Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Music Theory: The Orwellian Mode

Best laid plans, right? I was hoping to stay out of politics but that just isn’t going to happen. But on the upside, this isn’t about normal politics, liberalconservativeblahblah. It’s about what bureaucracies do, what I think they will always do as long as folks who are smart refuse life’s ample opportunities to become wise.

This week Youtube began shutting down many jazz sites. Half of my Favorites, it feels like, vanished in the middle of the night, because the hosting sites also vanished in the middle of the night. If you pop around Youtube, love jazz, I don’t need to mention the names. I’ve talked to some of you, there is shock, bewilderment, and most of all astonishment, there is always astonishment, every time something like this happens. It’s not the fault of Youtube. They are in the business of copyright violation, and just about everyone who posts is violating some law or another. Occasionally someone will threaten some serious legal action, and so Youtube does a purge. This is their morality, what is legally threatening is wrong, morally repulsive—as in many sites of hate they allow to exist, not so much. People who are filled with hatred also buy things to live every day, it’s a matter of eyes on the site overall. The fact that they are a business only means that they were acting in their own interest—which is eminently comprehensible.

So this isn’t about Youtube. It’s about a charitable foundation whose mission is to promote jazz and specifically to promote the jazz artist from which this institution derives its name. Just for the heck of it, reread the last sentence—several times. I’ll even rewrite it. Their mission is to promote jazz and specifically the music of their jazz artist, The Chet Baker Foundation. And here’s where I feel like the donkey, Benjamin, in Orwell’s Animal Farm, long memory, profoundly cynical to the point of never being surprised by the selfishness and pettiness of those who have even a modicum of power. Because it was the Chet Baker Foundation that put the legal screws to Youtube. What other medium, who else was doing more, right now, to promote jazz and the music of Chet Baker than those particular sites? Answer: no one. More Answer: not the Chet Baker Foundation.

And at this point, because there is logic, the Orwellian mode takes over. Here is the choice of the Chet Baker Foundation. They could continue with their mission or become their own antithesis. If they chose to continue their mission, here’s all they had to do. Set up a Youtube account, link it to their website, offer Chet cds, have someone write blogs about the life and times of Chet, post archival footage of Chet, publicize events related to Chet in the Youtube blurb explaining the video—in other words, join the 21st century.

To be honest, I am a technological clod. One of the proprietors of these now vanished sites is, compared to me, a technological wizard. He is amazed I can be so backward. He is astounded that not even do I not know things, I haven’t even heard of them. He also told me how to start this blog, which was like Marine basic training to me. But if even I get the idea, then something has to be wrong with them, who, to a person, must be more tech savvy. Because everyone is more tech savvy than I am. And I’m not kidding. My nine year old knows more than I do.

What the Chet Baker Foundation did though, was to completely abandon their mission, to become their own nemesis. They became their anti-mission by shutting down the promotion of jazz and limiting the access people have to Chet Baker. Their new mission is to continue to solicit funds for their foundation and keep their positions within their community. The Chet Baker Foundation now has nothing to do with Chet Baker, despite their website, despite all that they might say. And that, unfortunately, is the way of bureaucracy.

Four legs good, two legs better.


d3lta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
d3lta said...

In fact, it can be a bit more complicated than that. It is well known that since its acquisition by google, lawsuits have started to pour over Youtube's head. What Youtube wisely did was to come into a courtroom settlement with almost all major record labels.

It can very well be the case of the Chet Baker foundation administrators being a bit too greedy and Youtube, after a cost - benefit analysis decided not to give in to their strongarm tactics.

Of course as we very well know this will lead nowhere, as this video on the web explosion made possible with high bandwidth speeds, not dissimilar to the mp3 revolution that took place ten years ago, is here to stay and video hosting sites will continue to pop up like mushrooms. Enter Stage6, Dailymotion and what have you - as long as the industry fails to grasp the reality of this, it is bound to be on the losing side.

On the other side are guys like me who love this music, own vast music collections and are willing to have a go at it by showing the world what good jazz is all about.

I had an account on Youtube for eight months, now defunct courtesy of the Chet Baker foundation, and what I can say is that I did not regret it for one minute. The hundreds of mails and comments I received daily, the interaction with jazz lovers from all over the world, the bonds of friendship with some outstanding individuals, the owner of this blog included, more than made up for it.

The real recognition of what I was trying to do though, came from deceased jazz musicians relatives thanking me for showing the world their loved ones - exactly what foundations and bureaucracies fail so triumphantly to do.

So, as far as I'm concerned, I think I'll stick to four legs, thank you.

delta_mike aka itsartolie

Artt said...

This is Artt Frank. I was Chet Baker's closest friend and longtime drummer. I am writing regarding the Chet Baker Foundation statement on Youtube that the foundation is telling youtube viewers that they cannot view any Chet Baker material, etc. I can assure you that this is NOT coming from the Chet Baker Foundation founded by Chet's son Paul Baker more than a year ago, but from some other foundation calling itself the C B Foundation. Please go to the authentic C B Foundation website which is housed in Chet's native state of Oklahoma, and check out the statement released by pul regarding the Youtube subject.

You can access the CB Foundation website by going to (chetbakerfoundation.org) and reading what Paul stated. And once you see that it is NOT emnanating from our website...please informn your readers of this so they will know the difference.

Artt Frank

Miz J said...

very interesting comment from artt frank..and also rather confusing. wouldn't it be great if this scenario would play out in such a way that we could have itsartolie, the best jazz site on youtube by so far, back? hey!! and thanks for bringing this out inthe open, naftali and itsartolie.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

if it's not the Chet Baker Foundation, then, who is it who quasi over night killed some other Chet Baker videos at YouTube?

Found this link in the google cache:


When you try to open it, the message says: "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by CHET BAKER FOUNDATION"

Would it be possible for the CBF to root out that guy who is obviously an impostor?

Just my one and a half cents,

A. Friend

Anonymous said...


I have a jazz blog myself, and I've just recently discovered that much of the Chet Baker videos that I've linked to are now all gone. News travels slow to my country, so I've only read about this now, and I'm really, really disappointed.

Chet Baker has been one of my favourite artists, but even as someone who appreciates his work I admit that he doesn't have a wide reach or audience.

The role of my blog is promote great artists like Chet Baker, more so, disseminate information about him in the way one navigates the recesses of the internet: through videos, clips, articles, and interesting snippets about him. And now that his videos are gone, I am really angry.

Thank you for voicing out my thoughts. It's comforting to know that I'm not the only one who feels, in a way, robbed of a chance to share something beautiful with the world. I truly believe in the heart of what people like us are doing, and we're not even getting paid for it. I guess that's love, huh?