Wednesday, July 2, 2008


I get these floaters. Not the optic kind, not the swimming kind. I get these thoughts that seem to stay afloat in my mind, like corks, and they will swish back and forth until they come together like beads of mercury to form a question. Never an answer or a conclusion, always a question. So here are my floaters.

I’ve been having a hard time with recording lately, getting a sound so truly crappy that I considered, again, just stopping my playing and selling my equipment. Back in St. Louis, years ago, Steve Kirby told me that the tape recorder doesn’t lie. And if you’ve ever met Steve Kirby, you believe whatever he says. Steve used to tape everything he played. He could do a CD with several hours of tuning up, and that’s it. Yeah Miles, your tune “Tune Up” just lacks the realism of Steve actually tuning up. Anyway, I no longer believe that that tape recorder doesn’t lie, although I believe that Steve believes that it doesn’t. My reasoning—big damn studios with lots of very expensive equipment and highly skilled engineers who spend hours trying to do what our ears do so naturally. So my little broken down cassette player—it’s a liar.

The next floater is big screen plasma TVs. We don’t own one, and have no plans to do so. But you can’t help but watch them when you go shopping and stroll by the section. You what I saw? I didn’t see More Action. I saw pores, skin pores. I saw the skin’s recording of the chicken pox and the teenage years, I saw who needed to shave as opposed to who was cultivating ‘that look’. And those hot chicks? Uh, not that hot. Too much information, I thought.

Another floater is the fact that I love old movies.

Combined with the floater that the jazz that sells the most was, by today’s standards, poorly recorded.

And then the question crystallized. I think that our minds do quite a bit of filtering. It doesn’t seem like it, but I think that our minds discard scads of information—because in real life, we don’t notice those details that I couldn’t help but notice on the plasma television. When you meet a person you don’t notice any of the little things that they are afraid you’re going to notice. You’re trying to know their soul, who they are and it really doesn’t matter about how impatient they were as teenagers, or what is now growing out of places where nothing grew before. You just don’t notice. And truthfully, I could give a rat’s ass how white your teeth are.

What this means for jazz is that state of the art, the art, isn’t state of the art. In other words, the music seemed better when it wasn’t recorded so well—it certainly sold more. I’m wondering, are we now providing too much information—digitally, regarding what is played, and how a group melds. Was the microphone in the middle of the living room working in tandem with the minds’ natural process? And like the new Pore TVs, are recent recordings working against the mind’s comfort zone, is it now a physiologically unpleasant experience to listen to a jazz recording, no matter how great the players are?

I’m just wondering.

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