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The Black Equation Form 2

Morgan Craft



So here we are in the year 2008,  and I actually agree to sit down and
write about being black, American and experimental. The genesis springs
from looking at a magazine devoted to challenging, progressive musics
from around the world, and seeing their top 50 list for last year and
the only black Americans were a rapper, and a jazz man who has been dead
for over 30 years.  So I bring up this observation about the lack of a
black American presence on the avant garde scene under the age of fifty
just to see if maybe I'm not paying attention.  I'm constantly fed this
steady stream of future thinking folks from Germany, Japan, New Zealand,
U.K., Australia, Norway, etc. but when it comes to America all I hear
about is the genius that is free folk or if it's black it must be hip
hop, jazz or long dead.  How many more articles on Albert Ayler do we
really need?  That isn't a diss, I love Ayler but...  And as far as hip
hop being the future of black American music, well, let's just say that
the things Ornette, Butch Morris, Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, Henry
Threadgill, etc talk about, are not the same things that any rapper or
producer that I know is talking about.  (The exception being perhaps RZA
five years ago)  And believe me, I'm looking, I'm listening.  I really
want to eat these words. 

Am I missing something or is there really no
young black Avantists?  Is there a black American avant-garde under the
age of fifty?  I speak of the black American because that is what I am
and that is what I will be no matter where I go.  What does the black
American musician / artist do now with the space s/he has been given?
Hip hop existed, jazz existed, blues existed, the rhythms of
improvisation and resourcefulness are present.  Also the awareness of
European traditions, Asian traditions, and nature inform our approaches.
Technology is within reach, the hype of the interconnectedness of
individuals is here.  What does the black American do with all of this?
What do we do now that sample culture is so prominent?  What do we do
when success comes before an actual gestation period with our materials?
Will we still want to create?  How many have written about the absolute
need of the American artist or thinker or doer to render completely what
this space and time has to offer?  Emerson and Whitman laid a certain
groundwork for being what and where you are and in that comes an
expression which is unique.  Never mind aping foreign traditions, America
is still impressive in scope, scale, confidence and arrogance, and our
task as artists is to report on what we see and feel.  My question is
also: where is the next generation of black artists willing to go into
this unknown, fertile wood to come back with the new blueprints we so
desperately need?  Oh, everyone is an artist and everyone wants to be
famous and get on the festivals, but I wonder how much homework these
people do?  I thought the "giants" who came before all taught that you
must find and develop your own voice.  It cannot be a carbon copy of a
great, it must be yours.  That is how you must contribute to the world.
Over and over I seem to meet new folks and I can't understand why they
haven't internalized this lesson?  How can you love a Coltrane or Miles
or Lee Perry or Sun Ra or Grandmaster Flash and not see that they
changed the world with their singular outlook and expression.  They
didn't copy anyone.  They invented new traditions on the structures and
flesh and bone of old ones.  New times demand new tactics.  My
generation is sitting on all these jewels and it seems like so much time
is wasted with how it's gonna look, or what the people are gonna say, or
"oh I'm shopping it to the labels."  I want to see what the black
American under the age of fifty is working on in terms of taking this
music, this sound forward.  Beyond all the current categories.  I want
to hear the effort that is there when looking at the future straight up.
My generation is still dependent on old guard record labels and the old
guard  press for affirmation and that pat on the back.  I think it's
time to start planting our own seeds now.  Where is the black American
with a magazine dedicated to the new arts and music?  Where is the black
American writing the book on the Art Ensemble of Chicago or the Black
Artists Group or Don Cherry?  Seems we have to wait for a European to do
it for us.  (the George Lewis book on the history of the AACM, "Power
Stronger Than Itself" is out and is required reading)  Where are the
other books in our own words on what makes us do the things we do?
Where is the label run by a black American dedicated to more
experimental forms of music?  There doesn't seem to be any network set
up to share ideas and information or just plain spiritual support.  Ah,
the spirit?  Where has it gone?  I might hear animated discussions about
MAX and LISA, or gushings about how it is to be just off the plane from
some festival in Mexico City or Helsinki or Tokyo, but never about that
old dusty spirit.  Spirit is what you will need during those lean years
of study and practice.  Spirit is what you will need when compiling your
work in the solitude of a room somewhere with the knowledge that nobody
knows you exist.  Spirit is what you will need when time finally does
catch up to you and you make your statement.  Spirit is what you will
need to keep working.   I write this not out of negativity but rather as
a beginning to a new dialogue and action.  The playing field is wide
open right now and that makes it all incredibly exciting.

Morgan Craft


SOUNDS  (mp3's)   Morgan Craft

All sounds made by, on, or through solo electric guitar.  All tracks
improvised and recorded live.



    that none could

    seven days


    the emisaries


    a west is won 


    simply things