Lincoln Center at Home

A couple of days ago I was having coffee with some friends over Zoom and we were talking about music (all of us are/were/are musicians). We started talking about jazz and I mentioned how I sometimes felt like I wasn’t “into jazz enough” to be into jazz. I like jazz. I feel it, I dig it. I know what I like and what I don’t. But I’m not sure I get it, and there’s where the issue is. What does that even mean? Is that even the point? Should it be necessary?

People feel this way about classical music too. Sometimes, it’s the result of gatekeeping. You like a certain piece? Prove it by naming some obscure work and profess to loving it with a straight face. Other times, people just don’t enjoy it, but there’s a certain pressure to do so because it says something about you. Nah. You like it, that’s all that’s necessary. Share music between people.

Electronic music is a great analogue for this. People have no problem telling you they hate that shit. Likewise, you run into someone who can finish the sentence “In the beginning, there was Jack–” and you just made a new long-term friend. That’s it. There isn’t a social something associated with the genre the way there is for other music.

Orthogonally–jazz is also just difficult for me to play. If one trains classically, improvisation isn’t taught at the same foundational level, probably to our detriment. That’s where some of the insecurity might come from too. I’m at peace with that. If anything, it makes me enjoy and appreciate jazz more to know that I am free from the desire to want those abilities.

This is the same approach I take as a designer in the work I do, by the way. It’s irrational to think one can learn everything and do it well enough to do it for a living. (This is a form of gatekeeping, too). I know what I’m good at, and I have a confident sense of where I can deepen my craft or new areas to grow into. There are also the areas that would be foolish of me to spend time on (and a bad investment for my employer). Being free from these temptations and desires helps me value and celebrate the colleagues I have that are very good at these other things. Finally, they remind me that I am a human being, not a human doing, and that I am subject to the constraints of time and space.

I will one day die. The fucks I have to give are finite.

If words in this post made you wonder if I meditate, sure. So let’s enjoy some jazz. No need to have a degree in it to do so.

If you can, and want to “go somewhere” right now, putting on full concerts is fun. There’s nothing quite like live music, and the kinship between jazz musicians doing their thing onstage imo is unparralleled among musicians.