One Foot Out

One of this blog’s tropes is stylistic diversity. This is for myriad reasons, with the biggest being:
• I’ve loved and listened to a wide array of music my whole life.
• As a performer, I participate in a variety of styles and environments.
• I believe that the best music/art is often that which crosses or transcends style and genre.

The second point above makes for interesting misconceptions in conversation with many other musicians, oddly enough. More often than not, it seems that, according to many musicians, having one foot planted in a style and another outside of it is roughly the same as having both feet planted outside of the style in question. I’m sure it partly stems from the fact that I play saxophone, classical music’s bastard instrument par excellence. Academically, on paper, I’m a classical saxophonist by trade, but that only scratches the surface. I also studied and perform jazz, and there’s of course rock, ambient, and many others. (While I didn’t “formally study” rock music – a funny thought – I’ve enjoyed a lifelong education “on the streets,” as it were.) And yet, whenever I’m in a seemingly like group, there’s often a subtle implication – perhaps subconsciously so – that I’m “from” or “represent” another style. I’m not at all offended by it, but it’s noteworthy and, to me, rather odd. Actually, its consistency is rather entertaining.

I suppose part of it has to do with my instrument, as it’s so strongly identified with jazz. Consequently, that seems to be everyone’s initial impulse, which I can understand. However, you’d think that after performing for or with folks that they’d have a different opinion. And it’s far from just a “jazz thing.” Some examples:
• In rock circles, I’m the jazz guy
• In jazz circles, I’m the classical guy
• In classical circles, I’m the rock and/or jazz guy
• In ambient circles, I’m the jazz and/or classical guy
• In non-ambient circles, any mention of ambient music is met with a furrowed brow

I don’t really begrudge anyone for it, particularly if we’re just meeting. However, it’s fascinating when, much of the time, the aforementioned “circles” including those with whom I perform. If we’re on the same stage doing the same thing, is there not a musical bond taking place? Why continue with the “other” labeling? And there’s nothing wrong with a musician staying largely within one style of music. There are pros and cons to both approaches.

Interestingly enough, this extends beyond performing and somewhat into blogging. I’ve submitted this blog to the The Big List of Classical Music Blogs a couple times over the last year and it’s not been included. I’m sure it’s because this blog isn’t only about classical music, and that’s fine. It’s also noteworthy that saxophonists’ blogs are poorly represented on the site. The Big List… is a great resource if you’re looking for classical music-oriented blogs from a variety of perspectives. I regularly skim through the listings to add new blogs to my RSS reader that I may have missed. However, it’s curious that a number of those listed have been dormant for years, and others occasionally veer off into topics other than classical music: politics, history, culture, jazz, gender studies, etc. Apparently writing about music outside of the Western Classical Tradition is a bridge too far. Funnily enough, some of the posts that have driven the most traffic and/or new subscribers to this blog – as well as receiving noteworthy plugs – have been on classical music: Richard WagnerEinstein on the Beach, my PRISM Quartet album review, and more.

There are, of course, a number of musicians who do “get it,” and that’s often because they’re also chameleons of sorts. The thing is is that even though we feel at home in a number of differing styles, we’re aesthetic nomads – homeless and always on the move. In that case, it’s good to have both feet out of the box and ready to get moving…

(For other related posts on style, see here, here, and here.)

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