Many thanks for sending Aaron Copland's fine book, "Music and Imagination." I found it historically
revealing and on the whole, quite informative. However, I do not feel that all of his tenets are entirely
essential or applicable to the "jazz" musician. This books seems to be written more for the American classical
or semi-classical composer who has the problem, as Copland sees it, of not finding himself an integral part of
the musical community, or having difficulty in finding a positive philosophy or justification for his art.
The "jazz" musician (You can have this term along with several others that have been foisted upon us.)
does not have this problem at all. We have absolutely no reason to worry about lack of positive
and affirmative philosophy. It's built in us. The phrasing, the sound of the music attest this fact.
We are naturally endowed with it. You can believe all of us would have perished long ago if this were
not so. As to community, the whole face of the globe is our community. You see, it is really easy for
us to create. We are born with this feeling that just comes out no matter what conditions exist.
Otherwise, how could our founding fathers have produced this music in the first place when they surely
found themselves (as many of us do today) existing in hostile communities when there was everything to fear
and damn few to trust. Any music which could grow and propagate itself as our music has, must have a hell
of an affirmative belief inherent in it. Any person who claims to doubt this, or claims to believe
that the exponents of our music of freedom are not guided by this same entity, is either prejudiced,
musically sterile, just plain stupid or scheming. Believe me, Don, we all know that this word which so
many seem to fear today, "Freedom," has a hell of a lot to do with this music. Anyway, I did find in
Copland's book many fine points. For example, "I cannot imagine an art work without implied convictions."
Neither can I. I am sure that you and many others have enjoyed and garnered much value from this well written book.
If I may, I would like to express a sincere hope that in the near future, a vigorous investigation of the materials presented in this book and others related will help cause an opening up of the ears that are still closed to the progressive music created by the independent thinking artist of today. When this is accomplished, I am certain that the owners of such ears will easily recognize the very vital and highly enjoyable qualities that exist in this music. I also feel that through such an honest endeavor, the contributions of future creators will be more easily recognized, appreciated and enjoyed; particularly by the listener who may otherwise miss the point (intellectually, emotionally, socially, etc.) because of inhibitions, a lack of understanding, limited means of association or other reasons.
You know, Don, I was reading a book on the life of Van Gogh today, and I had to pause and think of that wonderful and persistent force -- the creative urge. The creative urge was in this man who found himself so much at odds with the world he lived in, and in spite of all the adversity, frustrations, rejections and so forth -- beautiful and living art came forth abundantly... if only he could be here today. Truth is indestructible. It seems history shows (and it's the same way today) that the innovator is more often than not met with some degree of condemnation; usually according to the degree of his departure from the prevailing modes of expression or what have you. Change is always so hard to accept. We also see that these innovators always seek to revitalize, extend and reconstruct the status quo in their given fields, wherever it is needed. Quite often they are the rejects, outcasts, sub-citizens, etc. of the very societies to which they bring so much sustenance. Often they are people who endure great personal tragedy in their lives. Whatever the case, whether accepted or rejected, rich or poor, they are forever guided by that great and eternal constant -- the creative urge. Let us cherish it and give all praise to God.
June 2, 1962 -- A letter to Down Beat editor Don DeMichael printed in the book Coltrane on Coltrane (2010, Chicago Review Press)
To perceive again and this time it must be said,
for all who read to know
that no matter what,
it is all with God.
He is gracious and merciful.
His way is in love, through which we all are.
Wherever and whoever you are,
always strive to follow and walk in the right path
and ask for aid and assistance...
Herein lies the ultimate and eternal happiness
which is ours through His grace.
- from the album Infinity