Iain Cameron's Diary
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2006-09-22 - 8:48 a.m.

James gets back from Odessa on Saturday – after 60 hours of intensive Russian tuition. I am listening to an early softsynth – the Roland Sound Canvas – which is running on Windows 95 and controlled through a simple version of Cubasis. I quite like it.

Rummaging around in the archive has also thrown up Schoenberg’s Op 33a for solo piano – from around 1929. Its not that long and apparently in sonata form although I havent managed to crack that yet. I have a good CD of Pollini playing all the solo Schoenberg piano works but I have mostly concentrated on the early pieces – Op 33 is in fact the last. I wonder why he didn’t write any music for piano in the USA? Maybe teaching Cage put him off the instrument?

I have been less interested in Schoenberg’s music from the 30s and the 40s although I like the chamber music from the 20s which still sounds incredibly modern to me. This summer I heard the Napoleon SQ from the early 1940s and was really impressed with it. Then I bought a recording of the string music that he wrote when he first got to the USA – music which is allegedly tonal and designed for amateur groups to play. All of this made me get the score for his famous 2nd SQ which is sitting in the boot of my car.

I have been playing Miles Davis lines on the flute. I have a set of transcriptions and at the back they pull out patterns over standard chord changes – say II-V – and give you a couple of pages of the lines he has used over those changes. If you are really serious you can try transcribing the lines in your head to different keys. I got this trick from Bugs Bowers chords and progressions which I bought in Charing Cross Rd in 1967.

I was talking to Charlie Alexander about BB – I said that I thought this was neglected resource in jazz education. Charles now runs international summer schools for learning jazz and he says that Jamie Aberschold has taken over. I have a sentimental attachment to earlier methods. Besides Bugs Bower there is Owen Bryce whom I studied with 1967-8. I said to Charlie that maybe Owen doesn’t get his due as an educator. Well in the UK – I believe he has been made a freeman of New Orleans.

There is a tendency to see Owen as a trad player but I think there is more to it than that. From conversations with him, I think he got into jazz in the latter part of WW2 – well before trad appeared. Trad is really the last commercial manifestation of something that was very well entrenched for 10 years before – as the music of a kind of bohemianism that inevitably flourished on the margins of wartime and post-war society in the UK. It seems to me that there was really serious engagement with New Orleans at this point in the UK - rather like the way that Woody Allen engages with it with his Monday night band.

Subsequently all kinds of oppositions were created – not least between trad and modern. Modern jazz was really created in NYC in parallel with the UK building up an indigenous New Orleans platform. It was inevitable that as a slightly younger generation began to get interested in bebop – via the records that began to appear after 1945 – not everyone would see eye to eye. New Orleans was marginal in the UK in 1945 – and bebop was radical and marginal in NYC in 1945.

The strange thing in my view in the assimilation of modern jazz into the UK was the way that it met up with blues through figures like Davy Graham and Graham Bond – both of whom I have had the honour of meeting – and Charlie Watts.

I can now see that that particular blending reflects a 1950s blending in the USA – with the emergence of hardbop whereby modern jazz became mixed with funkier elements. I think maybe the UK was about 5 years behind the US in trying this blend. But somehow in the early 1960s it lept ahead. In NYC the blending was still ahead of the game, I think , and this was expressed in the way that it became OK for blacks to go downtown and mix with the radical artists in East Village eg my heroine Adrian Piper, the Kantian.

The 70s jazzband that I was in and that reconvened a fortnight ago is a kind of Woody Allen style echo – a band which likes a somewhat distant form and tries to make it work. I suppose that’s also true of the Valencia sadana band – except that as far as I am aware no other english band ever tried to do that music whereas lots of people try to do mid 50s NYC small group club music. I heard lots of people doing it in Budapest this summer.

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