Sunna Gunnlaugs

Name that Tune… My Listeners Did.

October 27, 2009 11:02 am | Filed under: Music | Comments (24)
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I did a little experiment on my facebook fanpage last week. I posted a home video of myself playing a composition that I will premier next week and needed a title for. I was really just looking for a title, but when people started to submit their suggestions I realized that everyone was expressing how the tune made them feel. To me that was really neat. I rarely get such direct feedback from listeners. Most of the suggestions had a commonality and many referenced the season. It would be interesting to see how that would change if I had done this in summer. I got so many great suggestions that I really would like to write music with those titles in mind, if there are no objections.

The title I chose is "Long Pair Bond" which was suggested by Liz Gilbert/Chordata. I really liked what she wrote and it's a shame you can't convey blushing on a blog. I feel that this title leaves room for the listener's own interpretations or speculations. It captured me.

I feel very honored to have received all those suggestions and I value everyone's input. You can see the video and comments here

I often find it hard to name my tunes. I really care about them and sometimes feel that my ideas for a name are too generic and meaningless or maybe I just feel vulnerable because the title may open the window to my soul a little too much.

But does the name really matter? Do you think of the meaning of the title when listening to music? Will someone like a piece less or be less inclined to buy a CD because of its name?

24 Responses to “Name that Tune… My Listeners Did.”

  1. Hello Sunna:

    Great pick!

    Best wishes, as always,

    Federico (aka euskir)

  2. linda says:

    That was a great choice!

    Naming tunes must be a very similar thing to naming artwork..? All I can say in response is that often a name comes to you – sort of just IS THERE…and when it's not there it can be a struggle to think of just the right words. I agree about it being very personal and maybe telling more than you might want to. Music and art are in many ways "beyond" words – but we often feel the need to use words as descriptions to help others get a hook into the work… :)

    Anyway, it was a great idea of yours to get people involved!

  3. Dear Sunna,

    For me titles are important.. Lot of times I have a title in mind when I firt imagine an image and then i take it

    Sometimes, it's the contrary .. but i work with images.. it's a different field

    It's simply inspiring

    cheers

    jc

    And then for concrete reasons, titles are important.. stores need to classify ! ;-)

  4. Liz Gilbert says:

    Hello there !

    I'm more than honored you chose that title….was trying to express something about the way musicians connect over all time and space. I am struck also by the truly interesting and intelligent way you go about making your work available. That too utilizes the notion of the interwebs as performance space.
    Go Sunna! Hope the concert is brilliant…
    All the best,

    Liz

  5. Hello there:

    I firmly believe in the importance of a good tittle, music compositions are like short stories, or little novels, a good tittle can open the right path for the listener.

    Best wishes, as always,

    Federico

  6. Greg Harness says:

    Sunna,

    I’m going to take the opposite view, arguing that titles are unimportant other than to distinguish one composition from another.

    Instrumental music is not about invoking a specific feeling in each and every listener. One of the joys of listening is that we are not forced into a particular way of thinking or emoting about the piece.

    In a song, when someone sings words such as “I miss you most of all my darling when autumn leaves start to fall,” we lose many of our interpretive choices. We’ve narrowed things down to missing someone dear in autumn. In a song, words do have meaning. But not elsewhere.

    Classical music leaps to mind when I think about musical emotion that has nothing to do with the title. The name of Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 9” does not begin to speak to the depths of expression of this incredible work. I know Mahler’s ninth, and I don’t need words to help me revel in it.

    In the jazz realm, Anthony Braxton goes to extremes with his titles, giving many of his works titles like “Composition No. 106d.” Consider Keith Jarrett with “Pt. 1,” “Pt. 2,” and so on from his Carnegie Hall concert. Even our hero Thelonious Monk gave his works titles that don’t force us in a particular direction: “Monk’s Dream,” “Monk’s Mood,” “Monk’s Point.”

    Finally, there is titled music I can appreciate without understanding the words. “Stóð ég úti í tunglsljósi” comes to mind; I have no idea what that title is, but that doesn’t hinder my appreciation.

    The name doesn’t matter. I don’t think about the name at all when I’m listening, with the exception of a song is in a language I know. Names are important because on the bandstand you have to be able to call “Asleep in the Grass” so the players all know what’s next. But names have nothing to do with my enjoyment of music once the tune is kicked off.

    That said, I still had fun playing your Name That Tune game, and I’d play again if I had the opportunity. Be prepared for me to suggest “Sunna’s Mood.”

    ~Greg

  7. Hello Greg:

    You're going back to my friend Gustav Mahler's times, and I'm going some steps before…

    Another good friend, Ludwig van Beethoven, from \Bonaparte\ to \Eroica\, not even classical / romantic music lovers call the symphony \the number three\…

    Anthony Braxton compositions are dealing with another perspectives about music writing, improvisation and experimentation, sometimes different variations from the same piece, and about my really good friend Thelonious Monk, titles like "Boo Boo's Birthday" and "Green Chimneys" are fantastic names, and heavily connected to Thelonious personal life.

    Names are important, not essential.

    Best wishes, as always,

    Federico (aka euskir)

  8. I beg to differ…and agree. As aforementioned, a title is hardly necessary, and often superfluous: unable to distill definitively a work's overt and latent intent. Bare enumeration is thus often instantially sufficient to catalogue a piece, absent a detailed exposition. Hence, the prevalent Classical model. But you don't know Mahler's 9th until you know the story of Mahler's 9th, and it's further ramifications and repercussions—all expressed with words. Absent the story, the mise-en-scène, your FULL understanding and appreciation thereof is staggeringly deficient.

    Greg's exemplum of Braxton is further inapropos. Expanding upon Federico: inapropos, inasmuch as Braxton's titles are most often diagrammatic, and incorporate his own (albeit rarefied) lexicon per his particularized structuralism. His titles being classifications and formulations, containing often seemingly impenetrable symbology, actually describe incorporated processes—compositional building-blocks—which same are often migratory species, reincorporated into subsequent, yet differentiated, works. Granting that penetration thereof is irrequisite a superficial appreciation of Braxon's compositions per se, intellection thereof is an absolute requisite of properly appreciating Braxton himself, without which…well…he is often dismissed as impenetrable, rather than duly appreciated: as incomparable. It should also be self-evident, that the further one penetrates Braxton's processes, the greater will be one's understanding—and therefore appreciation—of any given piece, and it's FULL intent.

    On the other hand, well…one could go on. But a definitive title is just that: integral to the whole, and again therefore of one's understanding and appreciation of the titular work. If an artist wishes interpretation of a piece to be utterly contingent, he/she does well to title it accordingly. But if a viewer or auditor of a work wishes to be unfettered by such restrictions, he/she does well to stare at a blank wall, or listen to an unencoded disc: suitable koans for ones inner zen ascete, no doubt. But the very act of choosing and arranging visual or auditory information for assessment is inherently delimiting. I therefore counter Greg that one of the essential joys in appreciating artistic endeavor is precisely in being thus delimited, exploring the architectonics of artistic creation. Consider it a room. One does not have the liberty of being both inside and outside it simultaneously, regardless of one's experience of what lies beyond, or how that experience colors one's perceptions.

    Observe how Juan-Carlos Hernandez photographs musicians. Soon enough, one will discover: mon cher ami JC is fascinated by the hands of a musician—they tell a story. His fascination tells a story. In combination, and filtered through the lens of his marvellously refined aesthetic, the artistic result tells yet another—and thereby interwoven—story. I refuse to concede that I am disallowed to read this composite story or it's manifold subtexts, granting that my reading it becomes yet again part of the story. And if presented with a work whose title is linguistically inaccessible, I will do my best to decipher it and it's further intent, for upon such things hinge my FULL appreciation thereof. Methinks I am hardly unique in this disposition, if somewhat over-thorough.

    Sunna's choice of title in the case of "Long Pair Bond" is illuminating on many levels, and I think fraught with highly personal meaning and subtexts: the pair-bonding implied—of Monk and Jarret—akilter as Monk, unabashedly emotive as Jarrett. Thus Sunna's own subjective resonance, and definitive choice, I'd hazard a guess (with which I can hardly argue). This choice has a story. It's story is told here, is now integral with the piece, and can no longer be disassociated from it except by her, which act would merely continue the story. Perhaps my interpretation thereof is deficient or erroneous, perhaps yours. They cannot efface hers, which I dare assert is FULL and sufficient as needs be.

    JC's impression of "Brilliant Hope" I find objectively reinforced by "Long Pair Bond's" inherent melodic dichotomy. I perceive a "monastic" off-centeredness to what I've heard so far of Sunna's writing: favoring dissonance not so much darkly brooding, as rather thoughtful—pensive—or…mischievous. This I find more prevalent in "A Garden Someday." Here it's offset by a brighter tonality—the prominent major descent coming to rest—unforestalled by a passing chord—slightly sideways, yet happy to be so (for by such we gain new perspective). A parting perhaps, yet more sweetness than sorrow. A backward glance, yet unhesitant in moving forward, and portending fruitful resolution.

    But although it is tempting to assess the commonality of a seasonal impression amongst the suggested titles as being subjectively determined by the season at hand, I would posit that this is rather determined by a like subjective resonance in this piece's auditors, enhanced though it may be by autumn's immediate proximity. To some autumn tokens only dreary associations, bidding winter's bleakness. To others—and here I agree with the "Brilliant Hope" suggested by Juan-Carlos—the promise of spring. For winter is a season of gestation. The terminus of nature's cycle seemingly hearkened by autumn is only apparent. Life sleeps hidden beneath the snow's blanket. But come Spring it bursts forth, with the force of resurrection, into unforeseen splendor. And so all who seem to have intently considered "Long Pair Bond" came to interpretations which may be accurately considered interrelated, IMHO.

    But I find this one statement of Greg's the most willfully ignorant: "Instrumental music is not about invoking [sic] a specific feeling in each and every listener." I suggest that he refrain from attempting to appreciate music from the Indian subcontinent, for the performer is required to accomplish precisely this evocation, and elsewise fails. I expect also a taste of smoke-swirled, late-night jazz evokes in him neither a taste of the bitter-sweet, nor sense of unfulfilled longing. But Hindustani and Karnatak music have refined this connection of melody and emotive impression to something of a science—not "hard science" perhaps, but not at all pseudo: an aesthetic theory of how certain melodic progressions are inherently suggestive of distinct emotions, or time of day, or season of year, all of which themselves have certain generalized associations given their respective cultural contextualizations. Thus the raga, with it's scale, specific scalar progressions, as also it's defining rasa—sentiment or mood. Such I hear in Sunna's piece, and generated a plethora of subtexts revolving around…

    1) Autumnalia, an otherwise unnameable/unidentifiable [re. untitled], endemically middle-eastern [re. raga/rasa] dichotyledon ["A flowering plant with two embryonic seed leaves, or cotyledons, that usually appear at germination."] of 2 species [botschantzevii and innopinata].
    2) Which is itself suggestive of dichotomy [division into 2, often contradictory, parts; and taxonomically, division or distribution of genera into two species. Re. Monk and Jarrett synthesized/bifurcated melody and interpretational titles].
    3) Autumnalia, being suggestive both of all things autumnal [i.e. autumnaliae] and a hypothetical feast thereof [i.e. The Autumnalia—square one], would thus be a mysterious curiosity in Sunna's someday-garden [re. "A Garden Someday," which I was also listening to at the time].
    4) Thus, it is a somehow diaphanous thing, suggestive of diaphonous, which is how I got on this extensive tangent in the first place [i.e. dia/through + phonos/sound].

    BTW, another something hovering in my mind at the time, "Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art." (Susan Sontag). ;) Behold, thou White Witch of the North, my vengeance! And if all this blather somehow inspires musical impressions, by all means Sunna: have at it. Just don't tell Greg. And stay vulnerable, because opening the window to one's soul is what makes the gift worth giving. :)

  9. Liz Gilbert says:

    Dear Michael (& Sunna):

    Signs of intelligent life in the universe ! I studied North Indian (Bengali mostly) music for years and what you are saying (so brilliantly I might add),is true. I'm sure that when Sunna plays this "live" (with an audience present in "real time"),the piece will take on all the elements at work at that unique moment in time/space!
    That could include the audience (as individuals and as a whole),the season,the chemistry between musicians,a car back firing outside,the structure of the building,the piano she plays…on & on. This is why "live" in this sense is still such an important way to experience music.
    It's also a conversation we are having,just like this one.

    And that title,"Long Pair Bond" says something about what my response (thus my whole history in music) is to Sunna's music and really just the wonder of it all. How did we humans ever manage to come this far? ;)
    I got in my mailbox this morning a missive from an old friend which linked to a travelogue of sorts,a slideshow from the years 1964-!968 which documents the illustrious Jook Savages Jug Band (and related artists). This swath of time and place (San Francisco mostly) includes a lot about Stockhausen. The Jooks did lots of work with Stockhausen,almost like a bacchanalian circus with radios! It really has me thinking about present times, music,live events…in some ways,music is now confined to ghettos of "genre" whereas then it was a moving radical force through the entire culture.I remember seeing Keith Jarrett (when I was a teen) as part of the Newport Jazz Festival's first year in New York. There was no way that what he was doing was in a jazz "ghetto"…it flamed up and affected people across all kinds of musical and social terrain.
    This has led me to thinking about GENRE titling, more than the individual titles to work (which obviously have meaning and resonance and are a part of the whole…am currently working on a series called Road House of the Desert Moon and this is giving me a road map,a really vague map that I'm following as I explore what this means to me…but I am involved with language too. The series title evolved as I've been working and I WANT the resonance of it to be there for others too…layers so to speak. So it doesn't matter really if you know that or not. The work should stand anyway. But if you do know that,it will take you deeper.)…was that a run on thought? A drive by thought…ha ha…just jamming with y'all (and loving it)…
    Rock ON !

    Liz

  10. Hello Michael Paul Pavlic II:

    Oh my, that's an extremely well put statement, and the close line with Susan Sontag, very clever…

    Yes, good old Anthony Braxton, take a look at the Anthony Braxton and
    the Tri-Centric Foundation (http://www.wesleyan.edu/music/braxton), enough material to understand his brilliant musical craziness :-)

    Well, I'm going to read your article again, it's very tasty…

    Best wishes, as always,

    Federico

  11. Sunna: I'm honored that you suffer my ramblings! :) Liz and Federico: I'm flattered! :) JC: well…my aesthete ami has already worn my earhole off elsewhere last night. ;) But we are guests here, and though our input is solicited, an over-talkative guest is a boorish guest. I wouldn't want Sunna to have to tell me to put a sock in it! ;)

    But consider these interrelated examples also. The hologram: now a commonplace, a certain variety even rainbowing one's credit card. The peacock: irised plumage bursting with ever-varying iridescence. Both rely upon principles of wave propogation and are interference patterns, either per diffraction or reflection. Both can be produced via natural, white-light illumination. Yet the phenomenon is best observed via a monochromatic, coherent light source, i.e., laser light. Not that which one commonly associates with such a light source, i.e., pinpoint illumination. The butterfly's irised wings, the human iris also: likewise chromatisizing white light into its component hues via coherent scattering. Thus…3D images seemingly conjured from aether, spectra not actually there in the sense we conventionally expect: pigmentation. Absent these phenomena? All reduced to so much…muchness.

    Liz: I'm convinced a well-chosen title—and yours is—possesses analogous powers, either to show forth or enhance, precisely by coherent interference with the ordinary transmission of light (taken in this sense as cognition of an artistic work, via the mind's iris, if you will). Words have meaning! The carefully selected can be rife with multiple significations: layers to peel away—exactly! Thus my example re. Autumnalia: a simple, albeit belabored, illustration of just how much meaning—how many layers—one can pack into but ONE word! And I wasn't even trying! It was built-in already, latent, needing only to be actively drawn out. I'm reminded here of the late Syd Barrett, "You only have to read the lines of scribbly black, and everything SHINES!" ["Matilda Mother"]

    And are not musical phrases words? Non-verbal communication? As you aptly point out: performance is ideally a synergistic conversation. Indo-Pak tradition would scarce have it otherwise. One is not required to accept the notion of each swara being literally an irreproducible, living entity to appreciate the paradigmatic rightness of the concept: performer/music/audience, pitcher/water/receptacle—a living musical exchange, fluid as water, momentary as time. A nowness one can only inhabit, never quite actually revisit. This reciprocity is befittingly initiated via a title, IMHO. I do SO appreciate knowing what we are to converse about, or not, rather than determining it myself with some unwelcome labor, and at some indeterminate later. Unless, of course, it IS a given that said discourse is open-ended.

    I'm inclined to inject here a concept: "gayaki ang," the Indo-Pak ideal of instrumentalism emulating vocalism, as somewhat apropos. Particularly as I would add my own perception: that the ideal of vocalism ought likewise to emulate verbalism, i.e., musical melisma mimicking the patterns of speech. Methinks this the greatest stumbling-block to western musicians seeking mastery of the raga, particularly when expounding the alap: a disconnect to the necessary and inherent linguistic substrate, which inextricably informs the melodic line—a far more significant obstacle to overcome than simply a foreign title. Such more readily admits facile translation.

    BTW: Great catch-phrase, that "drive-by-thought," Liz. I'm stealing it! ;) And Bengal, you say? :) A rhetorical question: would you think Rabindranath best appreciated remotely, via translation only? Without at least an idea of Bengali's sonorities and rhythms? Without even a mental image of poet and vina? And by extension: Kalidasa and dhrupad? Without knowing that HIS ideal archetype—classical Sanskrit poetry—can practically construct an entire PERIOD from a seemingly singular multiply-compounded hyper-word? When one enters (insofar as one is capable) into Tagore's milieu—his MIND, and all it's resonances, all it's overtones—all is transformed, is it not? And you still don't even need to know a lick of Sanskrit or Bengali!

    Federico: my blipstar friend euskir, I've had that link on my page in MySpace since…since I've had links on my page in MySpace! Long overdue for an update, or a better solution, but…great minds think alike! Or madmen. ;) So I shall expand upon you again. I've a perfect close for this "monastic" choir: a blunt instrument to be strategically applied to any contrarian sort. If anyone would try to convince me that what we're on about here is so much pissing wind…"Well, You Needn't!" Because if you cannot perceive that Monk's chosen title is, as are indeed so many others of his, factually also the musical catch-phrase of the titular piece (and was so, long before Mike Ferro ever though to add lyrics), you simply do not have ears to hear. Causa finita.

    This Blather-Box is done for now. :) Peace.

    mpp2

  12. Hello my good friend mpp2:

    Well, that's better, a nickname to bypass your almost monarchic real name :-)

    For some reason your words are bringing to my head African and American Natives chants, "wordless lyrics" I would like to say, but deeply connected to very meaningful concepts and ideas, Earth, environment, family, tradition, love, and if you find a title in those musical pieces is really wonderful, do you know the collaboration from Don Pullen and North American Natives (Kootenai & Salish)?, names like "The eagle staff is first", that's amazing and beautiful.

    Thanks for the help expanding my unfinished thoughts, and yes, Thelonious Monk was a mastermind in the "name that tune" department, from the simplicity from "Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-Are" (aka Bolivar Blues) or "Let’s Cool One", to the hidden meaning from "Rhythm-a-ning".
    By the way, you can find almost all Thelonious Monk's titles here: http://www.monkzone.com/compositionshtml.htm

    Thanks for the musical ride.

    Best wishes, as always,

    Federico (aka euskir)

    PS: Thanks for your compliments, sadly I'm not spending many minutes these days in MySpace…

  13. Wow, serious discussion going on.
    Linda I totally agree with you.

    Michael You told me you searched for a translation to the title "Það búa litlir dvergar", (There live little dwarfs), I assume, to better appreciate it. The funny thing is that I never think of the title when I play that tune and I don't think Tony Malaby knew what it meant when we recorded it. I actually think of nothing… or try to at least. To me it is just a melody, a mood, a place where the journey starts. Where it takes us each time nobody knows, but that's what I love. But for you knowing the meaning and the story enriched your experience.

    When announcing the title of the next tune to an audience you are opening the door to expectations so I agree with Federico and Liz that titles serve as a suggestion, a vague road map. The title shouldn't confine the tune but needs to relate to it. Still, I agree with Greg that it's nice when the interpretation is left to the listener. One of the things I like about touring with my band is that when we play the same program night after night some tunes begin to take unexpected directions. I guess it comes from the musicians' need to explore and express and not repeat what was already said. Although playing the same tunes, we want to experience something fresh and new. I remember rehearsing with drummer Tom Rainey for a gig at the Knitting Factory where I was trying to tell him what kind of mood a particular tune should have and he just looked at me and said "I'll play a ballad," which shut me up. Then I understood that he wanted the opportunity to contribute to it and give of himself instead of being tamed through it.

    I can understand how knowing the story behind a piece can contribute to the appreciation of it, but at the same time I would expect that it would dictate the feelings evoked…. it forces you into a room.

    I have written music to poetry but never to a free standing title. It will be interesting to hear Autumnaliae, Thelonialmeme, Brilliant Hope etc.

    Sunna
    ps Speaking of not being restricted by the meaning of words, my 4 year old sings ABBA's Mama Mia with great passion. Where the lyrics say "oh, since the day we parted" she says "oh, see me bady body" from the bottom of her heart. So the emotion is there although her understanding isn't.

  14. Hello Sunna:

    I remember all the time the words from the great Sergei Eisenstein, one of the founders of cinema, that the viewer (he was talking about movies and theater) is the only one who can close the circle to finish a work of art, and there's not a single one with the same point of view or perspective.

    Best wishes, as always,

    Federico

  15. Euskir: everybody seems to tell me that re. MySpace! All is not lost yet, but…alas! It's not as though you'll find a conversation like this there, is it? Returning the favor, here's a fave and apropos tasty link. "Characterizing the Communicative Affordances of MySpace: A Place for Friends or a Friendless Place?" http://www.allacademic.com//meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/2/3/3/7/5/pages233750/p233750-1.php Otherwise…Sergei's right, and Sergei's wrong. But that's an epistmelogical discussion, and…oh! Let's not go THERE! :O

    Sunna: indeed I did! ;) And, having explored the various contextualizations for both the Icelandic & German versions—to better appreciate it (and you)—I likewise questioned you as to whether the image of cavorting dwarves informed your interpretation. You asked me, pointedly (demurring to respond directly), "what do you think?" I warned you this was a DANGEROUS query—that you'd tossed kitty a ball of yarn. You can't accuse me of dishonesty now, can you? :D But you also forewarned me that curiosity killed the cat. :O Could be tricky, that—did I forewarn you I might be related to Schrödinger's cat? Hmmm…perhaps an oversight. ;) Intriguing, that quantum cat—and in quite an intriguing room. But then, Shrody, et al., would assure me one can in fact be both inside and outside a room simultaneously. Sort of, I suppose, were I a two-peaked quantum state particle. Hmmm…"Inside Out!" But I digress… And did I tell you that kitty can be quite a devious Devil's Advocate? Still…

    Here YOUR chosen topic of discussion bears reiteration: "But does the name really matter? Do you think of the meaning of the title when listening to music? Will someone like a piece less or be less inclined to buy a CD because of its name?" The last issue hasn't even been touched upon explicitly by anyone here yet, but…meh! :/ It's a marketing thing, mostly. The CD title is usually a song title, and then we're back to square one, aren't we? Nevertheless, the issue at hand: objective titular significance. Not subjective. Not whether it matters to me, or you, but in general. And implying: if so, by what criteria? When listening to what? Music. Not strictly jazz or improvisational music, but music in general. All genres. All categories. And again implying: if so, by what criteria? Launching from "Það búa litlir dvergar"…

    Now, the funny thing is…YOU neither need to actively think of that title when you play the piece, nor does Tony need to have so much as an inkling of it's literal signification (e.g.: per Rabindranath, et al.), for both of your performances to be inextricably informed by it. For "Það búa litlir dvergar" informs YOUR personal and cultural history, with all it's associations, transcending it's strictly literal sense. This is SUNNA'S sense—it's extended signification—what I sought to pry open, to understand further and better appreciate YOUR process, i.e., why you would want to select it as a vehicle for interpretation in the first place. Whether consciously or subconsciously, THAT sense—THAT "translation"—necessarily delimits your interpretation of the piece, and would do so even if you consciously rejected it, albeit relatively: ipso facto, IMHO.

    For example, if perhaps (for whatever reason) you actually factually LOATHED "Það búa litlir dvergar," you might thus reactively or maliciously choose to interpret it via some dadaesque musical vandalization, or demolish it altogether. It would NOT diminish the title's significance whatsoever. It would, contrarily in fact, loom ever larger; becoming (hypothetically of course) the focal point of some hidden nihilistic disposition perhaps, or some dark subcurrent and subtext to otherwise sunny Sunna.

    But the ideal of a synergistic conversation applies far more directly to jazz improvisation per the performers themselves (particularly collective), does it not? Tony or Tom can be utterly oblivious to any/all significations the piece may subjectively hold for you. But in musical conversation, they are plugged into a recursive feedback loop with you: listening to you, talking TO you, WITH you—not AT you, one hopes. Thus (tangentially, at the very least), their interpretation is informed by your interpretation, and thus contingent upon SUNNA'S associations for the piece, varyingly expressed and emphasized in any given performance thereof. This is an issue of aesthetic attunement, of sympathy, which hardly always needs to be verbalized, especially in the instance of an experienced sideman. Perhaps Sunna was instead unecessarily over-verbalizing with Rainey? Would you agree or disagree with any/all of the above?

    But…there's input, and there's input. Outside of one-off gigs, if Rainey's—or any other performer's—musical input consistently and incongruously clashed with your intent, producing unpalatable or even disastrous results, would you (the BANDLEADER!) suffer it interminably, on the gounds of respecting their "contribution," or give them the sack if untameable? And, of course…there's rooms, and there's rooms. An audience of diners clanking their silverware and ignorantly talking over your performance has decidedly lower expectations than, say…a room full of rapt jazzophiles, or peer musicians, or…whatever. But you get my drift: a musical audience's expectation is directly proportional to an audience's musical education and sophistication—the latter sort being comparably more likely to exhibit parallel development in related disciplines, i.e., literature (and specifically poetry, where titles are hardly to be deemed insignificant, and each word of often paramount meaning). Would you agree or disagree?

    Further, I both agreed and disagreed with Greg, and stated so explicitly, you'll note. I've neither apprehension regarding the most unstructured music, nor most abitrary of title. I've only sought to exclude the validity of HIS exclusion of an intrinsically delimiting title—and by extension, musical interpretation—by forwarding concrete examples to the contrary, both eastern and western. The issue is multifaceted. Take again, for example, the Classical and notated composition. For the sake of argument, Mahler's 9th. Down to minutiae—vis-à-vis jazz, it might as well be carved in stone. As an auditor? One has interpretational liberties, diminishing exponentially the moreso one apprehends Mahler's intent. As a performer? One's liberty of interpretation is, for all intents and purposes, nil. Per Classical composition, it is the conductor who interprets the work, not the musicians, excepting soloists, and all within defined and limited parameters (prescinding consideration of the pre and post-Classical aleatoric variety, etc.). Would you agree or disagree that such delimitation does NOT vitiate one's enjoyment or appreciation of the 9th or any other like work?

    Meaningless titles? I would assert, while in and of themselves seemingly bare enumeration, the Classical imply an ENTIRE score, it's history, and SO much more. One can use such to convey also an entire library of information. "Ah, yes! But…Mahler's 9th!" "Yes, indeed…I see your point." Is it just me? If you came across another piece, jazz even, entitled "Ah, yes! But…Mahler's 9th!" and didn't know or seek to explore the connection, would you feel left out? That you were missing something perhaps crucial to understanding either the jazz, or it's author? Would you consider it insignificant to discover that the piece had nothing to do with Mahler's 9th, but that it's author was in fact a dyed-in-the-wool Mahlerphile, and that there seemed to be a skein of 9th running through the self-same's practically every other composition? On a less grandiose scale…in literature as in music, etc., a specific phrase or theme may serve as leitmotiv and so COHERE the entire work. Without which, would you accurately assess Samuel Beckett? Richard Wagner? Etc., etc., etc. And if this is encapsulated in a title? Thus the example of one of Monk's "molten compositions/frozen improvisations." "Well, You Needn't," accompanied by a certain pontificatory finality. To serve as suitable…goad, perhaps? ;)

    My point is hardly in insisting that a title necessarily enjoin a specific interpretation to any given artistic work—quite the contrary. But rather, that when it does so per the intent of it's creator, such intent—such imbued signification—demands respect to be properly appreciated. A title is a door, to be sure, by which one enters a room. But (interpreting the qualification expressed by you and Linda), it can be also merely a doorway, inviting open entry. Once entered, some rooms have no windows, some many. Some windows sealed, permitting only a view of the outside; some open, inviting the outside in. Some have doors to other rooms. Some rooms—merely doors themselves: antechambers to vast edifices that cannot possibly be explored in one visit. Some open to carefully manicured gardens; some, to vast, wild and wide-open vistas. But doors are doors, and rooms are rooms, and only claustrophobics fear enclosed spaces. Yet knowing the story of an artistic work doesn't force you into a room, Sunna. It INVITES you further. The room being the artist's heart, mind and soul, I'm inclined to ask: quo vadis? And do you think perhaps such an entry too exposing? Too vulnerative? Can it not be vulnerary instead?

    As for your daughter, Sunna (and I hope both are less vulnerate)? "A" for effort! :) I'm certain she'll mature to be as talented as her mother. I'm also certain that her mother will assuredly and lovingly cultivate her gifts. Will I be rushing out tomorrow to purchase one of her CDs? Notwithstanding my present penury…"What do YOU think?" I've varied and dissimilar musical interests, Sunna—quite the eclectomaniac in this regard. But I wouldn't be listening to your music if you were only playing "Chopsticks," however whole-heartedly, now would I? "When I was a child, I thought as a child…" God help us all! I morphed into…BRAINIAC! :O But if your daughter matures to demonstrate literary, rather musical, aptitude, will you sternly inform her "Words aren't that important! You will be a pianist! Causa finita!"—??? Speaking as a word-junkie? OMG! I do SO hope not! Popular discourse is denuded enough as it is. Without great literature, language degenerates, the mind is debased, culture marginalized (as is now jazz). A case in point: you say you've written music for poetry. Per this experience, and literature in general: does it inform your aesthetic? Does it liberate? Inspire? Or confine? Inquiring minds want to know, Sunna. :)

    And if our little conversation preceded the public solicitation of title suggestions for "Long Pair Bond," I'm motivated to wonder: did it motivate said solicitation? Because in that case, we would have something of a causality loop which subtexts the whole process! Hmmm…many splendored implications, those dang words…

    The not-so-monarchic (and ever-subtexted)… ;)

    mpp2

    PS: Autumnalia/ae is no longer exactly a free-standing title. It is already semi-written, here: delimited, but as a template—a process, à la Braxton. Sometimes subtextually, as is my wont. Elicit it, IF you will. Expound it, AT will. Seek, as source material, a raga (of personal appeal), embodying the implied rasa, with a bifurcated ascending/descending scalar progression. Ask me not it's common name or visage—I couldn't find it. ;) Awaiting spring to germinate, methinks…somewhere in Sunna's someday-garden. Happy hunting! And…cheers! :)

  16. Liz Gilbert says:

    DeNuded Language & in age of DoubleSpeak & rape of language, writers have task of making language a virgin again…& that, my friends,is what poetry is.Then there's Asemic writing and there's the almost nonsense speak of contemporary Philosophogizing (with a capital P). But, I digress because…
    I AM A STRANGE LOOP.
    Douglas Hofstatder,a "thinker about thinking" extraordinaire…has had huge impact on me over the years. I'm trying to introduce some of his notions on Twitter to much hilarity…Twitter 140 characters is a fascinating exercise in performance ( try to do this "live" every week on the #artsevo tag) and have continued to learn a lot about simplifying complexity and learning to love chaos! It's still about complexity though.
    Hofstatder:We live in each other to the extent we can and when someone close to us departs and is physically gone from our lives,that "loop" lives on in us. The closer we are to the person, the more we might see through their eyes and as Hofstatder says, it's a grainy, facsimile granted, but is there nonetheless.
    But music, ah sweet music….you are alive Sunna, and I could hear you play live (and of course now, unlike Beethoven's day can see & hear your "telepresence" and it's stored forever maybe or until the digital cloud tumbles or a meteor hits and even then I like to think it would continue to emanate its distinct pattern like so many radiowaves…Waving! & LOLing at the glorious stream of the Milky Way)…)…
    BUT,digressing again (as this IS a JAM, is it not?)…Beethoven (or Bach)…the music has been passed down as chicken scratching notes on paper and yet this HUGE pattern lives on. I was saying to someone on Twitter who is immersed in Eastern philosophy (as an exiled Westerner and who routinely takes on NueroScience as having NOTHING on "mystics." He thinks Hofstatder should meditate more (LOL) because he, like all evil scientists,thinks of the brain still as "meat." I think nothing could be further from the truth. Twitterer's point is that "all is consciousness and eternal" and that's that for him. He is an artist and feels that all we should do is come to understand who the "I" is who is observing.
    My point is that the two strands seem to be merging and we (if our species survives) seem to be about the business of evolution and rebuilding the world we took apart to understand(ie,Western Science) into a new whole. East/West merge. Humanities & Science merge.We get a new synthesis beyond flat world,beyond round world and it's an adventure of epic proportions! " Don't You Wanna GO? Hear that sweet sound, juke joint in the cosmos ,sweet old KoKOMO."(bet you can hear the music this suggests,bet you have lots of associations with that too…strange loops all). So I sent said Twitterer a video of a kid playing Vivaldi on an accordian and said "Look MA, no body. Someone else is playing ME. Love,Vivaldi. "…Ha HA…no answer was forthcoming…
    And another thought…Eastern music generally is passed down from teacher to pupil,orally and through constant transmission physically. In my studies (and Michael, I had to study Bengali & Sanskrit etc…it IS a different nuance when you get a sense of how a word can have 100 different meanings or more depending on the context) all was passed to me by example and orally. Nothing was written. You then have a kind of living language tradition in Eastern Music.
    Sunna! Bet you didn't realize you had initiated a SALON Jam when you floated out that request! You are lovely to give this a home because it's a vital conversation and there are fewer places to have such conversations. Euskir (Federico) and I met online and have been carrying on a sterling friendship ever since…Semper FI(do)…flags held high on the fractious battlefield,ever pushing on due to a deep belief that real art matters. Musicians be gentle warriors, often falling young on this battlefield.
    Thank you so much Sunna and everyone here…this is FRABDJOUS!

    Liz

    On an Autumnalia sort of day in the high desert mountains…a bacchanalia of the senses,falling leaves,gold fish hunkering down deep at the bottom of pond…

  17. Hello Sunna, Liz and Michael:

    Thanks Sunna, because your question was good enough to open a wonderful can of worms, nice worms anyway :-)

    Michael, I've got the link about MySpace, to read it under better circumstances, this week, at least fro me, was very close to Jesus Passion road, no blasphemy intended…
    About my old and good friend Sergei, you're right, that's why my favorite word to define jazz is freedom, and you can apply that little word to anything, freedom, also with its limitations, because there's no sense o freedom if you don't know the limits, or the process to get freedom.

    Dear Liz, and your words are the key to go back to the main discussion here, tunes names :-)
    What about the perception from people who doesn't speak or understand a single letter of a tune, and they are able to reach an emotional state quite close to the ones natively speaking such language.

    So, that's all for this friday night…

    Best wishes, as always,

    Federico

  18. I think these are getting longer, but…

    A few more observations for this select discussion group, and especially for the consideration of our ever-gracious host Sunna, that will also expand upon my perfunctory treatment of CD titles themselves. As Federico has noted: such a wonderful can of worms! FRABDJOUS! Agreed! :) So here goes Mr. Boorishly Serious again (aka Mr. Seriously Boorish)…yadayadayada…

    But consider, if you will, a perhaps-not-so hypothetical composition. Let us say, 3 auditors are introduced to a jazz work entitled "Bach." All find it quite pleasing, and need go no further to thoroughly enjoy it—thus listener #1's disposition. Listener #2 digs somewhat deeper, and observes the work is based upon JSB's "Canon 1 à 2" from the "Musical Offering," aka the "Crab Canon." Listener #3 digs further, and observes the work is from a CD entitled "The Mind's 'I'," and that it is 1 of 3 tracks in this sequence: 1) "Gödel," 2) "Escher," 3) "Bach." I need not ask Liz which of these auditors is the more perspicacious, and on track to discovering a world of information that will not merely convey a transformational understanding of the composer, and thus the work in question, but who is liable also to experience a transformation of an altogether indelible character entirely. Can one's "Mind's 'I'" be dog-eared? Liz's presumably is. Mine unquestionably is. And only Liz detected the subliminal result. (Liz: you also addressed directly, via the Hofstatder quote, a topic of conversation I had with Juan-Carlos per the death of Roy DeCarava, and in EXACTLY the same terms, on EXACTLY the same day. VERY eeeeeerie. I SO wish JC's English was up to this convo thread. :( Alas! But…)

    Apropos JC tasty link #1:
    http://juancarloshernandezphotographe.blogspot.com/2009/10/thinkin-bout-old-friend.html

    Apropos JSB tasty link #2:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUHQ2ybTejU&feature=player_embedded

    The funny thing is…I didn't intend to directly imitate the fugal dialogue of Achilles and the tortoise in responding to Sunna's "The funny thing is…," but I did so unconsciously, because these profoundly intellectually stimulating works have subtexted my process ever since reading them. I've done precisely the same thing at much greater length (and sometimes unseemly complexity, not to mention simplexity) in an unpublished monsterpiece of my—probably unintelligible and unpublishable—scribble entitled "Alchemy." But I've a feeling I've found at least 1 person who might find it quite intriguing (eventually, when I get off the pot…), to say the least. ;) Just look what happens when you toss her a beach ball! A too-piqued quantum-spaced party-girl. Quite loopy, she is! (And stop all that language-denuding-and-raping talk right this minute! This here's a family channel!) Mental möbius-stripping…tsk! They'll sick the thought police on us! :O But I digress…

    Now consider a not-at-all hypothetical example: Vijay Iyer (Sunna specifically, for you've encountered this directly via my trumpeting him). Listener #1 may audit Vijay's "Historicity" in like manner, probe no further, and be quite satisfied and enriched by the experience at no deeper level. Listener #2 will look a little closer at what is implied by a such a title, and make certain discoveries re. Vijay's perspective of jazz historicity, and be accordingly further enriched thereby. Listener #3 will discover much more: that Vijay's process is subtexted by Fibonacci numbers, and a "hard science" basis for the Indo-Pak aesthetic of rasa, founded in mirror neurons and biophysical resonance. If you're a western-raised Indo-Pak hybrid like myself, with a like fascination for reiterative/recursive number—especially fractals—this will render Vij, his music and his mind altogether enthralling: we are "Kinsmen" to such a degree (though he far more musically accomplished than I) that his every venture finds resonance in me. YET…yet…I did not discover how fully until I peeked behind a simple title: "Historicity." Whodathunk? And fractals are an apropos side topic. One doesn't need to know the math to appreciate their visual appeal. One doesn't need to know the math to understand how they, as also Fibonacci numbers, define so much of everything around us, particularly the organic (and therefore US). One doesn't need to know the math…and indeed, I don't, but…ohhhhhh…I do SO WANT to comprehend it less generically than I do! I want only the leisure.

    Apropos Iyer tasty link #3 (Sunna, you have this):
    http://thejazzsession.com/2009/09/23/the-jazz-session-87-vijay-iyer

    Now again, for example, consider Bill Frisell—again, no hypotheticals here, Sunna. Having already learned to appreciate Frizzy's ins-and-outs, if I myself encounter a piece entitled…"Egg Radio," I'm not necessarily motivated to peer deeper, inasmuch as—given someone whose cerebral intallation was accomplished slightly sideways—I expect such to be non-sequiturial in nature: not "just a title" per se, but symptomatic of Frizzy's delightfully skewered perspective. My expectations in such an instance are conditioned by prior and extensive familiarity with Friz. But I also am acutely aware that in other circumstances—e.g.: "Richter 858"—the title is directly referential to a specific series of paintings by a specific artist, and said 4tet's serious-as-a-heart-attack endeavor at musical onomatopoeia thereof.

    Federico: not to go all serious and epistemological here, but…there's freedom, and there's freedom. Liberty isn't license. "The only truth is that there is no truth" is a tyrannical "truth" which crushes all others, and is (of course) self-negating. Noting that you're not going THERE, but…I wonder if your impression re. those who refuse musical strictures of any sort is the same as mine. I find that "artistes" whose only "creative" impetus one of nihilistic destruction just don't get it. The broader implications of shattering preconceived notions, to me anyway, is not merely to dance upon the rubble, but to thereby discover new and compelling way to reassemble the bricks into previously unperceived notional coherence. Pianistically, I think very particularly and positively of the dissimilarly similar Taylor and Pullen (of whom the latter we've briefly discussed behind the scenes—you'll have to tell me more re. the Native American collaboration. Of this I'm unaware). But per the relentlessly nihilistic sort, musically and otherwise, I find them to be like impetuous children who break what they cannot or refuse to understand.

    Sunna: this dovetails into my point per your daughter, which one hopes (re. the [intentional] absence of qualifying emoticons) was not deemed abrasive. :) Just bluntly direct, and hopefully a wee provocative. ;) It likewise cojoins Federico's redirection to supra-linguistic resonance. (And Liz: funny thing is…I STILL don't even know a lick of Sanskrit or Bengali! Functional, that is. I have yet to earn a proper pair of Sanskriteer ears yet, though. I've a broad overview, moreso per poesy, and a smattering of more besides. Damnable, erudite, braniac git conceived a parallel attack that encompassed Latin and Greek, which is what's called "biting off more than I could chew" at the mo. Somewhat like an over-extended parenthesis.) But I digress…

    Still…one can—and one should, methinks—approach any artistic work thus initally, IMHO: it's primary level of resonance, the emotional. Pomposity—now THAT is truly boorish. EPICFAIL! If art thus fails to function—to appeal—at the most fundamental level, then it fails at the most fundamental level. If it IS directed at only a narrowly select and rarefied audience…all well and good. I myself enjoy such—respectively, and respectfully—but, self-admittedly, I'm not FULLY engaged thereby. Likewise if such works ONLY appeal at a fundamental level. But I've observed the musical tastes of all who've troubled to engage this conversation in earnest, and it's my perception that ALL concerned enjoy music of quite varying degrees of accomplishment. I know you dig Cecil, Sunna. I've no trouble on this account envisioning you crooning ABBA alongside your daughter, and loving every minute of it. Are not the best music titles (and music lovers and makers) likewise: multidimensional? Just sayin'…

    PS: I hope you all enjoy my forthcoming musical masterpiece, "It's Only A Bloody Title!" Particularly the track, "Holy Hand Grenades, Batman!" Bleeding-edge avante garde of the most uncompromising sort, fer sure, fer sure…

    PPS: "There are only 2 kinds of music: good, and bad." (Somebody) "There are only 2 kinds of bad music: Country and Western." (Somebody else) I DIDN'T SAY IT!!!

    Provocatively yours…

    mpp2

  19. Hello Michael:

    To beat any kind of limitation to your freedom, and going even further "shattering preconceived notions", you must know that notions as the palm of your hand, I think, for example, in Ornette Coleman (by the way, and to keep the focus in tune names, a great name maker), before a full jump into the arms of free jazz he was able to play Bird tunes up and down, changes and all, going deep, intellectually and physically, into the roots of music, but that's, of course it's far from any kind of childish Nihilism.
    Best wishes, as always,

    Federico

  20. My dear Michael, your inquiring mind wants to know SO much. You are a man of words and I am not. So I will go write more music instead.

    Thanks to everybody for your supportive comments and for taking the time to illuminate this subject.

  21. My dear Sunna:

    Doesn't it just, and…ain't I just though—kitty and a BIG ball of yarn! :O And so you did, and so you will. But like mon cher ami JC with his photographs—still words, nevertheless, and of universal currency.

    And that, gentle reader, was the ever-so-gracious Sunna ever-so-gently telling telling kitty to put a sock in it! ;) Were it not enough, well…"Autumnalia" is here!!! :) Time for kitty to go frolic. Wooohooo!!! And Sunna…dear Sunna…mmmmmmwaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!!! Kitty like sock!!! :) :) :) I feel all tingly now…

    TYs, hugs and peace to all, mes twamis. See ya in twitter.

    mpp2

    PS: Federico…AMEN to that! Another time, another convo though. Methinks Liz may have the last word in this one. And I've a big Swiss Cheese to stick some more pins in, who pouts and plots vengeance upon my crap French. :P

  22. Liz Gilbert says:

    I just LOVE all of you…am on an incredibly slow connection right now and delirious with pneumonia and other things, so I will answer in more length soon. Methinks:let's open up a thread…I'm gonna start a new posterous maybe just so we can have this salon and not take over Sunna's blog!!! Although I don't think Sunna was telling you to put a sock in it…But I'm hooked now and JC can write in Spanish. Federico too. And there are others…oh yes…lurking.
    Check http://c4gallery.com What is the THEME? Pan's Labyrinth. Maybe?
    As I said, Delirious….
    xo BIG Love to ALL of you

    Liz

  23. Hello:

    Yes, Liz it's right, we're making a big mess in Sunna's playground…

    It's time to leave the names and tunes breath for themselves…

    Best wishes, as always,

    Federico (aka euskir)

  24. [...] to three of my tunes from listeners who contributed them on my Facebook page, you can read about it here, and they are Long Pair Bond, (suggested by Liz Gilbert), Autumnalia and Crab Canon (both suggested [...]

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