further racial roadblocks to career advancement and hospitable working conditions.  The racial dynamic to which black students are subjected at predominantly white colleges contributes to stress that has a detrimental effect on personal well-being as well as academic performance.’

Those not yet ready for immersion into that hostile environment in which overt and covert racist acts become a daily part of their educational experience may choose not to go to college:

Tamia Moore, a sophomore at a predominantly black school, lives at home with her unemployed parents.  Asked whether she would attend a white college if her school closes, she said, ‘I just got out of high school, and I don’t want to go through all that racial tension again….’” (Why Integrationism Fails African-Americans Again; from Critical Race Theory, 406; Racism and Race Relations in the University, 324-25)

Leonard Steinhorn and Barbara Diggs-Brown mention similar concerns.  “Not only are more and more blacks choosing to live in predominantly black communities, but they are affirming their distinctiveness by participating enthusiastically in separate social institutions, seeking out black cultural experiences and entertainment, choosing to attend historically black colleges and universities, and building parallel cultural traditions such as Kwanzaa, a black festival celebrated around Christmas time.” (The Integration Illusion, By the Color of Our Skin, 17)  Steinhorn and Diggs-Brown describe “a spiraling separation that, contrary to the hopes and dreams of parents and college administrators, seems not to improve but to worsen as the years pass….It is no wonder that black interest in historically black institutions has been on the rise.  ‘I have to deal with racism the rest of my life,’ one student told the New York Times.  ‘Why should I deal with that in college?’”  (50)

Johnson, Jr.: “The integration ideal will continue to fail because predominantly white colleges mask norms that create an environment in which African-Americans are considered ‘them’ or the ‘other.’

‘[M]any white[] [students] tend to think that racism has largely disappeared, at least in any form that could serve as an impediment to opportunity and achievement.  White students have a very hard time understanding how their predominantly white campuses can seem hostile to people of color; how their campus social life is a distinctly ‘white culture,’ even when the major institutions within it are not explicitly labeled the ‘white student union,’ ‘white student newspaper,’ or ‘white debating club.’  It does not occur to most white students that their indifference or hostility to the Martin Luther King national holiday, for example, is evidence of attitudes on racial issues that differ tremendously from their black colleagues.  It does not occur to most white students that the major, campus-sponsored concerts of white music groups constitute distinctly white cultural events.’

In other words, it does not occur to white students that there is a unique African-American nomos worthy of their respect.” (407; Racism and Race Relations in the University, Note 6, 314-15)  Benjamin DeMott: “Yale’s James Comer….emphasizes the element of self-protectiveness in black children’s mockery of ‘good’ – i.e., white-imitating – black pupils.  Seeing ‘academic success as unattainable,’ he argues, these children ‘protect themselves by deciding school is unimportant.  [They] seek a sense of adequacy, belonging and self-affirmation in nonmainstream groups that do not value academic achievement.’ [85]  Discussing ‘the deep distrust [blacks] have developed for white Americans and for the institutions, such as the public schools, controlled by white people,’ [John U.] Ogbu himself speculates that its roots lie in early demands that, in exchange for acceptance, blacks ‘must abandon their own cultural norms…and embrace those of the white community.’  This forced ‘rehabilitation process’ (common in other castelike societies), together with its failure to bring the promised acceptance, caused blacks to ‘invest positive values in the very cultural norms [and] behaviors…denigrated by white people.’” (The Trouble With Friendship, 85-86)  

Such an investment is evident in the following passage of Clarence Page: “Despite all these color-conscious efforts to educate the country’s children in a color-blind ideal of racial equality, many of our children seem to be catching on to race codes anyway, although with a twist suitable to the hip-hop generation.  One local junior high school teacher, when he heard his black students referring to themselves as ‘bad,’ had the facts of racial life explained to him like this: They were not talking about the ‘bad means good’ slang popularized by Michael Jackson’s Bad album.  They meant ‘bad’ in the sense of misbehaving and poorly motivated.  The black kids are ‘bad,’ the students explained, and the white kids are ‘good.’  The Asian kids are ‘like white,’ and the Latino kids ‘try to be bad like the blacks.’  Anyone who tried to break out of those stereotypes was trying to break the code, meaning that a black or Latino who tried to make good grades was ‘trying to be white.’” (Showing My Color, 13)

Page recounts an exception to this code: “Upon entering a school dining hall, a professor at a West Coast university was surprised and delighted to find a table full of black, white, Hispanic, and Asian students happily eating and socializing together.  As at most integrated colleges and high schools, students usually clustered at dining hall tables according to race, blacks here, whites there, et cetera.  The professor was delighted to see one table, at least, where the racial barriers had disappeared.  Then, as he came closer, he realized he had judged too quickly.  The students at this racially mixed table were not talking to one another in the conventional way.  They were ‘signing’ to one another by hand.  The seemingly ‘mixed’ students actually were part of the community of the deaf.  Suddenly the professor realized his error.” (270)

This investment of positive values is also evident in those whom David Ake refers to as “proponents of a hip-jazz aesthetic.”  “The vast majority of teachers and students in college-level jazz education programs are not African Americans….Simply being associated with schooling can mark students and teachers as eggheads, sheltered from the supposedly real life of the jazz streets.  Beyond just being white (or Asian or Latino) many jazz program participants are dismissed as sounding white, perhaps the most cutting insult of all among proponents of a hip-jazz aesthetic.” (Rethinking Jazz Education; in Jazz Matters, 113)  Ake notes that “more and more jazz programs are being led by musicians who uphold the hip-jazz aesthetics.” (114)  

Ake begins his essay deriving a moral from the jazz club scene in the film Collateral: “real music – like real life – occurs on the streets, not in a school.” (103)  Davis says of his jazz studies at Juilliard, “The shit they were teaching was too white for me.” (Autobiography, 58)  Farah Jasmine Griffin and Salim Washington: “Davis credited his time spent with Bird and Dizzy as attendance in the ‘University of Bebop.’…For Miles, the music he heard on 52nd Street was his ultimate musical education.” (Clawing at the Limits of Cool, 59)  “It wasn’t long before Davis officially left Juilliard.  His real education was happening on the bandstands and in the clubs, while his father had been paying his tuition and providing him with a stipend.  Davis recalled telling his father, ‘ “It is a white school, everything is white, the concept is white.  Everything is changing.”  I told him about Diz and Bird.’  His father supported his decision to leave.  By 1945, Juilliard was behind him.” (61)  Griffin and Washington: “His bebop credentials are evident in his wry emphasis on the tritone at the end of his first phrase [of Billie’s Bounce].” (63)  

Davis: “Bird told me, when I was real young, and just getting out of Juilliard, that if you play something that seems to be wrong, play it again, then play the same thing a third time.  Then Bird gave a great smile and said, ‘Then they’ll think that you meant it.’….There are no wrong notes in jazz.” (from Ashley Kahn, Kind of Blue, 28)  Trombonist Mike Zwerin recalls meeting Davis at a gig in 1948: “Miles always seemed to be standing in dark corners.  He came over as I packed up around three.  I slunk into a cool slouch.  I used to practice cool slouches.  We were both wearing shades.  No eyes to be seen.  ‘You got eyes to [30] make a rehearsal tomorrow?’ Miles asked me.  ‘I guess so.’  I acted as though I didn’t give a shit for his stupid rehearsal.  ‘Nola’s [Studio].  Four.’  Miles made it absolutely clear that he could not care less if I showed up or not.” (from Ashley Kahn, Kind of Blue, 30-31)

According to interviewer Ron Welburn, “black colleges have historically discouraged blues and jazz.” (Living With Music, 22)  Marsalis: “Until the civil rights movement you could actually get expelled from some schools, even Afro-American ones, just for playing jazz in a practice room.” (Higher Ground, 91)  Ake: “while we can applaud the efforts of Wynton Marsalis, Stanley Crouch, and others toward reminding the nation of jazz’s distinguished black American urban legacy, we should also recognize…the neoclassicists’ other agenda – to elevate jazz’s place on the cultural ladder to a level of equality with that of European classical music.” (Jazz Matters, 101)  Scott Deveaux: “The goals of the neoclassicists will have been admirably fulfilled if and when busts of Armstrong and Parker stand alongside busts of Beethoven and Bach in practice rooms and music studios across America.” (Constructing the Jazz Tradition; from The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, 504)  Ake: “From 1972 to 1981 the number of schools offering jazz studies degrees grew from fifteen to seventy-two, an increase of nearly 500 percent.  By 2002 the number of programs would nearly double again, to more than 120.” (Jazz Matters, 100)

Another example of the investment mentioned by DeMott may be found in George Jackson’s praise for “the mind of the primitive commune that exists in all blacks.” (Soledad Brother, 10)  Jackson: “the most damaging thing a people in a colonial situation can do is to allow their children to attend any educational facility organized by the dominant enemy culture.” (12)  Jackson: “The young black who comes out of college or the university is as ignorant and unlearned as the white laborer. [56] For all practical purposes he is worse off than when he went in, for he has learned only the attitudes and ways of the snake, and a few well-worded lies.  The ruling culture refuses to let us know how much we did to advance civilization in our lands long ago.” (56-57)  

These Afro-American views contrast with James Cone’s description of “a modern liberalism that assumes that black people want to integrate into the white way of life.” (The Spirituals and the Blues, 107)  This is the same Cone who advocates “destroying the white devil in us” and accepting “only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy.”  Gilbert Moses of the Mississippi Free Press: “’The Negroes have found out that these white liberals with whom they plotted in dark rooms at night really don’t want to take the final step, which somehow means to them some sort of amalgamation of the races.’” (Who Speaks for the Negro, 71)  Modern liberalism may be found in Lawrence Hill‘s CBC Massey Lectures, ‘Blood: the Stuff of Life.’  Compare with King: “John O’Neal, one of the most Afro-centric critics, wrote: ’Black as a physical fact has little significance.  Color as a cultural, social and political fact, is the most significant fact of our era.’  Yet, O’Neal finishes his article by asserting that ‘[w]e [Europeans and Africans] come from different blood.’  However, in Home (1966), Jones, [280] contrary to his claims about complex unity, notes that ‘the Black Man is played on by special forces.  His life, from his organs,…is different and for this reason racial is biological, finally.  We are a different species.’  White racists could not have expressed it more forcefully.” (“Black Arts: Notebook,” in Gayle, comp., The Black Aesthetic, 56, 58; Baraka/Jones, “The Legacy of Malcolm X and the Coming of the Black Nation,” in Baraka, Home: Social Essays (New York: Morrow, 1966), 246; from Race, Culture, and the Intellectuals, 280)

Mark Costello and David Foster Wallace: “For generations, Black Boston was promised that places like North Dorchester would get better when the schools [13] improved, and that the schools would improve when integrated.  ’Education,’ Chief Justice Warren wrote in Brown

‘. . . is the very foundation of good citizenship.  Today it is the principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him adjust to this environment.  In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education….To separate Negro children from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.’

….35 years after Brown v. Board of Education invented integration, 15 years after Morgan v. Hennigan brought Brown to Boston, North Dorchester is worse and its schools aren’t better….Segregation was blame’s bullseye: abolish the bullseye, and blame for the estrangement of the races flies everywhere, hitting the cops, or the courts, or the teachers, or the taught, or what’s taught.  There’s even a rap – B.D.P.’s ‘Why Is That?’ – [14] blaming our miseries on the failure of the schools to ‘teach black kids to be black.’” (Signifying Rappers, 13-15)  The rapper asks: “Why isn’t young black kids taught black?  They’re only taught how to read, write, and act.  It’s like teaching a dog to be a cat.  You don’t teach white kids to be black.  Why is that?  Is it because we’re the minority?”  The Australian film Rabbitt-Proof Fence provokes similar questions.

Abraham Chapman: “In a speech delivered at the University of Virginia (February 20, 1958) and published in his book Essays, Speeches and Public Letters, [William] Faulkner said: ‘Perhaps the Negro is not yet capable of more than second class citizenship….So we, the white man, must take him in hand and teach him….Let us teach him that, in order to be free and equal….He must learn to cease forever more thinking like a Negro and acting like a Negro.  This will not be easy for him.'” (from Black Voices, Introduction, 43)

The ending of School Daze contrasts with that of Django Unchained, where a black screen and RZA’s gloomy and vengeful Ode subvert the freedom implied in the movie title.  However, in both endings a black male hero is outside of the institutional structure.  Wikipedia: “Many officials of black colleges and faculty heads attacked the film [School Daze] for its use of racial language, epithets and portrayal of a college in trouble….Officials of MorehouseSpelman, and Clark Atlanta University asked Lee to stop filming on the campuses before he completed his work because the colleges’ Boards of Directors had concerns on how he was portraying the historically black colleges in the film.”  

Cornell West censures “the myth of the autonomy of black colleges….black educators and administrators in black colleges are severely circumscribed by relatively limited and tainted white financial resources.  These resources may not always have strings attached, but decisions made by black college presidents are always affected by considerations of when and from where more monies will come.  Even the most visionary and progressive presidents, like Dr. Johnetta Cole of Spelman College in our day, must wrestle with this dilemma.” (Say Amen, Brother!, Prophetic Reflections, 35)

Wikipedia: “Filmmaker Spike Lee, in an interview with Vibe, said he would not see the film [Django Unchained], explaining….’American slavery was not a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western.  It was a Holocaust.  My ancestors are slaves stolen from Africa.  I will honor them.’   Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, interpreted the movie as ‘preparation for race war.’  While hosting NBC’s Saturday Night Live, Jamie Foxx joked about being excited ‘to kill all the white people in the movie’.  Columnist Jeff Kuhner wrote a reaction to the SNL skit for The Washington Times, saying: ‘Anti-white bigotry has become embedded in our postmodern culture.  Take Django Unchained.  The movie boils down to one central theme: the white man as devil—a moral scourge who must be eradicated like a lethal virus.'”

Kuhner’s complaint counters that of hooks: “Despite civil rights movement and changes in the nature of racial apartheid in the United States, white supremacist thinking continues to inform and shape the way most people think about race, ethnicity, skin color, and identity.” (Black Looks, 191)  hooks: “In contemporary society, white and black people alike believe that racism no longer exists.  This erasure, however mythic, diffuses the representation of whiteness as terror in the black imagination.  It allows for assimilation and forgetfulness.  The eagerness with which contemporary society does away with racism, replacing this recognition with evocations of pluralism and diversity that further mask reality, is a response to the terror.  It has also become a way to perpetuate the terror by providing a cover, a hiding place.  Black people still feel the terror, still associate it with whiteness, but are rarely able to articulate the varied ways we are terrorized because it is easy to silence by accusations of reverse racism or by suggesting that black folks who talk about the ways we are terrorized by whites are merely evoking victimization to demand special treatment.” (Representations of Whiteness, Black Looks, 176)  

Was it “this erasure” that Bob Marley alluded to when singing, “Two thousand years of history (Black history) could not be wiped so easily”? (Zion Train)  One of the I-Threes sings the first two syllables of the word “history” over a flatted fifth, followed by a minor third, at 2:30 and 2:45.  hooks characterizes the contemporary “world” as one “where evocations of pluralism and diversity act to obscure differences arbitrarily imposed and maintained by white racist domination.” (Whiteness in the Black Imagination; Killing Rage, 33) 

hooks follows her indictment of white terrorism with a personal and horrific experience of being victimized by white terrorists, in the form of white female academics at a conference.  In her articulation of the way in which she was terrorized hooks charts a progression from disturbance to fear and finally to horror (warning: some readers may find the following account disturbing).  “I was disturbed when the usual arrangements of white supremacist hierarchy were mirrored both in terms of who was speaking, of how bodies were arranged on the stage, of who was in the audience….As the conference progressed, I began to feel afraid.  If these progressive people, most of whom were white, could so blindly reproduce a version of the status quo and not ‘see’ it, the thought of how racial politics would be played out ‘outside’ this arena was horrifying….Later, I heard stories of white women joking about how ludicrous it was for me (in their eyes I suppose I represent the ‘bad’ tough black woman) to say I felt terrorized.” (176, 177)  

hooks’ fear and terror are products of her negative thoughts concerning the future, and not in actual events; she is her own terrorist, a prisoner of distorted thoughts.  Similarly, hooks assumes that “white women” project onto her the stereotype of a “‘bad’ tough black woman.”  In addition to her account of “white women joking about how ludicrous it was for” her “to say [she] felt terrorized,” hooks recounts the seemingly similar response of a black woman.  “At this same conference, I bonded with a progressive black woman….I asked her: ‘What do you do, when you are tired of confronting white racism, tired of the day-to-day incidental acts of racial terrorism?’….Laughing she said, ‘Oh, you mean when I am suffering from White People Fatigue Syndrome?’…After we finish our laughter, we talk about….the way racism works.” (177)  hooks’ progressive black female colleague redefines white terrorism as a humourous racial “fatigue syndrome” which induces a mocking laughter that qualifies Lattany’s ironic criticism: “To insecure whites, two blacks conversing on white turf are a conspiracy, and three or four an incipient revolution.” (Off-Timing, 173)  Steinhorn and Diggs-Brown: “’We laugh at the ignorance of white people,’ wrote one black author.  ‘But it is a laugh with layers of bitterness and rage.  We laugh instead of striking out.’”  (By the Color of Our Skin, 139)  

How does hooks’ white terrorism compare with Steele’s “integration shock,” which he defines as “those shocks of racial doubt that come to blacks in integrated situations”? (Content, 60)  hooks expresses “racial doubt” in an essay: “I am writing this essay sitting beside an anonymous white male that I long to murder….I take my seat next to the anonymous white man who quickly apologizes to [my friend] as she moves her bag from the seat he has comfortably settled in.  I stare him down with rage, tell him that I do not [8] want to hear his liberal apologies, his repeated insistence that ‘it was not his fault.’  I am shouting at him that it is not a question of blame, that the mistake was understandable, but that the way [my friend] was treated [“by white female stewardesses” who “attacked” her] was completely unacceptable, that it reflected both racism and sexism.” (Killing Rage: Militant Resistance, 8-9)  “I felt a ‘killing rage.’  I wanted to stab him softly, to shoot him with the gun I wished I had in my purse.  And as I watched his pain, I would say to him tenderly ‘racism hurts.’  With no outlet, my rage turned to overwhelming grief and I began to weep, covering my face with my hands.  All around me everyone acted as though they could not see me, as though I were invisible, with one exception.  The white man seated next to me watched suspiciously whenever I reached for my purse.  As though I were the black nightmare that haunted his dreams, he seemed to be waiting for me to strike, to be the fulfillment of his racist imagination.  I leaned towards him with my legal pad and made sure he saw the title written in bold print: ‘Killing Rage.’” (11)  The penultimate sentence paraphrases Alexis de Tocqueville’s view that “‘the danger of a conflict between the white and the black inhabitants perpetually haunts the imagination of the Americans, like a painful dream.'” (from Two Nations, x)  Is hooks’ rage a case of black terrorism that white terrorism produced?

How does hooks’ murderous “long”ing relate to her description of “feminist scholarship [which] is informed by the longing for a place for solidarity where women can speak to and/or about men in a feminist voice, where we can speak the truth that heals, that transforms – that makes feminist revolution?” (Talking Back, 133)  hooks recounts another murderous reverie: “I began to dream of entering the professor’s office with a loaded gun.  There I would demand that he listen, that he experience the fear, the humiliation.  In my dreams I could hear his pleading voice begging me not to shoot, to remain calm.  As soon as I put the gun down he would become his old self again.  Ultimately in the dream the only answer was to shoot, to shoot to kill.” (58)

From Wikipedia: “Of these kind of ‘irrational, violent impulses,’ hooks states, ‘My irrational impulse to want to kill people who bore me or whose ideas are not very complex clearly has to do with an exaggerated response to situations where I feel powerless.'”  Such impulses qualify hooks’ complaint that a “white woman professor declared [to her students] that no one was really moved by my work, that I was too negative.” (Refusing to be a Victim; Killing Rage, 61)  George Edward Woodberry: “Perhaps you may guess why I love to stay here abroad, and mainly in Italy – it is because people are kind to me, I feel kindness round me, good-will, and love.  And I have come to think of my own country as lacking in kindness; at home people are indifferent or absorbed or silent; it is like death, when it is not like killing.” (Selected Letters; from The Coming, v)  George Bernard Shaw: “The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.”

Young and Nathanson: “Since 1986, it is worth repeating, rape and ‘sexual remarks’ have been merely two ends of a single continuum.  Two manifestations of a single phenomenon.” (Legalizing Misandry, 199)  In 1975 Susan Brownmiller wrote: “Today a sexual remark on the street causes within me a fleeting but murderous rage.” (Against Our Will)  However, such a response could be interpreted as being culturally insensitive in context of Thomas Kochman’s observation, “in black culture it is customary for black men to approach black women in a manner that openly expresses a sexual interest, while in white culture it is equally customary for ‘respectable’ women to be offended by an approach that presumes sexual interest and availability.” (Black and White Styles in Conflict, 75)  In 2001 Young and Nathanson wrote: “At the moment, many heterosexual women have come to the conclusion that men who display their erotic interest in women are sexist.[213]…Sexuality does not represent innate human sinfulness nowadays but innate male wickedness.  The essentialist premise works both ways.  Male sexuality is innately evil, but female sexuality is innately good.  Given that premise, it follows logically that the best solution would be homosexuality.” (Spreading Misandry, 213-14)  Vagina = good, powerless victim; penis = bad, powerful oppressor.  

Young and Nathanson: “Taken to its logical conclusion, ideological feminism really does lead to lesbianism, because only lesbians are ready, willing, and able to do without men altogether and therefore to end ‘patriarchy.’” (Legalizing, 211)  Young and Nathanson describe the work of professor of communication Sally Miller Gearhart, who “openly advocates the decimation of men.  Literally.  She would allow no more than 10% of the population to be male.” (Legalizing, 213)  Mona Eltahawy on CBC: “Imagine […] a scenario in which we kill a certain number of men every week.”  Bahar Mustafa: “The #KillAllWhiteMen hashtag is something that a lot of people in the feminist community use to express frustration.”  Scaatchi Koul: “There is nothing all women like, except maybe television shows where other women scream at each other or have long discussions promoting the demise of the modern man so that we can all live in some utopian future where we can procreate on our own and can finally stop pretending that any of us appreciate having the thin, eerily soft skin of a testicle in our mouths.” (One Day…, 33)

Horowitz comments on hooks’ rage: “Two pages after this bizarre account, which is by now, undoubtedly, an assigned course text about racial oppression, hooks makes the following myopic comment: ‘Lecturing on race and racism all around this country, I am always amazed when I hear white folks speak about their fear of black people.’  Apparently hooks is unable to connect the aggression she projects to the reaction it provokes.  I searched through hooks’s text to find a more substantial source for her ‘killing rage,’ one less…well…trivial.  But I was destined to be disappointed.  There was no litany of personal abuse or racial assault that might justify her murderous passion.” (Hating Whitey, 33)  Horowitz: “The occasion for professor hooks’s homicidal urge turns out to be nothing more than a lost seat on a commercial airline flight.” (32)  

According to Horowitz, “hooks, in a kind of preemptive jury nullification, finds herself innocent of the airplane murder she wanted to commit: ‘Had I killed the white man whose behavior evoked that rage, I feel that it would have been caused by…the madness engendered by a pathological context.’  In other words, even if she had done it, she did not do it.  In fact, white people did it.  When blacks commit crimes, the truly guilty party is the white devil who made them do it.” (Hating Whitey, 42)  Horowitz thinks that hooks is “typical of the tenured left that has come into its own in the last decade in the American academy, a perfect expression of the misery the ‘multicultural’ university has inflicted on itself and on the nation as a whole.” (47)  

In 1975 John L. Hodge wrote: “The violence committed by black people in the U.S. in crime and rebellion is the result of the violence implanted into them by the American social order, and is the result of the frustrated hopes grown out of racist oppression.” (Cultural Bases of Racism and Group Oppression, 14)  In 1997 Jim Sleeper wrote: “The ‘blame racism, not the victim’ argument now has an almost archaic sound.” (Liberal Racism, 39)  However, Shelby Steele notes: “Critical race theory sees racism as so irremediable in American life that preferential legal devices are the only chance blacks have at equality.  One such device is ‘story-telling,’ in which blacks in trouble with the law are allowed to overlay the recital of their crimes with a narrative of black victimization – thus a pimp might be said to be entrepreneurial given the absence of ‘opportunity structures’ in his racially constricted world….Following on the success of critical race theory in the law (every elite law school now has critical theorists on its faculty) is critical medical theory, which says that intractable racism gives blacks special medical needs that require preferential attention if they are to have equality in medical treatment.” (67)

Horowitz refers to black liberation theology as “a religious expression of racial rage.” (43)  And yet hooks asks: “What does it say about the future of black liberation struggles if the phrase ‘it’s a dick thing’ is transposed and becomes ‘it[’]s a black thing?’  If the ‘black thing,’ i.e., black liberation struggle, is really only a ‘dick thing’ in disguise, a phallocentric play for black male power, then black people are in serious trouble.” (Black Looks, 112)  Such a disguise is implied in the following statement of Iain Anderson: “When Frank Kofsky suggested that he could detect a revolutionary consciousness in the work of Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler, [Amiri] Baraka retorted that the difference between a white sympathizer and a black musician was ‘the difference between a man watching someone have an orgasm and someone having an orgasm.’” (This is Our Music, 108)

Equally troubling is the possibility that black liberation struggle is really only a ‘butt thing’ in disguise, a bootycentric play for black female power.  This possibility would validate Jones’ assertion that “the trend of portraying the Negro as a paradigm of sexual liberation continues up to this day.  The primary vehicle for this transaction is, of course, Negro music, be it jazz or rock ‘n’ roll.” (Dionysus, 94)  It would also lend irony to what hooks terms a “utopian longing” conceived by James Cone: “’If [whites] really knew [“the nature of their enslavement”], they would liberate themselves by joining the revolution of the black community.  They would destroy themselves and be born again as beautiful black persons.’” (from Killing Rage, 153)  This genocide validates Michael Dawson’s view: “’many African Americans fear that Malcolm X was right when he worried that blacks held a vision of freedom larger than America is prepared to accept.’” (Black Visions; from Democracy Matters, 35)  It also accords with hooks’ belief that Cone wanted readers to “be so moved that they would righteously and militantly engage in anti-racist struggle.’” (from Hating Whitey, 44)  Page: “To be black and feminist….means we must stage a revolution within the revolution.  We need to listen to black women whose voices have been silenced or ignored by the imperatives of nigresence, becoming black, at the price of losing our humanity.” (Color, 110)  Jean-Paul Sartre: “What then did you expect when you unbound the gag that muted those black mouths?  That they would chant your praises?” (Anthologie de la Nouvelle Poesie Negre et Malgache)

Perkinson charts his black rebirth in a “Preliminary Epiphany”: “I experienced a kind of ‘exorcism.’  I found the ‘whiteness’ of my being…painstakingly reconfigured in ongoing encounter with black capacity.” (Shamanism, xvi)  Perkinson describes his body’s “need for exorcism” from “[w]hite supremacy’s long crafting of European genes and American dreams.” (xvii)  “The ‘white-possessed body’ (read ‘the white patriarchal body’) can be exorcised, relieved of its paralysis, returned to its pain, restored to its expressive potentialities.” (8)  Exorcism of whiteness is expressed in off-timing: “Today, the necessary counter erupts as time, the off-beat repeat of the bass line, fracturing the design of white melody.” (155)  

Perkinson prophesies: “’Whiteness’ as a meaningful category will someday, by force of resistance by people of color or by sheer evolutionary dilution, disappear.” (note 8, 207)  Perkinson’s exorcism recalls poet Gary Snyder’s desire to “kill the white man, the ‘American’ in me.”  Noel Ignatiev and John Garvey: “The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race, which means no more and no less than abolishing the privileges of the white skin…. Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.” (from Race Traitor)  Gilman cites “August Forel in his The Sexual Question (1905)”: “The mixed Aryan (European) race of North America will diminish and become gradually extinguished, even without emigration, and will soon be replaced by Chinese or negroes.” (Difference and Pathology, 203)

Evidently hooks was not compelled by the plea for a racial awakening at the end of School Daze for she confines her discussion of the film to the song Doin’ the Butt, describing it as both “one of the most compelling moments” and “the most transgressive and provocative moment” in the film.  Therefore, hooks’ disturbance by “the usual arrangements of white supremacist hierarchy…mirrored both in terms of who was speaking, [and] of how bodies were arranged on the stage” at the conference which she attended and presumably participated in may have been diminished had these “bodies” been doin’ the butt onstage, as in that most compelling and transgressive moment in Lee’s film.  Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s reggae dancing during a civic council session exemplifies such an integration of ‘off-timing,’ of a corporeal activity during a cerebral occasion.  Heads of state need not ‘terrorise’ the body politic in such integrated instances of harmonious mingling.

In a multicultural society such as ours white people should be sensitive to the ways in which their behavior could be regarded as expressions of white terrorism.  To prevent this possibility they would do well to avoid multisyllabic verbiage, refrain from walking with an excessively upright posture (move like Jagger instead of walking White and Nerdy), avoid singing teleological diatonic melodies void of blue notes (sing Rumor Has ItNaked EyeBlack Horse and Cherry Tree, or Bad Hangover instead of SingDominique, or Do Re Mi), worship with In the Garden of Eden rather than All Creatures of Our God and King, and shun concerts where bodies are arranged hierarchically (see King Crimson performing Larks’ Tongues in Aspic rather than Toscanini conducting Beethoven’s Fifth).  

Siegel-Schwall’s Culture Clash/Blues Symphony in G Minor may be an attempt to reconcile such disparate cultural expressions (see also Siegel’s Chamber Blues).  This Symphony, with its copious quantity of flatted fifths, may not be what the recently canonized Pope John XXIII had in mind in 1962, when likening the life of the Church to “a living symphony, an image of the heavenly Jerusalem and a kind of echo of the divine harmonies.”  However, Pope Francis recently compared the performance of the Church’s civil servants to that of an orchestra playing “out of tune” because they fail to collaborate and have no team spirit.  Steve Martin & Co. sing “atheists just sing the blues,” and Garon agrees: “The blues is uncompromisingly atheistic.  It has no interest in the systems of divine reward and punishment: it holds out for ‘paradise now’.” (Blues and the Poetic Spirit, 136)  In contrast, Jimmy Vaughan, in Six Strings Down, sings, “good blues-stringin’, heaven-fine singin’; Jesus, Mary and Joseph been lis’nin’ to your playin’.  Heaven done called another blues-stringer back home.”

This last paragraph causes feelings of discomfort, which may be part of a creative process leading to a new step.  Northrop Frye mentions “the vision of a God who is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of all verbal possibilities.” (Creation and Recreation; On the Bible and Human Culture, Northrop Frye on Religion, 65)  Analogously, I envision a deity who fulfills all tonal genres, including blues, a musical analogue of literary tragedy.  I hope to perform a variation of my global guitar genre called Musical Meditations, which adapts the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola to a musical performance – a sort of Jesuitical Jazz – and aspires to transcend dualities, such as blackness and whiteness.  What is found on this webpage may prove to be but a prelude to a more mature meditation, complete contemplation, and virtuous vision, assimilating musical expressions of desolation and consolation.  Shakespeare: “What’s past is prologue.” (The Tempest)  Miles Davis’ habit of denying “himself food and sex before playing” could serve as a modern musical manifestation of Ignatian self-flagellation.  Paglia: “in the self-flagellation of medieval Catholicism, physical pain may produce spiritual exaltation.” (Vamps & Tramps, 44)

Ignatius recommends contemplating “how the Three Divine Persons… decided in their eternity that the Second Person would become a human being, in order to save the human race.” (Ignatius of Loyola: The Spiritual Exercises and Selected Works, 148)  Ignatius advises “an application of the…senses to the subject matter of…contemplations.” (151)  “It…rests in the sensible qualities of things, such as the sights, sounds, and the like, and finds in them enjoyment, delight, and spiritual profit’ (Directory of 1599, ch. 20, no. 3).”  “‘One day…his understanding began to be elevated so that he saw the Most Holy Trinity in the form [or harmony] of three musical keys.” (29)  Note 12: “Teclas: keys as on a piano.  Each produces its own sound, but the three sounds together are one harmony.” (379)  This illumination is the first of five.  In the second illumination Ignatius sees God create the world from “something white.”  In the third illumination he sees “white rays” coming from Jesus Christ.  In the fourth illumination he sees Christ in the form of “a white body.”  The fifth illumination is abstract.  Is the three note chord of the first illumination therefore symbolically white?  George Antheil: “The African ‘sound’ in music is…a marked tendency towards the ‘black’ on the pianoforte.” (215)  Josh Kun refers to Roland Kirk’s Blacknuss as “a composition entirely built and performed with the thirty-six black notes of the piano.  ‘We don’t mean to eliminate nothin’, Kirk said in the song’s introduction, ‘but we’re gonna just hear the black notes at this time if you don’t mind’” (Audiotopia, 132)

The contrast between Psalms 8 and 139:7-12 and Job 7:17-20 may parallel that between Ignatian spirituality, which reflects a Baroque heroic consciousness, and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s existentialist anti-hero in Notes from Underground, who reflects an ironic consciousness: “It is just his fantastic dreams, his vulgar folly that he will desire to retain, simply in order to prove to himself – as though that were so necessary –  that men still are men and not the keys of a piano, which the laws of nature threaten to control….even if man really were nothing but a piano-key, even if this were proved to him by natural science and mathematics, even then he would not become reasonable, but would purposely do something perverse out of simple ingratitude, simply to gain his point….that is, convince himself that he is a man and not a piano-key!  If you say that all this, too, can be calculated and tabulated – chaos and darkness and curses, so that the mere possibility of calculating it all beforehand would stop it all, and reason would reassert itself, then man would purposely go mad in order to be rid of reason and gain his point!  I believe in it, I answer for it, for the whole work of man really seems to consist in nothing but proving to himself every minute that he is a man and not a piano-key!”  Peterson notes: “The idea of the Savior necessarily implies the Judge – and a judge of the most implacable sort – because the Savior is a mythological representation of that which is ideal, and the ideal always stands in judgement over the actual.  The archetypal image of the Savior, who represents perfection or completion, is therefore terrifying in precise proportion to personal distance from the ideal.” (Maps of Meaning, note 5, 472) 

Accepting Perkinson’s assertion that white supremacy is “the visible offspring of Christian supremacy,” (White Theology, 154) politically correct evangelicals might consider embracing hipster Christianity, for Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” (Jn. 14:9) and if Christ is cool then God must be a boogie man.  “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Heb. 12:2)  St. Paul: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ….act like men.” (1Cor. 11:1; 16:13)  David Murrow: “Almost everything about today’s church – its teaching style, its ministers, the way people are expected to behave, even today’s popular images of Jesus – is designed to meet the needs and expectations of a largely female audience.” (Why Men Hate Going to Church, 14)  Murrow: “Men fantasize about saving the world against impossible odds.  Women fantasize about having a relationship with a wonderful man.  So what does today’s church emphasize?  Relationships.” (15)  Murrow: “Dr. Leon Podles says it well: ‘Modern churches are women’s clubs with a few male officers.’” (25)  Farrell agrees: “traditional churches are divided into mostly females praying to have their problems solved, and mostly males hired to solve their problems.” (Women, 65)

hipster jesus1  fathers sons

Does Murrow’s title refer to a hate that hate produced?  On Q Radio (48:31; it was deleted from Q TV) Joni Mitchell stated, “all the feminists that I have met have been so nasty and so hostile.”  According to Patrick Arnold “‘misandry’ infects many liberal seminaries, theologies, spiritual books, and pastoral care programs.  Men who seek spiritual guidance in these circles need to alert themselves to its existence and to the possibility that they might receive hostility rather than help, and suspicion rather than encouragement.” (Wildmen, Warriors, and Kings, 13)  Farrell thinks that misandry is caused “by focusing on the problems of women and blaming those problems on men.” (Women, 165)  Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette: “Hostile environments always lead to the stunting, twisting, and mutating of an organism.” (King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, 45)  David Gilmore states that the “heroic image of an achieved manhood is being questioned in America by feminists and by so-called liberated men themselves (Pleck 1981; Brod 1987).” (Manhood in the Making, 20)  

Moore and Gillette comment on what they classify as one of “the four archetypes of the mature masculine”: “This is the age in the West of the ‘soft masculine,’ and it is a time in which radical feminists raise loud and hostile voices against the Warrior energy [“the Warrior knows that the real war is within….He destroys the enemies of the true Self.” (The Warrior Within, 98, 116)].  In the liberal churches, committees are removing such ‘warlike’ hymns as ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ and ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ from the hymnals.  What is interesting to notice, however, is that those who would cut off masculine aggressiveness at its root, in their zeal, themselves fall under the power of this archetype.” (King, 75) 

Robert Bly rants about this gender reversal: “There’s no place for the warrior in this country.  The feminists have taken over from the Catholic priests….I just see it getting worse and worse.  Men will become more and more insecure, farther from their own manhood.  Men will become more like women, women will try to be more like men.  It’s not a good prospect.’” (from Backlash, 312)  Mitchell concurs: “Too many Amazons in that community….The feminism in this continent isn’t feminine it’s masculine….Our feminism is masculinism, it’s not feminism.  They tried to say to me (I wouldn’t say I was a feminist), ‘If you’re not with us you’re against us.” (48:10)  Singer Ani diFranco affirms this fundamentalist and divisive mindset: “Either you are a feminist or you are a sexist/misogynist.  There is no box marked ‘other.’”  Fekete notes: “If you’re not 100% party line, you are considered 100% enemy.  It’s the Stalinist mentality.” (330)  Adam Goldenberg @ 11:05: “What’s the opposite of feminism?” Goldenberg and Koul: “Misogyny.”  Koul: “being surveilled with the intention of assault or rape is practically mundane, it happens so often.  It’s such an ingrained part of the female experience that it doesn’t register as unusual.  The danger of it, then, is in its routine, in how normalized it is for a woman to feel monitored so much so that she might not know she’s in trouble until that invisible line is crossed from ‘typical patriarchy’ to ‘you should run.'” (One Day…,171)  

In 2009 Marilyn French stated that “the world’s ethos has moved…toward more hostility between the sexes,” and described the “situation” as “severe.” (Preface, The Women’s Room, xxviii)  In this novel French writes: “All men are rapists, and that’s all they are.  They rape us with their eyes, their laws, their codes….My feelings about men are the result of my experience.  I have little sympathy for them.  Like a Jew just released from Dachau…”  Christina Hoff Sommers notes a similar trope in the American Association of University Women’s comparison of “those who questioned bias against girls to ‘Holocaust revisionists’ in its newsletter.” (The War Against Boys, 41; see Defamation@1:27:47).  (Note: I have placed more material concerning this new sectarianism on a separate webpage as some readers may feel it to be inappropriate.)

Farrell reflects: “As black pride diluted racism, and as women raised consciousness, [white?] men became the new enemy.” (Why, 196)  However, Susan Sontag endorses Virginia Woolf’s views on war and gender: “Men (most men) like war, since for men there is ‘some glory, some necessity, some satisfaction in fighting’ that women (most women) do not feel or enjoy.” (Regarding the Pain of Others, 3)  Podles: “A recent survey in England showed that the image of the Church of England most people have is of middle-class men who like to wear dresses….The unfruitful traditions that obscure and distort the masculinity of Jesus and of the Christian are deeply entrenched in the West.  Feminists now control many of the churches and are making a bad situation even worse.”  Podles: “Feminist theology is endlessly preoccupied with power.”  Cardinal Raymond Burke recently complained that the Church has been “assaulted” by radical feminism and that the shortage of priests is due to an overly “feminized” church.  Robert Lewis asks: “Man, the ‘head’ of a woman? [1Cor. 11:3;  Eph. 5:23] ‘Who says?’ cries the politically correct church.  ‘Who dares to say?’  The push for gender neutrality has gutted authentic manhood.” (Raising a Modern-Day Knight, 49)  According to John Fekete, “political correctness is itself a misnomer because what [34] is now going on at the levels of institutional reform is not political but moral administration, not correct or even sane, but deluded and panicked, and especially not laughable but sinister.” (Moral Panic, 34-35)  

Are feminists exempt from sexism (a term originating in 1965) as some blacks claim exemption from racism (a term originating in the early twentieth century)?  In contemporary Newspeak, are sexism and racism exclusive to white males?  Dinesh D’Souza: “In a manual for race and gender education, distributed by the American Sociological Association, Brandeis University Women’s Studies professor Becky Thompson acknowledges the ideological pre-suppositions of her basic teaching methodology: ‘I begin the course with the basic feminist principle that in a racist, classist and sexist society we have all swallowed oppressive ways of being, whether intentionally or not.  Specifically, this means that it is not open to debate whether a white student is racist or a male student is sexist.  He/she simply is.  Rather, the focus is on the social forces that keep these distortions in place.’” (Illiberal Education, 8)

Farrell concludes: “Feminism’s [“enemy”] was…man….It created itself as God and man as Devil.” (Women, 314)  These associations justify comedienne Cassandra Dans’ simile: “’A feminist man is like a jumbo shrimp – neither makes any sense.’” (from Why Men, 253)  Wikipedia: “The expression “jumbo shrimp” can be viewed as an oxymoron, a problem that doesn’t exist with the commercial designation “jumbo prawns.”  Gary Dauphin labels a white negro as an oxymoron.  Young and Nathanson find “something very pathetic about many of the men who call themselves ‘male feminists’ and who are usually exempted by feminists from the general attack on men;” their “particular form of asceticism” lacks a “social function.” (Legalizing, 218)  Warren Farrell reflects on his experience as a spokesperson of the National Organization for Women in New York City: “When women criticized men, I called it ‘insight,’….When men criticized women, I called it ‘sexism.’” (The Myth of Male Power, 12)  Farrell relates how he and “A politically oriented friend….came to understand how we beg men to express feelings, but then, when men do express feelings, we call it sexism.” (Why Men Are the Way They Are, xxiv)  According to Farrell: “The rules of sexism do not free men from the terror of violence; they only keep men from complaining about it.” (234)  Such inequity may account for the absence of a male counterpart to recent slut walks (S.C.U.M. walks?).  According to John Gordon, “Women protest; men whine.  The message to men should be clear: Don’t go expecting any sympathy when you try to talk these things over.” (Myth, 230)

D’Souza cites Mark Wright, organizer of White Student Union of Florida State: “’The double standard in black-white relations is so bad.  When whites decide to stand up for issues that are important to them, they are labeled racist.  When blacks do so, they are labeled civil rights activists.’” (Illiberal, note 108, 269)  Similarly, in 1986 Farrell stated: “In the past quarter century we exposed biases against other races and called it racism, and we exposed biases against women and called it sexism.  Biases against men we call humor.” (Why, 196)  Jack Kammer finds an example of such humor: “In 1991, before the National Coalition of Free Men succeeds in having Hallmark mend its ways, the greeting card company manufactures a product that shows on its cover a stylish young woman saying, ‘Men are scum.’…the inside panel says, ‘Excuse me.  For a second there, I was feeling generous.’  In announcing its decision to pull the card from distribution, Hallmark acknowledges that the product was one of its best-sellers.” (“Male” is Not a Four-Letter Word; from Wingspan, 64)  Farrell: “I was surprised to see a whole section of a local bookstore devoted to cards that categorized men and put down men.  The bookstore buyer volunteered that it was her best-selling group of cards.” (203)  Farrell: “If we condense women’s questions about men into one question, it might be, ‘Why are men such jerks?’” (Why, xiii)  Farrell notes that in the 1980s “[W]omen were asking, ‘Why are men such jerks?’ and ‘Why are men afraid of commitment?’ and men were confused: Why would a woman want commitment from a jerk? [“Do you take this jerk to be your lawfully wedded husband?”] (Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say, 1)  Farrell concludes: “In the industrialized world, men are the new ‘niggers.’” (Myth, 357)  Jim Goad qualifies this: “The human breed Redneckus Americanus, for all his alleged nigger-hatin’ ways, has become our National Nigger….People allow the liberal use of ‘redneck’ while making the utterance of ‘nigger’ assume blasphemous proportions.  Why the double standard?  It’s simple: PERCEIVED HISTORY OF OPPRESSION.” (The Redneck Manifesto, 40)

Phyllis J. Day disagrees when appropriating what Crouch, above, refers to as “the power to define” by defining sexism as “gender privilege for men.” (A New History of Social Welfare, 20)  However, Young and Nathanson cite a definition of racism as an example of how “public discourse has been contaminated by Orwellian euphemisms.” (Legalizing Misandry, 103)  Young and Nathanson define sexism and racism as “hatred for a biologically defined group of people.” (Sanctifying Misandry, 364)  Young and Nathanson also define hatred “as a collectively shared and culturally propagated worldview, not a personal emotion such as dislike or anger.  Ultimately, this worldview is always expressed as ‘our’ contempt for ‘them.’” (Legalizing, x)  Hodge implicates identity politics when stating: “The racism of the Westerner is a direct consequence of placing greater importance on conceptualizations of people than on direct experience in personal encounters.[40]…racism…includes the relating to persons in terms of conceptual categories.” (Cultural Bases of Racism and Group Oppression, 40-41)  According to Kammer, “the party who defines the terms of the discussion will win the debate.” (“Male”; from Wingspan, 66)  

The maleness of Horowitz’s devil is implied in Day’s description of a pre-sexist utopia, at the beginning of her history textbook: “Once upon a time…This is a book about love: of people helping others….Our first and best intentions are to care for others, to help the disadvantaged ‘live happily ever after.’  But love is not enough.  Social welfare and the profession of social work are much more complex, and we must not let fairy tales blind us.  Love’s dark side is power.” (A New History of Social Welfare, 1)  This villainous “dark side” is manifest in patriarchy, which Day defines as “a system in which power and authority are vested in men, whereas women and other powerless groups, such as children, workers, and slaves, are oppressed and [8] often owned….It has become a worldwide system of exploitation by Western society of women (sexism), the poor (classism), nonwhite people (racism), and people and governments of developing countries (neocolonialism or imperialism).” (8-9)  

Day’s representation of women is characteristic of what Young and Nathanson term “linguistic inflation,” also evident in Daphne Patai’s representation of a definition of “’the SHI [Sexual Harassment Industry]’”: “’Sexual harassment is first and foremost an act committed by powerful males against powerless females.  The infantilization of adult women implicit in this view does not seem to trouble many of those who profess feminism.’” (Heterophobia; from Legalizing, 198)  Young and Nathanson: “The whole point of inflating the harms of sexual harassment is to inflate the severity and pervasiveness of evil that can be attributed to men and therefore to justify the separation of women from men – that is, to undermine the movement toward the integration of men and women [as in patriarchal institutions, such as family, church, mosque, and synagogue?].” (200)  Young and Nathanson: “there is no perfect society or even a perfect workplace.  People are flawed.  Choices are unavoidable.  Risk is everywhere.  Part of being an adult, therefore, is the ability to accept these fundamental facts of the human condition.” (221) 

Concerning the theory of social constructionism, which characterizes Day’s “New History,” Graham Good concludes, “Logically, [“leftist” and “radical”] Theory is just another ideology, with no more pressing claims to truth than any other.” (Humanism Betrayed, 56)  Good applies this conclusion to competing histories: “If all history is a construct, then logically feminist history must be just as ‘fictive’ as ‘patriarchal’ history; but it is tacitly assumed that the feminist version is truer and should not be deconstructed.” (52)  Good: “Logically, history as rewritten by the former losers must be as much a construct as the winner-history it replaces.  Both sides ask, ‘Why bother to acknowledge facts that are inconvenient to our case?  Why not ignore, deny, or distort them if it makes our myth more powerful?’” (64)  This argument could be used to justify Afrocentric history.  

Young and Nathanson cite Mary Daly’s reference to “’a really woman-centered society of which we have no direct memory….as Monique Wittig said, “If you can’t remember, invent.”…Our rage…triggers our breakthrough to seemingly esoteric, yet utterly available knowledge.’” (Sanctifying, 225)  Young and Nathanson describe the notion that “all men subjugate all women by the universal female fear of being raped” as “the fundamental…doctrine of ideological feminism.” (248)  Further, Young and Nathanson “argue that ideological feminists have played an important role in creating the….worldview of our society [which] has become increasingly both gynocentric (focused on the needs and problems of women) and misandric (focused on the evils and inadequacies of men)…..gynocentrism…[xiv] is surely the one thing that all schools of feminism have in common.” (Spreading Misandry, xiv-xv)  Young and Nathanson conclude that “misandry….is pervasive, far more so than most people imagine and far more so (at least on the explicit level) than misogyny.  Unlike misogyny, misandry is still generally unrecognized as a problem.” (18)  

Young and Nathanson cite Toronto-based psychologist Frederick Mathews: “’Why is it that Canada, a country that prides itself on being a compassionate and just society, lags behind other countries in advocacy for male victims?  Why has the media refused to give equal coverage to male victimization issues?  Why do we consistently fail to support adult male victims?  Why do we support a double standard when it comes to the care and treatment of male victims?’  Similarly, he opines that ‘when trying to determine the prevalence of sexual harassment toward males, we are faced with the same problem of Canada lagging behind other western democracies … virtually no research has been undertaken in Canada that documents the prevalence of sexual harassment of males.’  If our thesis is correct, then Canada’s lack of attention on this problem could be related to Canada’s gynocentrism.” (Legalizing, 266)  Similarly, Young and Nathanson state: “We must assume that the government of Ontario has established ideological feminism as its official philosophy.” (207)  Patai: “it seems that the entire English-speaking world is in thrall to feminist ideology….[Note] 48.  For Canadian cases, see John Fekete’s excellent work, Moral Panic: Biopolitics Rising.” (Heterophobia, 99, 229)  

However, a report published in 1993 by the government-financed Canada Panel on Violence against Women concluded that “Canadian women are all too familiar with inequality and violence which tether them to lives few in the world would choose to lead.” (see Peterson)  It is surely irresponsible not to forewarn female refugees of this finding.  Fekete notes that this report “was hailed at a news conference by Mary Collins, then federal Minister responsible for the status of women, as ‘the world’s first comprehensive national study on violence against women.’” (Moral Panic, 50)  The report lends “support to Canada’s claim, and to our unfortunate fate, of having ‘become recognized as a leader in the world community on the issue’ (Collins 1993).” (50)  

The phrase “unfortunate fate” seems justified by Fekete’s complaint: “The report describes its focus as a deliberately ‘feminist lens’ (CL. 3), subsuming thereby all feminism into its paranoid version of biofeminist panic.  What this means is a way of thinking that considers violence against women to be built systematically into the social structure of Canadian society.  All of our institutions stand indicated, and every individual man is held personally accountable and punishable, while women, as an oppressed group, are to be absolved, both individually and collectively, from any moral responsibility for anything they do.  The race-thinking of the Nazis, and the class-thinking of the Stalinists and Maoists, earlier in this century, both stigmatized and set about morally (and to an inconceivable extent, physically) to annihilate the race scapegoat (the racially ‘inferior’) and the class scapegoat (the class ‘alien’).  The biofeminist lens of the panel and its government sponsors would drag us into a third episode of aggravated, collective insanity.” (100)  Fekete’s critique evokes the pejorative term feminazi and Paglia’s description of some feminist groups as “Stalinist” for engaging in what she describes as censorship and quashing of dissent.

Fekete continues: “The Ideological and statistical drive of the panel is simply and obsessively narcissistic on behalf of women.” (115)  He traces this drive to “the biofeminist continuum theory, which holds that biology is destiny and that all women share not the ‘human condition’ but, on the contrary, a ‘woman condition’ (CL 59).  All acts alleged to be against women – from flirting to aggravated, mutilating rape, from verbal disagreement to physical torture – are considered the same act: ‘violence against women.’” (108)  Fekete: “The bigger the panic about security, the bigger the clout that needs to be wielded, and the bigger the change that must be effected, in order to make the world ‘safe for women’ (CL 195).  Virtually all women are victimized everywhere in Canadian society….Accordingly, virtually all men are indictable perpetrators of violence (broadly defined as a ‘continuum’ from words to murder, including physical, sexual, psychological, financial, and spiritual dimensions – CL 3).  Virtually all Canadian institutions are organized around hatred for women and hostility to women.” (163)  

So that’s why there’s a monument to murdered Montreal women in Vancouver’s gynocentric Thornton Park (exciting safe space hosting Cannabis DayAfrican Descent Festival); I must remember to feel appropriately ashamed of my gender the next time I pass the pink benches with “vulva shapes engraved in the top”, according to Chris McDowell, rendering the thought of sitting on one perverse.  Fekete points out that, to feminists, “sexual images are alleged to devalue women as sexual objects, in turn shaping and reinforcing attitudes that devalue women’s lives and worth generally.” (324)  Fekete: “Psychotic mass murder in the form of Marc Lepine is correlated with (and used to contaminate) anti-feminist or ‘sexist’ beliefs.  The correlation is then inverted, and upgraded to the status of cause: sexism or anti-feminism come to be seen as the cause of the murder of women….the whole population of ‘sexist’ men is implicated in the production of violence against women.  All women are at risk from all men.” (327)

Fekete comments: “The panel’s work is scandalously irresponsible and deluded.  It is hard to describe its recommendations without an element of parody, since they are deeply self-caricaturing.” (164)  Fekete: “Print media would be expected to ‘dedicate print space as frequently as possible to the issues of violence, women’s safety and equality’ (CL V: 80)….Finally, the churches, too, must be feminized.  They would have to ‘work to revise religious teachings,’ incorporate feminist theology, abolish ecclesiastical authority, ‘adopt democratic structure,’ and eliminate sexism, racism, and homophobia from all religious instruction (CL V: 88, 89).” (166)  Fekete: “The panel’s view of the situation of women is comprehensively bleak: ‘Violence against women is a product of a sexist, racist, heterosexist and class society and is perpetuated through all social institutions and the attitudes and [166] behaviours of members of all Canadian communities.’ (CL V: 23)  But then, blithely: ‘The elimination of violence will best be achieved through the adoption and rigorous application of a policy of zero tolerance’ (CL V: 24).  How can a policy negate the entire fact basis of its global situation?  Where is the sequitur?” (166-67)  

Fekete sees a correlation between “The panel’s utopia” (167) and “the biofeminist literary utopia of the 20th century, particularly the lesbian utopia since the 1970s….The utopian writings by a number of biopoliticized women….make up the only public discourse in our time that is openly organized around a positive view of separatist and genocidal fantasies of a world where men are not just disposable but systematically disposed of, leaving women to flower to independence, full humanity, and perfection, all on their own.” (168).  Fekete: “The panel…’proposes that all actions begin immediately, with results to be achieved by the year 2000’ (CL V: 33).  Millennial thinking.  Caveat emptor.” (169)  

Despite the amoral premise of social constructionism, Noel Ignatiev counsels, “It would be good if people could forget that they are white.” (Interview; from Race Traitor, 292)  However, Clarence Page describes “[T]he ‘forgetting of race’” as “a liberal fantasy.” (Color, 264)  Ignatiev and John Garvey “believe that race is not a biological but a social fact, constructed through history.  The white race consists of those people who partake of the privileges of the white skin in this society….when whites reject their racial identity, they take a big step toward becoming human.  But may that step not entail, for many, some engagement with blackness, perhaps even an identification as ‘black’?  Recent experience, in this country and elsewhere, would indicate that it does.” (Editors’ Reply; from Race Traitor, 279)  It seems that, despite being socially constructed, blackness is more human than whiteness. 

Men in a truly egalitarian society would be similarly fantastic and innocent of sexism if they could forget their masculinity.  According to critical race theorist Henry Lopez, “To imagine the end [194] of race is thus to contemplate the liquidation of Western civilization.’” (Racial Conditions: Politics, Theory, Comparisons, 88-89; from White by Law, 194-95)  Lopez argues “that Whites should consciously work against their racial identity.” (White, 33)   Similarly, politically correct men should consciously work against their gender identity.  Marsalis recommends a blues identity: “when you embrace the blues, no matter who you are, you’re embracing your own heritage as a [non-white] human being.” (Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life, 61)  Marsalis: “It reminds me of people in search of their ancestry….America is a melting pot, but swing is our rhythm and the blues is our song.  Know who you are.” (70)  Compare with Frye: “I feel that senility is exactly the same in society as it is in individuals: you lose your memory and you’ve had it.”  Frye: “The surest way to destroy freedom is to destroy the capacity to articulate freely.”  More recently Lloyd Axworthy lauded Canada’s 150th anniversary as a chance to create a “new narrative” in Canada.

Social amnesia and Frygian cultural senility accord with Day’s “New History,” which transvalues patriarchy; thus Christopher Harding notes, “a ‘patriarch’ used to be a high compliment….now ‘patriarchy’ is an all-purpose, male bashing term, equivalent to ‘evil empire.’” (Wingspan, xx)  Arnold Schoenberg implies an analogy between patriarchy and Western tonality: “one is justified in obeying the will of the fundamental tone: gratefulness to the progenitor and dependence on him.  He is Alpha and Omega” (Theory of Harmony, 128).  Feminist music theorist Susan McClary comments on this passage when stating that “chromaticism, which enriches tonal music but which must finally be resolved to the triad for the sake of closure, takes on the cultural cast of ‘femininity.’  The ‘feminine’ never gets the last word within this context: in the world of traditional narrative, there are no feminine endings.” (Feminine Endings, 16)  Rudhyar implicitly associates chromaticism with infidelity when contrasting it with “tonality, [by which] we mean loyalty to a tonic.” (The Magic of Tone, Chapter 9)

Day locates a return to her primordial age of disempowered love: “The 1960s were a time of flower children, psychedelics, free love, and rock and roll, when everything was touched with beauty and love was the key word, when dreams grew into possibilities and possibilities could come true.” (343)  Compare with Peter Collier: “The sixties was a decade of adolescence filled with lost boys and girls who never grew up politically and have thus ignored the promptings of history to take stock of the consequence of their acts.” (Destructive Generation, 296)  The ternary structure of Day’s New History inverts that of Schenker’s Ursatz, below, also found in Biblical history, which begins and ends with the phallocentric image of a tree and water of life.  Sabine Sielke: Julie “Kristeva underscores the significance of the phallus…as a symbol of power.” (Encyclopedia of Feminist Literary Theory, 432)  Macey: “In its initial stages, French feminism was largely a reaction against the ‘machismo’ spirit of so many gauchistes [leftists].  The climate at Vincennes was not untypical.  There, an attempt to organize a women’s meeting was disrupted by a Maoist commando shouting: ‘Power comes from the end of the penis.’” (Foucault, 319)  Paglia: “A phallus, in Francobabble, is just a power tool.” (Junkbonds)

Day’s association of “rock and roll” with “beauty” contrasts with Griffin and Washington’s description of the “noise” resulting from an abandonment of diatonicity (do, re, mi…): “By the late 1960s, the old forms of civil disobedience were no longer satisfactory for a younger generation – a generation that came to possess a new sense of urgency and militancy.  Like the younger activists, Coltrane…[‘]s group would be instrumental in upsetting the established harmonic and rhythmic paradigms of Western music.  His music would become a touchstone, inspiring generations of musicians to leave behind the status quo of Europe’s diatonic system.” (Clawing, 189)  Griffin and Washington: “John Coltrane and Elvin Jones played [239] with a force that was sonically equal to that of the rock bands of the era.  They were much like guitarists who followed Jimi Hendrix’s lead with distortion and electronic feedback, creating the noise that spoke against the sentimental norms of yesterday.” (Clawing at the Limits of Cool, 239-40) 

Day’s description of the ’60s as a time “when everything was touched by beauty” is amplified by Shelby Steele: “In the mid- and late sixties….not only was black beautiful, but it was also humane, soulful, earthy, and spiritual.  By contrast to whiteness it was not materialistic, militaristic, or mercenary.  The black community was grounded in communal love instead of the austere profit motive.  We were a natural people in tune with natural forces while whites, out of some spiritual sickness, needed to dominate and control others.  White was the color of alienation and black the color of harmony and moral truth.  This was the sort of grandiose mythologizing that allowed us to recompose the shock of vulnerability we experienced in the mid-sixties.”  (Content, 65)  Perhaps white domination was analogous to cadential tonality and black attunement with natural forces was analogous to blues tonality, as in Andy Bley’s Celestial Blues, covered by Ottawa’s Souljazz Orchestra.  Bley’s exhortation to meditate and contemplate invites a comparison with Ignatian spirituality.

Day defines racism as “prejudice with power against people of color: African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans.  Our American values make us assume [18] that race determines human traits and capacities and that white people are inherently superior to people of color.  This is directly related to our hatred of ‘outsiders,’ or people who are different, and to the Protestant work ethic.” (18-19)  Day: “African Americans have been unable to move into mainstream society because of racial discrimination….unrelenting racism has kept them from education….The lack of high-quality education and a high dropout rate limit future employment and future income, which means they are trapped in high-poverty areas with poor schools.” (19, 20) 

Spike Lee offers a similar definition of racism: “’White people can’t call black people racist.  They invented that shit.’” (Notes of a Hanging Judge, 238)  Clarence Page takes exception to Lee’s denial: “Tell, for example, the East Indians who were expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin that black people can’t be racist.  How ‘racist in reverse,’ it was, I said, for Lee to make such a statement.” (Color, 75)  Page finds “slavery to have been an equal opportunity exploitation: Europeans, Arabs, Christians, and Muslims, even other black Africans…” (164)  D’Souza asks: “We unequivocally condemn the buyer of slaves, the white man, but isn’t an equal share of guilt borne by the black seller of slaves, the tribal chieftains?” (Illiberal, 76)  Lee’s denial accords with Good’s reference to postcolonialism’s “Negative Eurocentrism (seeing Europe as the only guilty party)[, which] conceals from view non-European examples of imperialism, such as the Islamic conquests in Africa and India, the Japanese annexations of Korea and parts of China, the Chinese invasion of Tibet, and the Indonesian invasion of East Timor.” (Humanism, 68)

D’Souza mentions “a Cambridge-based ‘facilitator company’ called Visions, Inc.  In its promotional package Visions defines racism as ‘the systematic oppression of people of color.’  Apparently there is no such thing as black racism, or racism directed against whites.  Yet Visions defines a bewildering variety of forms of racism: ‘personal and interpersonal racism,’ ‘institutional racism,’ and ‘cultural racism’ – defined as a preference for ‘one’s cultural heritage and values over that of another.’  In short, Visions seems to believe that one has to be a cultural and moral relativist in order to avoid being a racist.” (217)  Horowitz comments on this racial doctrine: “the leftist academy has a ready answer for every question about black racism: Only whites can be racist.  The alleged reasoning behind this assertion is that in our society only whites have power.  This is the kind of absurdity that only an intellectual could think up.” (Hating Whitey, 28)  Goad counters: “ Well, most backwoods Bubbas don’t have that sort of power, either, although they’ve been cast as the primary instigators of global intolerance….Racism, by our society’s default definition, means WHITE racism.” (Redneck, 210, 214)  Similarly, D’Souza notes, “Gayatri Spivak, Andrew Mellon Professor of English and cultural studies at the University of Pittsburgh, argues that such qualities as tolerance cannot reasonably be expected of minority victims.  ‘Tolerance is a loaded virtue,’ said Spivak, ‘because you have to have a base of power to practice it.  You cannot ask a certain people to “tolerate” a culture that has historically ignored them at the same time that their children are being indoctrinated into it.’” (Illiberal, 10) 

Horowitz: “The fact is that it is not tolerable in America to hate blacks, but it is okay in our politically correct culture to hate white people.” (Hating, 27)  Horowitz refers to the “progressive shibboleth…that all whites were racist.” (Left Illusions, 237)  Page traces the origins of this racial doctrine to black Islam: “Black people cannot be racist, Farrakhan preached, for they do not have the power to oppress others.  Only the white male hierarchy, including the Jews, have such power, he would say, and many others would echo his words.” (Color, 145)  Page casts doubt on the integrity of Farrakhan’s racial doctrine: “One evening in a South Side Chicago cocktail lounge, Salim Muwakhil, a friend, fellow black journalist, Vietnam-era military veteran, former Black Panther, and former Nation of Islam member, confided that he views Farrakhan as a ‘tragic figure,’ a true believer in orthodox Islam who, Muwakhil thinks, is unable to take his offshoot sect closer to the orthodox faith for fear of enraging his own hard-liner associates.” (146)  

Elizabeth Gilbert seeks to transcend her race and gender in Eat, Pray, Love, and compares the structure of her book to the “numerology,” or supreme mathematics, of “Louis Farrakhan.” (2)  Like Farrakhan, Gilbert believes in a dark deity: “Culturally, though not theologically, I’m a Christian.  I was born a Protestant of the white Anglo-Saxon persuasion.  And while I do love that great teacher of peace [Mt. 10:34?] who was called Jesus….what I have come to believe about God is simple [?].  It’s like this – I used to have this really great dog.  She came from the pound.  She was a mixture of about ten different breeds, but seemed to have inherited the finest features of them all.  She was brown.  When people asked me, ‘What kind of dog is that?’ I would always give the same answer: ‘She’s a brown dog.’  Similarly, when the question is raised, ‘What kind of God do you believe in?’ my answer is easy: ‘I believe in a magnificent God.’” (14)  

Gilbert’s ‘Magnifidog’ resembles Arnold’s description: “With proper packaging from his new self-appointed public relations experts, God is bound to look friendlier, more appealing, and most important, Politically Correct.  At long last, behold: a kinder and gentler God, harmless, soft, and even cuddly, a deity William O’Malley calls a ‘Warm Fuzzy’ and Michael Garvey ‘the Bill Cosby of All Being.’  Perhaps now God will no longer embarrass us, no longer confront and command and demand; properly gelded, blow-dried, manicured, and made over, a God at last that Yuppie culture can enjoy: nice, nurturing, and neutral, and no danger to our many toys.  Nietzsche was wrong.  It is not necessary to kill God (besides, that wouldn’t be nice); a simple sex-change operation will suffice.  Modernity has triumphed and created the castrated deity humanistic egotism always really wanted: ‘It,’ the Divine Eunuch, Sovereign Parent of the Universe.” (Wildmen, 202)  New York City’s (Episcopal) Cathedral of St. John the Divine is graced by Christa, a crucifix with a feminine corpus.

Arnold: “Among those demanding inclusive language and feminine images for God in the Christian church, there does not seem to exist a movement for a corresponding feminization of the images of evil.  Liberal Christianity seems perfectly content with a religious language that invariably refers to the enemy of human nature and the embodiment of evil as ‘he’.” (Wildmen, 40)  Similarly, Farrell notes: “When we make positive references, it is politically correct to include women: chairman becomes chairperson; spokesman becomes spokesperson; yet when the reference is negative, no one cries. ‘Don’t say gunman, say gunperson.’” (Women, 167)  Arnold: “hatred of the opposite sex is hatred of oneself; the first thing damaged by sexism is one’s own spirit.  Put in more positive terms, to the extent that each man and woman comes to value and love the actual women and men in their lives, he or she gains the ability to love the femininity and masculinity within.” (Wildmen, 27)

Gilbert: “when that patriarchic system was (rightfully) dismantled, it was not necessarily replaced by another form of protection….If I am to truly become an autonomous woman, then I must take over that role of being my own guardian.  Famously, Gloria Steinem once advised women that they should strive to become like the men they had always wanted to marry.  What I’ve only recently realized is that I not only have to become my own husband, but I need to be my own father, too.” (286)  However, in her follow-up book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, Gilbert, since married to a lesbian, acknowledges, “Compulsive comparing, of course, only leads to debilitating cases of what Nietzsche called Lebensneid, or ‘life envy’.” (46)  Sommers describes “a movement to ‘construct boyhood’ in ways that will render boys less competitive, more emotionally expressive, more nurturing – more, in short, like girls.  Gloria Steinem summarizes the views of many in the boys-should-be-changed camp when she says, ‘We need to raise boys like we raise girls.’” (The War Against Boys, 44)  To paraphrase Steinem, perhaps men should strive to become like the women they had always wanted to marry.

In my experience white Canadian guitarists are pressured to play black music and discouraged from playing music of their own cultural traditions, presumably to demonstrate a solidarity with the suffering of black people and an innocence from racism – or simply because black music is funky, cool, and hip.  Frank Zappa: “The cool-person syndrome is peculiarly American.”  Van Morrison: “It’s important for people to get into the music of their own culture… I think it can be dangerous to not validate the music of where you’re from, for anybody, whether it’s Bulgaria or whatever.”  Afro-American spiritual leader and classical violinist Louis Farrakhan believes that white guitarists who perform blues and rock music contribute to the spiritual sickness of black people.  Philosopher Krishnamurti stated: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”  To avoid acts of white terrorism white Canadians should adjust to their politically correct multicultural society by adopting Lattany’s practice of off-timing, by putting down whiteness and putting on blackness.  

Lattany describes the lethal consequences of such an adjustment: “White adaptations of black music have succumbed to the great white death urge, going from bland rock to suicidal punk and homicidal heavy metal in less than twenty years.” (Off-Timing: Stepping to the Different Drummer, 164)  Page seems to confirm this genealogy: “the 1950s hipster begat the 1960s hippie – who enlivened beatnik gloom with the psychedelic surfer’s joie de vivre – and the hippie begat the inner self-explorers of the ‘Me Decade,’ a decade that also begat the ‘punks, the ‘new wave’ born in Britain’s racially integrated labor class, which begat the thrift-shop style of Seattle gloomy grunge rockers.” (Color, 122)  Doug Collins: “We [‘white races’] are gripped by a death wish and we will surely get our wish….A nation without identity produces kids who are looking for identity.  Hence the Grunge Look.” (Here We Go Again, 68, 139)  

Lattany’s condemnation of whites adapting black music seems to contradict her assertion, cited above, that “as long as…white America was Africanized by African Americans…there was hope for America’s redemption.” (164)  Lattany’s implication, which could be interpreted as an expression of cultural genocide, is that whites shouldn’t create music at all, but should merely respond to black music, by listening and/or dancing.  Once again the black aesthetic resists the “gloomy cadence” of Western music.  Cornell West celebrates such resistance: “The patient resilience expressed in the blues flows from the sustained resistance to ugly forms of racist domination [such as cadential tonality?], and from the forging of inextinguishable hope in the contexts of American social death and soul murder.” (Democracy Matters, 93)  Fekete’s formula may be applicable: “Where censorship from the right attacks as immoral any deviation from the ‘normal,’ censorship from the left attacks the norms as themselves deviations from morality.” (Panic, 201)  Lattany and hooks ought to compare notes with their conservative (and now homeless) sister Dickerson, whose The End of Blackness: Returning the Souls of Black Folk to Their Rightful Owners is cited above.

E. Michael Jones describes a modern world view in which “the white man stood for family, sexual morality, Christianity, and the social order; the black man, on the other hand, stood for what Dean Moriarty, in Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road, called ‘spade kicks’, that is, sexual license, drugs and alcohol, and, above all, the music that made it all plausible, jazz.  By identifying with the Negro, the cultural revolutionaries simply accomplished the transvaluation of all values.”  (Dionysus Rising, 83)  “Jazz, and eventually rock ‘n roll, persuaded millions of whites that they could throw off Christian or Jewish morality in the name of racial solidarity….It is no coincidence that the civil rights movement in the United States preceded the largest push for sexual liberation this country had seen since [84] its inception.  This is not surprising because the two movements were inextricably combined through their advocacy of freedom and the fact that both rose out of proto-modern events like the Harlem Renaissance.”  (83-84)

What is the relation between the unstable flatted fifth and musical expressions of black nationalism?  Are these expressions a reaction to the natural basis of European tonal laws?  Is coherence a value in these expressions?  Not according to Tricia Rose: “Rap music….embraces black cultural products and simultaneously denies their complexity and coherence.  This denial is partly fueled by a mainstream cultural adherence to the traditional paradigms of Western classical music as the highest legitimate standard for musical creation, a standard that at this point should seem, at best, only marginally relevant in the contemporary popular music realm (a space all but overrun by Afrodiasporic sounds and multicultural hybrids of them).  Instead, and perhaps because of, the blackening of the popular taste, Western classical music continues to serve as the primary intellectual and legal standard and point of reference for ‘real’ musical complexity and composition.” (Black Noise, 65). Michael Levin: “Caucasoid classical music, emphasizing harmony and regularity, is patently unlike Negroid jazz, rhythm and blues, and rap, which feature improvisation and syncopation – to judge by films made by anthropologists, traits common to African music and the musical games of black children in the United States.” (Why Race Matters, 73)

Gilroy sees Marsalis and Davis as types of polarized views of black music.  One “announces its interpretive intentions with the popular slogan ‘It’s a black thing you wouldn’t understand.'” (100)  “Something of the spirit of the second ‘anti-essentialist’ perspective is captured in the earlier but equally historic black vernacular phrase ‘Different strokes for different folks.'” (100)  One might add the phrase, ‘It’s all good.’  The following ironic observation of Gilroy seems to play into “the pernicious metaphysical dualism that identifies blacks with the body,” cited above.  “It is ironic, given the importance accorded to music in the habitus of diaspora blacks, that neither pole [nationalist essentialists like Marsalis or sceptical pluralists like Davis] in this tense conversation takes the music very seriously.  The narcissism which unites both standpoints is revealed by the way that they both forsake discussion of music and its attendant dramaturgy, performance, ritual, and gesture in favour of an obsessive fascination with the bodies of the performers themselves.  For the unashamed essentialists, Nelson George denounces black musicians who have had facial surgery and wear blue or green contact lenses, while in the opposite camp, Kobena Mercer steadlily reduces Michael Jackson’s voice first to his body, then to his hair, and eventually to his emphatically disembodied image.” (101)

This corporeal obsession is suggested in guitarist Robben Ford‘s account of the events leading up to his first gig with Miles Davis: “There was no rehearsing or getting together, nothing like that.  So I went out there and I met the band in the lobby on the way to the show.  I curled up in the backseat of this van we were in and I thought I was just sick.  I almost died, sick with fear.  And so he asked for me to come back[stage] before the show and I was dressed real conservative…the only thing he said to me was, ‘Whatchu gonna wear on stage?’  That was it.  He didn’t ask me about the music or anything.”  Davis: “I can tell whether a person can play just by the way he stands.”  Nisenson: “Once in the sixties after a concert he asked a friend, ‘How was I?’  ‘You sounded great’ was the reply.  ‘No,’ Miles said, ‘I don’t mean my music.  What did you think of my suit?’” (Midnight, 146)  Harrison relates this focus on style to the African concept of Nommo: “The attitude of a garment, in texture and color, is ritualistically assembled to create the most potent image that one’s Nommo [life force] can conjure.  The image – sharp, mean, bad – is designated to harmonize the threat of any force that might question one’s humanity….The attitude has less to do with creating a sexy image than one that is powerful.” (Nommo, 32)

Philip Tag notes that the flatted fifth “was relatively rare in pre-World War II jazz, and indeed the bebop school of the mid-1940’s made it such an issue that jazz critics of the 1980s like Gary Giddins were still able to speak of bop as the `Church of the Flatted Fifth.’  In Jack Chambers’ Milestones (1989:30) the credit for this innovation goes to Dizzy Gillespie: `The lesson that Gillespie appears to be proudest of was the playing of…the so-called flatted fifth, taken to be one of the hallmarks of bebop… Gillespie is generally credited with introducing the flatted fifth into bebop as a major stylistic device, and it became a feature of every bopper’s style’.”  “The first harmonic alteration to permeate the bebop language was the flatted fifth, or flat five. While this was not a completely new tone to introduce, it had only been sparingly used in popular music and was associated with specific harmonic effects or the blues. The flat five is a tritone above the root of the chord, and is the most harmonically unstable pitch within an octave, so the decision by bebop players to emphasize the pitch created a maximum degree of tension and dissonance.” (New World Encyclopedia)  

There needs to be a distinction between the harmonic principle of the flat five substitution and the melodic blue note of the flatted fifth.  There needs to be a further distinction between a flat five substitution as a passing chord in the context of a harmonic progression resolving to a key center, which does not significantly violate tonal laws of tension and resolution, and a flat five substitution as a harmonic goal.  Breau’s bell motif in his Five O’Clock Bells may be an example of this latter type of substitution, when he sets the melody of the bells in the key of C in the harmonic context of a flat five substitution of E7 – a Bb 6/9 b5 altered chord.  This chord functions as both a flat five substitution, following an E dominant seventh chord, and as a dominant chord, preceding a key change to Eb.  

Breau’s bell motif could be called the Canuck Tristan chord.  Stella by Starlight begins with a half diminished chord; the words (the) song and (my) heart fall on this chord, which is also the opening chord of Wagner’s Prelude to Tristan and Isolde.  In this opera the realm of night “becomes also the realm of death: the only world in which Tristan and Isolde can be as one forever….Wagner implicitly equates the realm of Day with Schopenhauer’s concept of Phenomenon and the realm of Night with Schopenhauer’s concept of Noumenon.”  Rudhyar: “Personal love, when it leads to biological union, turns out to be asocial and ultimately tragic, as for Tristan and Isolde, and the sin of Amfortas in the Parsifal legend.  The tragedies of love and frustration also had to find their field of expression in music.  They are associated with the minor mode in which the first third interval is flattened (C to E flat), evoking a descent of the energy of love to the physical level and a deep feeling of the futility or tragedy of the ascent of human nature.” (The Magic of Tone, Chapter 9)  Robert Cornett: “Parsifal, the fool, the clown, is a powerful symbol of vulnerability.  The word’ vulnerability’ comes from the Latin vulnus or wound, and it means our ability to be wounded.” (Still Questing For the Holy Grail; from Wingspan, 138)

Two British comments about the flatted fifth from a website follow.  Robin Dow, Audley, Cheshire, U.K.: “The churchmen thought its disturbing effect ‘apt to provoke lewd and libidinous thoughts.'”  Pete Wigens, Stroud, Glos, U.K.: “The augmented fourth interval became the hallmark, in the ’40s and ’50s of the type of jazz known as Bebop, whose exponents called it ‘the flattened fifth’.  Jazzmen of that era also had a hand sign which consisted of a high five but with the thumb folded in to the palm.  This gesture, used as a greeting between jazzers, was known as ‘the sign of the flattened fifth’ and was often accompanied by expressions such as Oolya Koo, man!  Perhaps this explains why jazz has been called ‘the devil’s music.'”  

Is the sign of the flatted fifth a jazz equivalent of the sign of the horns used by heavy metal fans?  Like be-bop, heavy metal is a genre identified with the tritone, according to those interviewed in part one of Sam Dunn’s Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey.  In contrast with the signs of the flatted fifth and the horns, L7, a derivative term for square, derives from a gesture in which the square shape is made by putting together an “L” made with the left thumb and index finger and a “7” made with the right thumb and index finger.  Mike Zwerin: “Bebop fathers fought alienation by constructing their own secret culture with its own style and language – ‘bad’ meaning ‘good’ is vintage bebop argot.  Drugs were part of the huddle; they seemed to cure alienation for a minute.”  (from Miles on Miles, 311)  

Dizzy Gillespie represents a variation of the sign of the flatted fifth, a three-fingered sign, as an ephemeral advertisement.  “Life magazine conned Benny Carter and me into posing for some pictures during an interview for a feature story on bebop.  They made us perform a bebop greeting for them.  ‘Hi-ya, man!’  ‘Bells man, where you been?’ giving the sign of the flatted fifth, a raised open hand.  ‘Eel-ya-da!’  We gave a three-fingered sign that we were playing triplets, ending with an elaborate handshake.  That was supposed to be the bebopper’s greeting, but there was no such thing in real life.  It was just a bunch of horseplay that we went through so they could pretend we were something weird.” (To Be or Not to Bop, 343)

Gillespie credits Rudy Powell, a sax player who was an integral player in the Edgar Hayes band, for introducing him to the flatted fifth.  “Rudy wrote this arrangement for Edgar Hayes that had this weird change, an E-flat chord built on an A, the flatted fifth.  When I ran across that in the music, it really hit – boom!  The flatted fifth.  Oooo man!  I played that thing over and over, and over again, and started using it in my solos….I was always aware of where the chord was and also the time.  I figured that was fundamental, but you don’t stick to fundamentals.  He had an E-flat chord in there, and I heard this A concert going up scale, and I played it, and I played it again, played it again, played it again.  I said, ‘Damn!  Listen at this shit!  Listen at this, man!’  That’s when I first became aware that there was a ‘flatted fifth.’  Before that time, until 1938, that was not a part of my musical conception.

It wasn’t considered a ‘flatted fifth’ then, it was considered a half step….From doing this, I found out that there were a lot of pretty notes in a chord that were well to hold, instead of running over them.  That’s what Rudy taught me, and that has governed my playing ever since.  And that’s one of the things that’s distinctive about Miles Davis, that he learned from me, I’m sure.  Because I showed him on the piano the pretty notes in our music.  There are a lot of pretty notes in a chord, and if you hold them for an extended time, it adds a hue.  It adds a hue to your solos.  He really went for that” (To Be or Not to Bop, 93)

Berliner comments on this second paragraph: “John Hicks experienced a ‘new freedom’ in his performances when he first began thinking of ‘two chords a tritone apart’ as a way to mix a triad with its raised-eleventh, flatted-seventh, and flatted-ninth degrees….Many liken such [160] controlled harmonic mixtures to the subtle blending of colors by visual artists….’It’s just like someone’s making a picture.  You can take the same chord, but add different colors to it.  You can make a little red streak, then you add a little pink to it and a little streak of black, and it makes it more beautiful’ (DC).  Beyond imaging inventive mixtures of chord tones and color tones, soloists can stimulate their melodic ideas by envisioning various chord insertions as they perform….Harold Ousley puts substitute chords like those designed by Charlie Parker in ‘different places’ within a progression to prevent his own playing ‘from sounding too monotonous.’  He also regards John Coltrane’s improvisations as exemplary in this regard. Instead of playing the same chord for two bars, ‘Trane might move through two, three, or four chords, just giving a beat or two to each,’ imbuing that portion of the progression with ‘a different sound.’” (Thinking in Jazz, 160-61)

Commenting on the first paragraph Berliner states: “Tommy Turrentine recalls….Gillespie and his collaborators…’came along playing all kinds of new scales.  They’d hit those flatted ninths, flatted fifths, and those whole-tone progressions, turning the music all around.’” (161)

Gillespie: “With Edgar Hayes, and that arrangement in the book by Rudy Powell with the flatted fifth, I really got turned on.  And from that one phrase – just one bar – I started developing that passage and listening to it, and before you knew it, I was trained like that.  I was excited about the progression and used it everywhere.  I sort of slowed down a bit from hearing those pretty notes, and the young trumpet players loved it.  They’d play a whole chorus of flatted fifths – a whole chorus – everything was flatted fifths.  I used to hold on to those pretty notes.  I’d be coming down, and I’d hold on to ‘em.  There are some nice notes [103] in a chord, man, so now Miles knows how to hold one note for hours.  That’s how Miles got all those pretty things he plays.  It resolves all the time.  That one note.  To find out where notes resolve, you don’t have to play every chord.  You can hold one note, and it’ll take care of three chords, because it’s in all of them.  And pretty notes, too.” (To Be or Not to Bop, 103-04)

Gillespie describes how his use of the hip and hued flatted fifth influenced popular music.  “In 1944 the pop guys were writing mostly fundamentals at that time.  They didn’t write any hip flatted fifths, and we considered our changes improvements on the sound of popular music.  It added new sounds to pop music, and the arrangers now use it.  I can hear a lotta the music that we created during those years now, in motion pictures and television.” (208)

Jazz arranger Gil Fuller: “’Dizzy was playing augmented elevenths, flatted fives, and all this stuff that people weren’t playing….They called him the “wrong note” trumpet player.’” (260)  “’When we did, like, say, “One Bass Hit,” you had a thing in there where he went into the bridge, and the saxophones came in and hit a flatted fifth, or [260] raised eleventh.  Everybody was looking saying, “What the hell is that?”  But you couldn’t say it sounded bad, and you couldn’t say it was wrong.’” (260-61)

Gillespie’s introduction to the flatted fifth by Rudy Powell coupled with his reference to Powell as one of the first jazz musicians to accept Islam suggests a relation between the flatted fifth and black Islam.  Gillespie: “’For social and religious reasons, a large number of modern jazz musicians did begin to turn toward Islam during the forties, a movement completely in line with the idea of freedom of religion.  Rudy Powell, from Edgar Hayes’s band, became one of the first jazz musicians I knew to accept Islam; he became an Ahmidyah Muslim.  Other musicians followed, it seemed to me, for social rather than religious reasons, if you can separate the two. 

“Man, if you join the Muslim faith, you ain’t colored no more, you’ll be white,” they’d say.  “You get a new name and you don’t have [156] to be a nigger no more.”  So everybody started joining because they considered it a big advantage not to be black during the time of segregation.’” (Jazz Anecdotes: Second Time Around, 156-57)

Bill Crow: “Milt Hinton worked with Powell on a Chicago group called the Enjoyment Band.  They made a trip to Omaha, Nebraska, for a theater date:

‘We had a guy in the band named Rudy Powell.  He changed his name to Musa Kalim.  He wore a fez and grew a little beard.  They got into town after midnight and found everything closed.  Having no way to locate the rooming houses that accepted black musicians, they decided to park the bus in front of the theater and sit there until morning.

Rudy had a better idea.  He walks into this white hotel, and the minute he hit the door, the man said, “I’m very sorry, we’re filled up.”  Rudy says, “Where’s the manager?”  The manager comes out and says, “Well, it isn’t the policy of this hotel to rent rooms to colored.”

Rudy says, “I’m not colored.”  He whips this card out, which says, “My name is Musa Kalim, and I am a descendant of Father Abraham, and the mother, Hagar, and I’m entitled to all the rights and privileges of the Mystic Knights.”  He’s wearing this fez.

He says, “Call the State Department in Washington.  I want to speak to someone in the State Department right now.”  The man [157] got scared to death.  “I’m very sorry, sir,” he says.  “We’ll get you a room.”

Rudy says, “I’ve got nine of my brothers out in the bus there, and they don’t speak English.  I’ve got to have room for the nine.”  So the guy claps his hands, says to the bellhop, “Get this gentleman nine rooms.”  And it’s Jonah Jones, Shad Collins, Kansas Fields, nine of the guys in the band.  Rudy got up the next morning and collected the money from all the guys and paid the bill and walked out.  Since then, change, integration started.  He’s back to Rudy Powell again now.’” (Jazz Anecdotes: Second Time Around, 157-58)

Jazz and Modernity

David Ake accepts “L.D. Reddick’s assessment from 1949: ‘Bop is essentially modern and urban.’ (Jazz Matters, 86)  Ake mentions “flatted fifths, raised ninths, or other tension-heightening ‘alterations’ that typify bop-based playing.” (86)  According to Ake “popular conceptions of the geocultural domains of the United States had all but ossified into a rural=white, black=city polarity.  (Think, on the one hand, of the televi-[94]sion shows Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Real McCoys, The Andy Griffith Show, and Petticoat Junction, on the other of The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, and Good Times.)” (Jazz Matters, 94-95)  Goad describes the former as “Cracker Comedies from the sixties.” (Redneck, 27)

Nelson George: “Bebop wasn’t just a sound, it was an attitude toward living that spilled over the bandstand edge.  Beboppers sported sharp-as-tacks vives (aka clothes), and ultrahip dudes like Dizzy set off whole fashion trends by sporting berets and growing goatees.  They used narcotics liberally, primarily marijuana or ‘reefer,’ but also, with tragic results, heroin; in some ways, the self-consciously ‘hip’ scene prefigured the drug culture of the 1960s.  A number of black musicians had romances with white women, sometimes more to express individual freedom and [68] radicalism than real love.  The prevailing feeling was contempt for the hypocrisies of ‘square’ society or for conventional cultural forms.  The American government, beboppers said, didn’t abide by the Bill of Rights in its treatment of ‘Negroes,’ so why should they honor its rules of behavior in their everyday lives?  Their contempt underlay the attitude of ‘cool,’ an aesthetic of emotional distance that allowed those in and around the music to keep an often hostile world at arm’s length, and to go after their own new definition of greatness.  And the world was, indeed, hostile to bebop, or at least resistant to this intentionally non-melodic, improvisational style.” (from Listen Up, The Lives of Quincy Jones, 68, 72) 

Piero Scaruffi: “The genre itself was named bebop from the nickname of the flatted fifth, the favorite interval of bebop musicians, but emphasis on it had been virtually unlawful in swing orchestras (the flatted third and seventh were the ‘blue notes’ par excellence, but the flatted fifth wasn’t even popular with the blues).  The only reason to consider swing and bebop as branches of the same musical genre is that they shared the same instrumentation and the passion for improvisation (and, mostly, the color of the skin).  

The relationship between the new heroes and the old ones was one of estrangement, not inheritance.  The new heroes were Benny Goodman’s guitarist Charlie Christian, Duke Ellington’s bassist Jimmy Blanton, Earl Hines’ alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, Cab Calloway’s trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins’ pianist Thelonious Monk, Count Basie’s saxophonist Lester Young, Louis Armstrong’s saxophonist Dexter Gordon.  They were not the heirs to their masters’ orchestras: they were sidemen, who embodied a different aesthetic.  In a sense, they were former slaves who, once liberated, turned their back to their masters and migrated to distant virgin lands.  (Armstrong publicly ridiculed bebop).   

The core of bebop music was more than just the format; it was an existential mood that almost harked back to the blues.  The soloist of bebop was a poet and a philosopher, no longer only an entertainer.”  (A History of Jazz Music, 50)  “Dissonances, polyrhythms, new tonal colors and irregular phrasing were adopted enthusiastically….The jam session became the equivalent of a religious function, the supernatural moment when art was created.  Ironically, this more sincere and austere strand of black music alienated the original audience of jazz music: the blacks of the ghettos.  It attracted a new audience of white intellectuals and eccentrics, an audience that had nothing to do with the historical background of jazz music….Even more ironically, bebop became ‘blacker’ as it moved away from the big business: while the swing era had been dominated (with few exceptions) by white big bands, the protagonists of the bebop (with the notable exception of Lennie Tristano) era were all black.” (Scaruffi, 51)  

Despite this latter assertion LeRoi Jones’ observes: “It was a lateral and reciprocal identification the young white American intellectual, artist, and Bohemian of the forties and fifties made with the Negro, attempting, with varying degrees of success, to reap some emotional benefit from the similarity of their positions in American society.” (231)  Breau exemplified this “identification” with the Negro.  “The new philosophy of racial role reversal was transcribed by many popular hipster authors of the time.  Norman Mailer’s 1957 pamphlet, entitled “The White Negro,” has become the paradigmatic example of hipster ideology.  Mailer describes hipsters as individuals “with a middle-class background (who) attempt to put down their whiteness and adopt what they believe is the carefree, spontaneous, cool lifestyle of Negro hipsters: their manner of speaking and language, their use of milder narcotics, their appreciation of jazz and the blues, and their supposed concern with the good orgasm.”

Kimball notes that “one reason that the hipster [of Mailer’s White Negro] adores jazz: ‘jazz,’ Mailer tells us, ‘is orgasm, it is the music of orgasm, good orgasm and bad, and so it spoke across a nation.’  The hipster’s quest ‘for absolute sexual freedom’ entails the necessity of ‘becoming a sexual outlaw.’

It is not only sexual morality that the hipster discards.

‘Hip abdicates from any conventional moral responsibility because it would argue that the results of our actions are unforeseeable, and so we cannot know if we do good or bad….The only Hip morality…is to do what one feels whenever and wherever it is possible, and…to be engaged in one primal battle; to open the limits of the possible for oneself, for oneself alone, because that is one’s need.’” (The Long March, 79)  

James Baldwin wrote in response to Mailer’s White Negro: “It is still true, alas, that to be an American Negro male is also to be a kind of walking phallic symbol: which means that one pays, in one’s own personality, for the sexual insecurity of others.” (The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy)  In Ralph Ellison’s view “it would seem that puritan restraints are more operative among the bohemians than elsewhere.  That’s what’s behind Mailer’s belief in the hipster and the ‘white Negro’ as the new culture hero – he thinks all hipsters are cocksmen possessed of great euphoric orgasms and are out to fuck the world into [197] peace, prosperity and creativity.  The same old primitivism crap in a new package.  It makes you hesitant to say more than the slightest greetings to their wives lest they think you’re out to give them a hot fat injection.  What a bore.” (Trading Twelves, 197-98)  

Paul Gilroy expands Mailer’s notion of the hipster when interpreting Richard Wright’s character Cross Damon in The Outsider as a symbol of modern Man.  “He went into an ill-lighted tavern that reeked of disinfectant and sat in a rear booth and listened to the radio pour forth a demonical jazz music that linked itself with his sense of homelessness.  The strains of blue and sensual notes were akin to him not only by virtue of their having been created by black men, but because they had come out of the hearts of men who had been rejected and yet who still lived and shared the lives of their rejectors.  Those notes possessed the frightened ecstasy of the unrepentant and sent his feelings tumbling and coagulating in a mood of joyful abandonment.” (111)  Ted Gioia: “The white jazz player is the outsider among outsiders, but has voluntarily chosen this double exclusion, even takes satisfaction in its far remove from social norms and expectations.  He roots for the underdog and the misunderstood, and he often sees himself in these terms, even if his own background marks him as a child of privilege.” (the birth {and death} of the cool, 60) 

Cross regards jazz as “his only emotional home” and as the “rhythmic flauntings of guilty feelings, the syncopated outpourings of frightened joy existing in guises forbidden and despised by others….He realized that this blue-jazz was a rebel art blooming seditiously under the condemnations of a Protestant ethic….Blue-jazz was the scornful gesture of men turned ecstatic in their state of rejection; it was the musical language of the satisfiedly amoral, the boastings of the contentedly lawless, the recreations of the innocently criminal.” (The Outsider, 178)  Franz Fanon notes: “Jung regularly assimilates the outsider with darkness and baser instincts.”  (Black Skin, 167)  Richard H. King: “As [James] Baldwin wrote of Wright in his eulogy, ‘Alas, Poor Richard’: ‘The violence [in his work] is gratuitous and compulsive because the root of the violence is never examined.  The root is rage…of a man who is being castrated.’” (Modernization and Dominated Cultures; Race, Culture, and the Intellectuals, 1940-1970, 150)  “’Let’s face it,’ Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the chairman of the [397] Afro-American studies program at Harvard, said.  ‘Ellison was shut out, and Richard Wright was elected godfather of the Black Arts Movement of the nineteen-sixties because Wright’s hero in Native Son, Bigger Thomas, cuts off a white girl’s head and stuffs her in a furnace.” (David Remnick, Visible Man, from Conversations with Ralph Ellison, 397-98)

Gilroy: “More than any other book of Wright’s, The Outsider elaborates a view of blackness and the relational ideologies of race and racism which support it, not as fixed and stable historical identities to be celebrated, overcome, or even deconstructed, but as metaphysical conditions of the modern world’s existence that arise with, and perhaps out of, the overcoming of religious morality.  The book represents Wright’s first attempt to account for the correspondences and connections which joined the everyday lifeworld of African-Americans to the visceral anxieties precipitated in modern European philosophy and letters by the collapse of religious sensibility in general and the experience of twentieth-century life in particular.  For Wright the decisive break in western consciousness which modernity identifies was defined by the collapse of a religious understanding of the world.” (160)  

Wright’s view accords with George Steiner’s reference to a “contract”, which “is broken for the first time, in any thorough and consequent sense, in European, Central European and Russian culture and speculative consciousness during the decades from the 1870s to the 1930s.  It is this break of the covenant between word and world which constitutes one of the very few genuine revolutions of spirit in Western history and which defines modernity itself” (Presences, 93).  On account of this spiritual revolution Steiner divides Western history into two phases: “the first, which extended from the beginnings of recorded history and propositional utterance (in the pre-Socratics) to the later nineteenth century, is that of the Logos, of the saying of being.  The second phase is that which comes after.”  Ratzinger describes the musical consequences of this second phase: “when the religious ground is cut away from under music, then…music and indeed art itself are threatened” (Problems, 216).  Morris Berman: “For more than 99 percent of human history, the world was enchanted and man saw himself as an integral part of it.” (The Reenchantment of the World, 23)

Bruce Johnson: “Jazz became the music of urban modernity….The jazz migration coincided with an emancipative reaction against nineteenth century traditions, and the musical marker was provided by the ‘New World’.” (The Jazz Diaspora, The Cambridge Companion to Jazz, 41)  James Davison Hunter describes one of these nineteeth century traditions: “the nineteenth-century consensus about the character and structure of family life has collapsed, leaving the very viability of the institution as traditionally conceived in question.” (Culture Wars, 178)  Hunter defines this traditional conception as “a male-dominated nuclear family that both sentimentalized childhood and motherhood and, at the same time, celebrated domestic life as a utopian retreat from the harsh realities of industrial society.” (180)  Johnson continues: “Films made as far afield as Russia and Australia agreed that jazz was the music of the twentieth-century city, a morally suspect site which exposed decent people to transgressive possibilities.” (The Jazz Diaspora, 42)  “Jazz threatened the aesthetic, moral and political controlling mechanisms of the entrenched cultural gatekeepers, and most fundamentally it reversed the mind/body hierarchy that formed the basis of Enlightenment rationalism….Unleashing the sensual, the abandoned, the ecstatic in everyman, jazz was too revolutionary – for which read too decadent – for the theorists of the proletarian revolution.  Both Gorky and Lunacharsky regarded jazz as a capitalist plot designed to subject man to the control of his sexuality.” (42)  Jerome Harris: “’[T]he Soviets announced in 1928 that the importing or playing of American jazz was punishable by a fine of one hundred roubles and six months in jail’ (Eisenberg 1987: 25).” (Jazz on the Global Stage, in The African Diaspora, note 7, 125)

Dane Rudhyar describes jazz in similar terms.  “Jazz is the typical product of the world-city, of its feverish excitement and personal loneliness, of its confusion of types, styles and modes, of its alcoholic spirit (truly the product of the decay of the cultural fruit), of its mad craving for escape from the ugliness and mechanization of the city-life, the mob-life.  It is thus the negative and materialistic aspect, the shadow of the spiritual regeneration of earth-man into Mind-man, which takes place in the very midst of the age of cultural disintegration….of the age of decay, of the Dark Ages, the Winter of the racial cycle.” (Dissonant Harmony)  Sander Gilman offers a similar perception: “The city becomes the icon of ‘modern life’ and the locus of degenerate sexuality….The city – an icon of the rejection of redemption, of Abraham’s failure in Sodom and Gomorrah, of the Jerusalem of Herod – permeates the image of civilization and is represented as the breeding ground of perverse and unnatural sexuality.” (Difference and Pathology, 214)  Gilman: “The stigma of the Fall, of the rejection of Christ’s redemption, is the stigma of sexuality, hidden within oneself and projected onto the Other.” (216)

Ralph Ellison describes bebop as “a further triumph of technology over humanism….the frantic shriek of a lost, big-citified people whose home is ‘nowhere.’” (Living With Music, xxviii)  Litweiler’s reference to “the quickened nerves and hasty relationships of bop,” (The Freedom Principle, 19) accords with Gabbard’s reference to the film “theme that the jazz life is incompatible with sustained romantic love.” (Signifyin(g) the Phallus; in Representing Jazz, 123)  Twentieth century English composer Cyril Scott took a more extreme view of jazz: “It is regrettable that a type of ‘music’ which is so popular as Jazz should exercise an evil influence, but such is the occult truth.  Jazz has been definitely ‘put through’ by the Black Brotherhood, known in Christian tradition as the Powers of Evil or Darkness, and put through with the intention of inflaming the sexual nature and thus diverting mankind from spiritual progress.” (The Influence of Music on History and Morals, from Sacred Music of the Secular City, 143)  Ashley Kahn notes that “among the books he [John Coltrane] owned was the extended edition of Music: Its Secret Influence Through the Ages, by the English composer Cyril Scott, published in 1958….he argued that human behavior is affected not only by the emotional content but by its form….He did talk about jazz, though, with priggish, racialized scorn.  (He felt that it ‘closely resembled the music of primitive savages.’)” (Love Supreme, 62)

Scott’s scorn may have contributed to Coltrane’s rejection of the term jazz, for examples, in the following statements.  “Everytime I talk about jazz I think of prizefighters.”  “If you wanted to name [my music] anything you could name it a classical music.”  Kofsky mentions Coltrane’s “desire to have his music perceived as ‘classical,’ and his concomitant unhappiness with the word ‘jazz’ to describe it.” (Coltrane, 420)  McCoy Tyner: “if you want to use that term, jazz – I don’t particularly care for it.” (405)  It is therefore ironic that a plaque at Coltrane’s Hamlet, North Carolina, birthplace declares him to have been a “jazz messiah.”  This epithet seems a dubious honor in light of Coltrane’s evident disdain for the term jazz.  Monson notes: “In May [1960], Cannonball Adderly publicly criticized classical music impresario Sol Hurok for describing jazz as amoral and a curse (on British TV).” (Freedom Sounds, 185) 

LeRoi Jones: “When the moderns, the beboppers, showed up to restore jazz, in some sense, to its original separateness, to drag it outside the mainstream of American culture again, most middle-class Negroes (as most Americans) were stuck; they had passed, for the most part, completely into the Platonic citizenship.  The willfully harsh, anti-assimilationist sound of bebop fell on deaf or horrified ears.”  (Blues People, 181-82)  Mark Murphy’s lyrical setting of the song, Boplicity, is true to the etymology of bebop, as Murphy concludes each verse with a flatted fifth over the word “[bebop] lives.”  The last verse: “Second, third generations still blow, All the flatted fifths that we certainly know, Like “Koko,” don’t forget “Four” and then there’s Night in Tunisia so we know that bebop lives.”  The popular song was murdered, in Baraka’s phrase, so that the new aesthetic of bebop might live – the flatted fifth became beautiful.  

Langston Hughes gives his account of the genesis of bebop through a “fictional Harlem man-on-the-street…wildly scat-singing to a bebop recording on the stoop of his Harlem apartment.”  “Bop comes…from the police beating Negroes’ heads.  Every time a cop hits a Negro with his billy club, that old club says, ‘BOP!  BOP!…BEBOP!…MOP!…BOP!…’  That’s where Be-Bop came from, beaten right out of some Negro’s head into those horns and saxophones and the piano keys that play it.

That’s why so many white folks don’t dig Bop.  White folks do not get their heads beat just for being white.  But me – a cop is liable to grab me almost any time and beat my head – just for being colored.  In some parts of this American country as soon as the polices see me, they say, ‘Boy, what are you doing in this neighborhood?’  I say, ‘Coming from work, sir.’  They say, ‘Where do you work?’  Then I have to go into my whole pedigree because I am a black man in a white neighborhood.  And if my answers do not satisfy them, BOP!  MOP!…BE-BOP!  If they do not hit me, they have already hurt my soul.  A dark man shall see dark days.  Bop comes out them dark days.  That’s why real Bop is mad, wild, frantic, crazy – and not to be dug unless you’ve seen dark days, too.  Folks who ain’t suffered much cannot play Bop, neither appreciate it.  They think Bop is nonsense – like you.  They think it’s just crazy crazy.  They do not know Bop is also MAD crazy, SAD crazy, FRANTIC WILD CRAZY – beat out of somebody’s head!  That’s what Bop is.  Them young colored kids who started it, they know what Bop is.”  (from The Birth of Bebop, 20-21)

From Breau on Modes: “He [Coltrane] uses a lot of Japanese scales and Chinese scales.  He uses a lot of pentatonic scales.  Like five note scales instead of seven, because the five note scale has a psychological effect on you.  The seven is cool and everything but usually what’s happening is five note scales against the pedal tone with little three note chords, like voicings.  You move the voicings around you play the scale on top of that.  To get into the John Coltrane thing you have to learn the C scale all over again.  You don’t play it in thirds.  What you do is that you learn to play the C scale voiced in fourths…It sounds right, be[stutters]cause it’s musically correct, so all you got to know is that and then you can’t play a wrong note, because you know your moves.  See what I mean?  And that’s the John Coltrane bag.  So it’s not that hard.  I don’t think it’s as complicated as bebop; it simpler because it’s got a pedal note in the back.”

In the same seminar Breau portrays Coltrane with blood dripping from his lips, suggesting a sacrificial victim.  To my knowledge the only tunes by Coltrane played by Breau are Mister Knight, a blues, and Impressions, a modal jazz piece.  The blues chord must sacrifice its independence in a cadence, and George Russell calls modal jazz “a horizontal approach; it’s a rebellion against the chord.”  According to Berendt: “Modal playing also means a further Africanization of the music, away from the ‘dictatorship’ of European harmonies toward the free harmonization that exists in many African musical cultures (not only in the Arab and the Muslim ones).”  (225)  On the other hand, Breau played at least two pieces by Bach and none by Hoffman, Weber, or Wagner, so he may have conceived of the half-diminished chord as Bach did.  Amiri Baraka: “Coltrane’s salvation will only come as a murderer, an anarchist, whose anarchy seems so radical because references to the ‘old music’ still remain.”  “[Coltrane] showed us how to murder the popular song.  To do away with weak Western forms.  He is a beautiful philosopher.”  Contrary to Baraka’s view, the Western form of the cadence accords with the aesthetic laws of nature, which Coltrane desired to emulate: “I want to produce beautiful music…in communion with the natural laws.”

In Baraka’s 1964 play, Dutchman, the main character is a black man who lashes out at a white female hipster with a long speech about how black art is created out of hatred for white people.  This hipster may have some affinity with Calvin Hernton’s description.  “In so-called ‘avant garde’ circles, one becomes accustomed to hearing young white women who marry or ‘shack up’ with Negroes refer to themselves as ‘artists.’  They are painters, poets, writers, creative dancers, or they are ‘interested’ in one or more of these activities.  In reality, they are social outcasts.  They have deserted their families, dropped out of college, run away from home, turned into beatniks, adopted the affectations of the ‘persecuted minority’ – the next step is to go to bed with a Negro.  Not all of them, but most of them are phonies, psychological disorients, without true convictions or even the maturity to know what they really want.  They do not understand that the energy driving them into the bizarre ranks of the misfits emanates not out of any personal commitment, or intellectual grasp of the ‘system,’ or unshakable dedication to art, and definitely not out of a felt capacity to love the black man, but out of a diseased concept of the Negro and, most of all, of themselves.  In a very true sense, these young women (and some older ones) discover the Negro, but the Negro they discover is merely another stereotype, with his hair uncut and uncombed, usually ‘broke,’ talkative as hell but terribly illiterate, humming and shaking his head to the toot-toot of jazz music, mumbling ceaselessly about his ‘oppression,’ walking half-bent in an apelike gait or gyrating his hips to the ‘dog.'” (Sex and Racism in America, 45)  According to Monson “many liberal and radical whites used essentialized ideas of blackness to support their own agendas of cultural rebellion.” (Freedom Sounds, 295)

However, Kofsky describes Dutchman as an “allegorical drama” in which “the author has the enraged hero (Black America) denounce his blond would-be ‘seductress’ (i.e., enslaver) in a scathing passage, a portion of which runs as follows:” (Black Nationalism, 125)  “Charlie Parker.  All the hip white boys scream for Bird.  And Bird saying, ‘Up your ass, feeble-minded ofay!  Up your ass.’  And they sit there talking about the tortured genius of Charlie Parker.  Bird would’ve played not a note of music if he just walked up to East Sixty-seventh Street and killed the first ten white people he saw.  Not a note!”  In keeping with his allegorical interpretation Kofsky asserts “that Negro avant-garde intransigents…are saying through their horns, as LeRoi Jones would have it, ‘Up your ass, feeble-minded ofays!'” (131)  Kofsky follows this assertion with an observation that “the peculiarly non-Western character of the avant-garde would appear to reside in its presumably deliberate abandonment of the diatonic scale; for once the diatonic scale is given up, the entire harmonic foundation of European music – which can be deduced as a logical corollary from diatonicity – is headed for the historical scrap heap.” (133)  

For Cornell West “the subversive virtuosity of Charlie Parker constitute[s one] of the fundamental pillars of American musical composition and improvisation.” (Black Music and Youth, Prophetic Reflections, 25)  Ralph Ellison: “When the jazz drummer Art Blakey was asked about Parker’s meaning for Negroes, he replied, ‘They never heard of him.’  Parker’s artistic success and highly publicized death have changed all that today, but interestingly enough, Bird was indeed a ‘white’ hero. His greatest significance was for the educated white middle-class youth whose reaction to the inconsistencies of American life was the stance of casting off its education, language, dress, manners and moral standards: a revolt, apolitical in nature, which finds its most dramatic instance in the figure of the so-called white hipster.  And whatever its justification, it was, and is, a reaction to the chaos which many youth sense at the center of our society.  For the postwar jazznik, Parker was Bird, a suffering, psychically wounded, law-breaking, life-affirming hero.  For them he possessed something of the aura of that figure common to certain contemporary novels which R.W.B Lewis describes as the ‘picaresque saint.’  He was an obsessed, outsider – and Bird was thrice alienated: as Negro, as addict, as exponent of a new and disturbing development in jazz – whose tortured and in many ways criminal striving for personal and moral integration invokes a sense of tragic fellowship in those who saw in his agony a ritualization of their own fears, rebellions, and hunger for creativity.” (72)

Ross Russell on Parker: “Charlie’s direct, sex-as-function attitude was derived from his class and ethnic background and conditioned by years of living among night people.  It was scarcely an innovation, although his hipster followers considered it so.  Contrasted with the young white hipsters, who were seeking emancipation from the multiple hangups of a post-Victorian background, and, in many cases, desperately striving to become ‘white Negroes,’ Charlie was a sexual revolutionary.  He was not above making sexual conquests for the sake of scoring, or, in the case of white targets, asserting his mastery and black male force.  He entered into hundreds of affairs, most of them short-lasting.” (Bird Lives, (246)  Russell: “’To play like Bird, you have to do like Bird!’ – such was the false counsel offered by the folklore of jazz in the turbulent Forties.” (260)

To Leonard Feather Charlie Parker’s “conception and execution bring to mind Tadd Dameron’s comparison of the new jazz with the old: ‘It’s as if you had two roads, both going in the same direction, but one of them was straight with no scenery around it, and the other twisted and turned and had a lot of beautiful trees on all sides.'” (Inside Bebop, 16)  Feather quotes drummer Kenny Clarke’s recollection of Dameron: “I heard Tadd playing flatted fifths in 1940,’ he remembers.  ‘It sounded very odd to me at first.'” (8)  Feather adds “that these musicians began to use notes which, theoretically, just didn’t belong in the chord under consideration.  Tadd Dameron, today [1949] one of the most famous of bop arrangers, was an early believer in these harmonic departures.  Playing his first professional jobs in 1938 with small bands and accompanying vocalists around Ohio, he played chords that few listeners liked or understood.  Developing the same ideas in 1939 in Kansas City with Charlie Parker, he heard people say ‘They’re crazy.’  But when Dizzy Gillespie heard Tadd at a jam session a couple of years later, Diz said – ‘I’ve been looking all over for a guy like you.'” (8)

Charlie Parker was also excited about Dameron’s changes, as Dameron recounts their first meeting.  “’We got together and we were playing Lady Be Good and there’s some changes I played in the middle where he just stopped playing and ran over and kissed me on the cheek.   He said, “That’s what I’ve been hearing all my life, but nobody plays those changes.”  So we got to be very good friends – he used to come over to my house every day and blow.  This was in 1941.  This was when war was declared – I remember it definitely.  And my wife would cook.  And the people used to knock on the door and I’d say, “Oh, I’m sorry we’re making so much noise.”  “No,” they’d say, “we want you to leave the door open.”  Because he was playing so pretty.’

Dameron’s reference to Bird’s appreciation of the way he played those particular chord changes has a parallel story.  In New York, Parker had jammed with a guitarist named Biddy Fleet in a variety of places, including the back of a chili house in Harlem.  ‘Biddy would run new chords,’ said Parker.  ‘For instance, we’d find you could play a relative major, using the right inversions, against a seventh chord, and we played around with flatted fifths.’

In a 1949 Down Beat interview, Parker spoke of a particularly stimulating session with Fleet.  Bird had been getting tired of the stereotyped changes in general use.  ‘I kept thinking there’s bound to be something else.’ He said.  ‘I could hear it sometimes, but I couldn’t play it.’  While playing Cherokee with Fleet, he found that by utilizing the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and using suitably connected changes with it, he could make the thing he had been hearing an actuality.  As Bird put it, ‘I came alive.’” (The Masters of Bebop, 20)

Crouch: “Charlie’s return to drugs [1939?] was apparently assisted by Tadd Dameron….a curious man looking for new things to do in music….he knew a lot about the various intoxicants that could derange the senses into a state of euphoria, about potions and powders that were designed to relieve pain but had begun to assume their primary role as a form of illegal recreation.” (Kansa City Lightning, 323)  Compare with Wallace Fowlie’s translation of Rimbaud: “The poet makes himself into a visionary by a long derangement of all the senses.” (Rimbaud and Jim Morrison, 4)  Sensory derangement resulted in deranged harmonies, described in Giddins and DeVeaux’s comments concerning the first meeting between Parker and Dameron.  “The new harmonies fastened onto dissonances like the tritone – the chromatic interval known in the Middle Ages as the ‘devil in music’ and to the beboppers as the flatted fifth.  (The unimpressed Eddie Condon, a rebel turned traditionalist, commented, ‘The boppers flat their fifths.  We drink ours.’)  The tritone could be found in the chords used by pianists like Dameron and in the spiky solos musicians like Gillespie devised in response [299] to them.” (Jazz, 299-300)

Feather states that in early blues music “the ‘blue’ (flatted) seventh was used incidentally, and by the 1920’s it had become fashionable to end on a seventh or ninth chord.” (Inside Bebop, 50)  He later notes that “Bebop melodies often end on either [a major ninth], a flatted fifth, or a major seventh.  Because of the non-conformist nature of bebop and its exponents, you rarely find an ending on the tonic chord; this has become such a fetish that one may well visualize a reaction and find that a few years from now bop musicians will be ending on a flat, unadorned tonic just because it sounds so different!” (54)  However, Feather’s hypothetical visualization contradicts his later acknowledgement that “Boppers abhor a straight tonic as passionately as nature abhors a vacuum.” (65)  Feather’s analogy is misleading, for it is silence, rather than a straight tonic, that is analogous to a vacuum.  Jean-Philippe Rameau describes the major tonic chord in natural terms: “That first burst of nature is so powerful, so brilliant, so virile – if I may call it thus – that it surpasses minor and shows itself to be the master of harmony.”

Beboppers, however, were not mastered by the straight tonic, as is evident by their servile surrender to the seductions of the sensual flatted fifth.  Thus George Russell mentions “the tendency of the jazz artists of the late 1940’s, the so-called ‘Be Boppers’ (Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, et al), to end their compositions on the flatted fifth tone of the key of the music.”  The Western forms that Baraka claims that Coltrane did away with are implicitly cadential forms that resolve dissonance.  The popular song is thus murdered by an unresolved ending with blue notes, particularly the most dissonant blue note, the flatted fifth.  Belgrad: “Bebop soloists would commonly…defy[] the conventional imperative to tonal resolution….The flatted fifth interval, in particular, became a bebop trademark.” (The Culture of Spontaneity, 183)

In the same seminar as that cited above Breau states: “You have to be possessed by the music.  The music has to own you to the point where it’s got you by the balls….When I’m playing [this F7 #11 blues (b7) bebop (#11=b5) impressionist chord (Breau’s term for his chordal harmonics)] it makes me feel close to God.  I don’t have to go to church and kneel down and say, ‘praise the Lord,’ because this is my way of praising…I’m going to go down playing it…I’ll probably die with this [guitar] in my hands.  That’s the way it has to be, because I love it so much.” 

He is portraying himself as a sacrificial victim, like Coltrane.  (This ties into my ABC’s of CanGit, which interprets Breau’s music through the lens of Atwood’s phases of a victim.)  His “way of praising,” with discordant jazz and psychedelic drugs, was linked to a death wish, which was fulfilled three years later much as he described it.  I wonder if Breau was haunted by the fall of Orfeo Negro.  His death wish demanded an executioner.  Stephen Anderson in 1983: “Many times he’d knock on my door at midnight and say ‘she’s going to kill me.'”  (Forbes-Roberts, 250)  She is Jewel, his second wife and a Sunday school teacher.  His death wish was founded on an unconscious desire to terminate his identification with, and love for, black music and musicians.  

A psychological effect of the seven note scale and its cadence is the consciousness of the moral value of tonal entities.  The blues chord of the fifth must sacrifice its independent will to reconcile with the tonic major chord as a prodigal son must sacrifice his will to reconcile with his father.  A psychological effect of the five note pentatonic scale played in chords of stacked fourths lacking a third is that it’s all good – there are no wrong notes.  The seven note scale in C consists of all the white keys on a piano, whereas the minor pentatonic scale in Eb and major pentatonic scale in F# consist of all the black keys on a piano.   Trumpeter John McNeil: “‘The pentatonic scale is harmonically ambiguous.  It doesn’t have the harmonic direction that we use in Western music.”  (Ratliff, 149)

Heiner Ruland deprecates the pentatonic scale when stating: “the developing life forces and the destructive death processes comprise the two sides of a polarity and so mutually intensify one another.  Just this sort of ‘polarity between life forces and death forces’ is to be found musically in the scale of seven tones with its two halftones.  If the part of the scale in which the death forces make themselves felt is omitted, namely the two halftones, the result is the scale which is the most natural expression of the primal human being, or of the young child not yet conscious of its own soul: a pentatonic scale containing no halftones” (Expanding Tonal Awareness, 145).  

Breau could not reconcile the Western tonal system with Coltrane’s modal system and Russell’s chromatic system, in which a chromatic scale is “the big parent scale.”  “The parent scale of a chord [Lydian] is the small parent scale within the big parent scale, the Lydian Chromatic Scale.” (10)  The “ultimate goal” is “a chromatic scale to have all the notes at our command.”  (22)  This goal involves chromatic enhancement of scalar melodies.  When improvising over a chord “you are free to do anything your taste may dictate, for you can resolve the most ‘far out’ melody since you always know where home is (the parent member scale within the parent Lydian Chromatic Scale).” (27)  Home is surely the chord, which dictates the melody.  Russell’s treatise is, in his own phrase, a rebellion against the chord, for the student is free to do anything his taste may dictate (note the contradiction with a previous assertion that “the melody is dictated by the chord.”) with all the notes at his command.

Rudhyar: “If by tonality, we mean loyalty to a tonic, or even preference to the tonic as the tonal center to which all others are related, the concept of atonality (the absence of tonality) can be very meaningful.  The basic issue is the quality of the relationship (or loyalty) to a tonic or any single tone…the rise of individualism in the Romantic era was bound to manifest in music as the gradual breakdown of tonality.  Liszt and Wagner became powerful agents in fostering such a process.  Chromaticism was used by these composers not in a decorative sense as in Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy; it rather was meant to convey to a stolid, materialistic, and egocentric bourgeoisie the usually tragic consequences of asocial love and of longing for an elusive transcendence of biocultural patterns.” (The Magic of Tone, Chapter 9)  Compare with Robert Schumann: “I have fancied, in certain Moments musicaux of Schubert’s, to perceive a suggestion of unpaid tailors’ bills, so much do these breathe the bad moods of a bourgeois.” (On Music and Musicians, 57) 

Schenker’s Ursatz

Heiner Ruland describes a sequence of chromatic tones as “a musical ‘wailing'” and “a soulful outburst” (145).  “Precisely the effect of falling out of a musical context is an aspect of the chromatic sequence that musicians have played upon ever since the Classical period.  If we listen to the chromatic run in Mozart’s Fantasty in D Minor (K 397), or to one of the many other similar passages in the Classical literature, we will notice how our inner musical sense temporarily abandons us during the course of rapid halftone steps, leaving us to slide through external musical space without any support or means of orientation.  At last, with the final tone of the chromatic run, we suddenly regain our ‘inner musical feet’ and again experience the music as having its source in inner experience.  At that moment the musical experience is all the more intense, like the feeling of a child once more in its mother’s arms after it has wandered from her and been lost for a while” (145).  

Schenker describes the diatonic scale-step as superior to its chromatic counterpart: “Chromatic change…strengthens the diatonic system by contrast….Even where chromatic changes are applied to it, the scale-step reveals itself as the spiritual and superior unit as we defined it in its diatonic form (78); i.e., the obligation to return to the diatonic system does not imply any restriction as far as the duration of the chromatic scale step is concerned.” (Harmony, 294)  Recall Schenker’s assertion: “every system is part of a higher system; the highest system of all is God himself, God the creator” (FC, xxiii).  

Tonal systems have corresponding metaphysical, psychological, aesthetic, and ethical systems.  The cadence from discord to concord manifests the death and resurrection of Christ, and the soul’s motion from darkness to light.  Allen Forte comments on Schenker’s Conception of Musical Structure: “The background…of all tonal works, whatever their length, is regarded as a temporal projection of the tonic triad.  The upper voice projects the triad in the form of a descending linear succession which…spans the lower triadic third…The triad is also projected by the bass, which…outlines the triadic fifth, the tonality-defining interval…The fundamental line and the bass arpeggiation coordinate, forming a contrapuntal structure, the Ursatz, or fundamental structure, which constitutes a complete projection of the tonic triad…the most direct form of the fundamental structure would be the three-interval succession in the outer voices: fundamental line, 3-2-1, bass arpeggiation, I-V-I” (12).  Shenker’s Ursatz follows a perfect cadence.

Schenker: “Included in the elevation of the spirit to the fundamental structure is an uplifting, of an almost religious character, to God” (Free, 160).  Schenker extends the binary motion of this spiritual elevation to a ternary form in the tonal analogy of “The natural drive to the fifth, the return from it into the primal womb of the point of origin” (141).  Schenker describes this archetypal musical structure of I-V-I as being constructed from “patterns that correspond with the motions of the human soul” (Masterwork, III, 4).  Such a ternary structure is characterisitic of Schenker’s account of the motions of the human soul departing from, and subsequently returning to, God: “Everything in the realm of creation is wondrous.  It emanates from God, the originator of all that is wondrous…The moment he emerges from the process of creation, the callow youth enters into a portentous relationship with his sacred origins.  His first attachment to God is like a cradle song throughout his earliest childhood, an echo of a sacred creation-music…If a man lose his faith amidst the trials of this life, happy he who finds it again at the end of his days, for it will be to him a cradle song in his second childhood.  To its sweet, old faithful strains, he belatedly expiates all the errors of his life’s path, looking back upon it in serenity as if for all its bitternesses it had been a sheer delight” (Masterwork, Vol. I, 116).  This last sentence is a paraphrase of Goethe: “The happiest man is he who is able to integrate the end of his life with its beginning.” (from Raising a Modern-Day Knight, 81) 

Schenker refers to the “‘will and necessity in the fundamental line'” which instances the “‘eternal shape of life'” (from Kassler, note 49, 258).  Somewhat pessimistically, Schenker states that man “‘lives his whole life in a state of tension.  Rarely does he experience fulfillment; art alone bestows on him fulfillment'” (Free, xxiv, from Kassler, note 28, 257). 

The ternary structure of Schenker’s “eternal shape of life” underlies guitarist Ed Bickert‘s discussion of harmony.  “Harmony: for the longest time I was always trying to get away from the basic stuff, to make the harmonies more interesting.  When you start out playing the guitar you start out with some very basic chord formations, and sooner or later you get tired of those things.  You want something with a little more interest, so you start trying to find different ways to put chords together.  And a lot of the ideas I got for chords – I shouldn’t say ideas, I was just listening to bands like Duke Ellington, and Gil Evans, and people like that who were making harmonies that were much richer.  And sometimes when you needed that whole area of things being kind of dissonant for a nice change of color in the harmonies I can go along with that up to a point, but some of it just gets to the point where it doesn’t sound like music anymore, but I can take it a fair way out.  Some of the interesting piano players around these days are breaking all kinds of rules about what constitutes harmony, and a lot of that stuff is great to my ears.  And yet, on the other hand, at some point not too long ago I started listening more to classical music and things like very basic stuff like Mozart, and there again the harmonies there were very basic, and I really started appreciating the beauty of a basic sound of an orchestra or an instrument – whatever.  And so that was nice to be able to experience that after hearing all this other stuff that was, some of it kind of questionable, merit-wise.  That’s nice to be able to do that too, and I’m still having those enjoyable times.”  Bickertian practice seems consistent with Schenkerian theory.

Nicholas Cook: “For Schenker ‘music remains…from the beginning to the end of time, the composing out of a triad’  (MM1 89).”  (Introduction; The Schenker Project, 7)  Narmour expresses “the analogical function of the Ursatz in the biological model…The Ursatz is to music what God is to nature…Schenker actually proclaims in the foreword to Der Freie Satz that because a work “confesses but one background cause, it is arranged monotheistically.” [18] (36)  Compare this with the double tonic complex of Breau and Coltrane.  Coltrane flirted with modalism and the Western ‘Christian’ tonal system before settling on a chromatic or pantonal system.  I see Breau as a disciple of Coltrane.  Both musicians wrestled with guilt for attempting to abandon the ‘Christian’ tonal system.  It’s interesting to see their tragic quests in context of Schopenhauer’s philosophy and Wagner’s opera.  I see Breau and Coltrane as tragic romantic heroes.  

Discordant Ditties

Breau couldn’t reconcile his second wife’s evangelical Christianity, his father’s musical conservatism and racial prejudice, and his love for modern jazz and for colored people.  The “one long tune” of Breau’s life ended with an unresolved polychord.  I like to think that I begin where Forbes-Roberts left off: “For the rest of his life, Lenny stubbornly challenged the commonly accepted strictures of the guitar in order to give full voice to the sounds roiling in his vast musical imagination.” (Forbes-Roberts, 2)  Forbes-Roberts’ end is my beginning.  It’s this “vast musical imagination” and “musical vision” that I am concerned to exegete.  Breau’s vision of the deity was miscedeistic; his musical conception of this mixed deity allowed for the flatted fifth, yet this inclusion wracked him with an Oedipal guilt complex.  I think that I can articulate Breau’s musical theory and spiritual vision and overcome its neurotic and tragic defects and problems.  

“Behold what you are, become what you receive.”  St. Augustine
“What they saw, / They felt themselves, now changing.”  John Milton
“You become what you behold.”  William Blake
“You are what you hear.”  Colin Godbout

Some pieces of music flaunting infernal flatted fifths –
Classical: Dante Sonata * Malediction * Undine * Der Freischütz * Tristan & Isolde * Gnossienne * Mars * Raga Marwa *
Folk: Indonesian Folk Music *
Blues: Majesty of the Blues * Devil1 & 2 * Prayer1 & 2 & 3 * Now’s * Boom * Fever * 7 * Midnight * Onions * Slinky * Outside *
Shepherd * Boogie Stop Shuffle * Reason * Blues Symphony * Sho Nuff Da Blues * Sack Full of Soul * Devil *
Jazz: Go Down Moses * Mooche * Swing * Futur Primitive * Bolero * Man With the Jive * Waiting for Benny * Ool-ya-koo *
Rebel Set Cannibals * Peter Gunn * Tampico Twist * Curried Soul * Vipers * Jive * Minnie * Dope Head * Sing *
Flatted Fifth * Musis Sacrum * Backlash * Straight Ice * Jelly Roll * Jes Swingin’ * Spirits * Spirits2 * Nuit * Ascenseur * Mr. Bean * Voodoo Suite * Vibrations * Haitian Fight Song * Afro-Eurasian Eclipse * 3 for the Festival * Sack Full of Soul *
Money Jungle * Koolbonga * All Africa * A Drum is a Woman & 2 * Fables * Moanin’ * Pork Pie Hat * Pedal Point * Dancer *
Ain’t Necessarily So * Take 5 * Unsquare * Larceny * Doodlin’ * Boplicity * Sid’s Ahead * Look Like God *
Raes * Liberia * Resolution * Ju-Ju * Nommo1 & 2 * Inner Urge * Shades of Blue * Nellie * Hit by a Brick *
Body & Soul * Miles * Ron BurgundyBilbao * Ossanha * Lamento * Bells *
Fusion: Pass * Dancing * Rockit * Tutu * Jojo * Splatch * Flute * Rouge * Deep * Thing * Operator * Hang * Taboo * Never *
Reggae: Zion Train * Rebel * Legalize * Macka Spliff * Darker1 & 2 * Dinner * Garvey * Jah * Satta1 & 2 * Strain * Power *
Film: Streetcar * Dragnet * Peter Gunn * Pink Panther * Batman * Man from Uncle * Streets of S.F. * Aging Children *
J.C. Overture * Phantom * Simpsons1 & 2 & 3 * Mission Impossible * Doom * Cape Town Affair * Get Smart * Apache * Never Let Go * Bad Lieutenant * Piracy It’s a Crime *
Rock: Magnet * Circumstances * Spotlight Kid * Click * Blue Jay Way * Bulldog * Purple Haze * Banner * Fire * D.O.A. *
Smoke * Aqualung * My God * Sunshine * Machine Gun * Oh Well * Hooray * Inagaddadavida * Devil * Hoochie Koo *
SpaceTruckin’ * Lazy * Superstition * Liberation * Pudding * Spider * Heartbreaker * Ragdoll * Weather * Bad * Michelle *
Immigrant * Dancing Days * Trouble Man * Move * Cities * Fast Lane * Frankenstein * Lady * Outshined * Sex Type *
Jungle * Old Man * Yyz * Lark’s Tongues * Schizoid * RnR Creation * Rich * Mission * Walk * Animal * Wake Up *
Rock Bottom * Teacher * Back in Black * Dream * Floods * Even Flow * Revolution * Girl * Animal * Rumour * Crash *
Like the Devil * Heart is Black * Hangover * Bachelor * Blackened Bones * Down to Georgia * Wonderwall *
Just For You *  Naked Eye *  Black Horse & Cherry Tree * Do You Feel Like We Do * 14th & Jefferson * Funknroll *
Sharp Dressed Man * The Carny * Station to Station *
Heavy Metal: Black Sabbath * Void * God is Dead * Lightning * Am I Evil * As I Am * Bell Tolls * Sanity * Sandman *
Raining Blood * People * Ace * Cowboys * Thunderstruck * Insane * 3rd Reich * Abyss * Vampire * Spell * Intervention *
Head * Grave * Evil Dick * Neighborhood * Born Dead * Bowels * Voodoo * Neighborhood * Dragula * Superbeast * Girl *
Hot Rod * Hero * 69 * Burning * Lies * Summer * Sad but True * South of Heaven * Still of the Night * Death Magnetic *
Diabolus in Musica * Death to All But Metal * King Antichrist * In the Sign of the Horns * On Deaf Ears * Fish Out of Water * Beautiful People * Evilution *
Hip Hop: Fear * Hype * Can’t Truss It * Be Black * Proud * Black Steel * I’m Bad * Allah * Miss Ghetto * Invasion *
Bitches * Problems * Shabazz * Equation * No Mystery * Culture * Swordsman * Devil * Walk * Hustler * Colors *
Bebop 2 Hip Hop1 & 2 * Black Enough *
Midnight * Cover * Danger * Back * Niggaz * Nigga * Wickedest * Roach * Rollers * Gangsta * Appetite * Woo Hah *
Let U Know * Wut * Boogie * Monster * Pump * Crime Story * Louie * Dumpin’ Em * Gravel Pit * Squeeze * Suicidal *

Spiritual songs making prominent use of flatted fifths can be categorized as sincere, purgatorial, satirical, or infernal.  Sincere spiritual songs include Canto de Ossanha, Macka Spliff (marijuana is a sacrament to Rastafarians), Satta Massagana (Third World’s version begins with a diminished arpeggio), and many of the non-gansta hip hop songs.  

Breau’s retention of flatted fifths in his Five O’Clock Bells contrasts with the purgatorial or cathartic function of Mingus’ Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting, as interpreted by Berendt: “Bassist and composer Charles Mingus emphasized that his jazz would be inconceivable without his experience of the spirituals and gospel music that he regularly heard in Pentecostal churches.  His recording ‘Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting,’ with Pepper Adams (baritone saxophone), Booker Ervin (tenor saxophone), and Jimmy Knepper (trombone), is a moving portrait of the experience of a gospel service: the calls of the faithful to the Creator, the trances that overcome them, the driving out of evil spirits by the preacher, the speaking in tongues, the collective religious ecstasy experienced by the congregation.” (220)  Kofsky notes that the title of Art Blakey’s Moanin’ refers to “the prayer of a black worshipper.” (John Coltrane, 74)

Coltrane’s Resolution may have served a similar cathartic function, as a musical exorcism of unresolved conflicts, recalling Amiri Baraka’s paradoxical phrase: “the imperfect beautiful resolution.”  (Hegel)  Paul Gilroy states that Baraka’s poem, Hegel, “captures” the “difficult and deeply ambivalent relationship” between black intellectuals, including Martin Luther King Jr., and Hegel.  (The Black Atlantic, 54)  Analogously, Coltrane’s Resolution, indeed all of A Love Supreme, expresses his ambivalence towards Western tonality and metaphysics.  Norman C. Weinstein, in A Night in Tunisia: Imaginings of Africa in Jazz, describes [Archie] Shepp’s tone in Ju-Ju Magic as “full of short jabbing phrases in the mid-to-upper registers, a volcanic mix of later Coltrane and early Rollins, intensely wrathful.  The listener is left with the impression of an exorcism in process.  Shepp blasts away any and all resistance in this racist society which would prevent him from connecting to the vital force, African roots, and from attaining full liberation as an African American.  The work’s thickly layered rhythms represent, like ju-ju, a magical accumulation of spiritual power to help propel souls toward liberation.” (136)

Satirical spiritual songs include My God, Fables of Faubus, and Mitchell’s version of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, which ends with a parodic beatific vision.  Go Down Moses may be satirical, depending on one’s interpretation of Armstrong’s vocal delivery.  Infernal songs include most of the classical pieces, Devil’s Blues, the Overture to Jesus Christ Superstar, and most of the heavy metal songs; the Phantom of the Opera may belong in this category as well.  The lyrics of Devil’s Blues constitute a morality tale carrying a “warning to other men.”  In the final line the singer declares: “The wind, the devil, the drifter, and me, we’ll ride together through all eternity.”

It may be significant that all of the sincere songs above are by black musicians (Breau’s Five O’Clock Bells may be an exception, but he is identifying himself with black musicians in this song, his version of Black Orpheus, according to my interpretation).  The significance of this musical and racial difference may be that some black and white musicians have different aesthetics, a difference possibly related to the black Muslim metaphysical phrase, ‘a white man’s heaven is a black man’s hell,’ and to views of sexuality and divinity explored in the section titled The Divine Image, below.  Surely this phrase bears no relation to what Stanley Crouch refers to as “the black dictum: ‘A colored man with a white woman is a Negro who has died and gone to heaven.’” (Notes of a Hanging Judge, 142)  A purpose of my research is to expose and transcend racism by committing to the struggle described by Black Panther Party co-founder Newton: “We struggle for a future in which we will realize that we are all Homo sapiens and have more in common than not.” (Reader, 191)  Music can bring people together, but it should be recognized that not all musicians share the same aesthetics.  

Joni’s Sympathy for the Flatted Fifth

At 1:40 of Joni Mitchell’s song, God Must Be a Boogie Man, she sings the notes of a major triad over the words boogey (black) man (major third, fundamental, perfect fifth).  Larry Kart  [Chicago Tribune]  August 26, 1979: “The lyrics, adapted from the first few pages of Mingus’ autobiography, “Beneath the Underdog,” speak of his contradictory, multilevel personality – one self in the middle, “unmoved” and “waiting”; another self “attacking” and “so afraid”; and a third self “that keeps trying to love and trust.”  Not only does Mitchell’s condensed version of Mingus’ self-portrait have considerable poetic impact, but the simultaneously sad and joyful melody she supplies for the words is worthy of the man whose soul she is portraying.”

Mingus begins his autobiography by describing himself to his psychologist.  “I AM THREE.  One man stands forever in the middle, unconcerned, unmoved, watching, waiting to be allowed to express what he sees to the other two.  The second man is like a frightened animal that attacks for fear of being attacked.  Then there’s an over-loving gentle person who lets people into his uttermost sacred temple of his being and he’ll take insults and be trusting and sign contracts without reading them and get talked down to working cheap or for nothing, and when he realizes what’s been done to him he feels like killing himself for being so stupid.  But he can’t – he goes back inside himself.”

“Which one is real?”  “They’re all real.”  “The man who watches and waits, the man who attacks because he’s afraid, and the man who wants to trust and love but retreats each time he finds himself betrayed.  Mingus One, Two and Three.  Which is the image you want the world to see?”  “What do I care what the world sees, I’m only trying to find out how I should feel about myself….Man, you’re crazy!  I’m gonna save you.”  “You’re not trained to save.  I am.”  “I can save you.  Do you believe in God?”  “Yes.”  “As a boogie man?”  (Beneath the Underdog, 3, 5)

At the end of his autobiography Mingus describes himself in the third person.  “He was born believing but as he grew, everything around him, beginning with his parents and sisters and teachers, everybody seemed to say that what he believed wasn’t so.  Sure, they said they believed and they prayed and cried to God and Jesus Christ Almighty but that was a few moments out of a couple of hours in church each week.  So somehow he became two personalities, one as sincere as the other, and then three, because he could stand off and watch the other two.  The reason was that he suspected maybe the people who didn’t believe might be right, that there was nothing to believe in.  But if he accepted this and put down the beautiful honest good things he’d lose out on all he could have gained if he’d never lost his belief in believing….He had to hold on to both believing in disbelief and believing in belief.  The real search began with the kid being aware of his two complete selves, as different as man is to woman, that belong together but don’t look alike, perfect opposites that can form a new perfection with each other….Exact perfection or exact imperfection are both perfection when they stand to be judged alone, separate from each other.  Destruction begins with the very idea of contest….Contest and competition between the animal-devil I and the God-good I makes it like one exists at the expense of the other.”  (Beneath the Underdog, 356-7)  

The paradox that Mingus employs flatted fifths in a musical prayer, Wednesday Prayer Meeting, and in an assocation with the devil, in Devil’s Blues, may be understood by seeing these songs as expressions of his divided consciousness.  In the Prayer Meeting Mingus is seeking integration with “the God-good I,” and in Devil’s Blues he is identifiying with “the animal-devil I.” 

Mingus’ divided self recalls the last verse of Twisted, which Mitchell covered on her 1974 album Court and Spark: “My analyst told me that I was right out of my head, but I said, ‘Dear doctor, I think that it’s you instead, because I have got a thing that’s unique and new.  To prove it I’ll have the last laugh on you.  ‘Cause instead of one head I got two, and you know two heads are better than one.'”  Is it the voice of her analyst that we hear in the final verse of her 1975 song Shadows and Light?  “Critics of all expression, judges in black and white, saying it’s wrong, saying it’s right.  Compelled by prescribed standards or some ideals we fight for wrong, wrong and right.  Threatened by all things, man of cruelty – mark of Cain.  Drawn to all things, man of delight – born again.”  

Art Nouveau

About Woodstock in 1969: “We are golden and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”  On a heijira in 1976: “I’m like a black crow flying in a blue blue sky.”  As Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter in 1976: “The eagle and the serpent are at war in me: the serpent fighting for blind desire, the eagle for clarity.”  This album cover is a photomontage and includes three photographs of Mitchell.  In the foreground she is in blackface as her “reputed alter ego, a black hipster named Art Nouveau.”  Sheila Weller: “This was her new alter ego, a character she would imminently name ‘Art Nouveau,’ her ‘inner black person,’ as her friend and archivist Joel Bernstein wryly puts it.” (Girls Like Us, 424) 

Miles Parks Grier: “Art Nouveau was born when Joni Mitchell assumed the spirit of a black pimp who passed her on an LA street and intoned a compliment edging into a come-on. Recalling autumn of 1976, she told Angela LaGreca: ‘I was walking down Hollywood Boulevard, in search of a costume for a Halloween party, when I saw this black guy with a beautiful spirit walking with a bop,’ she told Angela LaGreca of Rock Photo in 1985.  ‘As he went by me he turned around and said, “Ummmm, mmm. . . looking good, sister, lookin’ good!”  Well I just felt so good after he said that.  It was as if this spirit went into me.  So I started walking like him,’ she said.  ‘I bought a black wig.  I bought sideburns, a moustache.  I bought some pancake makeup.  It was like ‘I’m goin’ as him!’  A self-authorized sexual predator, beholden to no sexual double standard, strolling the street with a bopping walk that could not but call to mind the jazz genre, Art Nouveau would seem the perfect vehicle to flee from the vulnerability and devaluation that marked the white female folksinger.”  Paul Carter Harrison: “Boppin’ is the image designated by young blacks which is designed to neutralize all forces on the block; it’s about power.  Even the slick, slipping-and-sliding attitude of the pimp walk allows a youngblood enough force to deal more effectively or smoothly with a mode of oppression, and/or the oppressor hissef’!  One’s gait gives notice of one’s intentions to harmonize whatever is necessary for one’s survival.” (The Drama of Nommo, 73)  

“Joni Mitchell’s own strongest creative impulses come to her in a somewhat unusual way.  She deeply believes in a male muse named Art who lends her his key to what she airily calls the ‘Shrine of Creativity.'” (Hit Parader, 1985.).  “I feel like I’m married to this guy named Art, I’m responsible to my Art above all else.” (Time magazine, (December, 16, 1974, p.63)  In 1974 Mitchell told the press of a male spirit who helps her write music.  “Joni Mitchell credits her creative powers to a ‘male muse’ she identifies as Art.  He has taken so much control of not only her music, but her life, that she feels married to him, and often roams naked with him on her 40-acre estate.  His hold over her is so strong that she will excuse herself from parties and forsake lovers whenever he ‘calls’” (Why Knock Rock? p. 112, citing Time magazine, Dec. 16, 1974, p. 39).

Percussionist Don Alias: “One afternoon, Mingus told us the story about Lester Young’s parents, who were hoofers, as well a biracial couple.  When they used to travel around the Chitlin’ Circuit down South they were confronted by a great deal of racism. That night, Joni and I decided to hit the town.  We took the train and got off around 50th Street on the West Side.  A few blocks from the subway we saw an awning jutting over a bar that said “The Pork Pie Hat Bar.”  I looked at Joni and she looked at me.  It was like magic.

We went into “The Pork Pie Hat Bar,” the kind of place with a whole bunch of guys flamboyantly dressed like pimps playing backgammon.  At the bar we ordered a drink just trying to soak it all in.  Someone had selected a tune by Miles [Davis] on the jukebox.  I think it was “In Your Own Sweet Way,” and a guy started tap dancing in front of the jukebox.  We stood there for a while and I could just see those wheels churning in Joni’s eyes.  The tap dancer reminded her of the Chitlin’ Circuit story Charlie Mingus had just told us about.

When we decided to split, there was a crowd that had gathered outside.  In the middle were two little Black boys on the sidewalk; damn cute, and guess what they were doing?  They were tap dancing and people were throwing money to them.”

Sheila Weller: “It was during the making of this album [Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter] that Joni met Don Alias, the jazz musician with whom she would have a serious three-year-and-a-half relationship.” (Girls Like Us, 425)  “Approaching Joni’s lily-white social world, Don took a deep, wary breath.  ‘It was a big, powerhouse scene of Jack Nicholson, of Crosby, Stills and Nash, of Linda Ronstadt – and here I am, the black guy coming into this thing.’  Even though her character Art Nouveau had nothing to do with Don, he was certain that ‘a great deal of those people thought that Art Nouveau had been based on me, that I was a pimp, and that I was using Joni – the black cat capitalizing on the white woman with the money.’” (428) 

“Joni painted a portrait of Don.  But this was a different kind of portrait: ‘It was me, with my bathrobe open with – bang!  Like this – a hard-on sticking out.  I said, ‘Joni, what are you doing?”’ when she hung it ‘smack-dab in the middle of the living room’ of the loft they would soon share in New York.  Don was embarrassed.  ‘My friends would come over and they’d go, huh?  Joni said, “What’s wrong with it?”’  He said she said it was a ‘testament to his sexuality,’ to which he replied, ‘It’s not a testament to anything – it’s annoying; it’s an embarrassment!’  Don wanted her to repaint it with the bathrobe closed, ‘and she fought me on it, all the way.’  Finally, they compromised: She repainted part of the painting, making the penis tumescent, not erect.”  (430)  Mitchell’s original portrait seems to perpetuate what Frantz Fanon calls a European “imago of the black man [146]….He has been turned into a penis.  He is a penis.” (Black Skin, White Masks, 146-47)  This European imago parallels American writer Calvin Hernton’s assertion “that whites conceive of the Negro male predominantly in genital terms – that is, as a ‘bull’ or as some kind of ‘walking phallus….White America perceives – or conceives of – the American black man as a ‘clothed African savage.’  White people – men as well as women – want to see the Negro’s penis.  They want to see this ‘clothed savage’ naked.'” (Sex and Racism in America, 39, 40)

“Joni was in Canada writing the title song for a movie, Love by Swedish actress-director Mai Zetterling, in which nine stories written by women were being filmed, anthology style.  There was tension on the set, and Joni was having trouble sitting in her hotel room with the Gideon Bible, struggling to transform I Corinthians 13 into a love anthem.  Anxious, she called Don in New York ‘and she said, “Come up!  Come up!”’ he recalled.  ‘So I went up to Toronto and immediately got swallowed up in the Mr. Joni Mitchell syndrome.  At four, five in the morning, she’s asking me, ‘What do you think of this?  What do you think?”  I’m like, “Jesus Christ, give me a break!”’  Don decided to return to New York.  ‘She says, “Why are you going back?” and I said, “’Cause I want to rehearse my band,” but I wanted to say: “Because you’re fucking killing me.  Gimme some air!”’  Don’s departure really upset her, he says….Not long after that, as Don recalled it, Joni gave him twenty-four hours to get all his belongings out of their New York loft, which he considered his home.  ‘It was like a guy breaking up,’ he marveled, of her attitude.  ‘It really hurt the hell out of me!’” (435) 

joni mitchell joni mitchell- shadows and light donalias jonindigo

“Clever editing of the 1980 concert film Shadows and Light puts Art in Mitchell’s place to close the last verse of “Furry Sings the Blues”—an ironic choice as the lyric portrays the singer as a contemporary white star on a pilgrimage several decades too late to witness black Memphis’s giving birth to the blues.  Art’s final appearance in 1982 was in a short film called “The Black Cat in the Black Mouse Socks” in which Mitchell’s character, Paula, attends a costume party in the guise of a black man and meets a former lover there.  In “Black Cat,” Art supplemented his makeup and pimp suit with a final accessory: a portable cassette player pumping out selections of Miles Davis’s music.  “Black Cat” was Mitchell’s contribution to Love, an unreleased Canadian anthology of female-authored films—and Art Nouveau’s unheralded exit from public view.  Although Mitchell has not appeared as Art since 1982, the Canadian transplant to Los Angeles has shrewdly ventriloquized two positions marked black and male: those of the jazz musician and the street-smart pimp.”

Love in 1982: “Where as a child I saw it face to face now I only know it in part: fractions in me of faith and hope and love.”  James 4:8; 1:8: “He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”  “Come near to God and he will come near to you…purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  1 Cor. 11:3: “The head of every man is Christ…and the head of Christ is God.”  In Areopagitica Milton contrasts “the best harmony” with “the forced and outward union of cold, and neutral, and inwardly divided minds.”

Mingus may have represented his tripartite personality harmonically in his composition Self-Portrait in Three Colours, which has three major key centers: Gb, E, and Eb.  It would be inaccurate to represent Mingus’ divided self with the stability of a major chord.  The discord of Mingus’ triune personality is portrayed in the first verse of Mitchell’s lyric.  “He is three.  One’s in the middle unmoved, waiting to show what he sees to the other two.  To the one attacking so afraid, and the one that keeps trying to love and trust and getting himself betrayed in the plan, the divine plan; God must be a boogie man!” 

Mitchell’s association of the major chord with Mingus may be ironic, for Afro-American jazz theorist George Russell lists Mingus as one of the “people who in various ways were leading an assault on the chord.”  One of the ways Mingus assaults the chord of nature is to replace the major third with a minor third and the perfect fifth with a flatted fifth in several of his melodies; some examples are Solo DancerFables of FaubusMoanin’Devil’s BluesPrayer Meeting, and Pork Pie Hat .  Mitchell’s representation of the major triad in God Must Be a Boogey Man contrasts with her representation of the only four flatted fifths relative to the fundamental in her lyrical setting of Mingus’ Goodbye Pork Pie Hat1 & 2.  The phrases “swinging music man,” (:40; :55) and “refusing a [black man admission,] black musician” (1:05; 1:10), from the first verse of Mitchell’s lyric, are sung over a diminished melody (the fundamental note with its flatted fifth and minor third).

Mitchell’s dissonant musical representation of saxophonist Lester Young, a “black musician,” strikes me as a form of negative racial stereotypying in music.  Mitchell sets the fourth and final melodic fragment featuring the flatted fifth, with the minor third and the fundamental, to the phrase “underdog position” (1:14; 1:25).  In the second and third verses of the song Mitchell seems to depart from the melody; however she returns to the melody in the fourth and final verse, in which the first riff with the flatted fifth coincides with the phrase, “Lester’s saxophone,” (4:34) and the second and third diminished riffs are set to “music to [two little dancers] dancing outside the black bar” (4:50).  These dancers symbolize to Mitchell the generational continuity of Young’s music.

Lester Young “developed a reputation for his unique choice of apparel, and for his personal slang.  His signature clothing style famously included a crushed pork pie hat.  Much of the slang that remains in jazz to this day is attributed to Young, including the phrases ‘that’s cool,’ and ‘you dig?’ and calling money ‘bread.’  In his younger years, he was known for cocking his head and playing his saxophone out to the side.  Some scorned this behavior, but Young’s eccentricity earned him recognition as the original hipster.”  Daniel Belgrad: “In the 1930s, When Lester Young began to experiment with new tone qualities in his saxophone playing, a fellow member of Count Basie’s swing band taunted him.  Young retorted by tapping his forehead, saying: ‘There are things going on up there, man – some of you guys are all belly.’” (The Culture of Spontaneity, 179)

Given Mitchell’s heroic representation of the flatted fifth in this song, one might be tempted to say that it expresses her sympathy for the devil’s interval.  However, her confession, “I wasn’t a huge fan of Mingus,” coupled with the opening line, “When Charlie speaks of Lester you know someone great has gone,” suggest that she distances herself from the values in her lyric.  It is Mingus, not Mitchell, who regards Young as great.  Her heroes are Beethoven, Van Gogh, and Picasso; she associates Beethoven with parallel fifths in Ludwig’s Tune and Van Gogh with blues in Turbulent Indigo.  In contrast, Breau tragically identified himself with the flatted fifth, a naive and demeaning leitmotif expressing his love for Afro-American music and musicians. 

Larry Kart  [Chicago Tribune]  August 26, 1979: “‘Porkpie Hat,’ Mingus’ tribute to the late tenor saxophone giant Lester Young, fails here because Mitchell’s well-intentioned lyrics define Young as a victim of racial injustice.  He was to some extent, but Young also was far more than that.  To speak of him solely in terms of his “underdog position” is to rob him of his individuality and make him a symbol in a game of liberal guilt.”  

Ariel Swartley  [Rolling Stone] September 6, 1979: “Requiems are supposed to close with affirmations and visions of the afterlife.  MINGUS does.  At the end of “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” (the last song), Mitchell, like some Manhattan Dante, is led up from the subways through clouds of steam to the bright but not-exactly-celestial city.  She finds it so saturated with the music of generations of jazzmen that even the taxis blow in tune.  As she says at the album’s beginning, “God must be a boogie man.”  Of course, whenever she sings that line, the kind of raucous chorus Mingus himself used sings it back, roughing up her own cool, swooping melody, poking at her crystal-blue theology.”

Sandy Robertson  [Sounds] June 30, 1979: “The liner notes reveal how much Joni held Mingus to be some kind of mystical, black saint-figure; the typical dizzy white people’s view of black people, the stupid idea that they’re privy to some inner secrets that us poor honkies will never understand.”

Mingus composed Goodbye Pork Pie Hat as an elegy to Lester Young.  However, Mitchell’s reference to “black musician,” in her lyrical setting of this song, seems a general reference to male black musicians in the early twentieth century: “In those days they put him in an underdog position – cellars and chittlins.”  I seek to expose and transcend this sort of negative musical stereotyping for I believe that all people are made in the divine image, which is manifest in music unfolding from, and resolving to, a major chord.  Marcus Garvey referred to “the doctrine of imago dei: all men, regardless of color, are created in the image of God.” (Speech, :36)

The Divine Image

Felix-Eberhard von Cube states that “consciousness of the [major] chord of nature is a distinguishing feature of the people of the West.”  If Von-Cube is correct, then Western people have an obligation to share this consciousness with the rest of humanity, particularly with Afro-Americans, whose association with the flatted fifth by artists such as Davis, Greenwich, Mitchell, and Breau ought be transformed to an association with the concord of nature’s perfect chord.  This tonal transformation is a birthright of all homo sapiens, or wise humans, and is part of my quest as a global guitarist.   Monson notes that for Cornell “West the idea of imago dei – that humans are made in God’s image – contains a radical egalitarianism that is of particular urgency people who are denied humane treatment due to various structures of oppression, including race and class.” (Prophetic Reflections, 10, 224; from Freedom Sounds, 305)

Berendt notes: “In spirituals, Jesus, Mary, and all the Christian saints become, in a sense, members of the slave community.  They become comrades in suffering: Sister Mary, Brother Jesus, Brother Paul.  By singing joyfully about them, the people taken from Africa also celebrate the spirits of their forefathers, their ancestors.  In the spirituals, Moses is not only a biblical figure, but also an ancestor watching over the fate of the slaves and pointing the way to freedom.  This invocation of the spirits remains part of African American music today.”  (217)  Thus Monson observes: “The linking of spiritual stance with the politics of racial liberation and identity, of course, has a long tradition in African American thought.  Spirituals such as ‘Go Down Moses’ bear witness to the capacity of enslaved African Americans to shape Christian symbols to their own liberatory aims.  Marcus Garvey stressed that followers of the UNIA (United Negro Improvement Association) should no longer worship a white God (Cronon 1968).  Garvey was closely associated with the founder of the African Orthodox Church, George Alexander McGuire, who advocated the formation of a new Negro religion that would worship a black God while retaining the fundamental principles of Christianity (178-179).” (Art Blakey’s African Diaspora, in The African Diaspora, 334)

John Callahan understands that for Afro-Americans “the Negro is ‘mose’ – old Moses who ever seeks the promised land through the fluid, abiding covenant of American democracy.  Mose is also an ironic, inside name for the sly and cunning Negro trickster whose subservience is a mask behind which he slips the racial yoke and turns the joke on the white folks.” (Introduction, Trading Twelves, xii)  According to Ralph Ellison jazz “originally was mose signifying at other moses.  Naturally, like any real work of art jazz made a helluvalota white folks want to be mose, simply because jazz is art and art is the essence of the human.  Besides only dog-ass folks run away from that essence, so the hell with ‘em.” (65)  Ellison: “Mose can’t rise vertically so he’s restless…there is a metaphysical restless[ness] built into the American and mose is just another form of it, expressed basically, with a near tragic debunking of the self which is our own particular American style….The world’s getting bluesier all the time.” (166)

Penny M. von Eschen: “In 1955 Felix Belair, Stockholm correspondent for the New York Times proclaimed that ‘America’s secret weapon is a blue note in a minor key’ and named Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong as ‘its most effective ambassador.’” (The Real Ambassadors, in Uptown Conversation, 189)  From the song Remember Who You Are (and What You Represent) in the musical The Real Ambassadors: “Jelly Roll and Basie helped us to invent a weapon that no other nation has, especially the Russians can’t claim jazz.”  Von Eschen comments on the song They Say I Look Like God, from the same musical.  “The Brubecks had written the lines [of the first verse] for a laugh, ‘to show how ridiculous it was’ but, Brubeck continued: ‘Louis had tears in his eyes….at the recording session he cried.  You can hear it at the end when he says “Really free” for the last time; he broke down a little.’” (198) 

“They Say I Look Like God / Could God be black?  My God! / If both/all are made in the image of Thee, / Could Thou perchance a zebra be? / Can it be?  No not He….And if He cared if you’re black or white / He’d mix one color, one just right. / Black or white…. /  One just right.”  In the first line of the first verse “I” is set over the fifth and “God” over the first.  In the second line “God” is set over the first and “black” over the fifth.  In the third line of the second verse “He” is set over the first, “black” over the flatted fifth and fourth, and “white” over the first.  In the fourth line of the second verse “right” is set over the first.  In the fifth line “black” is set over the major seventh/fifth and “white” over the first.  In the sixth line “right” is set over the first.  In the fourth and fifth lines of the third and fifth verses “free” is set over the first.  “God,” “white,” “right,” and “free” are associated by being set over the first, or keynote.

Wikipedia: “Despite Iola Brubeck’s intention for some of her lyrics to be light and humorous in presentation [believing that some of the messages would be better accepted, if presented in a satirical manner], Armstrong saw this performance as an opportunity for him to address many of the racial issues that he had struggled with for his entire career, and he made a request to sing the song straight.  In one 2009 interview with Dave Brubeck, he remarked on Armstrong’s seriousness: “Now, we wanted the audience to chuckle about the ridiculous segregation, but Louis was cryin’… and every time we wanted Louis to loosen up, he’d sing ‘I’m really free.  Thank God Almighty, I’m really free [And it was just too emotional.]’.”  After years of demeaning roles in his public performances, the collaboration in The Real Ambassadors offered Armstrong material that was closer to his own sensibility and outlook. 

The recording with the Iola Brubeck lyrics being presented dead seriously, with the Brubeck jazz-blues melody sung by Armstrong against the gorgeous background vocal parts Dave Brubeck had written for Lambert, Hendricks and Ross to sing, combined with Brubeck’s subtle piano ‘comping, was done in one take, and reportedly everyone there in the recording studio in 1961 was then crying their eyes out.  Later, at the live performance of ‘The Real Ambassadors’ with Armstrong at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1962, Lambert, Hendricks and Bavan put on sackcloths and hoods over their heads (they then lifted the hoods up to sing their parts) just before “They Say I Look Like God” started.”  Steele associates “a diminished humanity” with “a humiliated humanity in which will could only be exercised through a subterfuge or from behind a mask.  The Louis Armstrong smile was such a subterfuge, the cover of a driven man.” (Dream, 90)

Von Eschen: “In the utopian finale of The Real Ambassadors, ‘Swing Bells/Blow Satchmo’ – rich with the Old Testament biblical imagery of black Christianity – the hero’s horn (‘Joshua had just a horn’) had blown in a new world: [199] Ring out the news!  The world can laugh again. / This day, we’re free! We’re equal in every way… / Lift up thy voice like a trumpet / and show thy people their transgressions and their sins… / Let the[e] oppressed go free… / Blow Satchmo!  Blow Satchmo, / can it really be, that you set all people free?” (199-200)  Von Eschen: “in [the] The Real Ambassadors, the jazz ambassador, epitomized by Louis Armstrong, conveyed through his horn and voice hopes and aspirations of freedom in a world where he, like so many of the audiences for whom he played, was still waiting for the day when he was ‘really free.’” (200)  Hishaam Aidi’s article, Race, Rap and Raison d’Etat, cites von Eschen and describes the continuation of American musical diplomacy with hip hop.

Louis Armstrong’s pianist plays a flatted fifth in a diminished riff repeatedly in Go Down Moses, making the music a parody of the lyrics.  Recalling producer Bob Ezrin’s assertion that “there is something very sexual about the tritone,” Armstrong’s version, as it is filled with tritones from his pianist, could be regarded as a forerunner of the musical Let My People Come.  Compare with Patrick Arnold’s musical sense of the Exodus: “Israel’s plea for freedom seems to strike a harmonious chord with nature herself; heaven and earth join Moses’ demand: ‘Let my people go!’  His magic staff conducting nature’s orchestra, Moses calls forth ten plagues against Pharaoh.” (Wildmen, 108)  Arnold: “Dr. King fought his battles for one reason, and one reason only: to ‘let my people go.’….Like Moses on Mt. Nebo (Deut 34), he could promise his followers, ‘I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we as a people shall get to the Promised Land.’” (111)  Similarly, King had a dream “to transform the jangling discords of (society) into a beautiful symphony.”  However Nisenson believes that “the pluralistic vision inherent in jazz” is “not very different from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘dream.’” (Blue, 43)

Louis Farrakhan interprets the spiritual Go Down Moses as a legitimate allegory of contemporary blacks in white America from 1:15:30-1:17:00 of his speech, The Dumbing Down of The American People.  From 1:22:58-1:23:47 Farrakhan represents the American ‘pharaoh’ as saying, “We’re gonna dumb them down real good.  And then we’re going to make them so sexually depraved that we’ll use their natural inclination to sex to be a means of killing them….We’ll allow the degenerate language and filth to be put on the radio.”  Farrakhan believes that this supposed plot will bring divine judgement on white America in the form of “a wheel over your heads….you call it UFO’s, but they’re not unidentified, they’re identified, and they’re here for the destruction of the United States of America [standing ovation].” (1:34:20-1:35:02)

Farrakhan’s language of killing, condemnation, accusation, and destruction has no place in my musical and spiritual vision; my preferred metaphors are attunement, modulation, reharmonization, transformation, and reconciliation.  Farrakhan was the keynote speaker at the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., where he declared that the world’s “number one problem…is white supremacy.”  The organizers “sought to use the event as a publicity campaign aimed at combating what they perceived as the negative racial stereotypes in the American media and in popular culture.”  Oscar Peterson offers a positive musical stereotype when ending his ode to the civil rights movement, Hymn to Freedom (which he dedicated to his father, a train porter), with a major chord.  However, the profusion of flatted fifths in Ulf Wakenius’ guitar solo, at 3:44 (particularly at 4:14) recalls St. Paul’s advice: “do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence.”  (Gal. 5:13)

As the diminished chord diminishes the perfect form of the major chord, so the divine image in humanity is diminished when one abuses spiritual gifts.  Breau’s mother: “He would always say that God had given him a gift, and I used to tell him, ‘if you abuse that gift you might lose it.'”  Afro-American spiritual leader Louis Farrakhan, also a musician, spoke of human diminishment in the context of race to Afro-Americans (The Dumbing Down of the American People, 40:10-33): “Human beings with great gifts and skills diminished.  You feed white racism.  You make white people continue in the sickness of white supremacy by your silly actions.”  

A similar statement by Farrakhan is cited by Entman and Rojecki: “‘Look beloved, you contribute to the White man’s racism.  You contribute to their calling you nigger and thinking you’re an inferior person, because you don’t do anything in the way of producing.'” (The Black Image in the White Mind, 132)  Farrakhan’s criticism echoes that of a Chancellor of the Old South: “‘A free African population is a curse to any country….Negroes, in a state of freedom, and in the midst of a civilized community, become pilferers and marauders, consumers without being producers…governed mainly by the instincts of animal nature.  – Chancellor, South Carolina Courts of Appeals, in Cattarall (ed.) Judicial Cases, II, 1857.’” (from Signifying Rappers, 81)

Morris Berman confirms Farrakhan’s view, stated above: “Americans still live in a world in which Anglos are on top, Europeans follow, and the Third (read: non-white) World sits at the bottom.  ‘Black Africa,’ writes Hunt, ‘occupied the lowest rung, just as black ghettos represented the lower reaches of American society.’” (Dark Ages America, 109; Michael Hunt, Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy)  Berman cites Shelby Steele’s observation “in The Content of Our Character, ‘the majority of blacks – those not yet in the middle class – are further behind whites today than before the victories of the civil rights movement.’  ‘The black underclass,’ he adds, ‘continues to expand rather than shrink.'” (from The Twilight of American Culture, 68)  In 1969 Kofsky stated “that the Negro’s relative economic position has not improved in the last decade or so, but has worsened: the shibboleth of ‘Negro progress,’ as C.E. Wilson has astutely pointed out, is a myth and nothing more.  The cold, hard economic facts of life all contradict the comforting illusion that things are getting better miraculously of themselves without human intervention ever being required.” (Black Nationalism, 128)  

In 1965 Calvin Hernton wrote “that the position of Negro men more or less approximates the status of white women.  At the bottom are Negro women; they have less status than any other race-and-sex group in America.” (Sex and Racism in America, 33)  Hernton: “Going up the color ladder in America is one way of acquiring status.  Within the Negro community, value is distributed on the basis of shades of pigment.  A man who marries a light-skinned Negro woman has ‘achieved’ more prestige through his marriage than one who marries a darker woman.  Similarly, for many black men the white woman is the zenith of status symbols.” (79) 

Paul Gilroy: “Ras Makonnen (George Griffith) has suggested that a form of proto-feminism was to be found at the roots of women’s support for the work of black political activists working in London. ‘We recognized that the dedication of some of the girls to our cause was an expression of equal rights for women.  One way of rejecting the oppression of men was to associate with blacks.’” (There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack, 163)  However, Warren Farrell observes “that white women live the longest, black women second, white men third, black men fourth.  In the industrialized world, men are the new ‘niggers’; black men are ‘niggers’ niggers.’  This result helps us see a different relationship between the civil rights movement and the women’s movement….

The False Parallel Between the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Movement

One of the underlying mistakes of the past quarter century was taking the gains of the civil rights movement and passing them on to women as if women had served as men’s slaves and were now entitled to those rights just as blacks had served as whites’ slaves and were now entitled to those rights.” (The Myth of Male Power, 357)  John Gordon refers to this “mistake” as “what the [feminist] movement’s theoreticians call the ‘black analogy.’  The formula was, I believe, first popularized by Gloria Steinem – that man to woman equals massa to slave; that the suffragettes equal the abolitionists.” (The Myth of the Monstrous Male, 226)  

Gordon counsels: “Forget all that wom-[230]an-is-the-nigger-of-the-world talk.  Because it isn’t true: You know it, I know it, and even most feminists know it; they just keep using it because it works, and because not enough people have blown the whistle yet.” (230-31)  D’Souza blows the whistle: “Feminists…associate themselves with the black cause by insisting that marriage has always been a form of ‘domestic slavery.’…Thus while women comprise between 40 and 60 percent of most university populations, they are routinely classified as vulnerable ‘minorities.’…Even the most sympathetic [“white students”] find it hard to believe that the female condition has historically been the moral equivalent of Negro slavery.” (Illiberal, 236)  Wikipedia on John Lennon’s song, Woman is the Nigger of the World: “Due to its use of an offensive racial epithet and what was perceived as an inappropriate comparison of women’s rights to the oppression of African-Americans, most radio stations in the US declined to play the record.”  

Faye Harrison mentions “the liminal location the Japanese occupy in the global racial hierarchy, sandwiched between the ‘civilized white’ and the ‘barbarous black.’  John Russell argues that, by denigrating blackness in their mass culture, the Japanese align themselves with whiteness and all that it symbolizes in terms of wealth, power, cultural capital, and racial supremacy.  As evidenced by the staggering increase in Caucasian-Asian interracial marriages in the United States, this alignment is increasingly acknowledged by Caucasian[s] and Asians who imagine a somatic norm based on a mixture of Asian and European features.  One could argue, however, that the Japanese do not simply consent to white hegemony in their appropriations of symbols of whiteness but also contest and undermine its normativity by co-positioning themselves at the apex of the global hierarchy.” (Transnational Blackness, Global Apartheid, Foreign Policy, and Human Rights, 26)  Goad describes people “whiter than the whitest white person, almost as white as the Japanese.” (Redneck, 169)

Farrakhan continues: “Paul said, ‘Be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.’  Paul said, ‘Let this mind be in you, the same that was in Christ Jesus.’  Well, if Jesus had the mind of God, and he said, ‘Let this mind be in you,’ then your birthright is to inherit the mind, the will, the Spirit of God.”  (50:33-51:22)  By claiming this birthright Farrakhan’s audience might fulfill the following verses.  “Many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.” (Mt. 19:30)  “He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.” (Lk. 1:52)  

Such inversions and reversals may accompany a modulation of the thematic variations mentioned by Faye Harrison: “The sexual exoticization of African-descended women has a long history… throughout the African Diaspora and the West, where variations on the theme of black hypersexuality are rampant.”  (Transnational Blackness, Global Apartheid, Foreign Policy, and Human Rights, 33)  A modulation of this “great symphonic theme” may be what Breau envisioned when modulating his version of McCoy Tyner’s Ebony Queen from minor to major tonality, a symbol of whiteness, thus conjuring what might be called an oreo queen. 

Baroque music theorist Andreas Werckmeister describes the divine image in terms of musical harmony: “If every being brings forth its own likeness, and if almighty God has breathed into Man a living soul after his own image, it follows, since God’s being is harmonious, that the soul of Man is a harmony as many Christian philosophers have told us, such as Arias Montanus, De Homine, ch. I, Corelius Agrippa, lib. cit., ch. 28, and A. Bartholus in his Musica Mathematica.  The ancient philosophers such as Pythagorus, Plato, and others also had the same insight.  So Man and music stem from a single principle and origin, namely God himself, and music must therefore contain something divine” (Musicalische Paradoxal-Discourse oder Allgemeine Vorstellungen Wie Die Musica einen Hohen und Gottlichen Uhrsprung habe, Quedlinburg, 1710, reprinted Hildesheim, Olms, 1970, pp. 16; from Music, 166). 

Jan Chiapusso notes that “Werckmeister presents the idea that music is a metaphysical being, a living reality, like a creature of God, which has its existence in the mind of the Creator.  Through it, he says, we get a foretaste of heavenly harmony.  The German term for this veritable being, ein ordentliches Wesen, is pregnant with philosophical implications, ordentlich referring to the unequivocal and positive reality of its spiritual existence, as well as to its inherent well-regulated nature…. By responding in our hearts to this metaphysical being, music, we experience a promise of future complete wisdom: ‘By means of music we receive a mental presentation of God’s wisdom.’”  (Jan Chiapusso, Bach’s World  (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1968), 135, 136.)  Music appeals to our minds, as well as to our bodies and hearts.  Regardless, Werckmeister discovers this “presentation” of divine wisdom in the “three-note chord; it is indeed ‘unitrisonus.’  Could any clearer likeness be imagined, in which the threefold unity of God’s being were better mirrored than in this?  Would to God that all good Christians understood music thus; they would find heartfelt joy in this symbol.” (Spheres, 297)

In musical terms conformity to the form of nature’s perfect chord, a harmonic manifestation of the divine image, is the birthright of all people.  John Milton, in Aereopagitica, wrote, “he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were in the eye.”  As the word reason derives from the Latin ratio, as in the ratio of musical notes in a chord, a similar charge could be levelled at Baraka’s perception of Coltrane as one who “showed us how to murder the popular song.  To do away with weak Western forms.”  

Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party stated: “The European had this one god that he defined as all good.  He was created in the image of this god.  And, of course, god can do no wrong, and since he was like god, he could do no wrong.  As far as sexual drives and so forth, this had no place in god’s mind, so therefore it should have no place in the European’s mind.”  Singer Little Richard described his conformity to the image of the “European” god when stating, “I have rejected sex.  Now I get my thrills from the ministry.  When I meet people who I have changed through my presentation of God’s words, that makes me feel good.”  Newton’s European is analogous to a major chord, for example C, E, and G, with the fundamental note C being analogous to the “mind” and the perfect fifth G being analogous to the “sexual drives” subject to the mind; there is a place for sex and passion, yet it is tempered by reason.

This distinction corrects feminist music theorist Susan McClary’s mistaken view that “the tendency to deny the body and to identify with pure mind underlies virtually every aspect of patriarchal Western culture.  Thus, it is not surprising to find that this fundamental mind/body split likewise informs classical music as well as its institutions.”  Contrary to McClary’s claims, the triadic tonality which informs Western classical music provides a model of harmony rather than duality.  Thus, Dane Rudhyar states that “the ‘natural third’ relationship generates the energy of love….This interval of natural third was accepted into music during the centuries of the Crusades.  Its acceptance was synchronous with the extraordinary development in southern France of…the spiritualization of love.”  Eph 5:29: “No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it.”  Rudhyar’s association of the third interval with love accords with Marsilio Ficino’s more general observation that love may “be observed in music, in which artists investigate what ratios love, to a greater or lesser degree, what other ratios…By certain intervals and modes they make high and low voices, naturally different, blend together better.  From this, smoothness and sweetness of harmony derive.” (214-15)  The major third is the loving ratio that binds the keynote with the fifth interval.   

Newton continues: “In Africa south of the Sahara where most black people came from you had Dualism, where the god had two or more heads, one good head and one bad head, and the Africans were created in god’s own image.”  Newton’s African is analogous to a tritone, C and F#, with the fundamental note C being analogous to the “good head” and the flatted fifth, F# being analogous to the “bad head.”  As C and F# are equadistant it is not possible to tell which is the fundamental apart from a larger musical context.  Newton’s disoriented African deity recalls Mingus’s divided self, and has some affinity with Breau’s polychordal deity.  Newton’s contrast between European and African theology is consistent with Franz Fanon’s observations concerning European and African views of sexuality.  “The African is inclined to view his sexuality as a mere part of his physiological life, just like eating, drinking, and sleeping….whereas the European will, as long as he lives, unconsciously retain a guilt complex that neither reason nor experience will ever manage to dissipate.” (Black Skin, note 32, 148)  

Christopher Miller: “Equality seems to be a thorny issue in Western discourse.  The Christian tradition, based on an ultimate difference – God – and structured by hierarchies, held the figure of the snake in contempt as that which knows no hierarchy, no difference between head and body.  The African, being somehow metaphorically connected to the snake, was a figure of the Devil: the whole pack of them ‘cleaving to the ground with head, tail, and middle part’ (Saint Jerome, The Homilies, 1:33).” (Blank Darkness: Africanist Discourse in French, 115)  

Janheinz Jahn describes authors of neo-African literature who championed the concept of negritude during the first half of the twentieth century.  “’Negritude’ was liberation: these authors were freeing themselves from the European paradigm.  If nearly everything that had been written in the colonies had till then been subjected to European standards, if Europe with its literature had furnished the model for thought and style, these European values and examples were now cast aside.  ‘Negritude’ was avowal: avowal of Africa.  It became permissible to think and write in the African way; Africa was rediscovered, re-awakened; from now on African culture was to, and did, furnish the standards.  Enthusiastically, these writers embraced African traditions – and lo and behold, they restored a libeled and despised culture – and themselves – to dignity.  They became free.  Once this road was taken, there was no going back and no choice.  Henceforward anyone who followed European models would be a lackey, a bootlicker, deserving only contempt:

‘And here are those who do not console themselves for being made not in the image of God but of the devil, those who consider that being a Negro is like being a second-class official: waiting for better and with the possibility of rising higher….And there is the informer Negro, the askari Negro, and all these zebras shake themselves in their own way to make their stripes fall off in a dew of fresh milk.  And in the midst of all that I say Hurrah! My grandfather is dying, I say hurrah!  The old negritude is gradually becoming a corpse.’” (Cesaire, 6, p. 77; from Muntu, 206)  

Paul Garon: “The ‘Devil’s music’ is the denunciation of everything religion stands for and the glorification of everything religion condemns.  The blues singer could say, as the black surrealist poet Aimé Césaire (1939) said in his Return to My Native Land, speaking for all those of African descent throughout the world, ‘I have assassinated God with my laziness with my words with my gestures with my obscene songs’ (Blues and the Poetic Spirit, 76).  Hernton states that negritude “is supposed to lend pride and even superiority to Negro characteristics, both physical and cultural, as opposed to the devaluation of these characteristics by the standards of the white world.  While there is much validity to negritude, I suspect that many, too many, Negroes use negritude to exploit white [74] women.” (Sex and Racism, 74-75)

William Cohen: “In asserting human equality, he [Victor Hugo] wrote to one of his Haitian correspondents that ‘in front of God, all souls are white.’  Abbe Gregoire argued in vain against the prejudices of his contemporaries, pointing out that appreciation of color was a relative judgment and that there was no reason to assign an innate inferiority to the color black – in Africa it was the white color that was abhorred.” (The French Encounter with Africans, 223) 

“Charlie Parker stated, ‘Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom.  If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.'”  Berendt regards Parker’s statement as an example of how “The jazz musician’s life is constantly tranformed into music – without regard for ‘beauty,’ ‘form,’ and the many other concepts that mediate between music and life in the European tradition.”  (77)  Berendt describes the legacy of jazz as “a reaction” to “the uprooting and enslavement of millions of Africans, brought across the Atlantic unwillingly, in a black diaspora.”  (72)  It is my thesis that this musical reaction took the form of a rebellion against the chord of nature, a harmonic symbol of the Christian Trinity.

Hampton Hawes: “’He talked to us about things I wasn’t to read until years later in books by Malcolm X and Cleaver.  I heard all that in his music.  Bird was a deeply frustrated man.  Sonny said he was the most miserable man he had ever met.  Bird felt deeply about the black-white split.  He was the first jazz musician I met who understood what was happening to his people.  He couldn’t come up with an answer.  So he stayed high.  His only outlet was his music.  The weird things he did….He was telling the world, “You don’t dig me and you don’t dig my music, so dig this shit!”’” (Bird Lives, 324)

Berendt notes: “There had been Islamic tendencies among African Americans since the midforties, since the time, in other words, when modern jazz originated.  Dozens of jazz musicians converted to Islam and occasionally took Arabic names….In this turning away from ‘the white religion,’ the emancipation from the white man was given particularly effective expression.  James Baldwin, the African American poet and writer, said, ‘Whoever wishes to become a truly moral human being must first divorce himself from all the prohibitions, crimes, and hypocrisies of the Christian church.  If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving.’  Millions of black Americans believed – ‘after two hundred years of vain attempts’ – that the Christian God could not do that.  For that reason, said Baldwin, ‘it is time we got rid of Him.'” (24)  

Berendt is quoting from Baldwin’s Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in my Mind.  “The Christian church…encouraged, if it did not formulate, the belief that conquest, with the resulting relative well-being of the Western populations, was proof of the favor of God.  God had come a long way from the desert – but then so had Allah, though in a very different direction.  God, going north, and rising on the wings of power, had become white, and Allah, out of power and on the dark side of Heaven, had become – for all practical purposes, anyway – black.  Thus, in the realm of morals the role of Christianity has been, at best, ambivalent.  Even leaving out of account the remarkable arrogance that assumed that the ways and [60] morals of others were inferior to those of Christians, and that they therefore had every right, and could use any means, to change them, the collision between cultures – and the schizophrenia in the mind of Christendom – had rendered the domain of morals as chartless as the sea once was, and as treacherous as the sea still is.  It is not too much to say that whoever wishes to become a truly moral human being must first divorce himself from all the prohibitions, crimes, and hypocrisies of the Christian church.” (The Fire Next Time, 60-61)

“It is time to replace Him – replace Him with what?  And this void, this despair, this torment is felt everywhere in the West, from the streets fo Stockholm to the churches of New Orleans and the sidewalks of Harlem.  God is black.  All black men belong to Islam; they have been chosen.  And Islam shall rule the world.  The dream, the sentiment is old; only the color is new.  And it is this dream, this sweet possibility, that thousands of oppressed black men and women in this country now carry with them after the Muslim minister has spoken, through the dark, noisome ghetto streets, into the hovels where so many have perished.  The white God has not delivered them; perhaps the Black God will.” (71)  However, D’Souza notes that “some young blacks who have converted from Christianity to Islam may be unaware that the prophet Mohammed owned slaves.  Young black women of a feminist bent may be further distressed to discover that he was a polygamist.” (84)

Addison Gayle, Jr. notes Robert Bone’s interpretation of Baldwin’s spiritual revolution as a sexual rebellion.  “‘In an effort to make Hell endurable,’ Robert Bone writes of James Baldwin, ‘Baldwin attempts to spiritualize his sexual rebellion.  Subjectively, I have no doubt, he is convinced that he has found God.  Not the white God of his black father, but a darker deity who dwells in the heart of carnal mystery….The stranger the sex partner, the better the orgasm, for it violates a stronger taboo.'” (The Black Aesthetic, Introduction, xix)  Sander Gilman: “the attraction of the Other as a sexual being in nineteenth-century fiction was enhanced by the Other being of either another race or another class.” (Difference and Pathology, 197)

Gayle is quoting The Negro Novel in America, in which Bone describes Baldwin’s inversion of Christian orthodoxy.  “Baldwin imagines his new faith to be a complete break with the past, but in fact he has merely inverted the Christian orthodoxy of his youth.  Properly regarded, Another Country will be seen as the celebration of a Black Mass.  The jazzman is Baldwin’s priest….The bandstand is his altar; Bessie Smith, his choir….To Baldwin the church idiom signifies submission, reconciliation, brotherhood, and platonic love.  Conversely, the hipster idiom conveys rebellion, defiance, retaliation, and sexual love.  The predominant mode of Another Country is the hipster idiom.  For Baldwin it is the language of apostacy.  In rejecting the God of his youth, he inverts the consecrated language of the saints.”  (238)  

Bone describes Another Country as “a dead end.  It is symptomatic of a severe crisis in Baldwin’s life and art….Baldwin must suspect that his hipster phase is coming to a close….The future now depends on his ability to transcend the emotional reflexes of his adolescence.  So extraordinary a talent requires of him no less effort.”  (239)  Bone notes Baldwin’s description of “the first symptoms of this crisis”: “It is the point at which many artists lose their minds, or commit suicide, or throw themselves into good works, or try to enter politics.”  (Nobody Knows My Name, from Bone, 217)  Breau may have undergone a similar crisis.  The concept of God articulated by hip hop artists is the subject of the following section.  

Hip Hop and My New Equality Rap

Levin and McDevitt note that hip hop has “replaced rock ‘n’ roll as the most popular genre of youth music in the United States.  Millions of American teenagers – White, Black, Latino, and Asian residing in big cities and suburban towns alike – adopt the uniform of hip-hop, including the caps worn backward, baggy pants, and expensive sneakers, use inner-city street slang, and collect CDs recorded by rap artists.” (Hate Crimes, 40)

Roy Hargrove on Hip Hop vs. Jazz: “I don’t think of them as anything different.  To me they’re one and the same, because, rhythmically speaking, if you take eight bars of somebody rhyming, and if it’s on a high level, it’s kind of very similar to some of the drum patterns that people like Kenny Clarke and Philly Joe Jones were playing back in the day.  Hip hop is jazz’s great grandson.”  Joachim-Ernst Berendt quotes “Max Roach, one of the founders of modern jazz drumming: ‘In hip-hop beats, I hear the fast rhythm of bebop.’  The early hip-hop jazzers, such as Gary Thomas, knew intuitively that rap and hip-hop are the current version of what improvising jazz musicians were trying to do with poetry and jazz as early as the sixties, such as Charles Mingus with Langston Hughes and others.” (69)  Joshua Redman: “’I feel in much of nineties hip-hop a bounce, a vitality, and a rhythmic infectiousness which I have always felt in the bebop of the forties and fifties.’” (The Jazz Ear, 128)

Quincy Jones: “’The beboppers invented what the rappers are trying to do now.  You know, be cool, the underworld, subculture language, the body language, the lifestyle.  You had to be cool.’” (from Miles Davis and American Culture, 42)  Paul Gilroy notes that in Jones’ Jazz Corner of the World “the talents of old-and new-school rappers like Melle Mel, Kool Moe D, Ice T, and Big Daddy Kane with singers and instrumentalists drawn from earlier generations, George Benson, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, and Zawinul himself were among those whose vocal and instrumental input was synthsized by Jones into an exhilirating epic statement of the view that hip hop and bebop shared the same fundamental spirit.  Jones put it like this ‘Hip hop is in many ways the same as Bebop, because it was renegade-type music.  It came from a disenfranchised sub-culture that got thrown out of the way.  They said, “We’ll make up our own life.  We’ll have our own language.'” (108)  Earlier Gilroy referred to “playful affirmations of the insubordinate spirit which ties this radical form [hip hop] to one important definition of blackness.”  (104)  In A Tribe Called Quest’s song, The Low End Theory, rapper Q-Tip states, “You could find the abstract by listenin’ to hip hop.  My pops used to say it reminded him of bebop.  I said well Daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles.”  Stanley Crouch: “In Francis Davis’ Like Young: Jazz, Pop, Youth and Middle Age (DaCapo)….Davis points out that rap now allows the young white person to come in contact with the Negro most removed from the white world, which used to be the role of jazz.” (Putting the White Man in Charge)

Bebop and hip hop musicians alike converted to Islam.  Kofsky cites “Hobsbawm’s point apropos bebop, that ‘an even more obvious form of revolt against inferiority, which a leading group of the new [bebop] players shared with other Northern big-city Negroes, was mass conversion to Mohammedanism.  The new music was played, among others, by Abdullah ibn Buhaina (Art Blakey, the drummer), Sahib Shabab (Edmund Gregory, alto [saxophone]), Abdul Hamid (McKinley [Kenny] Dorham, trumpet…), Liaquat Ali Salaam (Kenny Clarke [the first bop drummer]), Ibrahim ibn Ismail (Walter Bishop, Jr,. piano) and other sons of the Prophet…'” (Black Nationalism, Note 14, 270)  

Monson: “The universalist message of Islam provided an alternative to Western modernism’s vision of universality that would lay an increasingly important role in the spiritual visions of jazz musicians in the 1960s.  Although the religious practice of the Nation of Islam (NOI) connected Islam to an ideology of racial separation, Muslim jazz musicians were not necessarily members of the NOI.  Art Blakey, as well as Ahmad Jamal, Yusef Lateef, and Sahib Shihab, were converted to Islam by the Ahmaddiyah movement, which did not share the NOI’s vision of racial separation.  Indeed, in the early 1960s Art Blakey (Abdullah Ibn Buhaina) expressed intense disdain for the Nation of Islam.  Other musicians such as McCoy Tyner (Sulaimon Saud) were Sunni Muslims, who also did not share the Nation of Islam’s position on separation.  As Art Blakey explained to his French interviewers in 1963, ‘Islam brought the black man what he was looking for, an escape like some found in drugs or drinking: a way of living and thinking he could choose in complete freedom.  This is the reason we adopted this new religion in such numbers.  It was for us, above all, a way of rebelling.’” (Freedom Sounds, 147)  

Wynton Marsalis: “Seems like everything about the drummer and bandleader Art Blakey was a contradiction….He was a Muslim long before other Americans became Muslims and was devoutly religious in his own way, even though that may sound like a strange thing to say about somebody who had all kinds of women, told the truth only if and when it suited him, and had to have his heroin when he needed it.  Stuff like cognac, weed, and cocaine were just appetizers for his real drug of choice.  Though he was often high, being around him taught you not to judge people because you couldn’t judge him.” (Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life, 116)  “He represented the ultimate feeling of jazz: easy come, easy go.  Not judgmental.” (119)  Marsalis immortalizes Blakey in verse: “I invoke the intuitive intelligence of the immortals….I am Abdullah Ibn Buhaina.  They call me Art Blakey.  Icon imperial of the divine instrument of independence.  I am.” (Jazz A B Z)  According to Stanley Crouch, “The impact this ideology [“the Nation of Islam”] had on jazz cannot be denied.  It cannot be swept under the rug.” (Considering Genius, 16)  However, Crouch refers to Elijah Muhammad as “virtually insane.” (17)

Hishaam Aidi: “Muslim youth abroad are keenly aware that, as popular wisdom has it, ‘Islam is hip-hop’s official religion.'” (The Grand (Hip-Hop) Chessboard)  According to Naeem Mohaiemen, “Islam as a cultural force in hip-hop is severely under-documented.  In the most recent oversight, Jeff Chang’s exhaustive hip-hop history Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop (Picador, 2005) pays only fleeting attention to the Muslim connection.  Elsewhere in mainstream media, the Muslim connection is never spoken aloud, even in the middle of thorough analysis and journalism.”  (Fear of a Muslim Planet: The Islamic Roots of Hip-Hop, Sound Unbound, 313)  Rapper RZA: “’In a lot of ways, hip-hop is the Five Percent.’ the RZA” (Five, 177)  One example is Adam Krims’ description of “the secular (or, if religious, Islamic or Five Percent Nation) world of rap.” (Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity, 126)

Mattias Gardell: “The hip-hop movement’s role in popularizing the message of black militant Islam cannot be overestimated.  What reggae was to the expansion of the Rastafarian movement in the 1970s, so hip-hop is to the spread of black Islam in the 1980s and 1990s. Teenagers dance into black consciousness and internalize the NOI creed through hip-hop albums.  The Defiant Giants emphasize that hip-hop is ‘God’s music,’ based on the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and the inspiration of Louis Farrakhan, saying that they ‘rap strictly for the revolution and resurrection of our people.’  K-Solo raps that he is ‘a messenger from a Muslim Empire / here to let you know what Allah requires,’ urging blacks to ‘listen to Big Brother Farrakhan.’  Shockin’ Shawn of the Skinny Boys says that they ‘want to conquer [the black youth] by the thousands, by the millions.  We want our music to have so much of an impact that the youth will run to the Nation.’  Rap lyrics frequently, though not always explicitly, allude to NOI teachings and use code words or metaphors unintelligible to those unfamiliar [295] with black Islamic beliefs, like ‘dead niggaz’ (non-Muslim blacks), ‘Yacub’s crew’ (whites), or ‘cave bitch’ (white female).  Expressing thanks and support for the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan has become almost standard practice on the rap albums, and long quotations from NOI literature are often included in the lyrics or in the background shout-outs.” (In the Name of Elijah Muhammad, 295-96)

Maajid Nawaz: “I realized Islamism could give me the [42] respect that I’d craved since primary school.  Hip-hop had helped a great deal; it created new friends, but it hadn’t been enough to defeat our enemies….Islamism did what hip-hop couldn’t do.  It was alive, beating in the hearts of men, and it was prepared to sacrifice everything to regain lost dignity.  It wasn’t interested in singing ‘Fuck tha Police.’  Islamism was shouting from the tops of mountains ‘Fuck all y’all!'” (Radical, 42-3). 

Miyakawa describes the theology of Five Percenters: “For Five Percenters submission to Allah has no meaning since each (black) man is Allah incarnate….Five Percenters see Islam as a flexible way of life, a mode of encountering the world in their own self-deified orbit.” (30)  Miyakawa quotes Lord Jamar of the rap group Brand Nubian: “’in the Five Percent Nation, each man is the sole controller of his own universe.  If you’re the god of your universe, you set up your own laws.’” (31)  Five Percenters interpret Allah as an acronym for Arm, Leg, Leg, Arm, Head and Islam as an acronym for I, Self, Lord, and, Master.  This self-centered theology implies that the rest of humanity ought to submit to black males, which may account for the presence of discordant tonal structures in rap songs.  King notes a similar urban theology in Calvin Hernton’s description of “young blacks ‘possessed with the psychology of the damned.’  They are produced in ‘the ghettos in the big cities of the South and the North’ with the potential to become the ‘dynamos of oppression’ or ‘the volcanoes of liberation.’  These young people, Hernton concluded ominously, ‘shall be gods, answerable to no one.’” (Dynamite Growing Out of Their Skulls,’ in Jones and Neal, eds., Black Fire, 78, 101, 104; from Race, Culture, and the Intellectuals, 283)  Mark Costello and David Foster Wallace: “Rappers are Miltonic devils.” (Signifying Rappers, 132)

Miyawaka notes: “The common phrase of the 1990s, ‘What up, G?’ originally meant not ‘What up, gangsta?’ as is commonly assumed, but ‘What up, God?’ a greeting that circulated first among Five Percenters and later in hip-hop culture at large.” (41)  This common assumption is evident in Ralph C. Watkins’s rhetorical questions: “Is there a ‘heaven’ for a ‘G’?  Is there a paradise, a mansion, for a gangsta?” (Rap, Religion, and New Realities: The Emergence of a Religious Discourse in Rap Music; from Noise and Spirit, 190)  Watkins is influenced by Tupac Shakur’s query in Lil’ Homies: “Is there a heaven for a G? / And if it is, will I finally get to be at peace? / On these streets ain’t no peace, shell-shocked souls / makin money off of crack sales, young black males /  Unable to change cause it’s a cycle / Plus nobody knows.. the evil that they might do.”  The following statement of Knight is consistent with the original meaning of the phrase: “While black men do not practice the religion of Islam (submission) since ‘God can’t submit to God,’ Earths [black women] are often considered to be Muslim because they do submit to Allah – in the form of the black man….Because three quarters of the earth is covered by water, Earths today are taught to keep three fourths of their bodies covered at all times.” (Five, 215)  

At :58 of Miss Ghetto rapper Wise Intelligent says: “I thought that maybe I could show them that other way G
 of Gods and Earths, resurrected through mental birth, from death to life, teaching niggas of every type the wrongs and rights, to put an end to living trife.

  The black man is God.”  The two chords are C minor and G minor; the electric pianist plays a repeated diminished riff.  The diminished piano riff occurs over the lyrical phrases “that other way G” (G is shorthand for God, synonymous with black men in Wise’s theology) and “teaching niggas of every type.” 

Miyakawa: “Rappers associated with the Nation of Islam and the Five Percent Nation are uniquely positioned to spread their spiritual message through music and are [70] encouraged to do so by leaders they respect, such as Minister Louis Farrakhan.  Considering themselves Black Muslim missionaries, Five Percenter rappers use their musical platforms to minister to African American youths who would otherwise have no way to learn ‘knowledge of self.’” (70-1)  Farrakhan spread his message in his song A White Man’s Heaven is a Black Man’s Hell, which he concludes with the words, “Our God has come to give us heaven and take the devil [white people] into hell.”  Louis Lomax: “The nearest thing I have heard to a Black Muslim hymn is a plaintive and moving song written by Minister Louis X of Boston, ‘The White Man’s Heaven Is the Black Man’s Hell.’  It is often sung in temples.” (When the Word is Given…, 21)  Brand Nubian’s song Meaning of the 5% features “a recording of a Louis Farrakhan speech set to a sample from Marvin Gaye’s ‘T Stands for Trouble.'”  (119)  Gaye’s song features a melody with a diminished riff (at 1:08 and 1:19) as does Trouble Man.

In The Final Solution hip hop artist Sister Souljah expresses an ironic denial of racism: “You can’t call me, or any black person anyplace in the world, a racist….We don’t have that low-down dirty nature [of white people].”  A character in the film Dear White People expresses a similar view.  However, terms of endearment are absent from Souljah’s The Hate That Hate Produced: “I am AFRICAN first, I am BLACK first  I want what’s good for me and MY people first  And if my survival means your total destruction, then so be it!  YOU built this wicked system….I am an African woman.  That means that within my body is the power to do three hundred and sixty degrees worth of anything.  I am the essence of all things.  I’m African.  I can do anything….DAMN your color and white world supremacy.  Got ya drippin and sweatin, you can’t believe what I said.  Wait for me to change my MIND, hold your breath, you’ll be dead, dead, dead, dead…”

Gardell cites Souljah: “’if black people kill black people every day, why not take a week and kill white people?’” (299)  Rose cites Souljah: “Rap music has inspired me because….when you hear the tribal beat and the drums, they are the same drums of the African past that draws the community to war.  The drum beats are just faster, because the condition is accelerating so they’ve got to beat faster.  And when your feet are jumping, dancing….it’s the spirit attempting to escape the entrapment.  When you feel the children have gone mad, if you don’t feel it, and when you look at the dances you don’t see it and when you listen to the music and you don’t hear a call, then you missed the jam.”  (Sister Souljah speaking at ‘We Remember Malcolm Day’ held at Abyssynian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, 21 February 1991; from Black Noise, 62)  

Evidently the church minister “missed the jam.”  Rose: “Calvin Butts, black minister of the Abyssyinian Baptist Church in Harlem, has gone on a mission to rid the black community of rap music because [183] of its harmful effects on today’s youths.” (Noise, 183-84)  Butts: “I may have more in common with a white man who loves humanity than I do with the black man who thinks that he ought to call all women b’s and hos.” (3:15)

Richard Shusterman notes that Queen Latifah “insistently commands her listeners, ‘I order you to dance for me.’  For, as Ice-T explains, the rapper ‘won’t be happy till the dancers are wet’ with sweat, ‘out of control’ and wildly ‘possessed’ by the beat, as indeed the captivating rapper should himself be possessed so as to rock his audience with his God-given gift to rhyme….the spiritual ecstasy of divine bodily possession should remind us of Vodun and the metaphysics of African religion to which the aesthetics of Afro-American music has indeed been traced.” (Challenging Conventions in the Fine Art of Rap, That’s the Joint!, 464)

Mark Dery: “Rap is the musical equivalent of a – forgive the pun – Black Mass.  Satanists invert Christian iconography by hanging the crucifix upside down and reciting the Lord’s Prayer backwards; rappers invert the natural – read ‘European’ – order of things by stripping music of its harmonic content and supplanting it with rhythm, timbre, and boasting, bullying, wisecracking lyrics delivered in a voice that hovers between speech and song.” (Public Enemy, That’s the Joint!, 409) 

Over a country-style fiddle sample in the brief segment that introduces Public Enemy’s ‘A Letter to the N.Y. Post,’ a white man speaking in a genial Southern accent describes himself as a member of the Ku Klux Klan and offers the following remarks: ‘I’d like to express our deepest gratitude at the destruction of the inferior nigger race, and I’m especially pleased to report it’s destroying itself without our help.’  I find the context of these racist remarks ironic, for I think that Public Enemy undermines the values of blacks when employing inferior tonal structures according to natural laws of harmony to get their message across.  Gardell: “Perhaps more than any other hip-hop group, Public Enemy has been pivotal in spreading the NOI creed to Blackamerican youths.  Beginning with their second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, their lyrics have the sound of pumped-up black Islamic lectures.  Chuck D, the ideologist of Public Enemy, says he puts rhythm to the essential teachings of Minister Farrakhan and turns them into rap music.” (297)  Gary Herman notes that Public Enemy “continued to adhere to the Nation of Islam’s distinctly stratified view of the US’s ‘racial war’, and the dogmatic view that ‘the White Man is the Devil’.” (Babylon, 281)

A similar view is expressed by a black bluesman who has sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads, in the film, O Brother Where Art Thou, when he states that the devil “is white.”  The first articulation of this dogma may have come from “the German dramatist Grabbe, who wrote his horror play Duke Theodore of Gothland in 1822.  There Berdoa, the Finnish General, who is an African speaking to Gustav, the son of the Duke of Gothland praises his one-time African beloved: ‘Never, Ella! shall I forget thee, thou purest of African women; how noble was her heart!  How wooly was her hair!  Two feet long her bosom!  And oh she was so black, as black as innocence!’  Gustav: ‘What?  Is innocence black?’  Berdoa: ‘Well, we Negroes have a different taste from yours: for us the beautiful is black, but the devils are all white!’” (Janheinz Jahn, Muntu, 145)  Benjamin DeMott notes the perpetuation of this dogma by “the black preachers of Mobile, Alabama, who sermonized on whites in the 1860s as ‘white devils’ and ‘demons’….And the belief continues to resound in African American political, pseudoscientific, and pop discourse into our own time (Malcolm X almost to the end of his life, Ice Cube, Chuck D, Professor Jeffries), shaping the conviction of millions that the true reason for black suffering lies in the cold unfeelingness of the white heart.” (77)  Morgan Freeman plays God in Bruce Almighty.

Ronald Sanders mentions “the Devil, who for centuries now had been black.  This may seem a truism, until we realize that Satan has no color in any of his appearances in the Old and New Testaments, except for Chapter 12 of the Revelation of John, where he appears as a serpent that is quite red.  On the other hand, his blackness emerges distinctly in a most significant text of the [106] sixth century C.E., the apocryphal Acts of Thomas.” (Lost Tribes and Promised Lands, 106-07)  The devil in the Gesthemane scene from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ resembles an effeminate German man and Jesus looks swarthy, whereas the devil in the Gesthemane scene in The Last Temptation of Christ is a black serpent with the voice of a white woman.

However, the devil in Black Sabbath’s eponymous song is stated to be black.  This song was apparently inspired by a vision that bassist Geezer Butler had of a ghostly “large black figure” filching a book that Ozzy Osbourne had lent him about witchcraft.  Alex Webster of the heavy metal band Cannibal Corpse notes the prominence of the flatted fifth in this song: “The blues scale has the flat fifth, the tritone.  That’s the devil’s note – like in the old days you weren’t allowed to use that note.  But Black Sabbath, their title song, you know, Black Sabbath, is totally working the diminished fifth, the tritone.”  In a blurb called The Black Devil Went Down to Georgia, Zimbabwean writer Charles Mudede states: “It has always bothered me that the devil in the famous tune by The Charlie Daniels Band plays funk and Johnny plays that old-timey, square dance fiddling.  The devil is clearly black and Johnny is white.”  The bass line following the line, “a band of demons joined in and it sounded something like this,” at 1:34 of Daniels’ The Devil Went Down to Georgia, features the blues scale with a flatted fifth.  

Race is a sensitive and controversial topic.  Rapper Chuck D describes his former bandmate, Professor Griff’s, boxing approach to conducting interviews with racial topics.  “He took it to a further extreme, but just when he got close to the edge he would cut back to sting the opposition.  That way they really couldn’t accuse us of racism.  He had the technique down after two years of handling interviews.” (Fight the Power, 223)

Public Enemy’s song Fear of a Black Planet begins and ends with what sounds like a saxophone playing a three note riff outlining a tritone: Db, Eb, A, Eb.  At the beginning of the song this riff is played over the voice of a rapper stating the song title in response to the question, ‘What’s your latest hit, brother?’  At the end of the song the riff is played over a collage of voices uttering the words ‘people are,’ ‘fear,’ and ‘black.’  Public Enemy’s song Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos combines a bluesy bass riff in F with a synth keyboard riff over B, Bb, Ab – b5, 4, b3.  The song Can’t Truss It has a bass riff establishing Bb as the key center with a trumpet sample sounding the riff E, Ab, Bb – b5, b7, 1.

Dinesh D’Souza: “Speaking at an October 1989 conference in Washington, Houston Baker of the University of Pennsylvania argued that the American university suffers from a crisis of too much reading and writing.  ‘Reading and writing are merely technologies of control,’ Baker alleged. [6] They are systems of ‘martial law made academic.’  Instead of ‘valorizing old power relations,’ universities should listen to the ‘voices of newly emerging peoples.’  Baker emphasized the oral tradition, extolling the virtues of rap music and holding up as an exemplar such groups as Public Enemy and NWA. NWA stands for Niggers With Attitude.  The group, among other things, sings about the desirability of violence against white people.” (Illiberal Education, 6-7)

Run D.M.C’s song Proud to be Black is based on a single Bb note played before and after the verses and choruses.  In his second verse Run protests that he does not sing: “You can hear it loud and clear like when the schoolbell rings / Like Martin Luther King, I will do my thing / I’ll say it in a rap cause I do not sing.”  However, Run’s verses center around the fourth and fifth tones, Eb and F, whereas D.M.C.s verses center around the flatted fifth tone, E, relative to the fundamental tone Bb.

Rapper King Sun’s song Be Black is based on a four note bass riff: E, G, A, Bb.  E, G, and Bb outline a diminished triad; E and Bb form a tritone.  The first two verses end with the following lines. “I think I should reveal what it is to be black.”  “There’s more to learn on how to be black.”  After diss[miss]ing Oreos in the second verse, King Sun represents himself “As modern day God,” in the third verse.  The final line of this verse, addressed to the singer’s “black sista,” is: “Teach her to be original, and how to be black.”  The chorus consists of a rapper repeating the phrase, “I’m a black man” over what sounds like a blues scale riff of B, Bb, A, G, E – 5, b5, 4, b3, 1.  Assuming that Bb is present in this riff (it is played very quickly) it echoes the diminished bass line, but in reverse order. 

In Five Percenter Rap Felicia Miyakawa notes that “rapper King Sun accused all Five Percenter MCs (excepting himself) of being ‘phony,’ but singled out Big Daddy Kane for a specific allegation: ‘like Big Daddy Kane is supposed to be Five Percent – his name is King Asiatic Allah.  But he made a record, Pimping Ain’t Easy.  Doesn’t sound very righteous, does it?’”  (33)   Despite this perceived phoniness, rappers are being touted as role models.  Chuck D: “There’s a lot of young white guys around the country who are saying, ‘Hey, the type of individual I’d most like to be like is Ice Cube [of Niggas With Attitude] or Run [of Run-D.M.C.]’  That’s what makes it rabble-rousing rebel music.” (Public Enemy, That’s the Joint!, 415)  Louis Theroux: “J Dogg is a hip-hop historian and a longtime fan of the music, but he’d grown disenchanted in the last couple of years.  ‘All these folks can rap about is dope dope dope, shoot shoot shoot, kill kill kill,’ he said.  ‘And then people wonder why youth violence is at an all-time high.’” (The Call of the Weird, 164)

However, Chuck D’s observation is endorsed by Quincy Jones.  “Rappers are the best role models we have.  Every rapper I know is clear as chitlins.  They have determination, pride, and hungry, inquisitive minds.  Their word power is growing.  Rap will cross over because 14-year old white kids always need new forms of vitality and rebelliousness.  Right now that’s coming from hip hop.”  (Listen Up, 166)  Cornell West: “Quincy Jones’s recent Grammy-winning album, Back on the Block, is a gallant effort to educate young black people about the rich heritage of black music.” (Prophetic Reflections, 27)  Jones: “I walked by Big Daddy Kane when we were at the heat of our crunch in the album [Back on the Block] – and he’s got his dictionary and his gangster hat on.  There’s a lot of drama with rappers and he’s got his heaviest gangster look going on.” (167)  Big Daddy Kane ends his rap on Jones’ Back on the Block at 3:44 by identifying himself as “an Asiatic descendant, Big Daddy is shocked.  Yo Q[uincy], we back on the block.”  The bass line of the song makes prominent use of the flatted fifth, affirming Jones’ sense of a continuity from bebop to hip hop.

The Five Percenter Nation’s Student Enrollment Lesson no. 1 is as follows: “Who is the Original man?  The original man is the Asiatic Black man; the Maker; the Owner; the Cream of the planet Earth – Father of Civilization, God of the Universe.” (47)  Miyakawa notes that this Lesson “inspires the metaphorical underpinning of Digable Planets’ ‘Dial 7 (Axioms of Creamy Spies).’  Metaphors of ‘cream’ and ‘creamy,’ both referring to ‘the cream of the planet earth’ and thus to members of the black diaspora, run throughout the song.  The first lines of Sara Webb’s sung introduction initiate this metaphor (‘We are the creamy spies, the cream always rises up’) and the last lines of the introduction call for unity among ‘creamy spies’: ‘Hey, we can make life better together, not divided / Universal, original, creamy.’” (53)  This song begins with a D diminished chord, followed by a D minor chord, and then the A minor chord that fills the remainder of the song.  Compare with Malcolm X’s “too black, too strong.”

Brand Nubian’s song Allah and Justice, “a reference to and praise of Clarence 13X (Allah)”(56), features a continuous diminished riff from the pianist played over D minor and G7.  Yurikawa notes that “the lyrics of ‘Allah and Justice,’ with a different but clearly related melody, constitute the Five Percent Nation’s anthem, a song collectively sung during Five Percenter gatherings.” (119)  Miyakawa is of the opinion that the efficacy of Brand Nubian’s preaching on the theologically inspired tracks from their second album, In God We Trust, “must be weighed against other songs from the album, such as their misogynistic ‘Steal Ya Ho’, ‘ homophobic ‘Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down,’ and the violent ‘Pass the Gat’ and ‘Black and Blue.’  Ultimately, fans must be left with the sense that Brand Nubian is not always primarily concerned with spreading the Five Percent gospel.” (131)

Brand Nubian’s song Aint No Mystery features a recurrent guitar riff of D, Ab, B, Ab, and F#.  This riff outlines a diminished triad of Ab, B, and D, with Ab and D forming a tritone.  The lyrics reject a theology of mystery.  “Preacher you could never be my teacher, dealing lies and deceit for some brothers from the street.  Know that the Black Man is God (the Black Man’s God).  There is no mystery.  It ain’t no mystery.  Who is that?  The Supreme Black Man, that’s who!  Hoo, that’s the man!  It ain’t no mystery.  First soul, black like coal, the Original One, with the power of the sun.  Allah’s God, always has been, always will be.  Never could be a fucking mystery.  But you pray for Jehovah to come.  That’ll be the day when you leave the slum.  Until that time, you just keep eating swine, drinkin’ cheap wine on the welfare line.  Who’s the clown that didn’t paint Jesus brown?  Everybody knows the man was original.”  In the theology of black Islam original refers to a member of the divine black race.  Malachi Martin @ 6:38: “We know he [Jesus] was brown skinned, because all Palestinian Jews at that time were, unless he was a complete genetic mutant – brown skinned, yes, something like the Egyptians today in the upper Nile.”

William Jennings cites 15th century Jesuit missionary Jose de Acosta‘s opinions concerning black Africans and Christian mysteries: “’What about…some Ethiopian black…[111]?  Are you going to oblige them and others like them to learn about the mystery of the Trinity, which is difficult even for the greatest and sharpest of minds?  Are you going to require something that goes beyond the capacity of human reason from a person of such stolidity?  Well, I say that I am not obliging people to understand the mystery of Christ…but I am obliging them all to believe it, which is something that everybody can do.  For nobody is incapable of thinking about God and man.  It is possible to teach them that God was made man, and that He is Christ.’ (De Procuranda, V:4)

Acosta’s quest to teach and thereby create orthodoxy even in those he designates the most ignorant flesh, black Africans, produced a reductive theological vision in which the world’s people become perpetual students, even where and when faith is formed.” (Christian Imagination, 111-12)  What Jennings refers to as “this horrid colonial arrangement” is undermined by the group name, Poor Righteous Teachers.  Rabbi David Kasher writes of hip-hop’s God-complex.  The Last Poets’ song, The White Man’s Got a God Complex, was influential to early rappers.  Comedian Chris Rock implicitly incriminates both the white supremacy of Acosta and the black supremacy of hip hop’s Muslim theology: “It’s crazy to think you’re better than somebody….Just to think that, on any level— that’s kind of insane!”

Lakim Shabazz’s song The Lost Tribe of Shabazz begins with a bass line of E, D, E, and F#, which seems to establish E as the key center.  The song also begins and ends with a tritone of E and Bb from a sample of a piped instrument.  A saxophone riff of a diminished riff of E, Eb, Db, and Bb coincides with the phrase “this really bothers me,” at :53, and “lost tribe of Shabazz,” at 1:19.  At 1:20 the piped tritone reenters with the twice repeated chorus “our people will survive America.”  The diminished saxophone riff is also repeated twice, the second time coinciding with the words “will survive.”  At 1:50 the diminished sax riff coincides with the words, “tricknology fools ya.”  The diminished sax riff is again repeated twice during the chorus, the second time coinciding with the words, “will survive,” at 2:29.  At 2:52 the sax riff coincides with the phrase “these companies would lose.”  At 3:35 the third statement of the chorus, “our people will survive America,” coincides with the third occurrence of the piped tritone riff.  At 4:07 the diminished sax riff reenters coinciding with the phrase “will survive,” as at 4:12.  At :18 and 3:45 a second sax riff is played, outlining an A7 chord; however, this riff concludes with a diminished phrase of Eb, D, and C, with a final A note implied. 

The tonality employed in The Lost Tribe of Shabazz reinforces the lost quality of this ‘tribe.’  The bass line suggests a key center of E.  The diminished sax riff suggests a key center of Bb.  The piped tritone alternates between both centers.  The blues sax riff suggests a key center of A7.  In the final verse Lakim Shabazz pronounces his hatred for “oreos.”  The Urban Dictionary defines this term as “A[n] insulting termed often used by blacks to denigrate other blacks as ‘Black on the outside, white on the inside.’  White on the inside meaning anything from speaking proper english, getting good grades, liking music that isn’t hip hop, rap or R&B and having a diverse group of friends.”  Shelby Steele describes “one of the most damning things one black can say about another black – ‘So-and-so is not really black, so-and-so is an Oreo.’  The tragedy in this is that, very often, so-and-so is more successful than other blacks and more comfortable as an individual in the mainstream.” (Content, 71)

The negative evaluation of oreos by rappers contrasts with the positive associations of this concept in the past.  In the late eighteenth century English poet William Blake wrote The Little Black Boy, who states, “I am black, but oh, my soul is white.”  In the early twentieth century Afro-American pianist Fats Waller wrote Black and Blue, with the phrase, “I’m white inside.”  The Five Percenters’ association of the cream in oreo cookies with white culture seems to contradict their association of the cream used in hot beverages with black people.  Breau’s version of Tyner’s Ebony Queen could be called Oreo Queen as it begins and ends in Tyner’s ‘dark’ minor mode, yet modulates to an ethereal and ‘bright’ major modality in the middle.  

The lost quality of The Tribe of Shabazz also characterizes GZA’s song Swordsman.  The bass line, F, D, and C, seems to have no relation to the eerie synth riff moving from F#, through A and Bb to C, thus outlining a tritone.  The first two notes of the sampled acoustic bass riff in Micranots’ song Culture outline a tritone.  The lyric begins: “This is original, indigenous.  This is all that we know that we have….(die-die-die for they culture) [I-Self Divine]  We dealin’ with sound, filling ya crown with immaculate concepts.”  The discordant tonal structures are not “original, indigenous,” or “immaculate.”  

In the book Why I Am a Five Percenter Michael Muhammad Knight states: “In modern times, the identification of ancient Amorites with white people would persist in various Afrocentric discourses, most famously the Ansaru Allah Community/Nubian Islamic Hebrews that had a strong presence in mid-1980s Brooklyn.  This may help with comprehension of 1990’s ‘The Originators,’ in which a young Jay-Z says, ‘Amorites just can’t understand the groove we’re in.'”  I just can’t understand why this song is built on a single chord, B7; to be truly original Jay-Z ought to lose the discordant flatted seventh tone and identify with the original triadic chord.  

Paul Gilroy: “Rebel MC’s ‘Wickedest Sound‘ comes from London and points to a different notion of authenticity.  Its racial witness is produced out of semiotic play rather than ethnic fixity, and a different understanding of tradition emerges out of the capacity to combine the different voices, styles, and motifs drawn from all kinds of sources in a montage of blackness(es).” (It’s a Family Affair, That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hip Studies Reader, 91)  The bass establishes Bb as the root over which a high pitched synthesizer emits the notes E, B, Bb – b5, b9, 1.  In his essay Gilroy accurately describes “hip-hop culture” as “the dissonant soundtrack of racial dissidence.” (92)

The chorus to Eminem’s Yellow Brick Road features a synthesized violin sound over a melodic motif of E, Eb, D – 5, b5, and 4 relative to the fundamental note A.  These notes are in the blues scale, as are the notes in the melodic motif of a similar synth sound in the first verse consisting of two riffs: A, E, Eb, D, and A, C, D, C – 1, 5, b5, 4, and 1, b3, 4, b3.  In the third verse Eminen says: “Blackness is in.  African symbols and medallions represents black power and we ain’t know what it meant.  Me and my man Howard and Butter, we would go to the mall with ’em all over our necks like we’re showing ’em off not knowing at all we was being laughed at.  You ain’t even half black.”   

Eminem’s stated recognition that hip hop medallions function as symbols of black power may contrast with an ignorance concerning a relation between black sexuality and the blues scale, used in his Yellow Brick Road.  George Russell states that “the Blues Scale is simply a funky version of the Major Scale.  The Blues Scale occurs when the 3rd, 5th and 7th degrees of the Major Scale are flattened.”  (38)  LeRoi Jones states that “the adjective funky…meant to many Negroes merely a stink (usually associated with sex).” (219)  Michael Knight states that “Eminem was able to [86]…play upon the long-standing fetishizing of young black males as excessively aggressive, dangerous, and hypersexual.  Eminem granted young white men access to a mythic image of black masculinity, a version of the abstract surrogate black father that had been sought by both John Walker Lindh and myself.” (Why, 86-87)  Breau could be included among these white seekers.  

Morris Berman: “Eminem (aka Marshall Bruce Mathers III) is really a synecdoche for American culture at large, and has in fact been referred to as the ‘spokesman of his generation.’  His album of 2000 ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ is the best-selling hip-hop [170] record in history (it has sold more than ten million copies in the United States alone).  A review of his work in the Mexico City newspaper El Universal commented that his success ‘serves to illustrate the brutal emptiness that exists among the young people of contemporary societies, black holes that need to be filled with anything, but above all with hatred.  This is the entry point for all Eminems, and for all the Eminems to come.’” (Why America Failed, 170-171) 

Berman: “There is no longer a ‘vibrant, living tradition and community to be born into, to inherit, or to bequeath,’ writes Dick Neyer in Why We Hate Us.  There has been ‘an erosion of socially shared ways of treating others respectfully, the ties that make community possible.’  In fact, ‘Boorishness and vulgarity are sanctified by public culture and [are] thus omnipresent.’  In popular music, Meyer points out, violence and drugs are glorified; women are routinely referred to as ‘bitches.’  He quotes from the song ‘Drops,’ by Eminem: All these bitches on my dick  That’s how dudes be getting sick  That’s how dicks be getting drips  From these bitches on our dicks  What would a forbidden lyric in American culture today? Meyer asks.” (Why America Failed, 170)  “We have arrived at a cultural nadir, where such stuff is not merely acceptable but actually lionized.” (note 11, 226)  

Meyer: “We are shocked that much rap music routinely refers to women as ‘bitches’ and ‘hos’ and men as ‘pimps’ and ‘gangstas.’  But without a fight, this language has trickled into common usage, especially among kids, even in the suburbs and the country.” (Why, 171)  “It is actually quite difficult to imagine something that might not be acceptable in music today.  It’s a contest to be the most offensive.  Violence, murder, robbery, guns, and drugs are all praised and glorified.  Women aren’t objectified, they’re just hated and insulted, routinely called hos, bitches, and a bunch of other words I’d rather not use.  Consider the lyrics of just one, almost randomly selected song, ‘P.I.M.P.’ by 50 Cent:
I’m bout my money you see, girl you can holla at me
If you fucking with me, I’m a P-I-M-P…
That other nigga you be with ain’t bout shit
I’m your friend, your father, and confidant, BITCH” (194)
“Charles Murray, the always controversial conservative writer, has an interesting theory taken from the British historian Arnold Toynbee.  In a 2001 essay in The Wall Street Journal, Murray put forth a variation on the ‘America as Rome’ idea: ‘One of the consistent symptoms of disintegration is that the elites…begin to imitate those at the bottom of society.'” (196)

Meyer: “The Reverend Delman Coates of the Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Maryland, a primarily African-American congregation, led a protest at the home of Debra Lee, the chief executive officer at Black Entertainment Television (BET).  They protested the demeaning portrayal of black people, playing to the ‘pimp’ and ‘gangster’ images of black men and ‘bitches and hos’ images of black women.  They objected to shows like Hot Ghetto Mess.” (198)

Miyakawa notes that the Five Percenter Nation “Supreme Mathematics is the Law and Order of the Universe, this is the Science of Islam, which is Peace.” (36)  Miyakawa describes the science of supreme mathematics as “an esoteric, mystical numerological system that plays a key role in Five Percenter doctrine.”  (144)  Miyawaka cites an example of supreme mathematics: “the very title of Scaramanga Shallah’s ‘7XL’ depends on the meaning of 7: God.  The title affirms an ‘extra-large; or affluent lifestyle for Gods, and specifically for Scaramanga and his guest MCs Sadat X and Grand Puba of Brand Nubian.  The title’s meaning is further clarified in the chorus: for these Gods, living well includes cash, checks, clientele, expensive beer (namely, Guinness), richly customized automobiles, and plenty of leisure time.” (55) 

I don’t exactly know what the unholier than Thou trinity of rappers are describing in 7XL, but it seems to relate to their sexuality, as is evident from the following excerpts.  Grand Puba: “Godly ways and action be fo’ yo’ satisfaction / Chicks feel me like attraction, move shoes like Foot Action.”  Sir Menelik: “Ladies stay in my facial labels pay to keep me laced / Sports the short fade, paid suede soft butter Avirex / Turbotron don intellect, mental flex connects aspects / Got cream like NASDAQ, so to competition don’t be abstract / The Extra Large mack reacts.”  Sadat X: “Her black panties up the antes which was well spent on / There was cash bent on for porn, latex worn / It’s on, sting like a thorn in the morn’ for self-guilt / and think about the ass you kilt.”  The relation between black male sexuality and divinity is made more explicit in Ghostface Killah’s song Wildflower: “Sexually you worshipped my di-dick like a cross….I’m God, cipher divine.”  

The seeming identification of black rappers, not only with the deity, but also with their sexuality perpetuates the racist reduction mentioned by Steve Waksman: “Frantz Fanon has described how black maleness has been reduced historically not only to a body but to a penis, which is in turn amplified to superhuman proportions.”  (Instruments of Desire, 219)  Waksman may have the following passage in mind: “European culture has an imago of the black man [146]….He has been turned into a penis.  He is a penis….What is the truth?  The average length of the African’s penis, according to Dr. Pales, is seldom greater than 120 millimeters (4.68 inches).  Testut in his Traite d’anatomie humainegives the same figure for a European.  But nobody is convinced by these facts.” (Black Skin, White Masks, 146-47)  It is not stated whether Dr. Pales included pygmies in his research.  

Ronald Sanders cites Richard Jobson, commander and narrator of an English expedition to West Africa in 1620.  In his book, The Golden Trade, Jobson takes “note of the Black man’s ‘burdensome’ organ, the very manifestation of Noah’s curse (or blessing, as inclination may have it), which had been directed at ‘the same place where the original cause began.’…The myth of black superiority in this respect became widespread in that era and persists in some quarters to this day, but no final decision has been made as to any possible basis for it in fact.” (Lost Tribes and Promised Lands, 344)  Samuel Cartwright in 1851: “‘The wisdom, mercy and justice of the decree, that Canaan shall serve Japheth…proves that [the black man’s] physical organization, and the laws of his nature, are in perfect unison with slavery, and in entire discordance with liberty.'” (from Difference and Pathology, 139)  Hernton describes an incident “when a white woman related how ‘surprised and dis-[39]appointed’ she was to discover that the penis of her Negro date was no different, except in color, than that of her white boy friend.” (Sex and Racism in America, 39-40)

Despite the “facts” uncovered by Fanon, Julian Mayfield states that “the poorest black man has always been able to wake up in the morning with one pitiable certainty, and that was that his thing was larger than any white man’s, and that he could manipulate it more skillfully and produce better results.  White lynch mobs have always believed it, too, and they used to make a special point of slashing off a black man’s penis and balls before they barbecued him.  Even now, in a public toilet a white man will peep over into your stall to see if it is really true that yours is bigger than his.” (You Touch My Black Aesthetic and I’ll Touch Yours, from The Black Aesthetic, 25)  The historical reduction of black maleness by Europeans may be perpetuated in the Five Percenters’ acronym ALLAH, in which four bodily members, arm-leg-leg-arm, precede the head in a sequence of letters.  Could it be that the Five Percenters’ “Law and Order of the Universe,” and “Science of Islam, which is Peace,” has something to do with a taboo against castrating or repressing the black penis?  This would bring new meaning to the act of submitting to A-L-L-A-H (see Peterson@6:00, Women’s March, Toronto Star, and Ezekiel 16:26).

Rakim’s song The Mystery (Who is God?) ends with the words: “Rakim Allah, peace.  Now who is God?”  Rakim’s song Holy is the Lord begins like a traditional hymn, with the lyrics: “Holy are you Holy are you / There is no God but you / There is no God but you / Praised be the Lord.”  However we soon learn that the God extolled is none other than the rapper himself.  “There is no God but you (Rakim Allah) / G-O-D, the God MC / For those who find it hard to believe, and it is / Why they call me the God MC…”  Louis Farrakhan’s voice speaks the words: “If you follow in His footsteps you will become what He is.”  White Five Percenter Knight sees Rakim as a mere saint when describing him as a “canonized MC.”  (Why I, 74)  However, Knight betrays the negative emotional root of black nationalism and hip hop when confessing that “angry black men and their angry black religions…dominated hip-hop in the early to mid-1990s.” (Why, 73)  Anger is listed as one of the acts of the flesh in Galatians 5:20

Rose: “In Eric B & Rakim’s ‘Follow the Leader,’ the chorus – ‘follow the leader Rakim a say’ – is recited in staccato repetition to reinforce the identity of the performer.  Examples of such naming are endless. Rap lyrics are closely linked with the author; unlike traditional Western notions of composition in which the composer’s text is in a separate sphere from that of the performer, rap lyrics are the voice of the composer and the performer…..The content of a rap rhyme is sometimes so specific to its creator that to perform someone else’s rhyme requires that references to its creator be rewritten.  

The significance of naming in rap is exemplified by a re-vision of L.L. Cool J.’s 1986 hit ‘I’m Bad.’  In ‘[I’m] Bad,’ L.L. [Cool J.] brags that he is the best rapper in the history of rap and at a climax point instructs his fans to ‘forget Oreos eat Cool J. cookies.’” (Noise, 87)  The bass riff of a blues scale with flatted fifth is related to the bass riff in Michael Jackson’s Bad.  A similar bass riff is featured in Ice T’s song New Jack Hustler, with a horn like sound playing Db, C, Bb – b5, 4, b3.  Ice T’s song Colors also has a bass riff ascending a diminished triad, from F, Ab, Bb, to B – 1, b3, 4, to b5.  Ice T’s song Midnight is based on the tritone riff of Black Sabbath’s eponymous song.  Eric B & Rakim’s Follow the Leader begins with a two riff bass line of C, Db, Eb, and C, Eb, C, Db, which seems to establish Eb as the key. This line is followed by a flute riff of Bb, G, F#, then a horn blast of Db, Eb, Db, and a sustained string sound of Eb.  The combined notes outline a Eb Hendrix chord.

Rose: “Paris, a San Francisco-based rapper whose nickname is P-dog, directs his neo-Black Panther position specifically at ideological fissures and points of contradiction: P-dog commin’ up, I’m straight low / Pro-black and it ain’t no joke / Commin’ straight from the mob that broke shit last time, / Now I’m back with a brand new sick rhyme. [102] / So, black, check time and tempo / Revolution ain’t never been simple.’  Submerged in winding, dark, low, bass lines, ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ locates Paris’s anger as a response to white colonialism and positions him as a ‘low’ (read underground) voice backed up by a street mob whose commitment is explicitly pro-black and nationalist.  A self-proclaimed supporter of the revived and revised Oakland-based Black Panther movement, Paris (whose logo is also a black panther) locates himself as a direct descendent of the black panther ‘mob that broke shit last time’ but who offers a revised text for the nineties.  Paris’s opening line, ‘this is a warning’ and subsequent assertion, ‘So don’t ask next time I start this, the devil made me do it,’ along with his direct address to blacks ‘so, black, check time and tempo’ is another double play. Paris, a member of the Nation of Islam (NOI) is referring to the familiar NOI cry, ‘Do you know what time it is? It’s nation time!’ and the ‘time and tempo’ based nature of his electronic, digital musical production.  Later, he makes more explicit the link he forges between his divinely inspired digitally coded music and the military style of NOI programs: P-dog with a gift from heaven, tempo 116.7 / Keeps you locked in time with the program / When I get wild I’ll pile on the dope jams.” (102-03)  The “winding, dark, low, bass lines” in ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ consist of four notes outlining a diminished chord: Eb, Gb, B, Ab – 1, b3, b5, 4.

Cornell West blissfully ignores rap’s black Muslim roots: “Coming from the margins of society, the lyrics and rhythms of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Kool Herc, Rakim, Paris, the Poor Righteous Teachers, Afrikaa Bambaataa, and, above all, KRS-ONE and Public Enemy (led by Chuck D) unleashed incredible democratic energies.” (Democracy Matters, 180)  West locates these energies in the blues: “we as a blues nation must learn from a blues people how to keep alive our deep democratic energies in dark times.” (21)

Miyakawa notes: “Conscious texts fell from popularity by the mid-1990s for a variety of reasons, replaced by ‘bling-bling,’ booty-shaking southern raps, and MCs from all corners of the country concerned with ‘keeping it real,’ telling ‘true’ stories from the streets.  Anti-Islamic sentiment in the 1990s did not help the cause of conscious rap.”  (140)  Miyakawa mentions “charges of hypocrisy within the rap community.  One recent attack came from The Goodie Mob, who begin their song ‘The Nigger Experience’ (from Still Standing, 1998) with the lines: ‘I thought you said you was the G.O.D. / sound like another nigga to me.’” (71)  Hip-hop scholar Tricia Rose is of the opinion that “The music, its rhythmic patterns, and the idiosyncratic articulation by the rapper are essential to the song’s meanings.’” (Black Noise, 88; from Miyakawa, 73)  In Rose’s book The Hip-Hop Wars she poses the question, “Does the portrayal of black culture in hip-hop undermine black advancement?”  The repetetive, discordant, and diminished tonal structures typically employed by hip-hop artists indicate an affirmative response.

Gilroy notes “Frank William’s observation that ‘there was no politically correct shit with N. W. A. [Niggas With Attitude] nor overt messages of Black empowerment, which dominated hip-hop at the time.  It was straight up drinking, getting women and unloading your gat [gun] on some bustas [rappers].'”  (Against Race, 264)  Gary Herman: “To many in the gangsta-rap culture, ‘keepin’ it real’ was the catchword, reality equalling a narrow vision for the rapper (or narrator, so much of this material being one step removed from the artist’s life) to claw his way out of the ghetto.  The only options, if taken at face value, were dealing drugs or running ‘hos’ (whores).  The Magnum pistol or semiautomatic rifle became as much a status symbol as ostentatious gold jewellery.  Gangsta rap celebrated the law of the jungle – in its basic pessimism it was almost a distorted reflection of its white conservative enemies, who looked to their own weapons armouries for reassurance.” (Babylon, 284)  

Paul Gilroy associates hip hop with what he describes as “revolutionary conservatism….in a gloomy presentation of black humanity composed of limited creatures who require tradition, pedagogy, and organization.  This seems to go hand in hand with a fascistic fear and contempt of the masses.  Ice Cube has reported this revealing conversation with his sometime mentor Minister Louis Farrakhan: ‘Mentally he told me, the people are babies.  They are addicted to sex and violence.  So if you’ve got medicine to give them, then put the medicine inside some soda so they get both and it won’t be hard for them to digest.'”  (Against Race, 206)  Chuck D: “I see Gangsta Rap as potentially being a plea for help, expressing a viewpoint that doesn’t get represented by the mainstream.” (Fight the Power, 249)  James W. Perkinson believes that rap’s “root remains the anger and attitude of a harsh confrontation….If a collective effect of shamanistic healing was hip-hop’s early possibility, its reality is real loss in the war of competing witchcrafts.  White supremacy continues to infiltrate much of the private talk in this [American] country.” (Rap as Wrap and Rapture, from Noise and Spirit, 146, 148)  In Hip Hop America Nelson George “chronicles a generation coming of age at a moment of extreme racial confusion – in these years since official apartheid was legislated out of existence and de facto segregation grew – that has been grappling with what equality means during the worst economic conditions for the underclass since the Depression.  Hip hop is…the spawn of many things.  But most profoundly, it is a product of schizophrenic, post-civil rights movement America.'” (xi; from Rap as Wrap and Rapture, 148)

The black supremacy espoused by both The Nation of Islam and The Five Percent Nation contrasts with the following words of Malcolm X to Afro-Americans: “If democracy means equality then why don’t we have equality?… What did the man do to make you as dumb as you are right now?  And if we can’t do it we should hush our mouth.  If you can’t do for yourself what the white man is doing for himself, don’t say you’re equal with the white man.  If you can’t set up a factory like he sets up a factory, don’t talk that old equality talk.”  In place of “that old equality talk” I propose a ‘new equality song,’ the “new song” of Psalm 144:9, transforming the discord of postlapsarian persons to an attunement to the divine image.

Black Nationalists assert: “The original man is the Asiatic Black man; the Maker; the Owner; the Cream of the planet Earth – Father of Civilization, God of the Universe.”  I counter this blasphemous and racist doctrine with the natural fact that the original chord is the major chord, which has traditionally been regarded as the aural image of the Maker, the Triune Creator, who wills homo sapiens to be transformed into the divine image, manifest in this indigenous chord.  This assertion is in keeping with the goal of the Black Panther Party as stated by Newton: “We struggle for a future in which we will realize that we are all Homo sapiens and have more in common than not.” (Reader, 191)  Sapientia is the latin word for wisdom, a quality identified with Jesus, whose submission to the will of his heavenly Father is manifest in the relation between the perfect fifth and fundamental notes of a major chord.  This analogy demonstrates how music offers a “‘presentation of God’s wisdom,’” in Werckmeister’s phrase.  Those who identify with a diminished chord diminish their potential status as image bearers of the God of the Universe.  Diminished persons permit “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) to deform them to an inferior harmony relative to the indigenous harmony of nature’s perfect chord. 

I respond to the self-deifying theology of black nationalist hip hop artists with an original lyric called New Equality Rap.  “What up, H.B.?  You ain’t no G.O.D., you just an H.B. [human being], and I don’t mean pencil.  So you see, if you seek you just might find that you can ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ (Rom. 12:2)  Two chords compete for control of your soul.  The major and the minor, the indigenous and the diminished.  Will you submit to the cadence from blues to bliss?  Will you choose to be a victim or a victor?  I set before you original and derivative.  Now choose original.  Discover your true identity: be harmonious, major, and free.  H.B., acknowledge that marginalized minority of modern harmony – the original chord supreme.”

My rap is not intended to whitify, but rather to naturalize, in the sense of bringing listeners into harmony with the chord of nature, a musical manifestation of the supreme being.  This naturalization accords with the assertion of Farrakhan that the “birthright” of Afro-Americans “is to inherit the mind, the will, the Spirit of God.”  However, this assertion is contradicted by Farrakhan’s endorsement of hip hop music, much of which employs tonal structures at variance with the original harmonic offspring of the fundamental tone in the natural overtone series – the major chord.  

Identifying oneself, and particularly one’s sexuality, with the tonal keynote is the original sin of music.  Farrakhan addresses Afro-Americans: “Everything in the universe is created to bow down to God in following the law under which it was created….He created you in the nature of the universe to bow down to the will of God.  That’s the divinity of your nature.”  (The Dumbing Down of the American People, 45:45-46:07)  As the first harmonic overtone after the fundamental, the fifth, is created to surrender its will to the fundamental as its harmonic center in a triad, so humans are created to transcend self-centeredness and self-consciousness by acknowledging the Maker as the center of their spiritual being.

Transvaluation of Western Values

Jacques Maritain: “All our values depend on the nature of our God….to civilize is to spiritualize.” (Art and Scholasticism, 75)  Morris Berman writes: “Value systems hold us (all of us, not merely ‘intellectuals’) together, and when these systems start to crumble, so do the individuals who live by them.” (The Reenchantment of the World, 22)  Peterson@5:50: “No value structure, no positive emotion….if your values system collapses then all you’re left with is negative emotion.”  Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote of a `transvaluation of all values‘.  Such a transformation can be traced in postwar America.  I have stated my belief that all races are made in the divine image.  In contrast, Huey Newton, in the context of a discussion concerning race and religion, refers to “the value system that black is bad, black is evil.” (551)  It would seem that Newton bought into this value system, for he quotes, with approval, the following passage from Melvin van Peebles’ Aint Supposed to Die a Natural Death: “Black is not only beautiful; it’s bad too.” (Suicide, 60)  Jon Michael Spencer notes that in the song, Pig Iron Sally, Lucille “Bogan, with her own comic logic, discredited the moot point that good or evil was in any respect correlated to racial hue.  ‘Some folks say black is evil but I will tell the world they’re wrong,’ she sang; ‘because I’m a sealskin brown and I been evil since I been born.’” (Blues and Evil, 82)  

Hernton summarizes American racial ideology of the mid-sixties: “The white world is virtuous, holy, chaste.  The black world is dirty, savage, sinful….white women symbolize sexual restraint, discipline, denial of pleasure…white women are lovely but not carnally loveable; they are more like the Virgin Mary….Black women symbolize sexual freedom, promiscuity, maternal warmth, and carnal gratification.  Black women are not only ‘loose’ and touchable, they are more or less defenseless.” (Sex and Racism, 84, 110)

In a Doonesbury cartoon dated Sunday, April 21, 1974, Mike compliments Thor on his fine attire and Thor identifies it as a sign of a new threshold in black cultural development: “Black ain’t just beautiful anymore.  Black is positively Baroque!  AKA Afro-rococo.“  Howard Thurman: “’”Black is Beautiful” became not merely a phrase – it was a stance, a total attitude, a metaphysics.  In very positive and exciting terms it began undermining the idea that had developed over so many years into a central aspect of white mythology: that black is ugly, black is evil, black is demonic.  In so doing it fundamentally attacked the front line of the defence of the myth of white supremacy and superiority.’” (The Search for a Common Ground; from Killing Rage, 189)

Sander Gilman notes that by the eighteenth century blackness had become “an icon for deviant sexuality in general.”  In the medical literature by the mid-nineteenth century the “pathology” of the person of color was presumed to be part of his or her essential nature. (Difference and Pathology, Chapters 3-6 and 10)  Anita Jacobson-Widding, in her book, Red-White-Black as a Mode of Thought: A Study of Triadic Classification by Colours in the Ritual Symbolism and Cognitive Thought of the Peoples of the Lower Congo, concludes: “White and black are thus the colours attributed to the supreme incarnations of the principles of good and evil, respectively.” (352)  However, works of contemporary Western culture reverse the traditional moral connotations of black and white, such as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (set in the Belgian Congo), the film Bad Company, the Rolling Stones’ Sweet Black Angel, and the U2 song Angel of Harlem.  U2 also have a song in which they contrast “faces as pale as the dirty snow” with “the lamb as white as snow.”  The brother of the main character in Bad Company, with his love of classical music, exemplifies what rappers call an oreo.  

Entman and Rojecki “propose to use the modern term racial comity” to positively define race relations.  “The Oxford English Dictionary defines comity as ‘courtesy, civility; kindly and considerate behavior toward others.’  Comity would allow Whites and [11] Blacks to see common interests and values more readily and thus to cooperate in good faith to achieve mutually beneficial objectives.  Research on ‘social capital’ and trust strongly suggests that trustful and cooperative interaction among group members enhances a society’s material and physical (not to mention spiritual) well being.”  (The Black Image in the White Mind, 11-12)  However, Entman and Rojecki later note that “Darkness evokes danger and dirt, so that mental associations of the color black and the words Black person may be negative among most Whites; certainly the color evokes notions of difference.” (177)  Such notions are manifest in the first meeting between the main character of Anchorman 2 and his black boss.  Compare with hooks’ reference to “the representation of whiteness as terror in the black imagination.” (Representations of Whiteness, Black Looks, 176)  

How might racial comity be manifest in the realms of music and aesthetics?  Does it necessitate blacks becoming what rappers disdainfully refer to as oreos?  Leonard Steinhorn and Barbara Diggs-Brown: “We have created a mass fiction of interracial comity, a grand illusion of imminent integration, perhaps because as a culture we have lost our ability to distinguish between symbolism and reality, or perhaps because we don’t want to face the unpleasant truths about our beloved but divided America.” (The Integration Illusion, By the Color of Our Skin, 11)  

Stanley Crouch mentions “the black-power, Malcolm X-derived, pro-Louis Farrakhan, anti-American, romantic Third World stuff that came up in the sixties.  You had thugs, like Huey Newton, who were celebrated as great revolutionaries.  You had West Indians, like Stokely Carmichael, who were calling for the violent overthrow of the country.  You had LeRoi Jones ranting anti-Semitism from one coast to the other, and black students on campus cheering and howling.  And that’s going [399] on now.” (in Visible Man, from Conversations with Ralph Ellison, 399-400)  Elsewhere Crouch describes the Panthers as “a sixties’ group of thugs with Marxist revolutionary pretensions who successfully cowed middle-class, well-educated North American Negroes like Angela Davis, who were caught up in the romance of Third World revolution and terrified of being prejudiced against their own kind.” (The All-American Skin Game, 253)  Crouch: “Newton turned the radical political front of his group into a screen for the sort of organized extortion and murder he so admired in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, which he emphatically ordered his closest followers to read.” (253)  Clarence Page mentions “reports in the leftist and mainstream press alike that the remnants of the Black Panther movement had turned into a little Oakland-based drug mafia.” (Showing My Color, 65)

Newton: “People once ashamed to be called Black now gladly accept the label, and our biological characteristics are sources of pride.  Today we call ourselves Black people and wear natural hair styles because we have changed the definition of the word ‘black.’  This is an example of Nietzsche’s theory that beyond good and evil is the will to power.  In the early days of the Black Panthers we tried to find ways to make this theory work in the best interests of Black people.  Words [164] could be used not only to make Blacks more proud but to make whites question and even reject concepts they had always unthinkingly accepted….People like to be on the winning side.  We have seen the same principle work on college campuses in this country.  Many white youths now identify with Blacks; the indentification is manifested in clothes, rhetoric, and life styles.”  (Revolutionary Suicide, 164-5)  I am concerned with how this identification is manifested in the music of Breau.  

From a Weatherman flyer titled Break on Through to the Other Side: “SDS is recruiting an army right now, man, a people’s army, under black leadership, that’s gonna fight against the pigs and win!!!” (A Hard Rain: Sds and Why It Failed, 175)  David Barber: “Neither wages nor hours would lure white workers out of the embrace of racism and male domination and empire, it was being on the side that would ‘win.’” (175)  “the way young whites should follow ‘black leadership’ was to follow Weatherman.” (229)  

Gardell, writing in 1996: “Until the 1960s, black youths generally regarded whites as role models and sought to bend nature to comply with their wishes, as, for example, when they used congolene to straighten their hair.  One now can observe a reverse tendency, in which white youths look to blacks for role models.  Today you might find white people wearing African medallions, X-marked clothing, and dreadlocks….This new trend means that black Muslim raptivists are selling tens of thousands of albums to white fans who dance to their own destruction.”  (In the Name, 300)  Spengler denounced “the ‘happy ending’ of an empty existence, the boredom of which has brought to jazz music and Negro dancing to perform the Death March for a great Culture.” (The Hour of Decision, pp. 227–228)  Phil Rubio: “’That’s very white of you’ and ‘free, white and 21’ were expressions I grew up with in the 60’s.  Today, ‘white’ means ‘boring,’ and white kids deride other whites as dancing ‘too white.’  To be accused of playing ‘too white’ can be an artistic death sentence.” (Crossover Dreams, 150)

In his book Instruments of Desire, Steve Waksman mentions a “fetishization of [209] phallic potency that centered around an idealized notion of black masculinity common among white male radicals of the 1960s.” (209-10)  This notion is evident in the words of the Minister of Information of the White Panther Party.  “John Sinclair issued his ‘White Panther Statement,’ the official declaration of the formation of the White Panther party, in the November 14-27, 1968 issue of the Fifth Estate….To conclude the statement, he called attention to the absolute centrality of black politics and black music in the formation of the White Panther program.  ‘The actions of the Black Panthers in America have inspired us and given us strength, as has the music of black America, and we are moving to reflect that strength in our daily activity just as our music contains and extends the [217] power and feeling of the black magic music that originally informed our bodies and told us that we could be free.  I might mention Brother James Brown in this connection, as well as John Coltrane and Archie Shepp, Sun-Ra, LeRoi Jones, Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, these are magic names to us.  These are men in America.  And we’re as crazy as they are, and as pure.  We’re bad.’” (217-18)  

Iggy Pop: “’The White Panthers had a political platform that consisted of three things: rock and roll, dope, and fucking in the streets.  And they printed it on postcards with a white panther, saying, “Fucking in the streets!  Tell your friends!”’” (from Inside the Music, 92)  Pop: “’[John] Sinclair had a bigger vision….it was: “We’re going to blow up America and then we’re all going to metamorphose into black people with white skin, and we’re gonna be fucking in the streets.”’” (93) 

The notion that black is bad seems common to both Black and White Panthers.  David Horowitz describes “former Panther Chairman, Bobby Seale,” being “whipped – literally – and then personally sodomized by Huey with such violence that he had to have his anus surgically repaired by a Pacific Heights doctor who was a political supporter of the Panthers.  A Party member told me later, ‘You have to understand, it had nothing to do with sex.  It was about power.’  But in the Panther world, as I also came to learn, nothing was about anything except power.” (Hating Whitey, 96)  Horowitz describes how a female Party member was “ordered to strip to the waist by Chairman Bobby Seale and then [was] subjected to ten strokes because she had missed an editorial deadline on the Black Panther newspaper.” (119)  

Horowitz: “Underneath all the political rhetoric and social uplift, I suddenly realized was the stark reality of the gang.” (104)  Horowitz concurs with Crouch when describing the Panthers as “militant thugs….The existence of a Murder Incorporated in the heart of the American Left is something the Left really doesn’t want to know or think about.  Such knowledge would refute its most cherished self-understandings and beliefs.  It would undermine the sense of righteous indignation that is the crucial starting point of a progressive attitude.  It would explode the myths on which the attitude depends.” (121)  Horowitz later describes the Party as “a gang led by murderers and rapists whom the left had anointed as its political vanguard and whose crimes leftists continue to ignore to this day.” (195)  He also refers to “a national false memory syndrome that recalled the Panthers not as the street thugs they were, but as heroes of a civil rights struggle they had openly despised.” (212)  Eldridge Cleaver validated Horowitz’s descriptions of the Party in an interview on 60 Minutes: “’If people had listened to Huey Newton and me in the 1960s, there would have been a holocaust in this country.’” (from Hating Whitey, 213)  Horowitz: “Years later, former Panther chairman Bobby Seale also made a public confession about Panther criminality and specifically acknowledged that the Panthers had murdered Betty Van Patter.” (Left Illusions, xxi)

Steve Waksman describes the black aesthetic as “the cultural movement that paralleled the drive toward political autonomy expressed by Black Power.  Adhering to the black aesthetic involved accepting the maxim ‘black is beautiful’ as the first step toward breaking away from white European aesthetic standards that had so long associated blackness with ugliness, depravity, and evil.  Aesthetics were transfigured into a battleground in which black and white artists struggled over control of the images that shaped the collective racial consciousness.  Larry Neal offered a striking articulation of this sensibility in his essay on the Black Arts Movement. ‘The motive behind the black aesthetic is the destruction of the white thing, the destruction of white ideas, and white ways of looking at the world.  The new aesthetic is mostly predicated on an Ethics which asks the question: [173] whose vision of the world is finally more meaningful, ours or the white oppressors?  What is truth.  Or, more precisely, whose truth shall we express, that of the oppressed or of the oppressors?…[The black aesthetic] comes to stand for the collective conscious and unconscious of Black America – the real impulse in back of the Black Power movement, which is the will toward self-determination and nationhood, a radical reordering of the nature and function of both art and the artist.'” (Instruments of Desire, 173)  Waksman describes “the adherents of the Black Aesthetic movement” of the sixties as those “whose efforts to define a separate black cultural identity continue to resonate within contemporary culture and politics.” (Instruments, 173)  James Baldwin: “Black has become a beautiful color – not because it is loved but because it is feared.” (The Fire Next Time, 91)

Newton: “Another expression that helped to raise Black people’s consciousness is ‘All Power to the People.’  An expression that has meaning on several levels – political, economic, and metaphysical.” (166)  “In the metaphysical sense we based the expression ‘All Power to the People’ on the idea of man as God.  I have no other God but man, and I firmly believe that man is the highest or chief good.  If you are obligated to be true and honest to anyone, it is to your God, and if each man is God, then you must be true to him.  If you believe that man is the ultimate being, then you will act according to your belief.  Your attitude and behaviour toward man is a kind of religion in itself, with high standards of responsibility….The phrase ‘All Power to the People’ was meant to…convince Black people that their rewards were due in the present, that it was in their power to create a Promised Land here and [168] now.  The Black Panthers have never intended to turn Black people away from religion.  We want to encourage them to change their consciousness of themselves and to be less accepting of the white man’s version of God – the God of the downtrodden, the weak, and the undeserving.  We want them to see themselves as the called, the chosen, and the salt of the earth.” (Revolutionary Suicide, 168-9)

“I have arrived at my understanding of what is meant by God…through philosophy, logic and semantics.  My opinion is that the term ‘God’ belongs to the realm of concepts, that it is dependent upon man for its existence.  If God does not exist unless man exists, then man must be here to produce God.  It logically follows, then, that man created God, and if the creator is greater than that which is created, then we must hold that man is the highest good….I think that when man clings to the idea of a God, whom he has created and placed in the heavens, he actually reduces himself and his own potential.  The more he attributes to God, the more inferior he becomes, the less responsible for his own destiny.  He says to God, ‘I am weak but thou art mighty,’ and therefore accepts things as they are, content to leave the running of the world to a supernatural force greater than himself.  This attitude embodies a kind of fatalism, which is inimical to growth and change.  On the other hand, the greater man becomes, the less his God will be.” (169)  “Much of the Bible is madness.  I cannot accept, for ex[169]ample, the notion of divine law and responsibility to ‘God.’  As far as I am concerned, if men are responsible beings, they ought to be responsible to each other.  And so, when we say ‘All Power to the People,’ we mean to convey a sense of deep respect and love for the people, and the idea that the people deserve complete truth and honesty.  The judgement of history is the judgement of the people.  That is the motivating and controlling idea of our very existence.”  (169-70)

The Black Panther Party seems to be based on the notion that black men are gods, in the image of a two-headed African deity.  The slogan All Power to the People seems to mean all power to black men.  This notion recalls the character named God in the film In Too Deep.  Breau’s habit of wearing a black beret may have indicated his identification with the values and beliefs of the Black Panther Party.  

Newton: “Black men and women who refuse to live under oppression are dangerous to white society because they become symbols of hope to their brothers and sisters, inspiring them to follow their example.”  (161)  “There is an old African saying, ‘I am we.’  If you met an African in ancient times and asked him who he was, he would reply, ‘I am we.’  This is revolutionary suicide: I, we, all of us are the one and the multitude.”  (332)  “The revolutionary suicide is a ‘fool,’ a fool for the revolution in the way that Paul meant when he spoke of being ‘a fool for Christ.’  That foolishness can move the mountain of oppression; it is our great leap and our commitment to the dead and the unborn.  We will touch God’s heart; we will touch the people’s heart, and together we will move the mountain.”  (333)  As the African god is both good and evil, revolutionaries refuse to submit to the good God of the Bible.  “By surrendering my life to the revolution, I found eternal life.  Revolutionary Suicide.” (ix)

Sun Ra’s Astro-Black Mythology: “If you observe the universe, you don’t see equality, you see hierarchy.  The sun doesn’t equal the moon.  We are all diverse beings.  Not the same, not equal.” (The Last Temptation of Sun Ra)  Rudhyar agrees: “There is no equality in nature.  All units of activity (molecules, cells, species within one biosphere) operate on the basis of functional differentiation.” (The Magic of Tone, Chapter 9)  Sun Ra: “According to the Bible, it said the disciples turned the world upside down….they inverted values.”

In his landmark 1969 book Black Theology and Black Power, James Cone comments on the “kingdom of darkness” mentioned in the letter to the Ephesians (2:2 and 6:12): “When we look at what whiteness has done to the minds of men in this country, we can see clearly what the New Testament meant when it spoke of the principalities and powers.  To speak of Satan and his powers becomes not just a way of speaking but a fact of reality.  When we can see a people who are controlled by an ideology of whiteness, then we know what reconciliation must mean. The coming of Christ means a denial of what we thought we were.  It means destroying the white devil in us.  Reconciliation to God means that white people are prepared to deny themselves (whiteness), take up the cross (blackness) and follow Christ (black ghetto).”  (quoted in The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity by Thabiti M. Anyabwile (Orbis), p.150.)

In a passage from Martin Williams’ Jazz Masters of New Orleans, Dude Botley gave his impression of the music of Buddy Bolden.  

”I thought I had heard Bolden play the blues before, and play the hymns at funerals, but what he is playing now is real strange and I listen carefully, because he’s playing something that, for a while sounds like the blues, then like a hymn.  I cannot make out the tune, but after a while I catch on.  He is mixing up the blues with the hymns.  He plays the blues real sad and the hymn sadder than the blues and then the blues sadder than the hymn.  That is the first time that I have ever heard hymns and blues cooked up together.  Strange cold feeling comes over me; I get [37] sort of scared because I know the Lord doesn’t like that mixing the Devil’s music with his music.  But I still listen because the music sounds so strange and I am sort of hypnotized.  I close my eyes and when he blows the blues I picture Lincoln Park with all them sinners and whores shaking and belly rubbing.  Then, as he blows the hymn, I picture my mother’s church on Sunday, and everybody humming with the choir.  The picture in my mind kept changing with the music as he blew.  It sounded like a battle between the Good Lord and the Devil.  Something tells me to listen and see who wins.  If he stops on the blues, the Devil wins.” (from Larry Neal, The Ethos of the Blues, Sacred Music of the Secular City, 38)

Neal comments: “Dude Botley gives us two kinds of ritual.  One is secular and African – ‘shaking and belly rubbing’ – the other is institutionalized ritual – his mother’s church where ‘everybody’ is humming.  Two forms of ritual, one associated with acceptance of the ways of the Hebrew Jesus, i.e., the Lamb of God.  The other ritual, on the outside of the church, in the green park, stands in opposition to the value system of Christianity.  There are obviously contending angels here.  The Blues Spirit, the dark angel of the African voice is in a tug-of-war for Bolden’s soul with the white voice of the Christian missionaries.” (38)  “The ‘devil songs,’ as religious black people called the blues, had become an integral part of the American music scene.” (40)  “Many Negro ministers warned their congregations against associating with blues singers.  A black man traveling with a guitar (‘devil box’) was not allowed to pass even into the front yard of the church unless he left his guitar outside.  The social impulse in the blues, its raw quality, is almost completely at odds with the moral attitudes which the Negro ministers attempted to instill in the religious community.  The music had arisen out of the same feeling which produced the spirituals, jubilees, gospel songs, and work songs.  But the overt literary content of the blues was radically different from the view of the world as expressed in the spirituals.” (41)  

In his book, Blues People, LeRoi Jones describes a musical and racial attempt at a transvaluation of values: “The step from cool to soul is a form of social aggression.  It is an attempt to place upon a ‘meaningless’ social order an order which would give value to terms of existence that were once considered not only valueless but shameful.  Cool meant non-participation; soul means a ‘new’ establishment.  It is an attempt to reverse the social roles within the society by redefining the canons of value….White is then not ‘right,’ as the old blues had put it, but a liability, since the culture of white precludes the possession of the Negro ‘soul.’  Even the adjective funky, which once meant to many Negroes merely a stink (usually associated with sex), was used to qualify the music as meaningful.” (219)  

“In Five O’Clock Bells Pierre Brault interprets the life of guitar legend Lenny Breau…whose child-like innocence left him vulnerable to dark forces.”  I seek to identify aesthetic, ethical, and metaphysical manifestations of these forces in Breau’s life.  As an innocent child Breau had the following conversation with his mother: “Mama, is it sinful?” “It’s not good for you.”  “Oh Mama, how can a thing so good be bad?”  In 1962 he told his sister-in-law: “You know, Judy, you’ve got to stop listening to that rock and roll.  It’s no good for you.”  

Deena Weinstein links ethics and race in her statements concerning rock and roll and jazz music.  “Rock and roll was maligned [during the 1950s] for the danger it posed of inflaming the sexual passions of the nation’s youth.  This surface criticism masked widespread racism and fear of miscegenation.  Rock and roll was believed to be infecting white youth with the supposed moral laxity of blacks….The reaction to rock and roll by cultural conservatives was to a large extent a replication of the conservative response to jazz after World War 1….Jazz and its descendent at several removes, rock and roll, were denounced for their sound, which caused a relaxation of sexual control and a descent to the sexual primitivism attributed to blacks.” (Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology, 245; see Pack of Lies, 15:10-16:50)  

This conservative response to jazz after World War 1 contrasts with the liberal response after World War 2, evident in the following words of Andrew Wright Hurley: “Berendt’s model for the overcoming of racial discrimination also had a distinct sexual dimension, although given the sexual mores of the 1950s, this was expressed in a somewhat oblique way.  In his articles, he paid attention both to the interracial romantic encounter and to the possibility of the offspring of such encounters ultimately ‘passing’ for white (see, e.g., Berendt 1952e: 197-8).  In a 1952 Spiegel cover story [61] about the ‘café au lait’ singer Lena Horne, for example, he noted how she had supported interracial ‘mixing’ in a number of ways, not least in her marriage to a white man (1952b).  In his 1996 memoir, Berendt expressly elaborated upon the link between the interracial sexual encounter – which, of course, had been anathema to Nazi ideologues – and his utopian post-racist vision: ‘We – particularly the Europeans – considered it an antiracist act when we slept with black women; we thought [62] that in this way we were contributing to forming a new mankind, in which there were no more races’ (1996a: 106).” (62-63) 

“For Berendt, jazz offered a utopian vision of an integrated society in which race no longer mattered.  Given on-stage and audience ‘mixing’ in Southern U.S. jazz concerts when ‘Jim Crow’ segregation was still the rule, he asserted that jazz had contributed more to overcoming segregation than anything else, and quoted Louis Armstrong with approval: ‘jazz is a great tool in the racial question.  It makes people wonderfully colorblind’ (1956b).  This idea that jazz is a way of creatively surmounting racism was – and, to an extent, remains – a common trope within [67] the liberal jazz literature tradition.  It was pushed in the United States by Leonard Feather and others, and it seems likely that Berendt was at least partly influenced by that discourse (DeVeaux 1997: 18-19; Sudhalter 2001: xvii; Gennari 2006: 55 ff, 151).”  (67-68)

Page contrasts “Hollywood’s representations of Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, and other light-skinned black women as the ‘tragic mulatto,’ simultaneously a tragic figure and an object of desire, in films of the 1930s and 1940s,” with “the ‘WURE’ – the Woman of Unidentifiable Race or Ethnicity….The ‘Universal Other’ is how Chicago Tribune fashion writer Teresa Wiltz describes this generic multiethnic product of the modern marketing age….the ultimate in the fashionable, the trendy, the new, hip, and with-it!” (Color, 293, 300)

Spencer Dryden of the rock group Jefferson Starship described his design for young fans: “Get them while they’re young and bend their minds.”  In a similar vein singer David Crosby bragged, “I figured that the only thing to do was steal their kids.  I still think it’s the only thing to do…I’m not talking about kidnapping…but about changing young people’s value system.”  Breau’s values were influenced by George Russell’s jazz treatise.  Introduction: “The artist needs paints to express himself, while the jazz musician uses tonal resources.  The Lydian Chromatic Concept is an organization of tonal resources from which the jazz musician may draw to create his improvised lines.  It is like an artist’s palette: the paints and colors, in the form of scales and/or intervalic motives, waiting to be blended by the improviser.  Like the artist, the jazz musician must learn the techniques of blending this material.  The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization is a chromatic concept providing the musician with an awareness of the full spectrum of tonal colors available in the equal temperament tuning.  There are no rules, no ‘do’s’ or ‘don’ts.’  It is, therefore, not a system, but rather a view or philosophy of tonality in which the student, it is hoped, will find his own identity.  The student is made aware of the whole chromatic situation surrounding the chord (vertical) or a tonal center (horizontal).  It is believed that this knowledge will liberate the student’s melodic inhibitions and help him to intelligently penetrate and understand the entire chromatic universe.” (1)

Bob Thompson describes the principle of aesthetic relativism which Breau taught him in the summer of 1980: “chords will create a certain emotion or certain color.  These are going to be different for certain people because that’s the interpretive beauty of it.  His ideas about interpretive values really opended up my mind.  He often talked about the color of chords and voicings and how they were evocative.”  “He was looking for different ways to rebuild some of the voicings and reharmonizing things to make them more accessible and create some interesting colors.”  

Breau may well have derived his ideas about musical values from Russell’s concept.  “Final Comment…The Concept does not legislate taste.  Hence, there are no ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ — no laws.  It is, rather, an attempt to organize all the tonal materials that the jazz improviser deals with, so that he may choose for himself on the basis of his own aesthetic needs….It is our own aesthetic judgement, finally, which must take these new resources and humanize them with our own personal touch, and if that touch is strong and beautiful, make art.  To do this, one must absorb this new knowledge in his own personal way.” (49-50)  From a seminar in 1981: “The John Coltrane thing…sounds right, because it’s musically correct, so all you got to know is that and then you can’t play a wrong note.”  His son Chet describes an incident in 1983: “My dad and I were listening to a Hendrix LP, and [his 2nd wife] threw it on the ground saying, ‘this is evil!'” 

A transvaluation of values is advocated in the film Malcolm X (2:02) by a member of the Nation of Islam, who tells the main character, “You’ve got to take everything the white man says and use it against him.”  At the beginning of a speech (Farrakhan Says White Race is Devil) Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, follows this reverse racism when stating his belief “that the white race is a race of devils…because of their actions.”  By contrast, in the message referred to above, he implies that black people are “great” despite their “silly actions.”  This inconsistency betrays his ‘reverse racism.’  Cornell West refers to “Farrakhan, who can only assert black humanity by putting others down – a sign of [15] moral immaturity.” (Prophetic Reflections, 15-16)  However, David Horowitz describes “West’s coziness with the racist Louis Farrakhan.” (Hating Whitey, 8)

White Boy Lost in The Blues

Farrakhan refers to race in relation to metaphysics (devil) in a speech called The Hidden Agenda of European Fraternities and Sororities (:36-1:14): “The white man says…’I’m exposed, and all these black folks know my real name now.  It’s not Frenchman, Italian, Englishman.  It’s devil.  And now all these blacks are calling me devil, and they know I’m the devil, and now they don’t want to have nothing to do with me anymore.'”  Farrakhan offers evidence for his belief that white men are devils at 6:14-42: “Whitey playing the blues now – hard guitar.  Elvis, the King, Presley.  And you’re all just getting sicker and sicker by the moment.  Whitey got you in his grip.”  It seems that Farrakhan’s belief that white men are devils is based in part on his knowledge that some of them play blues music on guitars, an implicitly evil action that holds blacks in a sinister grip.  However, from Walter Murch’s interpretation of Bode’s Law, David Byrne concludes “that the universe plays the blues.” (How Music Works, 311)

Farrakhan’s criticism of Elvis is ironic in context of the following observation of E. Michael Jones:  “The fact that Elvis Presley sang ‘black’ not only caused the stock of people like Little Richard and Chuck Berry to rise, but it also opened the gates for a whole generation of white boys for whom it was now okay to act like a Negro, at least as far as music went.  Ahmet Ertegun has claimed that among the working class youth in England in the early sixties ‘there was a constant attempt to find out how to play like a black person.” (Dionysus Rising, 160)

Farrakhan’s words also imply that black blues guitarists are not devils, but are “great” people engaged in a “silly” activity.  An association between blues music and silliness was made by Afro-American journalist “Lucius C. Harper, who wrote a column for The Chicago Defender, an elitist black newspaper founded in 1905….In a piece titled ‘We Prefer the “Blues” to Our Essential Causes,’ Harper said: ‘While we have failed in these fundamental instances [gleaning political recognition from whites], we have succeeded in winning favor and almost unanimous popularity in our “blues” songs, spirituals and “jitterbug” accomplishments.  Why?’  He answered himself: ‘Our blue melodies have been made popular because they are different, humorous and silly.  The sillier the better.  They excite the primitve emotion in man and arouse his bestiality.  He begins to hum, moan and jump usually when they are put into action.  They stir up the emotions and fit in handily with bootleg liquor.  They break the serious strain of life and inspire the “on with the dance” philosophy.   They are popular because the American people, both white and black, relish nonsense.'” (Sacred Music of the Secular City, Introduction, 33)  Jon Michael Spencer is of the opinion that “black Chicagoans of Harper’s…mindset wanted to forget the years of slavery, of which the spirituals and the blues were a reminder.” (Blues and Evil, 116)

Rastafarian David Hinds, singer of the British reggae band Steel Pulse associates blues with the devil in his song Chant a Psalm: “Blow away your bluesy feeling….Get behind me Satan (:46-1:45).”  Ironically, this song is in a non-celebratory minor key, perhaps because the chant is not expressing praise so much as the “good tidings” of the racial oppression and / or destruction of whites, as in the chorus of Heart of Stone.  Another irony is Hinds’ self-representation as a victim in a track called Blues Dance Raid from the same album as Chant a Psalm.  A third irony that I find on this album is the scat phrase “yow yow,” which links the moral criticism of the penultimate song on the recording, Man No Sober (it is the last thing he sings, at 4:02), to the vision of black supremacy in the final song, Rally Round (it is the first thing he sings, at :12), suggesting to me Hinds’ unconscious expression that his ‘reverse racist’ vision lacks sobriety.  All of these songs are in a minor key.  In contrast, Hinds’ song Not King James Version begins with a harpsichord passage in a major key, as a mockery of English classical music; however, this introduction gives way to electric guitar, bass, and drums playing reggae with a heavy backbeat in a minor key.  

Whereas Farrakhan wants to lead blacks from the ‘sickness’ of blues and rock to classical music (Mendelssohn is his favorite composer) Hinds wants to lead them from bluesy feelings to a minor key reggae chant for the downfall of white ‘Babylon.’  Hinds’ version of Curtis Mayfield’s We People Who Are Darker Than Blue features saxophone riffs with flatted fifths, for examples, at :57, 1:20, 2:50, 2:57, 3:26, and 4:16.  This diminished harmony undermines lyrics such as “we are on the rise…Jah Jah is the power and glory.”  Mayfield’s song is in a minor key and the melody is written over a blues scale, as is much black music, from jazz, soul, rock, to reggae.  The tonality employed in Hinds’ Darker Than Blue indicates a negative response to the question posed in the refrain: “Are you ready [to establish a black theocracy] right now?”  

Wikipedia: “Rastafari see cannabis as a sacramental and deeply beneficial plant that is the Tree of Life mentioned in the Bible.  Bob Marley, amongst many others, have quoted Revelation: 22:2, “… the herb is the healing of the nations.”  The use of cannabis, and particularly of long-stemmed water-pipes called chalices, is an integral part of what Rastafari call “reasoning sessions” where members join together to discuss life according to the Rasta perspective.  They see the use of cannabis as bringing them closer to God, whom they call Jah, allowing the user to penetrate the truth of things much more clearly.”  In the song Macka Spliff by Steel Pulse the words “herbs” and “grass” are sung over the flatted fifth relative to the fundamental note.  This song fades out with a dominant seventh ‘blues’ chord as the word “irie,” meaning great in context of feeling, is sung over the flatted fifth relative to the original key center. 

Jazz musicians are less prone to see blues as the devil’s music.  Ashley Kahn: “Whether it is labeled as sacred versus profane, gospel versus blues, God’s work versus the devil’s music, the classic (and still pervasive) African-American paradigm that holds church matters and popular culture in diametric opposition, that separates true spirituality from such music as jazz, held no sway in Coltrane’s self-erected system.”  Branford Marsalis: “You know Whole Lotta Love or 7th Son?  That’s the bass line in A Love Supreme – it’s just a blues lick.”  The melody of Coltrane’s Resolution seems a parody of the title, as it features a variation on an unresolved diminished riff at :38 and 1:36; Resolution ends with four repetitions of this unresolved riff.  The melodic irresolution of Coltrane’s Resolution, from A Love Supreme, matches the harmonic irresolution of Mingus’ Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting, which ends on an F7 blues chord – the major third played by the pianist and the flat seventh played by a saxophonist form a tritone.  In contrast Better Git it in Your Soul begins with flatted fifths from the bass and piano and ends with a plagal cadence, common in church music.

Berendt cites Eric Clapton’s statement, “’Rock is like a battery.  Every so often you have to go back to the blues and recharge.’” (214)  Jimi Hendrix: “The background to our music is a spiritual-blues thing….Rock is technically blues-based…We want them to realize that our music is just as spiritual as going to church.”  Peter Tosh’s song, Black Dignity, is founded on a blues chord; over this chord Tosh admonishes his listeners, “Love him and live.  Hate him and die….Live black, love black, think black – our God is black.”  Tosh may have derived these slogans from Marcus Garvey, who counselled Afro-Americans, “Be black, buy black, think black.”  (Speech, 1:25)  Hernton describes how “the Black Nationalists and the Black Muslims….,fanatic in zeal, employ in reverse the same arguments against race mixing as their white counterparts who are racists.  They extol the ‘purity’ of black womanhood, exalt the ‘superiority’ of black people, and insist on thoroughly living up to the creed which says: ‘Buy Black, Think Black,’ and most of all, ‘Love Black!’” (Sex and Racism, 69) 

These sentiments have some affinity with the ideas of Afro-American theologian James Cone.  In his 1970 book, A Black Theology of Liberation, Cone advanced the notion of a deity that sided with blacks, and against whites: “‘Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the Black community.  If God is not for us and against White people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him.  The task of Black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the Black community.'”  (from Is God, 72)  According to William R. Jones, “these statements clearly indicate that Cone is not only aware of the issue of divine racism, but even more important, he regards it as an unavoidable issue for black theology.” (72)  

Jones discovers this issue in the following lines of Countee Cullen’s poem, Heritage.

My conversion came high-priced; I belong to Jesus Christ,
Preacher of humility; Heathen gods are naught to me
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, So I make an idle boast;
Jesus of the twice-turned cheek, Lamb of God, although I speak
With my mouth thus, in my heart Do I play a double part.
Ever at Thy glowing altar Must my heart grow sick and falter,
Wishing He I served were black, Thinking then it would not lack
Precedent of pain to guide it, Let who would or might deride it;
Surely then this flesh would know Yours had borne a kindred woe.
Lord, I fashion dark gods, too, Daring even to give You
Dark despairing features where, Crowned with dark rebellious hair,
Patience wavers just so much as Mortal grief compels, while touches
Quick and hot, of anger, rise To smitten cheek and weary eyes.
Lord, forgive me if my need Sometimes shapes a human creed.

Jones comments on the poem: “The suggestion here is that God is not black, but white; and because He is not black, He is either indifferent or less sympa-[26] thetic to black needs than He would be if His color were a darker hue.  There is, then, an obvious connection between God’s color and the character of His actions and attitudes relative to blacks.

But the center of Cullen’s argument connects blackness and suffering.  God does not treat blacks as He should, because He Himself is not black.  If God were black, Cullen contends, He, too, like black humanity, would be a sufferer.  And this would make Him more empathic to suffering blacks.  Blacks and God would be true soul brothers, because their conditions would be identical, i.e. overwhelming misery.  The implicit premise here is that if God were black, then black suffering would cease.  Hence, the continued misery of blacks is indisputable evidence that God is not black.  Hence also, the necessity of making God in the image of the black worshiper – color Him black.”  (Is God, 26-27)

Farrell notes: “Mary Daly, a religious studies professor whose Beyond God the Father had a seminal impact in the 1970s….advocates ‘the death of God the Father’ because he has made ‘the oppression of women right and fitting.’” (13; Women, 249)  Daly may have derived her doctrine from a parallel notion of Cone, cited by Jones: “Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy.  [100]  What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of Black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal.  Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love.’  It would be necessary to reject God’s love, because to permit oppression to remain would signify that God’s nature is not to be for the oppressed; rather, it would reveal that God is a God of racism.  Thus Cone’s rejection of vicarious suffering, based on God’s nature and purpose, requires that he substantiate the definitive liberation event for blacks.”  (Jones, 100-101)

Jones elaborates on the doctrine which Cone rejects when describing a theodicy that “black theologians consciously avoid like the plague: the theodicy of deserved punishment.  To see a black theologian advance this explanation of black suffering causes one to pause for several reasons.  If the suffering is deserved, there is little or no basis for regarding whites as oppressors.  All the blame in this interpretation falls squarely on blacks.  They become totally responsible for their plight.  Indeed this approach opens wide the door for regarding the white oppressor as God’s agent of judgment.  Moreover, if the suffering is merited, is it proper to challenge it?  No, we are obliged to endure it; any dodge presupposes that we are unwilling to accept the full weight of God’s chastisement.  In addition, to attempt to avoid the suffering would nullify the status of blacks as the suffering servant / chosen people in so far as we have noted that their innocence is a prerequisite.  Consequently, on each point, the theodicy of deserved punishment appears to be counterrevolutionary, and it is for this reason, no doubt, that black theologians have openly and persistently forsaken it.”  (127)

Jones: “The real mystery of mysteries in Cone’s system is the origin of black suffering.  For if God is for blacks, if their suffering is neither vicarious nor merited punishment, whence their suffering in the first place?  In addition to the theodicy of vicarious suffering, Cone also dismisses the theodicy of deserved punishment – but on radically different grounds.  It hardly needs saying that the validity [103] of his treatment of black suffering requires an unmistakable demonstration that the suffering he connects with oppression is not punishment for prior sin.  What he actually establishes are some dubious epistemological canons, and these are totally incommensurate to the logical demands of his theodicy.  His first epistemological claim is that whites cannot make any valid judgment about black sin; they therefore cannot legitimately judge whether black suffering is the result of prior sin.

‘The oppressors are in no position to speak about the sinfulness of the oppressed.  Black theology rejects categorically white statements about the sins of black people, suggesting that we are partly responsible for our plight.'”  Jones comments: “This conclusion about the perceptive judgement of whites is joined with a second epistemological claim about blacks, namely that sin is a ‘community concept’ and accordingly ‘only black people can speak about sin in a black persepctive.'”  (104)  

Cone mentions sin in a black perspective with reference to two black communities, in his 1999 book Risks of Faith.  “The church demanded that an individual make a choice between the blues and the spirituals, between the ‘devil’s music’ and the ‘sweet melodies of Jesus.’”  Cone justifies mixing the two choices when describing how his father “found it hard to cope with life’s adversities without taking a nip of gin and hanging out with the bluespeople in order to add a little spice to life not found at the church.”  (xi)  However, Cone implicitly regards the lifestyle of the bluespeople as immoral when stating that his father was received “back into the community of the faithful as often as he publicly repented.” (xi)  From the film The Lone Star: “It’s Holiness Church or Big O’s [bar].  And the people make a choice.  Most of them choose both.  You see there’s not like there’s a borderline between the good people and the bad people.  You’re not on either one side or the other.”

Cone mentions “the black people’s need to know that [73] their slavery was not the divine Creator’s intention for them.  In fastening on this knowledge, they experienced the awareness of divine liberation.  Their experience of it and their faith in its complete fulfillment became factual reality and self-evident truth for the slave community.  Only those outside the community and the experience could dare question it or remain unconvinced.” (The Spirituals and the Blues, 73-74)  This lack of conviction contrasts with the evidence of the archetypal oppressors, ancient Egyptians, during the Exodus.

Cone notes that “the spirituals are strangely silent on the ethical behavior of the white masters.” (84)  He concludes, “If the spirituals had addressed the ethical behavior of whites, the slaves would have been assuming that white people were human and thus had the moral capability of listening to their protest.  Protest assumes community – that the victim of injustice is a brother, a sister, a friend.  There was nothing in the experience of black slaves in their relation to white people that could have supported that assumption.  Black slaves expected nothing.  White people are, after all, Satan’s representatives on earth; and you don’t make deals with devils.” (85)

Elvin Jones stated: “People who are churchgoers…have always thought that popular music or jazz was influenced by the devil.”  Deena Weinstein: “[Blues] music, its artists, and its audience were denounced as devil worshippers by the black churches.”  (Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology, 271)  Anthony B. Pinn: “Blues fans and artists who participated in church activities during the day and swayed to the blues rhythms at night were said to be ‘flirting with the devil.’  The blues met with the disapproval of black churches because the lyrical content and seductive nature of the music fell outside the norms, values, and morality advocated by the black church tradition.” (Introduction, Noise and Spirit, 4)  In contrast, the song All God’s Chillin Got Rhythm, from the Marx Brothers film A Day at the Races, contains the line, “All God’s chillin got swing.”  

Wikipedia: “Howlin’ Wolf’s very religious mother Gertrude threw him out of the house while he was still a child for refusing to work around the farm.  During the peak of his success he returned from Chicago to his home town to see his mother again, but was driven to tears when she rebuffed him and refused to take any money he offered her, saying it was from his playing the ‘Devil’s music’.”  Howlin’ Wolf: “Anytime you thinkin’ evil you thinkin’ about the blues.” 

In the Monty Python film The Rutles blues is ironically described as “black music sung mainly by whites.”  This accords with Jerome Harris’ observation: “Ironically, the blues (as a genre, not as a modality of expression within other genres) has been substantially abandoned by much of the record-buying, club-visiting African American audience; see Francis Ward (1996).” (Jazz on the Global Stage, in The African Diaspora, note 41, 129)  Harmonica player Sonny Terry sang of “a white boy lost in the blues.”  Eric Clapton stated: “An English kid playing the blues – I mean it’s just wrong; it doesn’t fit.”  Clapton: “I wanted to be like a black guitar player, and that to me is sort of a strange situation.  I’ve never figured that out.”  

Danny Kirwan, former guitarist of Fleetwood Mac, gave his impressions of blues music in an interivew for Guitar Magazine in August 1996.  MC: What does the blues mean to you?  Danny Kirwan: It’s a black man’s language, something that stems from the the black nature of man.  MC: Can a white man sing the blues?  DK: Well, he can, but he might do himself damage.  MC: How did you come to play that style of music?  DK: What’s there was there.  You get involved in things and that’s it.  I was around and gathered it all up and got involved.  I didn’t think, ‘I want to be a musician’, it just kind of happened.  At first I listened a lot to Paul McCartney – really loved Daytripper – and then I got into older music.  MC: And you learned and got involved very quickly.  DK: Well, there was nothing else I could do.  If you’re a white man you have to learn the blues; you don’t know them.  It’s as simple as that.  The thing is, those black guys play the blues the way they are, because it’s their music.  It developed with them.  But if you understand your brain content and you’re a white man, you can play it if you’re clever.  You see, I was infiltrated to the extent that I picked up a bug – I got into the blues and it got into my system like a bug gets into your system.  But when you’re a kid and you walk around with your family you don’t notice the blues.”

Janheinz Jahn: “The blue notes characteristic of the blues, which go back to the middle pitch of the West African tonal languages, and have a modality between sharp and flat, sound sad to European ears.” (223)  “The blues are sung, not because one finds oneself in a particular mood, but because one wants to put oneself into a certain mood.  The song is the Nommo which does not reflect but creates the mood.” (Muntu, 224)  “Frederick Douglas, the runaway slave, writes in his autobiography the telling sentences: ‘The remark is not infrequently made, that slaves are the most contented and happy labourers in the world.  They dance and sing, and make all manner of joyful noises – so they do; but it is a great mistake to suppose them happy because they sing.  The songs of the slave represent the sorrow, rather than the joys, of his heart.  Slaves sing to make themselves happy rather than to express their happiness through singing.’  The blues do not arise from a mood, but produce one.  Like every art form in African culture song too is an attitude which effects something.  The spiritual produces God, the secularized blues produce a mood.  Even there residual-African Nommo is still effective.” (225) 

Larry Neal: “the blues god is an attempt to isolate the blues element as an ancestral force, as the major ancestral force of the Afro-American. What I always say about the blues god is that it was the god that survived the middle passage. It’s like an Orisha figure.”  Larry Neal finds “different metaphysical attitudes” between spirituals and blues.  “You can only sing one and not the other,” says Robert Wilkins, blues singer turned preacher. “Only one at a time that man can serve. … See, your body is the temple of the spirit of God, and ain’t but one spirit can dwell in that body at a time. That is the good spirit or the evil spirit.  And that’s spirituals or the blues.  Blues are songs of the evil spirit” (Gruver in Spencer 1992, 22).  

Inspired by Neal, Harrison states: “the contemporary black artist attempts to preserve the [African] legacy by…stretching a C-major dominant into a flatted fifth, and yes, Jesus walks and talks and is a damn good lover.” (The Drama of Nommo, 61)  Harrison: “THERE AIN’T NEVER BEEN, AIN’T NEVER GON’ BE, NOTHIN’ BEYOND THE BLUES ‘CEPT GOD WHO IS ALREADY BLUE.  SO AS LONG AS GOD’S [62] BLUE, MAN OUGHT ‘T BE BLUE, SINCE MAN CREATED GOD IN HIS OWN IMAGE.  A Blues God: the protector of the legacy….While the icons of a Western God grow tarnished on the shelves of five ‘n’ dime stores, growing moldy from disuse, the spirit of the Blues God, funky and sweating at the armpits, shows up…in the songs of Coltrane and Sun Ra.” (62-3) James Thompson’s poem, Media Means, published in Negro Digest in 1969 contains the lines: “MEDIA has made BELIEVE that a Black Blues Chord played by BLACKS is an ACID ROCK TUNE that White imitation of a very black feeling”  

When J.B. Lenoir asked his father why he stopped playing the blues, he answered: “’Well son, I was laying down and that old devil got at me in my sleep – something with a bukka tail and a shape like a bull but he could talk – and when I spied him I started to run.  But the devil he said, “You can run, but you can’t hide”; so that’s the reason why I stopped playing the blues.’” (Blues and Evil, 30)  In contrast, Jon Michael Spencer notes: “It was Son House’s consciousness of sin that made him choose between preaching the gospel and singing the blues when he has been doing both.  ‘I can’t hold God in one hand and the Devil in the other,’ he decided.  ‘Them two guys don’t get along together too well.  I got to turn one of ‘em loose.  So I got out of the pulpit.’” (55)  Giles Oakley cites Son House: “’Nary a one of us wasn’t sanctified, but we’s making out like it, you know to make a record…We wasn’t nothing but ol’ whiskey drinkers and blues players.’” (Devil’s Music, 56)  Oakley: “As Muddy [Waters] told Tony Standish, ‘That guy could preach the blues…sit down there and sing one thing after ‘nother, like a preacher.

Son House had indeed been a preacher and his life as a blues singer has to this day been a source of unresolved conflict.  For large portions of the [216] community the blues was still the devil’s music, the music of immorality, licentiousness, eroticism, whisky-drinking, juke joints, low life, violence, a source of corruption and the harbinger of social disruption.  And to many blacks salvation was to be found in ridding from the Race its stereotyped image of irresponsibility and unreliability.” (Devil’s Music, 216-17)

“But the blues were antithetical to the standards a preacher was expected to represent in a purely religious sense….Belief in the power of faith and the possibility of redemption [217] unto Heaven meant that however far a brother or sister might stray from the fold, there was always that possibility of a return to the paths of God. 

So House made his choice, but inconsistently; he would sometimes resume his part-time preaching, only to return to the blues.  His singing has always had the strong flavor of a back-country preacher in its declamatory fervor, and he sometimes puts aside his guitar to sing an unaccompanied gospel song.  And even in his straight blues he turns to the subject.

Oh I’m gon’ get me religion, I’m gon’ join the Baptist church…I’m gonna be a Baptist preacher, and I sure won’t have to work….Oh I had religion, Lord, this very day, But the womens and whiskey, well, they would not let me pray…  Preachin’ The Blues Part 1 (1930)” (217-18)

The blues chord “demands to be saved,” in Saint-Martin’s phrase, by resolution in a cadence, a musical form of rebirth and reformation.  The blues chord and the diminished chord are deformations of the harmonic norm of the major triad.  I don’t condemn discordant music, as does Farrakhan, for dissonance is essential to music as tension is necessary to existence; however, I believe that it is good news when musical dissonance resolves to consonance, as when strife resolves to agreement in life.   Black gospel singer Odetta’s medley of Midnight Special / This Little Light of Mine is an example of such a resolution, as she moves from the blues sonority of Midnight Special, pleading for the light, to the final triumphant cadence of This Little Light of Mine, indicating that her plea has been granted.  An unresolved example of a spiritual blues song is the Sinner’s Prayer of Ray Charles and B.B. King, which recalls the tax collecter’s prayer: “‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Lk. 18:13)  However, the celestial vision of blues guitar saints in Six Strings Down seems a novelty to Eric Clapton, judging from his facial expressions.  

Lenny’s Love for the Flatted Fifth
(Resulting in a Double Tonic Complex and a Reharmonizion of the Deity with a Flat Five Substitution)

My creative process is analogous to trailblazing.  A new step may be followed by feelings of discomfort or uncertainty.  With time the new step may seem reasonable, obvious, or inevitable, and may lead to a consequent step.  The new step of what I’ve written above is leading to a musical conception of Breau’s spiritual vision.  He was traumatized by his father’s rejection of the flatted fifth, so he conceived of two father figures / bandleaders; one analogous to the fundamental of a major chord and another analogous to the flat fifth of this fundamental – a tritone substitution.  And / or to a major scale and a lydian chromatic scale (the big parent scale of Russell’s jazz treatise).  One white and one black; Hal Lone Pine Breau or Chet Atkins and John Coltrane, perhaps.  Breau transposed these human father figures to the metaphysical level, resulting in a reharmonization of the Deity, as he reharmonized his five o’clock bells.  From Berklee Press – “Reharmonization Techniques by Randy Felts: Reharmonization is the musical equivalent of a new paint job on an old car. When you reharmonize a tune, you give the melody new color by changing its underlying harmonics.”  In 1970 Ron Wellburn noted: “A black fathers/white sons syndrome is developing.  A Chess label album cover pictures a black God giving the life-touch, a la Michaelangelo, to a white neo-Greek hippie in shades.”  (The Black Aesthetic Imperative, 140)

fathers sons fathers sons back in

This conception of two musical father figures may have a relation to what Robert Bailey refers to as “a double tonic complex” (from Lewis, 19).  Before the middle of the nineteenth century Western music was governed by monotonality, described by Schoenberg as a principle whereby “‘every digression from the tonic is considered to be still within the tonality’” and, therefore, “‘subordinate to the central power of a tonic’” (Structural Functions of Harmony, 19; from Lewis, 17).  Monotonal music is not monotonous, as there are key changes; however, Christopher Lewis describes changes in key as “merely prolonged chromatic elaborations of the fundamental diatonic progression that is prolonging the tonic triad” (17).  According to Lewis the Tristan Prelude is the first piece of music to break from monotonality and to feature “two tonics both successively and simultaneously” (18), a description of Bailey’s double tonic complex.

Breau: “I think in terms of the colors and the inversions of the chords.  When I play chords, I think of the inversions because every inversion has its own color.  If one color is blue another may also be blue, but a different shade.  Everytime you play a different inversion that shade will change.  That’s why I think of painting with the guitar, because when you mix colors you get different shades.”  1981  Reharmonizing the Deity.  Mark Levine: “What’s so unusual about a tritone is that it’s the 3rd and 7th of not just one, but two dominant seventh chords…B and F, the 3rd and 7th of G7, are the same notes as F and Cb, the 3rd and 7th of Db7.  (B and Cb are enharmonic – the same notes, just spelled differently.)  Because the tritone (the 3rd and 7th) of both G7 and Db7 is the same, G7 and Db7 can substitute for one another.” (The Jazz Theory Book, 262)

Chet Atkins describes his musical aesthetic: “Believing that all music is pretty only because of dissonance, I try to hit something dissonant, almost a discord, and then I resolve it.  In the listener’s mind, he hears only the whole effect and says, ‘Yes, that’s pretty.'”  As an example Atkins goes on to describe how he ended a song “with an arpeggio a half tone above the key I was in, then resolved to the original key.”  The chord a semi-tone above the tonic is an example of a flat five substitution, whereby a chord is substituted by another chord a flat fifth above it.  In the key of C major the example described by Atkins would be a cadence in C major with a Db7 chord substituting for a G7 chord, and resolving to a C major chord.  

Breau’s friend Garrison Fewell recalls: “There was this one chord that he showed me: a G altered chord.  You go from the bottom of the guitar: G on 6, B on 5 and then with his fourth finger he would bar a D flat triad on the sixth fret, A flat, D flat and F…And to hear him play that…sounded so beautiful.”  This polychordal aesthetic contrasts with Atkins’ monochordal aesthetic.  The significance of this polychord is suggested in Breau’s explanation of his fusion of jazz and flamenco: “I was mixing two things and that’s what I like doing, ’cause I’m trying to prove a point there.”  In a 1968 interview Breau stated: “I still like to play flamenco, but I like to mix the jazz in with it, which is kind of like breaking the rules.”

Three weeks before his murder Breau spent two weeks in Ojai, California, as the guest of his friend and student Raj Rathor.  Forbes-Roberts writes that during one lesson Breau “explained a number of ways to improvise through 2-5-1 chord progressions, but then told Rathor that there was more to music than simply learning its rules.”  In a telephone conversation Rathor told me that Breau also said that one has to go outside of the rules.  He also mentioned the music of the spheres in connection with Khan’s book.  Rathor then turned the cassette tape over to continue recording Breau’s lesson: “He said that someone had once asked McCoy Tyner how he played the way he did.  McCoy said, ‘well, that kind of music only happens when you do it on faith.’  Then Lenny looked right at me and he said, ‘So you have to take music as a religion.  You have to say: “music, I’m your student for life.”  Ironic?

An example of Breau ‘breaking the rules’ in a 2-5-1 progression.  Fewell: “[Breau] was playing a 2-5-1 progression in the key of C.  For the 2 chord – D minor – he’d play a C triad – G-C-E with a D bass note so he’d have D-G-C-E and that would serve as the D minor chord.  Then he’d go down to a G altered dominant chord with a G on bottom and the C triad moved up half a step to create a Db triad, so he’d have G-Ab-Db-F.  Then he’d go to the 1 chord using a C bass note and shifting the triad on topdown to a B triad so that he’d be playing C-F#-B -D#.  So his triads would be moving chromatically – D-Db and B – while the bass was playing the regular 2-5-1 progression.”  Actually, the triads move from C, not D, to Db and B; it makes more sense if the B were a D, as B with a C bass doesn’t make musical sense, but D with a C bass makes sense and preserves the chromatic motion of the chords (both options feature an F#, forming a tritone with the fundamental of C).  Breau’s lack of cadential closure is analogous to that of Wagner’s Tristan.  He wanted to end his “one long tune” with an unresolved polychord invoking his black jazz father figure, who himself had to be sacrificed.

In the fall of 1975 Breau would visit his friend John Capon in Toronto.  Capon: “He was running modes in three-part parallel lines.  For example, he would start with a diminished scale and use it to build a little three-part chord, a diminished triad or a minor second, minor third thing.  Then he’d run it up the fingerboard in parallel motion – all in that scale.  He was just obsessed with that idea and practiced it constantly to get them flowing because if you could do it you could play these beautiful things over top of ordinary chords, diminished harmonies and whole tone harmonies, using these as melodic patterns.  For example, he’d take a B-flat 7th chord as his basic chord and run a diminished scale [half step-whole step] over it.  He’d take that scale and create a little three diminished triad, say Bb-Db-E, and run them up while sticking to that scale.  The whole resulting texture works over a B-flat 7th chord.  Because of the huge difficulty of getting this down, he was spending lots of time trying to work it out, trying to do the fingerings, trying to ingest it so it flowed for him and would happen spontaneously during moments of improvisation without thinking.”  

The diminished triad referred to forms a tritone between Bb and E.  Breau was seemingly obsessed with integrating the flatted fifth into “ordinary chords;” perhaps this harmonic integration was his naive and demeaning leitmotif for his social vision of racial integration and a miscedeistic vision mixing traditional notions of God and the Devil.  Capon’s reference to “diminished harmonies and whole tone harmonies” as “beautiful things” reflects an aesthetic in which diminished is beautiful, perhaps an unflattering musical analogy to the black is beautiful aesthetic that began in the 1960’s.   A less discordant analogy is Carlos Santana’s citation of Jimi Hendrix’s aboriginal sounding pentatonic riff from the ending of Castles Made of Sand at 3:33 of Somewhere in Heaven, where the riff seems to function as a leitmotif of the inclusion of Hendrix and his black and Cherokee roots in Santana’s spiritual vision.  The riff appears at the end of the original version, at 3:35.  This inclusion is consistent with Santana’s statement: “When I die [the sound of Babatunde Olatunji’s big drum] better be the entrance to the door to heaven, otherwise I’m turning back, man.  There he is – maestro.” 

Breau admired the work of Canadian guitarist Sonny Greenwich; they played together on an album recorded in 1968 called Soft and Groovy.  Don Thompson: “Lenny told me that the only reason he played modal music was because of Sonny Greenwich.  He really liked Sonny and he’d come down to hear Sonny a lot.  Sonny could really play modes and Lenny would sit there and listen and then he’d try to play that suff.”  At a Toronto jazz club called The Cellar: “Sonny was playing his waterfall of sound stuff.  Lenny seemed to get quite angry.  He walked out and I followed him out to the street.  He wasn’t articulate enough to say ‘I’m angry with Sonny’ or anything but I think he was because Sonny was doing things that Lenny wanted to do.  I think this was probably always a part of his character because he was so ambitious in his music, had such an insatiable appetite for it.  I think his drug use was also related to those insatiable appetites.”  Guitarist Michael Bloomfield called Greenwich “the Coltrane of guitar players.”  A reviewer refers to “Greenwich’s vision of a guitar-based version of the John Coltrane Quartet.”  Greenwich suggests an analogy between black aesthetics and diminished harmony when playing a flatted fifth relative to the fundamental at 2:32 of the opening statement of the melody of his song Black Beauty.  The first flatted fifth over the fundamental chord of A- occurs at 2:43, quickly followed by a flatted fifth, B, relative to the second chord of this song, F, at 2:46; in fact this F chord is an F7b5, for the bassist plays a two note line of F and B over this chord throughout the song.  

At 3:10 Greenwich begins to play what Branford Marsalis calls Coltrane’s “blues lick” from A Love Supreme; from 6:50-7:20 he plays this “blues lick” in several positions, as Coltrane did in his Acknowledgement, from A Love Supreme.  Greenwich plays the “lick” over seven root notes: A, D, Bb, Eb, B, E, and Db.  The three note riff over these seven key centers covers all of the notes in the chromatic scale.  At one point Coltrane plays the four note riff [of three different notes] thirty seven times, in different keys.  Kahn notes Lewis Porter’s interpretation: “‘he’s telling us God is everywhere – in every register, in every key.'” (102)  Kahn states: “To Dave Liebman, the key-hopping section portends the final, experimental extreme of Coltrane’s career: ‘It’s really looking towards what he’s about to go into, which is very, very free and non-key-centered improvisation.  The way he takes that ‘a love supreme’ motif, and transposes it through all the keys over the ostinatto pattern that Jimmy is playing, is a real study.'” (103)  

Therefore, Greenwich’s Coltranean citation in his Black Beauty indicates that he is making a musical statement of black theology, as well as black aesthetics.  This indication is supported by Greenwich’s statement, “I play [music] to awake[n] people spiritually – that’s the only reason.”  From 5:30-53 Greenwich plays a diminished scale over the song’s two chords.  The first note that Greenwich plays on another live version is a flatted fifth, at 3:00.  The prominence of flatted fifths in Greenwich’s Black Beauty suggests his rejection of traditional negative associations of this interval.  The Canadian Encyclodpedia mentions Greenwich’s “pursuit of a personal religion similar to pantheism.”

Greenwich is a complex artist.  “I play a wide range, from ballads to very fiery, very free pieces.  It’s like an ocean—you have to have the two things, the storm and the calm that comes after, and the one thing helps the other express itself.  It’s music that has a spiritual basis to it, which is trying to make people feel good.  Not some kind of a preaching, but a feeling of beauty I have, that I express so that someone else can feel it—trying to uplift them somehow.”  An ocean is a peculiar image to depict spiritually uplifting music for oceans typically represent formlessness.  Frye notes that “the Creation…incorporated chaos in the form of the sea, as distinct from the land.”  Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette refer to “the universal image of the unconscious as the chaotic ‘deep’ of the Bible, as the primeval ocean of the ancient creation myths from which the masculine world of structure emerged.  This oceanic chaos – the unconscious – is, as we have seen, imaged in many mythologies as feminine.  It is Mother, and it represents the Baby Boy’s claustrophobic sense of merger with her.” (King, 137)

Compare with Schenker: “Included in the elevation of the spirit to the fundamental structure is an uplifting, of an almost religious character, to God” (Free, 160).  The word spirit derives from a Latin root meaning to breathe, an impossible action for humans in an ocean without the aid of oxygen tanks.  Greenwich’s simile recalls Vancouver guitarist Kent Hillman’s ironic description of Breau as “a musical hero” who “remains the Pacific Ocean of fingerstyle jazz guitar inspiration.” 

In the film Black Orpheus Orfeo is torn between Eurydice and Mira.  Breau may have identified with Orfeo as he was torn between two families in his last years, one associated with the church and the other with jazz clubs.  I’m not concerned with the actual nature of these living female relations of Breau, but with their abstract, archetypal, and psychological significance in Breau’s distorted, naive, and quixotic imagination.  As Don Quixote’s impressions of windmills and sheep were distorted by his overactive imagination, so Breau’s quixotic perceptions of particular women in his life may have transformed them into abstract archetypes or even into musical structures.  Breau ends his signature song, Five O’Clock Bells, with an unresolved A suspended seventh chord at 3:09.  This irressolution contrasts with the concluding couplet of George Herbert’s poem, Denial: “They and my mind may chime,  And mend my rhyme.”  The rhyme suggests that Herbert’s prayer was answered.  The rhyme of Herbert’s “chime” contrasts with the irresolution of Breau’s bells.  

The real and / or imaginary oppositions in Breau’s life may bear a relation to Nietzsche’s conceptions of Apollo and Dionysus.  “If we could conceive of an incarnation of dissonance – and what else is man? – then, that it might live, this dissonance would need a glorious illusion to cover its features with a veil of beauty.  This is the true artistic function of Apollo…At the same time, just as much of this basis of all existence – the Dionysian substratum of the world – is allowed to enter into the consciousness of human beings, as can be surmounted again by the Apollonian transfiguring power, so that these two art-impulses are compelled to develop their powers in strictly mutual proportion, according to the law of eternal justice” (Birth of Tragedy, 1087).

I am interested in the Breau story partly as I wrestle with similar oppositional archetypes; I suppose it’s part of being human.  For example, when vacationing in La Paz, Mexico I’d spend time with a church group and also at a bar called Paradise Found with a number of musicians, one of whom was a former girlfriend of Hendrix.  Just before I left La Paz the church group came to the bar while I was performing, and it was amusing to see the dynamics of the two groups together.  The former girlfriend of Hendrix yelled at me to play differently and the church group laughed at her (or maybe they were laughing at me).  With Breau and Coltrane it was the Apollonian church and the Dionysian jazz club.  Apollonian reason and form with Dionysian passion and energy.  

Confused Quotes: Breau liked to “mix two things.”  Ray St. Germain on Breau in 1959: “instead of playing the solo as Chet [Atkins] did Lenny broke into a jazz solo…the audience looked confused too.  They thought he had somehow completely been playing out of tune or something.  So anyway we got off the stage and Pine went to Lenny and he said, ‘Don’t you ever play that kind of music behind me again.’  And he slapped him.”  Don Francks on performing with Breau in 1962: “I used to say ‘When we go out on stage, Lenny, always offer the audience a bon-bon…for being so good, for listening to us do fifteen yards of solos.’   That’s where his harp guitar came in.  He’d play a little, simple country thing on it, ‘We Shall Gather at the River‘ or something, which the audience loved.” (85-86)  In the fall of 1981 Breau performed ocassionally with his second wife, who sang material such as Dylan’s You Gotta Serve Somebody.  

Dionysian sex, drugs, rock and roll, unresolved blues, and modern jazz with infernal flatted fifths and complex polychords (signifying a double tonic complex) and polyrhythms or Apollonian institutions of church and family, and country gospel with major chords and simple rhythms emphasizing the downbeat.  Which does the audience now love?  An angel informs the singer of God Loves Country Music, “‘There is a choir up in heaven singing country gospel songs, and they’re singing to the master Grand Ole opry all day long.’  And it never fails to warm my heart no matter where I go knowing God loves country music, ’cause an angel told me so.”

I’m not suggesting an either / or, but a synthesis of Dionysian and Apollonian principles, perhaps analogous to Jesus’ human and divine natures.  Leonard Cohen: “In a sense all of the institutions are and have been swept away, and the ethical question is what is the appropriate behaviour in the midst of a catastrophe.”  

Tensional Symbols

Northrop Frye: “In the account of creation at the beginning of Genesis God is said to have separated the light from the darkness and the firmament from the chaos, the deep.  So you can think of darkness and chaos as outside the Creation, and therefore as enemies of God.  But the Creation actually incorporated darkness as an alternate to light, and it incorporated chaos in the form of the sea, as distinct from the land.  Consequently, we can also think of chaos and darkness as incorporated dialectically within Creation, and as creatures of God rather than as enemies.  In most of the prophets, the forces of chaos and darkness are thought of as God’s enemies, as certainly Satan is.  But in the Book of Job, and there alone, both Satan and the powers of darkness are treated primarily as creatures of God, as things which he tolerates within his Creation.”  

Brian Russell Graham has a new book titled The Necessary Unity of Opposites: The Dialectical Thinking of Northrop Frye.  The creatures of God in the Book of Job are Leviathan and Behemoth, and God’s pride in his mastery over them is analogous to the triumph of a tonic major chord over a dominant seventh chord in Western classical tonality.  How about Isaiah 45:7: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”

Kenneth Keulman comments on the thought of Eric Voegelin: “The constants that we discover to emerge in life are not dogmas or a catalogue of disembodied propositions, but tensional symbols that illumine the character of life as occurring between imperfection and perfection, mortality and immortality, order and disorder, harmony and revolt, sense and senselessness, truth and untruth.  If we split these pairs of symbols and hypostatize the poles of the tension as independent entities, we destroy the vitality of life as it has been experienced by the creators of the tensional symbols” (Balance, 165). 

Therefore, in spite of what Thompson refers to as the “inherited dichotomies and dualisms” of Christology, such as “divine and not human, Christology from above and not from below, Jesus of history or Christ of faith” (205-06), his reference to Paul’s insistence that “it is the crucified one that has been raised (1 Cr. 15.3-4; cf. Phil. 2.9)” (198) suggests that Christianity can only be accurately represented by tensional symbols of the “inherited dichotomies and dualisms” of Christology.  Voegelin’s description of the quest as “an effort to attune the concretely disordered existence again to the truth” (Search, 39) suggests his preference for a musical model to symbolize the tensions which are characteristic of Christian symbolization. 

Michael Morrissey: “Transcendence can only be articulated in an analogical language replete with inevitable ambiguity.  Such is the nature of human knowing in the realm of transcendence.  Within the orbit of faith one cannot move from mythos to logos pure and simple, for reason itself cannot provide the ground for affirming transcendent reality…This view of knowledge and language follows Thomas’ analogia entis, a principle of theologizing which Voegelin adopts.  Ultimately one cannot escape the form of symbol and myth in theology; certitude is simply not available.  Faith must tell its story in the penultimate language of inescapably ambiguous symbols seeking ever-greater adequacy.  There must be respect for the limits of human thought and language.  Besides, what is foundational in Christianity is not knowledge but love.  Creedal statements about the Christ are really a ‘love language’ to denote the significant meaning of the content of Christian faith for the believer”(232).  Love “must be guided by knowledge (noesis not gnosis) if it is not to become a destructive force” (232).  Love and knowledge parallel revelation and reason, pneuma and noesis.  “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (Jn. 3:17)  A musician seeking to imitate Jesus should not condemn subjects of musical portraits, but should portray them as potential heirs of salvation; just a thought.

Northrop Frye wonders “whether music, which defines nothing and expresses everything, may not be the primary language of the spirit.”[1]  Decades later he wrote that “the language of the spirit is, Paul tells us, the language of love, and the language of love is the only language that we can be sure is spoken and understood by God.”[2]  I’m not sure if Frye recognized the implications of these two statements in relation to one another, for if they are placed together in the form of a syllogism, they indicate that, if the primary language of the spirit is music, and if the language of the spirit is the language of divine love, therefore the primary language of divine love is music, and God, the source of the spirit to which Frye refers, could logically be conceived of as a musician.  This logical inference of Frygian quotations is consistent with Overath’s belief that “the Spirit amalgamates men of all nations in the one language of love, in the language of music inspired by the Holy Ghost.”[3]   [1] Northrop Frye,  “The World as Music and Idea in Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’”  (Carleton Germanic Papers.  12; 1984), 49.   [2] Northrop Frye,  The Double Vision  (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), 21.  [3] Overath, “Love”, 31.

William Blake, The Little Vagabond: “Dear mother, dear mother, the church is cold, But the ale-house is healthy and pleasant and warm; Besides I can tell where I am used well, Such usage in Heaven will never do well.  But if at the church they would give us some ale, And a pleasant fire our souls to regale, We’d sing and we’d pray all the live-long day, Nor ever once wish from the church to stray.  Then the parson might preach, and drink, and sing, And we’d be as happy as birds in the spring; And modest Dame Lurch, who is always at church, Would not have bandy children, nor fasting, nor birch.  And God, like a father rejoicing to see His children as pleasant and happy as he, Would have no more quarrel with the Devil or the barrel, But kiss him, and give him both drink and apparel.”
“human kind / Cannot bear very much reality.”  T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, Burnt Norton
“In my end is my beginning.”  T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, East Coker, V.
“The Spirit is the bond uniting the Father and the Son, beginning and end, into one incomprehensible harmony.  Through this ineffable harmony of the richest Triad is to be explained how every harmonic concord in nature is propagated.”  Athanasius Kircher, Musurgia universalis
“Men perish because they cannot join the beginning with the end.”  Alcmaeon of Cretona
Some songs basking in the supernatural glory of nature’s perfect chord
Holy * Maria1 & 2 * Grace1 & 2 * Happy * Freedom * Betel * Chimes * Jesu1 & 2 * God * Welcome * Lord * 2001 *
Oh Canada * Echoes of France * Star-Spangled Banner * Teach the World * Sing * Close Encounters *
The images below are intended to counter ironic interracial images above: 
angel   cross-roads   tp2   choir   flaglobe 
Note 1: The melodies of many national anthems outline the notes of a major triad (1, 3, 5) in the opening notes.  Star Spangled Banner begins with 5, 3, 1, 3, 5, and 8, over the words ‘O say can you see?’.  O Canada begins with 3, 5, 5, 1, over the words ‘O Canada’ and ‘God keep our land,’ in the first and second verses, respectively.  The French anthem, ‘La Marsellaise,’ begins with 5, 5, 1, 1, 3, 3, 5, 3, 1.  The Australian anthem begins with 5, 1, 5, 3, 5, 1, 1, 1 over the words ‘Australians let us all rejoice.’  Similarly, the gospel song Amazing Grace begins with 5, 1, 3, 2, 1, 3.  John Coltane’s song, Welcome, begins 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 1.  I think this song expresses Coltrane’s desire to feel welcome in America and its churches, such as the one that he practiced in as a child.  In the film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, extraterrestrials communicate a melody to mankind that outlines the notes of a triad: 1, 5, 2, 3, 1; this melody may derive from a repeated phrase in a version of Coltrane’s song, Love.
Note 2: The word jazz on this webpage usually refers to modern jazz, and specifically to the subgenres of bebop and modal jazz that seem to have originated as expressions of rebellion against the hierarchical nature of the chord that is the basis of tonal harmony.  The same cannot be said for other forms of modal music, such as modal folk and Indian classical music.  In The Jazz Theory Book Mark Levine describes the extended cadence of 2, 5, 1 as “the basic chord progression in jazz” and “the most common chord progression played in jazz” (14, 19).  The cadence is an acknowledgement of, rather than a rebellion against, the chord.  I have no objection to jazz or jazz clubs, as I have no objection to alcohol.  Yet, as alcohol can be consumed in excess as an act of rebellion, rather than in moderation at a meal for example, so jazz can be learned and played as a form of rebellion against musical and social laws.  I think that Breau learned and played modern jazz in this manner, in part, and that guilt for this rebellion was a part of his musical and spiritual conscience. 
Note 3: In writing the above I have sometimes felt like “the one attacking” in Mitchell’s representation of Mingus’ triune personality.  However, my critical analysis of the music of Breau and of some of the Afro-American musicians that he loved is complemented by a side of me like “the one that keeps trying to love” in Mtichell’s representation of Mingus’ divided self.  In the strife between what Mingus identified as “two personalities,” the believer and the skeptic, the believer dominates the lyrics of Love Supremacist, to follow The Red River Voyageur in my musical, Canuck Quixote.  Love Supremacist integrates lines from Russell’s jazz treatise, Dylan’s You Gotta Serve Somebody (which Breau performed with his second wife), my imaginative impressions of Breau’s Waves Are Angry and Song of Love, and my melodic modulations of Greenwich’s Black Beauty and Coltrane’s Acknowledgment and Resolution, from A Love Supreme.  Norman C. Weinstein, in A Night in Tunisia: Imaginings of Africa in Jazz: “[Archie] Shepp proceeds to compare the recording [of Coltrane’s Ascension] to ‘action painting’ (like the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock) where various colors through their dramatic clashes create energetic fields of aesthetic experience.” (68)

The Red River Voyageur  (John Whittier, 1892)

Out and in the river is winding 
the links of its long, red chain,
Through belts of dusky pine-land 
and gusty miles of plain.
Now and then a smoke-wreath 
with a drifting cloud conjoins,
Smoke from hunting-lodges 
of the wild Assiniboines.

Drearily blows the north-wind
 from the land of ice and snow;

Weary eyes behold the heavy hands that row.

With one foot on the water and one upon the shore,

The Angel of Shadow is warning that day will be no more.

Does the clang of wild-geese or a tribal yell

Lend to the north-wind notes of a distant bell?

The voyageur gladly listens 
to the sound that grows apace;

The familiar vesper ringing from the bells of St. Boniface.

Bells of the Christian Mission call from towers twain,

To the boatman on the river and the hunter on the plain.

As in our mortal journey the bitter north-winds blow,

So on life’s Red River our hearts, as oarsmen, row.

When the Angel of Shadow stands on wave and shore,

And eyes grow dim with watching and hearts faint at the oar,

Blessed are those who sense the sign of their release

In the bells of the Holy City, the chimes of endless peace!

O Lord our God be Thou our guide that by Thy help no foot may slide

Five O’Clock Bells  (Breau, 1966)

Westminster chimes are square as the 4/4 time conductors wave in air – as the L7 hand sign.  Be-boppers make the sign of the flatted fifth by folding the thumb of a high five into the palm, and my jazz hipster chimes reharmonize Westminster chimes with a flat five substitution.

“Can’t sleep, it’s too late now, ’cause I hear five o’clock bells in the morning.  How I love to hear five o’clock bells in the morning.”

“I hear that and it inspires me.  It makes me feel close to God.  Like I don’t have to go to church and kneel down and say, ‘praise the Lord,’ because this is my way of praising.  This is a gift from God.”

You have to love music to the point
Where it means everything to you;
Like when John Coltrane blew tenor sax
On the bandstand ‘til his lips would bleed;
Then he’d go backstage and practice more
As drops of blood came running down his horn.

I hear angry waves when Coltrane strains

To reach the upper register of being,

Like Sonny searching for a scale supreme;

Blue notes bellow from Trane’s anti-jazz,

As Pollock‘s palette drained chromatic cans.

“I was hanging out with guys who were doing it and at first I did it for inspiration.  I got the inspiration at first, but in the end it turned against me.  It was a drag, it was a necessity, so after a while it worked against me.  If you use it every day and you make a pig of yourself then it ain’t inspiring anymore.  Then it’s nothing but a habit.  It robs your soul.  It’s like a seductress.  It takes more and more and more and more, and after a while you’re spending so much money doing it that you really can’t enjoy yourself, and it takes all your money to do it, and you get to the gig and you don’t even enjoy it because you’re not getting off because you’re not getting enough.  I used to spend a hundred dollars a day just to feel good.”

Is there no greater love than what I feel
When I free melodic inhibitions
And attain chromatic penetration
To envision racial integration;
Mix Tyner’s ebon queen with the Madonna;

Orfeo Negro with Corcovado;

Castro’s clave with Westminster quarters?

“Don’t worry about getting high and playing, because that ain’t going to help you.  It’s just a big mess.  That’s getting down to the philosophy of music.  What I’ve been talking about, that’s how I feel about life, and music, and philosophy, and God.  I feel I was put on this earth to play this guitar and I’m going to go down playing it.  I don’t care if I become a millionaire or not, but I’ll probably die with this mother in my hands.  You know what I’m saying?  That’s the way it has to be because I love it so much.” 

You may be a jazz cat scatting on a stage
Drugs in your pocket birds in a cage
You may be a preacher full of spiritual pride
Or a politician taking bribes on the side
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
You may play the devil’s interval or a major chord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

‘Every white’s a devil’ preaches Farrakhan

Every black’s chattel to the Ku Klux Klan

I see black and white in every mortal soul

So hate’s never right and love’s my only goal

I’m a love supremacist and I have a dream

Of an earthly paradise cultured by a stream
Flowing from the sacrifice of a love supreme

The Chord of Cohen, by Anjani Thomas

I sat at the piano, learning his song, thinking to myself “this is so … simple.  It’s too simple.”  And I began to hear the possibilities, the opportunities to embellish his little song and make it something more.  Suddenly, he stopped singing and turned to me.  “Anjani,” spoken quietly, almost apologetically, “could you play a ‘C’ chord there?  ” I looked at him hard.  “I am playing ’C’.”  “Um, I mean a straight, plain C.”  As he said it, he drew a horizontal line in mid-air with his finger.  I paused, not understanding really, what he wanted.  “A ‘C’?  “Ah,” I thought, “He’s never had formal training – he’s a singer-songwriter, not a PLAYER.  I’ll play what he wants but doesn’t know how to ask for.  We resumed playing.  He stopped again.

“Anjani?”  “Yes?”  “I know it’s rather different, but could you keep to plain ‘C’ there?”  Years of training and road chops disallowed me from holding to a banal triad.  I was so sure the major 7, the sus 4, the augmented, the 6/9 were better choices, musical choices.  In fact, I spent the tour with him in subtle sabotage of his request.  A stab of #5 here, an 11th there, culled from my superior arsenal of notes, licks, fills – everything for a lonely, mundane gap.  Yet always, in my opinion, tasteful and necessary.  I did not care that he didn’t like it.  I took it upon myself to educate him by example – refining his rough-cuts into polished gems – technically, musically.  And he never asked me to play ‘C’ again, so I figured he was learning and liking it.

Ten years later I got so burned out on the business I left music altogether and went to live by a lake.  I planned a garden and felt the Texas sun on my back as I raked, hoed, planted and harvested, quietly, in silence.  One day I looked up and saw a bird on a wire, and immediately, the words to his song came into my mind.  And for the first time, I was struck by the power, the simplicity and purity of ‘C’ – alone, whole, stacked neatly a third apart.  Brilliant, clean, no more, no less.  Of course it was the chord of Cohen.  And I finally learned to play “like a bird on a wire” just as he meant to teach me.

“I heard there was a secret chord that David played, and it pleased the Lord, but you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this: The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift, the baffled king composing Hallelujah, HallelujahHallelujahHallelujah…”

The First Vision of Breau

In 1943 “the couple [Hal and Betty Breau] was practicing in the barn when Lenny, attracted by the music, wandered in.  ‘We’d started rehearsing ‘Cattle Call [& 2], the Eddy Arnold song,’ recalls Betty.  ‘Lenny was listening and then, by gosh, we hear him harmonizing, doing the perfect third part.  He was right on the dot on each note.  We said ‘do that again’ and he did.  He just made it up because neither of us were singing that part.’  Lenny was soon performing with his parents, singing high harmony above his mother’s perfect pitch, and would become incensed when his father – whose own sense of pitch was often tenuous – would occasionally lose the melody line and be pulled towards Lenny’s harmony.  His son would stop in exasperation and complain loudly, ‘Daddy, stop singing my part!’

Betty made her son a cowboy outfit complete with a small hat and toy gun in a holster and Lenny wore this outfit for his first promo shot, which became a best seller at the group’s shows.  In the photo, Lenny is holding a guitar that dwarves him despite its diminutive size.  The phrase, ‘Keep Smiling’ is written on the photo to the left of his image and ‘Lone Pine Junior’ is signed in his father’s hand on the right.  This appellation would adorn his promo pictures until the year of his first marriage.” (9)

In 1962 Breau saw himself as the greatest, and Chet agreed until 1997, when he recordedThe Day Finger Pickers Took Over the World; the album cover portrays guitars as guns firing notes as bullets.  In 1981 Breau distanced himself from Chet’s idea of greatness when he described Chet’s title, the greatest guitarist in the world, as “weird…like being a gunslinger.”  Breau’s criticism didn’t stop Chet from praising him as “a great fingerstylist with fathomless knowledge.  He was such a great musician you overlook everything and just see how great he was and what he could be.  His legend will continue to inspire future generations.”

The First Jig of Lenny Breau

“Apart from a bell-bedecked washboard that he strummed in his parents’ country band, Lenny Breau’s first instrument was a child-sized, secondhand accordion that his father bought for him at a flea market.  Lenny, then five years old, [1946?] was delighted with the gift, even after discovering that one of its keys produced no sound when pressed.  Undeterred by this defect, Lenny set about learning a French jig on his new instrument, relying on his ear to locate its melody on the accordion’s flawed keyboard.

Lenny liked to practice the tune in his parent’s bedroom where he could watch himself in the large mirror of his mother’s vanity.  In the next room, his mother sat listening to her son repeat the tune again and again, always anticipating the instant when – within a few notes of completing the melody – Lenny would press the broken key.  He would then stop, mutter a child’s innocuous curse sotto voce, and, after a gentle reprimand from his mother, start the tune over again.  It was as though the boy believed that his dogged persistence would eventually overcome the obstacle of the broken key, and he would be able to complete and perfect the melody that he heard in his mind.

Lenny’s interest in his accordion waned a year or two later and was replaced with a passion for guitar, but the determination with which he’d approached his first instrument never faded.  For the rest of his life, Lenny stubbornly challenged the commonly accepted strictures of the guitar in order to give full voice to the sounds roiling in his vast musical imagination.” (Forbes-Roberts, 2)  Oedipus complex in his parents’ bedroom: absent father, mother with Lenny.  “‘I remember when we were in the aiport in Ottawa [in 1971],’ says Betty with a laugh, ‘Lenny had his arm around me, holding me close like I was his girlfriend or something.'” (158)  Oedipus complex in his flat across from St. Boniface Cathedral in Winnipeg in 1966 while writing Five O’Clock Bells: absent God the Father of the (all white?) ecclesia, Judi replaces church as mother (Catholic) or bride (Protestant) with Lenny.  Like Oedipus, Lenny was blind.  “I’d like to play sounds you can see if you’ve got your eyes closed.”  “If I could but see five o’clock bells in the morning.”  Breau’s Aunt Rachel: “He was into…Sigmund Freud, reading books; he was so deep.

Here’s Betty Cody’s version of the story: “‘I had a vanity with a full-length mirror and Lenny would practice in front of it,’ Betty says.  ‘He’d look at himself in the mirror and make believe he was putting on a show.  He had a key that stuck and when he’d hit that note he’d say, [stage whisper] “Jessusssss!”  I’d say, “Lennnnyyy!”  Then he’d start all over again.” (10)  Forbes-Roberts’ omission of Breau’s “Jessusssss!” betrays a tendency to set aside the spiritual focus of Breau’s vision.  Forbes-Robert is, however, accurate in seeing in this story a harbinger or synecdoche of Breau’s musical quest.

Charles Rosen: “Schumann wrote to his distant beloved, Clara Wieck, from whom he was still separated by order of her father: ‘For hours I have been playing over and over again a melody from the last movement of my Phantasie . . . Are you not the secret tone that runs through the work?  I almost think you are.’  This was a very proper and suitable thing for an artistic young man to write to his fiancée.” (Romantic Generation, 101) I interpret the missing melodic note to signify the outside world of the ‘other,’ and see Lenny’s quest as that of Jesus, to redeem it – to integrate it into his song.  Lenny saw black and white keys on his accordion, which contrasted with the reflection of his pale face and pearly teeth in his mother’s mirror.  Compare this mirror with that before which Coltrane practiced as a child.  Coltrane saw his dark face and ‘unclean lips,’ and his musical quest was to purify his lips, and those of his people.

Breau’s missing note was the flatted fifth.  Country fiddler Buddy Spicher recalls his first meeting with Breau: “I went to Lenny’s house and he got out a [jazz violinist] Stuff Smith album and played it for me and said ‘You hear that?  That’s a flat five [a musical interval common in blues and post-1945 jazz].'”  Stephane Grappelli began playing jazz and the violin after seeing a performance by American jazz violinist ‘Stuff’ Smith.  “According to Spicher, Lenny was already incorporating some elementary jazz riffs – probably lifted from Couture’s Django Reinhardt records – into his playing, much to Pine’s chagrin.  ‘The only time I ever seen Pine aggravated was when he and the band would be singing a song and Lenny would throw in a flat five or something.’ says Spicher.  ‘He’d get a dirty look from his dad.  Lenny was having fun and experimenting, and he was doing it for us because he knew we were off to the side listening.'” (Forbes-Roberts, 19)  “Lenny’s father did not deign to attend” the marriage ceremony of Lenny and Valerie St. Germain, a Metis, in 1959. (40)  In 1977 Spicher brought Breau to a church service where the latter belligerently informed the pastor that music was his god.  Django imported the flat five from bebop jazz.  I think that the name of Breau’s Metis daughter, Melody, alludes to a bebop melody with a flat-five note in it.  Lenny’s father disapproved of both M/melodies.

Breau’s musical vision led to a death wish which was linked to his guilt for replacing the will of his father and the beatific vision of his church with his self-will and beatnik vision.  Compare this with the history of Breau’s teeth.  1955: “Lenny had indeed become a remarkably handsome young man with a broad, open smile enhanced by even, pearly white teeth….He had inherited his dad’s love of fancy clothes and favored white suits, often worn with dark shirts and white ties…’He wouldn’t go nowhere ‘less he had a suit on and a necktie,’ recalls Gene Hooper.  ‘He was a sharp dresser even in Wheeling; always nice and clean cut.'” (21)  Ray St. Germain’s first impressions of Breau in 1957: “I’ll never forget Lenny.  He had a white suit on, white shoes, white bucks.  He was carrying his guitar, a Gretsch, in a white leather case.” (31)  Ray’s sister Valerie: “His teeth, his mouth, his hair, his nails, everything about him was perfect.” (32)  Valerie describes Breau in 1960: “He liked the house clean, perfect, like he was, always spending a lot of time on his [53] hair and clothes.” (53-54)

Ray Couture described Breau’s appearance in May of 1976: “There was this guy with really long hair and this long coat, a hippie.  His teeth were real bad; brown and rotten.” (182)  In 1983: “His teeth, however, were in good condition due to extensive dental work paid for by Chet Atkins.” (252)  Breau’s father may have regarded colored people as dirty; see Acts 10:15.  Breau sought to transcend this racist vision by redeeming what was considered lowdown and dirty; the distinction between clean and dirty was the subject of his first statements when performing onstage.  Living visionaries ought to take up this issue and progress towards a truly beatific vision in which brown is not bad, nor white shameful.  

Breau sported a Fu Manchu moustache from the 1960’s on.  The 1932 release of MGM’s adaptation of The Mask of Fu Manchu featured the Asian villain telling an assembled group of “Asians” (consisting of caricatural Indians, Persians and Arabs) that they must “kill the white men and take their women.”  The character of Fu Manchu became a stereotype often associated with the Yellow Peril

Cedar Christie on Breau in 1969: “‘I remember him walking around in the Beaches [in Toronto] wearing an ankle-length Oriental flowered kimono,’ she says, ‘He’d go to the store and buy smokes without any self-consciousness whatever, saying hi to people on the way by – sort of like a local Buddha type.'”  “Pine told Lenny that he should break off with Christie, whose independent nature was not a quality he admired in women.” (151)  Bassist Don Thompson: “‘Lenny was into [playing McCoy Tyner’s Vision] big time around then.'” (142)

The Last Vision of Breau

“[It’s] about visions: whatever you see in your head, you try to play.”  Breau, 1976  “Music is my god.”  Breau to a pastor, 1977
“It’s like a painter who goes through years of confusion.”  Breau, 1981
Guitarist Raj Rathor describes the last gig of Lenny Breau on Monday, Aug. 6, 1984: “‘He was really into this beautiful solo piece and his head was down and his eyes were closed.  Right in the middle of this, Jewel goes marching up to the stage with this lighted birthday cake and totally disrupts what he was doing.  Lenny’s head just kind of shot up in shock.'” (Forbes-Roberts, 268)  “I’m going up on the roof to the swimming pool with my guitar.  I’ve got music to write.  I have a feeling that ___ is going to kill me or have me killed.  They say geniuses die young, but I’d like to have enough time to write what I have in my head.”  Breau, Sunday, Aug. 12, 1984
“Me and my mother were at church that morning, when we came home, they told us the tragic news.  He had been drinking (finished almost a fifth of vodka) that morning and went swimming.  This is how he would cope and relax.  So I believe he went peacefully.”  Dawn Breau
“So there I was in Nashville, Tennessee and I hear on the television that Lenny was dead….I talked to Jewel on the phone, with her swearing up and down that what had happened was that Lenny and she were gonna go to church that Sunday morning.  And at the last minute he changed his mind, grabbed his guitar and a pen and some music paper and headed up to the pool while she took the baby to church, right?  And that when she got back at 12, 12:20 or whenever, he was already dead and the police were already there….Apparently there was manuscript paper found beside the pool when he, you know, when they discovered him, so he did go up there with the manuscript paper intending to write something.  And now we’ll never know what it was.  Cause whatever it was that was percolating in his head that he wanted to put on paper never got put on paper.  He got killed instead.”  Pianist Bob Erlendson
“The gig is up.”  Deborah Grey
“Without vision the people perish.”  Prov. 29:18

During the day, hours before his last gig, on Monday, August 6, 1984, “Lenny played solo versions of ‘Emily‘ and ‘No Greater Love‘” (266) for a record as leader arranged by “Chicago-born jazz/R&B guitarist Phil Upchurch” (265).   Breau followed Vision with Emily in 1976.  Breau played Stella by Starlight and Vision at a a guitar clinic at the University of Southern California in 1983.  These versions of Vision, a modern jazz reverie of black power in its original context, Emily and Stella by Starlight, dreamy jazz standards extolling the glory of secret love, come across as hymns of his musical religion.  Winnipeg jazz singer Mary Nelson noted that “the world had hard edges and Lenny couldn’t handle hard edges…as a musician, as a father, as a husband, as a friend,” so he seems to have reduced the world to a variation on the “great symphonic theme” of nocturnal Stella (“she’s everthing on this earth to me”).  

By saving his starlit Stella he could redeem his world.  In 1974 “Judi Singh joined [Breau’s] band for a forty minute set, which kicked off with ‘Stella by Starlight.’” (172)  In 1981: “One of the most dazzling tracks is his performance of ‘Stella by Starlight,’ in a sense the apotheosis of his life’s work.” (243)  In Lenny’s quixotic vision Stella=Judi and Emily=Emily.  The secret feelings of No Greater Love bind the holy family of Lenny=Joseph (or God), Judi the Ebony Queen=Mary, and Emily=Christ child, in Breau’s jazzy religion.  

There may be a French lapsed Catholic guy thing in common with Breau’s vision, Django’s dream, and Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin’s zeal: “A zeal for the repose of the whole human family masters and consumes me.  I can neither evade nor resist it.”  It may be neurotic to demand aesthetic closure in a fallen world.  Then again a function of the artist may be to remind others of paradisal possibilities.  Faith may be the answer – art as the servant of a genuine faith.  

In retrospect, my visionary journey has been something of a mystery to me, and has resulted in what I believe to be gifts from God, including The Greatest Guitarist in the World, The Last Gig of J.C., Beatific Vision, and my global guitar genre.  One may receive gifts which one did not want or expect, but with time one may begin to appreciate and treasure them.  “Your Father in heaven [will] give good gifts to those who ask him.” (Mt. 7:12)  Breau stated (1:55): “When I play music, that’s when I feel close to God, because I feel it’s a gift from God, and I’m using that gift to play for people.”  “This is a gift from God.” (237)  Breau’s sense of his music as a vocation to exercise a spiritual – gift is surely the greatest asset of his musical legacy.  How faithfully he exercised his gift is another matter.  “He would always say that God had given him a gift.  And I used to tell him, ‘if you abuse that gift you might lose it.'”  Breau’s mother  Robyn Hitchcock describes death: “’It’s the gift that everybody has to open but nobody asks for.’” (from Inside the Music, 216)

Atkins eulogized Breau by stating: “He was a great fingerstylist with fathomless knowledge.  His legend will continue to inspire future generations.”  Vancouver guitarist Kent Hillman may have had Atkins’ statements in mind when describing Breau as “a musical hero” who “remains the Pacific Ocean of fingerstyle jazz guitar inspiration.”  Even the Marianas Trench is fathomable; still, I find Hillman’s aquatic metaphor ironic as Breau’s strangled corpse was found in a swimming pool, and as the word inspiration derives from a Latin root meaning to breathe.  Santana: “ jazz musicians are navigators that navigate in an ocean.  I navigate in a big lake.  Other people navigate in a swimming pool.”

Forbes-Roberts seems to understand Breau better than Hillman: “His genius had less to do with mechanical legerdemain [2] than the profoundly eloquent expression that his technique was designed to serve.  Lenny’s greatest gift was his ability to channel raw emotion through a highly refined musical sensibility.” (2-3)  “Channel raw emotion?”  Forbes-Roberts consistently ignores or glosses over Breau’s repeated insistence that his musical quest was of a spiritual nature, as music was his religion.  Breau’s seeming obsession with the song No Greater Love does not refute this, but reveals a central conflict underlying his art.  

I conclude this chapter, and perhaps this webpage, with two heroic literary passages that redeem Hillman’s ironic metaphor.  First, lines from a poem of T.S. Eliot, who described himself as “a small boy with a nigger drawl” before being “impelled” “To purify the dialect of the tribe” (Little Gidding): “There is no competition – There is only the fight to recover what has been lost.” (East Coker, Four Quartets)  Second, the conclusion to a pastoral elegy of John Milton, who rejected an “excremental whiteness“:

Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,
Sunk though he be beneath the watry floar,
So sinks the day-star in the Ocean bed,
And yet anon repairs his drooping head,
And tricks his beams, and with new-spangled Ore, [170]
Flames in the forehead of the morning sky:
So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high,
Through the dear might of him that walk’d the waves;
Where other groves, and other streams along,
With Nectar pure his oozy Lock’s he laves, [175]
And hears the unexpressive nuptiall Song,
In the blest Kingdoms meek of joy and love.
There entertain him all the Saints above,
In solemn troops, and sweet Societies
That sing, and singing in their glory move, [180]
And wipe the tears for ever from his eyes.
Now Lycidas the Shepherds weep no more;
Hence forth thou art the Genius of the shore,
In thy large recompense, and shalt be good
To all that wander in that perilous flood. [185]

Thus sang the uncouth Swain to th’ Okes and rills,
While the still morn went out with Sandals gray,
He touch’d the tender stops of various Quills,
With eager thought warbling his Dorick lay:
And now the Sun had stretch’d out all the hills, [190]
And now was dropt into the Western bay;
At last he rose, and twitch’d his Mantle blew:
To morrow to fresh Woods, and Pastures new.  (166-193

The lyric to my Beatific Vision dawned on me this Sunday morn:
In a vision of liberty, equality, and charity / I imagine America, Eurasia, and Africa / A symphony of ebony and ivory mixed with burgundy.
It is set to the tune of McCoy Tyner’s Vision, with the first repeated phrase simplified.  It seems a fitting prelude to my lyric set to the tune of Coltrane’s Welcome (the first two lines are spoken, as in a recitative):
The strings of my global guitar, on wings of melody, / Paint with the blood of the Savior all the hues of humanity; /
I am welcome, you are welcome, we are welcome / To the wedding supper of the Lamb.

My visionary quest is shifting to The Greatest Guitarist in the World webpage, for it has dawned on my consciousness that the quest involves an integrationist vision of heaven, and of earth, I suppose.  Chet’s vision of Hillybilly Heaven will not suffice, nor will its offspring, Honky Tonk Heaven, where Jason Cassidy sings, “even the good Lord loves a country song.  I’ll meet old Cash and I’ll meet old Waylon; well I’ll tune up and sing along.”  Despite their similar titles these two songs reveal different values of a generation gap.  When Cassidy was a kid he wanted to be a rock star, and his song is in the genre of country rock, which is reflected in the opening and closing honky tonk blues riff with a flatted fifth (Jimi Hendrix: “Rock is blues based.”), suggesting some honky tonk women in his honky tonk heaven.  

Compare Cassidy’s ‘saintly’ roll call with that of Jimmy Vaughan in Six Strings Down: “See the voodoo child holding out his hand. ‘I’ve been waitin’ on you brother; welcome to the band.’  Good blues-stringin’, heaven-fine singin’; Jesus, Mary and Joseph been lis’nin’ to your playin’.  Heaven done called another blues-stringer back home.  Albert Collins up there, Muddy an’ Lightnin’ too; Albert King and Freddy playin’ the blues.” 

What is found on this webpage, indeed on this website, is but a penultimate portrait.  Bearing my guitar as cross this summer will doubtless lead to further revisions and clarifications.  There is a trace of Chet’s Day That Finger Pickers Took Over the World on my site which demands future expiation.  Though the canvas be on public display, judge not the artist until the paint has dried.

Love Supremacist (maybe this lyric is set from the perspective of someone living in the past)

‘Every white’s a devil’ preaches Farrakhan
Every black is chattel to the Ku Klux Klan
‘Whitey lived in caves crawling on all fours
Before blacks were slaves’ Malcolm X implores
I see black and white in every human soul
So hate is never right and love’s the only goal

I’m a love supremacist and I have a dream
Of an earthly paradise planted by a stream
Flowing from the sacrifice of a love supreme

Jazz Queen

Breau could be regarded as a Jazz Fundamentalist as his musical religion seems to be based, in part, on literal interpretations of the lyrical promises of jazz standards.  This jazz religion may have developed from mixing hallucinogens, Sufi and neo-Platonic notions of love and beauty, and the lyrical promises of jazz standards.  What do you get when you mix John Coltrane’s admonition to “sing all songs to God to whom all praise is due,” with a supreme love for jazz?  You get jazz hymns of a starlit Orpheus, whose Bible is George Russell’s jazz treatise. 

The following five songs may lie at the heart of Breau’s spiritual vision: two instrumentals by McCoy Tyner – Vision and Ebony Queen – and three jazz standards – No Greater Love, Stella by Starlight, and Emily.  The lyric of the first jazz standard begins with: There is no greater love than what I feel for you.  The second ends with: A great symphonic theme, that’s Stella by starlight, and not a dream.  My heart and I agree, she’s everything on earth to me.  The third begins with: Heaven is when I’m in your arms like this; when you kiss me and quietly whisper, “Emily, Emily, Emily.”  

Judi Singh seems to mix romantic and transcendent love in two songs, Emily and My Name is Love, which she contributed to a record titled Unselfconsciously Canadian.  She also wrote a song that she recorded with Woody Shaw in 1980 called Time is Right, which is in the same ecstatic mode.  “Flying high with our head up to the sky; this is no fantasy.  Sky is clear; we cried all our tears and we saved all our smiles for this moment.  Time is right for us to take a flight to the land of ecstasy.  We waited so long to sing you this song and we saved all our smiles for this moment.  It’s not so hard to understand what is in the heart of a man.  All he wishes, all he dreams, is to be free.”

Breau had a sense of humor, and so did I when penning the following lyrical transformations of jazz standards, in the spirit of his jazz religion.  I could perform them at a jazz club or a jazz vespers church service with a sultry jazz chaunteuse, as a jazz version of Sister Act called Jazz Queen.

There is No Greater Love

There is no greater love than his who died for you
No greater gift, no heart so true
There is no greater deed than when on Calvary
He gave his life to set us free
It’s the greatest tale I have ever heard
And to think that we may be washed by his Word
There is no greater love in all the world, it’s true
No greater man than Christ who died for you

Jesus at Sunrise

The song an angel sings to Him who ever reigns
The choir of a church at evensong
That echoes to the hill where the savior died
A great symphonic theme that’s Jesus at sunrise and not a dream
My heart and I agree he’s the life and the truth to me


Heaven is when I’m in your grace and bliss  When you bless me I gratefully utter
Trinity, Trinity, Trinity, is the Spirit, the Source, and the Way
Cathedral bells, choral yells, tolling knells,
And the murmur of pilgrims who pray
Say Trinity, Trinity, Trinity and we fade to a marvelous view
Three persons so near yet out of sight dwelling as one in endless light
As my eyes visualize the deity they see verily, Trinity too.

Transcendental Journey

Going to take a transcendental journey  Going to set my soul at ease
Going to make a transcendental journey to renew old ecstasies
Got a mind free of reservation  All the time I can afford
And I’m filled with great expectation  That I’ll be in one accord
Seven there are seven steps to heaven  I’ll be clearing out the leaven
Counting every step of astral treck that beams me up
Never knew my heart became so stoney  Why did I decide to roam
Got to take this transcendental journey  Transcendental journey home

Pastor Speak

Heaven, I’m in heaven and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When I go to church and sit among the meek
Oh, heaven, I’m in heaven and the cares that hung around me through the week
Seem to vanish like a gambler’s lucky streak
When I go to church and hear my pastor speak

Oh, I’d love to go out fishing in an ocean or a creek
But it would thrill me twice as much to hear my pastor speak
Oh, I’d love to climb a mountain and reach the highest peak
But it would thrill me twice as much to hear my pastor speak
Won’t you stand and preach to me I’ll lend my ears to you
The pearls from you will carry me through

In a Transcendental Mood 

In a transcendental mood I can feel the light pierce through my soul
While your vast infinitude is like a flame that makes me whole
On the wings of every wish drifts a melody so strange and sweet
In this transcendental bliss you make my paradise complete
Worries seem to fade it’s all like a dream to call you mine
My soul’s a lighter thing since you made this day a thing divine
In a transcendental mood I’m within a world so heavenly
For I never dreamed that you’d be loving reverential me

I’m Getting Transcendental Over You

Once I had a fall, then I heard you call, I’m getting transcendental over you.
Things you say and do give me life anew, I’m getting transcendental over you.
I thought I was happy I could be autonomous, Now I must admit, my life is glorious.
Won’t you please be kind, and just make up your mind
That your yoke will be gentle, be gentle on me
`Cause I’m getting transcendental over you.

For Transcendental Reasons

I seek you for transcendental reasons
I hope you do believe me  I’ll give you my heart
I seek you for you alone were meant for me
Your spirit please impart to me And say we’ll never part
I meditate every morning  Say my prayers every night
Savior, I’m never mourning  When I am filled with your light

You Transcend Me

Spirit you transcend me  I know you transcend me
Spirit you transcend me  Truly you do
Only you fill me  I know you fulfill me
Spirit you fill me  Really you do
At first I thought it was sublimation  But that was a false estimation
Now I find that my soul  Is one part of a much larger whole

Canuck Orpheus (Orfeo Blanco)

I’ll sing to the Son raised on high  I’ll sing till the Spirit is nigh
For Easter time is here  mystical time of year
And as the time draws near  hope lifts my heart
I’ll sing while I play my guitar  I’ll cling to this hope from afar
Will grace come my way on this festival day
And will it illumine my heart

Nine O’Clock Bells

Can’t sleep it’s too late now For I hear nine o’clock bells in the morning
And they toll for me  nine o’clock bells in the morning
If you lend an ear you will hear nine o’clock bells in the morning
I must join the choir nine o’clock bells in the morning


As this melody wanders through the scale  Searching for its key so I close my eyes
Meditating on tuning my soul to the key of the infinite All
As this melody moves through the scale  Mindful of its key
So I look within  Meditating on all I see inside of me


Quiet nights of quiet stars  Quiet chords from my guitar
Floating on the silence that’s surrounding
Quiet thoughts and quiet dreams  Quiet walks by quiet streams
And the view of Corcovado Bay below the mountain’s shadow
This is where I want to be with two arms conducting me
Into the orchestration of a sunrise
I who was in a wrong key believing life was only
A bitter tragic joke have found with you  The meaning of existence Redentor

One Note Samba

This is just a little samba built upon a single note
Other notes are bound to follow but the root is still that note
Now this new one is the consequence to the one we’ve just been through
As I’m bound to be the unavoidable consequence of you
There’s so many people who can talk and talk and talk and just say nothing or nearly nothing
I have used up all the scale I know and at the end I’ve come to nothing or nearly nothing
So I come back to my first note as I now come back to you
I will pour into that one note all I feel for you
Those who want the whole show  re mi fa sol la ti do
They will find themselves with no show better play the note you know


Love is like a never-ending melody  poets have compared it to a symphony
A symphony conducted by the lighting at high noon but my song of love is slightly out of tune
Once your spirit raised me to the lofty skies  now the orchestration doesn’t harmonize
Seems to me I’ve changed the tune I used to sing  Like the Bossa Nova life should swing
Now the song is different and the words don’t even rhyme
‘Cause I forgot the melody my soul would croon and so what good am I slightly out of tune
Tune my soul to yours the way it used to be  join me in your harmony to sing of your forgiving
We’re bound to get in tune again before too long  there’ll be no desafinado when I am in the right key
Then I won’t be slightly out of tune I’ll be your melody

2 Prayers, 2 Loves, 2 Ways, 2 Wills

Peter‘s Prayer & Dante‘s Prayer; Amy’s Love & Georgia’s LoveMy Way & the High Way; My – Will and ThyWIll (Pascal: “One whose philosophy of life is ’My will be done’ is really playing God.  Few think they are God in theory, but all do in practice.”)