Sunday, March 09, 2008

International Ornette Coleman Day 2008

Have a Harmolodic Day!

Check out this hour-long interview with Ornette. Coleman can be a challenging interview subject with his wide ranging into meta-physical musings and cagey - even strikingly Cage-esque - rhetorical style.

I'm particularly struck by his intuitive harmonic grasp that a mere 12 fixed tones simply is not enough or even an accurate representation of what can be expressed. His discussion of the "tonic" as something independent of key or tonality speaks volumes about his consistent intervallic logic that has produced so much astonishing music for more than a half-century.

The vaguely defined - and often divined - harmolodic theory of Ornette Coleman has been a source of speculation for decades now. Coleman's own slippery and spiritually laden language has almost become an integral part of this difficult to describe, difficult to pin down theory. His detractors have doubted its existence and claimed it to be a musical MacGuffin. But the music of that dynamic quartet of Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins clearly had it. And one can hear it in his Skies of America, in Song X, in Dancing in Your Head, Three Women and clear into the more recent Sound Grammar. When James "Blood" Ulmer adapted harmolodic theory into his own playing one can hear that same sense of intervallic construction and disciplined freedom. Ornette Coleman's proximity to truth makes it difficult for him to convey what he knows with mere words. But his music is clear and speaks brilliantly to those who listen and experience it.

In this same interview Coleman returns frequently to the subject of love. The idea of it, the feeling of it and the desire to be loved. It is fitting that an artistic soul so devoted to improvisation grounded in truth should find this single, universal human element so significant. These ears find love for the incredible music Ornette Coleman has recorded over his career. It appeals directly to the mind and holds an immediacy for the heart.

Happy Ornette Coleman Day.

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