Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Something Else by André Hodeir (1921-2011)

"For us Europeans, the only reasonable solution is to take jazz as a complement to our culture, not as an antidote to the "poisons of intellectualism." What does this music bring to us? Isn't it precisely the kind of music "that can be listened to without burying one's forehead in one's hands," which is what Jean Cocteau called for after the first war? In jazz, "sensorial interests" greatly outweigh "intellectual passion," the simple charm of existence is exalted without much reflection, a sharpened sensuality takes the place of loftiness and the fusion of individualities takes the place of architecture. Consequently, the attitude required of the listener by jazz is completely different from that generally required by classical masterpieces. But whoever knows how to listen to it with the right kind of ear is always paid for his effort. In our time, when the most advanced European art is becoming more and more abstract, leaving room for feeling but only in a highly sublimated form, jazz brings an element of balance that may be necessary and is almost surely beneficial.
Henri Bernard, a veteran among French jazz fans and a man of culture besides, has written: "The miracle of the century is not power failures or airplane crashes or trips to the moon, but primitive man and Negro folklore." It would be more exact to write that what gives our epoch its value is what we have managed to bring into existence. To be able to take part in the most varied activities of modern man when they tend to build rather than to destroy, to be interested in contemporary philosophy without neglecting sports, to make room for jazz alongside abstract art that is what really enriches us. Is it impossible to hear foreign languages and appreciate their beauty without first disowning and almost forgetting one's mother tongue? On the contrary, I am convinced that we have the ability to adopt differing attitudes of receptivity and comprehension as the need arises. This does not necessarily force us to judge jazz in the perspective of European art; instead, it invites us to broaden our view in order to make room for the only popularly inspired music of our time which is universal and has not become lost in vulgarity. It is not a question of giving up what we have, but of acquiring something else." -- André Hodeir (1956, English translation by David Noakes)

1 comment:

  1. I just read the lovely profile int the WSJ-by nat hentoff
    swing on !!!
    karen from baltimore