Settled in an armchair and mutely dressed in a grey fleece half-zip and black jeans, Herbert “Herbie” J. Hancock, the 2014 Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry, exuded pure calmness. The legendary jazz pianist, known for leading fearless, searching electric and acoustic projects (Head Hunters, Mwandishi, his Trio) as well as his tenure with Miles Davis’s seminal “Second Great Quintet” in the ’60s, was charmingly low-key but coolly energetic. Hancock, who turns 75 next month, showed absolutely no sign of his age, save for when he stood up and a slight paunch quietly emerged.
These lectures were meticulously designed to be a hit at Harvard: jam-packed with facts and anecdotes; sprinkled with jokes and clever turns of phrase; and interdisciplinary, using musical performance and analysis to teach American cultural history. But staff writer Kevin Sun has his doubts.
I don’t presume to be anything more than a student of the jazz saxophone tradition, but in my few years of study I’ve benefited immensely from drawing my own map of the historical territory. Of course, ignorance and misinformation are par for the course, but it’s been an invaluable exercise to try to orient myself while navigating the unspeakably diverse collection of voices that define the legacy of the jazz saxophone.
Jazz musicians love puns. Here’s an example: “Just You, Just Me” was a song from a 1929 film called “Marianne,” which was adopted by musicians as a jazz standard and reinterpreted over the years. In the 1940s, pianist Thelonious Monk composed a song with harmonies adapted directly from “Just You, Just Me” but with a new melody, which he titled “Justice.”
For all that the College has accomplished to increase socioeconomic diversity over the past few years, the topic of class itself seems to still exist primarily as an intellectual topic more than an openly discussed social reality.
If you believe Coltrane meant every rhythm and pitch that he played in a technical sense, then he’d be the undisputed master of the music with regards to control: a supreme technician expressive to the microlevels of rhythm and pitch. This is a pretty scary thought.
I was a junior in high school when it started. Every Saturday morning, I would leave my house in suburban New Jersey and take a train into Manhattan, transfer to the subway, and make my way over to the Manhattan School of Music on the Upper West Side. It was there that I became a musical glutton.
Harassment is bad, and trolling can be bad, but it needn’t be. At this point, sometimes I even enjoy getting trolled just a little bit, but as with drinking and as with art-making, we have to be responsible about it. Troll responsibly.
From the beginning, she anticipates the awkward politeness of the interview with the kind of friendliness that might come across either as youthful sincerity or self-conscious self-consciousness, depending on how cynical you are; but you can tell that when you’re talking, her attention is completely on you.
“You seem so serious all the time. We think it will be good for you,” my father said, belying the disarming earnestness that was and still is the defining trademark of my parents’ parenting style. (Years later, my father was more frank: “We thought it would be good for your social skills.”)