Power Greater Than Itself:
Celebrating the AACM in Guelph

Ancient to the Future: Celebrating 40 years of the AACM

With Douglas Ewart, Nicole Mitchell, Roscoe Mitchell, Famoudou Don Moye, , Matana Roberts, Jaribu Shahid, Wadada Leo Smith Corey Wilkes. 

Friday, September 9, 2005
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre ; Guelph Jazz Festival   

Transcription by Marianne Trudel and Bill Shoemaker

Technical Note: Audience members asked questions off-mic. Sometimes, their questions were prefaced with lengthy statements that were not fully audible, and have been summarized. Their questions have been transcribed as completely as possible.

Douglas Ewart: Good morning everyone, on the behalf of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, we would like to extend the warmest greetings to each and every one of you. For those of you who may not know, the Association is celebrating its 40th year of existence this year, and what we thought we would do this morning is have each one of the panelists speak a little bit about the relevance and the importance of the association to them in their lives. So, I would like to start this morning maybe having Roscoe Mitchell speak. We will have each panelist make a statement for approximately three to five minutes, and then we will field some questions from you.

Roscoe Mitchell: Thank you Douglas. Well, I would say that the AACM is very important in my life. It is been an important vehicle for many people that I have met through the years and I would consider myself to be lucky to have been in Chicago at the time the AACM started and I would look back to the experimental band of Muhal Richard Abrams, is where these ideas started to formulate. Back in the 60s, Muhal had an experimental band. We met every Monday night and there we were all encouraged to write our own original compositions, bring them in to the band, and get them heard and so on. Those were the early seeds for the AACM: people started to talk, musicians had taken a look to what had happened to some of the great musicians that came before us, who really didn’t have real connections with each other and then people started to think: We want to have an organization where we can be more in control of our own destinies. We wanted to have a place where we could sponsor each other in concerts of our original compositions, provide a training program for young aspiring musicians in the community, reach out to other people and other cities and have exchange programs. It was around that time after the AACM was formed that I met Lester Bowie who had come from St-Louis and there was many musicians that we met through Lester Bowie and we started exchange programs. Later on I moved to Michigan and I formed the CAC, the Creative Arts Collective . We maintained the same basic fundamental principles of sponsoring the members in concerts and having exchange programs with musicians from other cities in effort to be in control of our own destinies and provide employment for musicians. Even the schools on some levels became involved with that. Back there you had Richard Teitelbaum who was teaching here in Toronto at York University. They were concerts in Toronto, many concerts in Toronto at that time. Many of the student groups formed groups inside of the University so that they could have a say in the different musicians that they were bringing in to the campuses other than just a status quo. So, to me, the AACM is more than an organization. It is a lifestyle. And, I am constantly reminded what the AACM is meant to so many people when I go out to do concerts and people come up to me and they express to me their experiences upon hearing the musicians from the AACM for the first time and how it affects their lives and the lives of their children. 

DE: Wadada Leo Smith.

Wadada Leo Smith: Okay. What can I say? All of you are here to hear us talk about the AACM. That is probably important. I guess the most important thing that I would like to relate to you about the AACM is the notion of community. The whole idea that the structure of community is based around not just existence but an ongoing revolution, new ideas, a new way of thinking and an idea that is based on the actuality that once you come up with a beautiful idea, you have to put it into effect. And, from that, the community grows and expands, you know, and the idea of that, which is really great and benefits to the whole community in every way, also expands. And you can see that by the kind of artistic communities that have been formed around the world. That’s the most important part. Thank you.

DE: Donald Moye

Famoudou Don Moye: Good morning. Roscoe Mitchell and Leo stated it pretty well, I don’t have a lot to add to that except that it has been and it remains to be a power stronger than itself.

DE: Jaribu Shahid.

Jaribu Shahid: Good morning. Coming from Detroit, I guess I can speak on more of a cursory relationship with the AACM, how important it was for us when we were trying to develop our music to know that such an institution existed, that it was possible for an institution like this to exist. And that people that could involve themselves in the community, that would allow for different kinds of thinking musically. I was involved with the Creative Arts Collective in Detroit and it allowed us to do concerts. It’s where I met Roscoe and we had Anthony Braxton and Muhal and Douglas and a number of people came in to work with us and I can speak about how it influenced a lot of musicians in Detroit and I am sure in a lot of other cities, as well. It’s like a pebble dropped into a lake and the ripple effect is still being felt. There are a number of people who come after this who kind of want to act like this didn’t happen. I think it is important for us to realize the importance that these individuals here and a lot who are not here anymore have made in the world of music. 

DE: I would like to introduce our vice-chairman or chairwoman: Nicole Mitchell.  Chairperson? Chairwoman! 

Nicole Mitchell: Chairwoman! ‘Cause that means evidence.

DE: Yes.

NM: I have been in the AACM since 1995, so, a lot happened before I came and it is important for me to just to state that the AACM is like a family, it is a mentorship and the beauty of it is, as Roscoe says, the community but also because now we have such a great sharing between generations and at the same time there is this legacy. So we have this great history and legacy and yet we keep to the philosophy of striving for your own voice and to complete that goal of creating original music and that is what I always tried to do and it is very important to me because I am kind of in between, like I have been around for ten years and at the same time there is a lot of younger members coming in, and I feel like a bridge, that I have to bridge the gap between those that came before me and have brought so much and have taken so much responsibility to bring us to where we are today and those who are coming in that are still new to the ideas and to coming into these relationships with people because that is what it is about: it is about relationships with people; it is an association. And that has brought so much wealth to me to be able to connect with all these different perspectives on music, on life, and, at the same time, have that diversity celebrated. And that is what I think is a real strength of the organization. And, the ideas and the possibilities have not even come close to being realized. It is just up to us to realize the power of the vehicle and be able to bring it forward into the next future that we are into now.

DE: I would like to introduce our next speaker: Matana Roberts. 

Matana Roberts: Good morning. What the AACM has meant to me … I grew up on the music of the AACM through my father who would take me to concerts, play me record after record after record. And, it has created in me, since becoming a member of the Association I think in 2001or 2000, it’s meant a sense of knowing who I am, it has given me a better sense because for the moment I don’t live in Chicago, I live in New York City, and I was thinking about a good way to describe it. It is like being dangled from a skyscraper but I have a bunch of cords (laughs) so, I am not going to fall too far even if I fall. The AACM has and is still giving me such a sense of community and being involved as it did when I was in Chicago at the AACM School and teaching children. The ability of the AACM to go back to community to give, I really don’t think that there are enough musicians and artists that are doing that in such a way that the AACM has continued to do so over number of years. And the other thing about the AACM for me is, it is taught me that I can be as free, as open, and as creative as I want to be. I have so many people to look up to, to see that I can fly like that too, I can go in that direction if I want to do that and the standard of musicianship and the standard of music-making is at such a level that it is inspiring. So, that is what is for me.

DE: Corey Wilkes. 

Corey Wilkes: Good morning. I think I am one the most recent member of the AACM, about a whole week now (laughs). But I have been performing with musicians of the AACM over the last two to five years, roughly. Being a part of the AACM now or I should say from the outside looking in, it meant creativity, freedom and unity which is the most important and the understanding that you have to go all the way out in order to explore yourself, you can’t never understand everything if you don’t go out of the box. You have to go out of the box to go in, you know. So, exploring that freedom in your music and lifestyle is going to help you to live and make you go a long way.

DE: I am caught chewing a grape (laughs). I wanted to say that the panel reflects the resilience of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians . We have several generations of AACM membership here and one of the things people often ask me is: Why is it that the AACM has existed for as long as it has? Because the era which the organization was formed, many organizations were formed; not just musical but political and from the visual arts, from the writers’ areas and so forth. And I said to them that I think it is the flexibility that we have within the organization. It is not that we are friction free but we always advocate for each other no matter what is going on, there is always someone there to say: This is the way this person is and we should accept them in this way. That does not mean that they should transform themselves in some way but that acceptance of who we are right now, now is the time, now is always the time. So, you have to accept in order to have transformation. In order to have a development, you have to accept where you are as a person and where other people are as individuals. I think that is one the strongest aspects of the organization for me having gone through the stage of being a student, one of the earliest students at the Association School of Music which was formulated in October, formally, in October 1967. And, I am sitting a couple of chairs from one my first teachers, Roscoe Mitchell. So, we can see, the development of the Organization where the idea is to always foster new spirits, new souls, and that is evidenced right here, today. I think at this point we can get some questions or comments from the audience and since we only have a few minutes, we would like everybody to speak at once (laughs).  

Audience Member 1, a musician from Mexico interested in how to make the AACM work in his community: How to deal with youngsters? How to make our audiences younger? How to make people understand and love the music? What did you do? What does the AACM does? And what would you suggest for us to do? 

RM: I have always felt that we owe a responsibility to our younger people; that is to pass on the tradition. In fact, when I was growing up, this is the way it used to be. During those times, if someone was doing something that you wanted to learn how to do, the only thing you had to show them was that you were really interested and wanted to know that, and they would show you that. And, certainly, I have lived in a time when this was happening, but it is a thing that you have to nurture. I mean, you can’t expect young people to know anything about anything if you don’t expose them to any of these things. It was different when I was growing up because you could almost talk to anybody and they knew something about everything, but now it is not like that anymore. So, it is probably time to re-nurture the young. They have to be exposed to these things in order to know them and what I felt about this music is that, from my own point of view, it takes a long time to get to be what I would like to be. And then, I have also found out, maybe some people thought that this music stopped, but it doesn’t stop. In my case, I could say that maybe some things that I thought about in the 60s, I started to compose now. So, it is a question of involvement. Back then, you would not only have a festival, you would have concerts that go on through out the year, I mean, on a smaller scale. I mean, you don’t bring everybody for one concert. It’s back to the old thing of exposure. I will give you an other example: listening to the radio as a young person, on one particular station you might hear a variety of different things throughout the whole day and everybody knew, no matter if it was a song from jazz or a popular song or a religious song or the blues or whatever, everybody was always exposed to all of these things. Now we have radio that plays the same songs over and over and over, so there, you don’t have any exposure. I think it is good that jazz went to colleges but maybe it is not that great because there is no focus put on any music that is creative. It used to be, if I go back to the 60s, you might go to a concert at a college and there you could see a wide variety of programming at a college. It might be the Art Ensemble there, it might be John Cage. I am just giving these two examples because that is a far-stretched example; but what we noticed is that people could make up their own minds about the things they want to listen to. People should be exposed to things, and then they can have some choices, and they are not given the choice, then that it starts to cut off the different avenues that they might choose or think about. 

DE: Nicole? 

NM: I was going to say for your community, I am sure that there’s lots of musicians that play this creative music that you are interested in and there’s ways of creating programs for the youth. For example, when I was on my way here, I went to Ann Arbor and my band performed at an elementary school and I brought one of the pieces was that I wrote with graphic notation and I showed them what we were playing and explained different shapes and then we played it. And this school happened to have a music program where they had recorders, so then I gave the music teacher a copy of the music so that they could try to play it later. And, there’s lot of ways to do that, to expose the youth to this music, especially those that are learning instruments already because they come up and they don’t just get the chance to find out about it until they are worn out in a lot of cases. And the younger they can be exposed to it the more, you know, I mean they are so open. I had a little five-year-old scat to an atonal piece. She was like: Can I play your flute? Can I play your flute? And I said: You need to go home and tell your parents you want to play the flute, and I know when she went home that day that she went home to ask for a flute. So, I think that is really just about finding creative ways and then it is good for the artists to because we really enjoy sharing so finding ways that your local musicians to do more programs in the schools and educational situations. 

Audience Member 2: I wanted to ask if the AACM came out in a very turbulent time, socially and culturally. How has that influenced the creation of the AACM and how has that maintained or sustained itself as you move into different generation and extend out to younger people? 

DE: Well, the 60s -- we say it is a turbulent time but I think it is always a turbulent time, particularly for our experiences, black people on the planet and coming out of Chicago were the most segregated and still to this day, here the change is made but if you ride public transportation it is very visceral, what occurs ,as soon as you get to a certain place, the train makes a transformation. I happened to teach at a institution in Chicago, the School of The Art Institute of Chicago and it is very interesting that I have to make my students go into the South Side by planning field trips that forced them into that community because there is still that fear of black people that they had grown up with and that is enhanced in a sense by many institutions whether directly or indirectly because they don’t plan anything that occurs in the community. They will bring black people to the school but they won’t go where black people are, so, I think, for us we always had to adapt. Self-determination is what the organization was founded on. When the organization developed, one of the reasons it that was so crucial was some of the sources of outlet for us were drying up, places that the music was once been able to be heard were being systematically closed down. I don’t want to go to far afield but politics is an important part of everyday life, daily, and the climate was very difficult for black musicians particularly to survive in Chicago so, we had to device a method in which to survive and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians provided that platform because we were self-producing, we did our own posters, our own distribution, and started our own recording companies, and so on. And it is still as important today as it was in the 60s and one of the things Roscoe mentioned was, you know, we are in such a hurry now, you know, if an idea is more than a day old it is no longer relevant. I think one of the things, when we think about creativity is not just music but even the first toys that kids play with: we have kids that play with things that they don’t make themselves, that they can’t fix, things of that nature. I think creativity is on a lot of levels and we have to think about that. So, when we are thinking about creativity, we can start by improvising with our children, pots and pans, pencils, just giving them a wider imagination and more control over what is it you do, what the kids eat, where they eat, all of these things are related to creativity. Kids don’t know how to cook now because everybody eats out, and they don’t even know what good food is, so, those are some of the things that we need to think about when we think about creativity and not just in terms of music and painting, but creativity in every aspect of survival, and thriving rather than just surviving. Any other questions? 

Audience Member 3: I was wondering, in the early stages, what ensembles, what groups there were. I know Leroy Jenkins and Muhal Richard Abrams were important in the early stages. What were they playing?

RM: The AACM is always been an organization of small groups and large bands. Out of the AACM, you mentioned a couple of groups but they were several others: Joseph Jarman’s quartet, with Christopher Gaddy and Charles Clark , both of those musicians have passed on. Wadada Leo Smith groups, groups with Anthony and Wadada and Leroy Jenkins and so on. We have always made a practice of large ensembles and smaller ensembles. In fact, the AACM is a group of people that has instruments that people don’t even have. I mean, in order to really see the AACM full blown, opportunities would have to be presented so that it would be possible to present some of these situations. Speaking from my own point of view, I have a percussion set-up that I have been developing since the 60s which is 10”x10” floor space and I have all these instruments that I have been collecting from all over the world and so on. But, I go back to when jazz went to college. It is a good thing if you reflect things that are already happened but you also have to keep yourself in tune with what is going on now you see. He was talking about the political situation: back in my times, you had a lot of individual thinkers, which you don’t have now and then people functioned in certain roles for a certain amount of time and then it might be time for them to move on to other parts of their lives. The problem that I see that happened is that no one came to fill in these spaces with these great, great people who were doing all these things. So, somewhere in there, there was a breakdown but it stills goes back to: We have to stand for something. We have to stand for something, we have to be individuals with visions and we can’t just like change our vision just because it is something that is in style today that wasn’t in style yesterday and that’s what a lot of younger musicians today … (RM’s phone rings.) Excuse me. (To caller) I’m going to pass you over to Douglas.

DE (taking phone): This is crucial everybody

RM: So, they come to me and they are disillusioned. They said: OK, I went to college and now I have to do this and now what? You know, whereas the AACM has always been an organization that encouraged people to look inside and find individuality, because once you do that, then you have an endless source of energy to draw from. If you are not doing that, then you are always placed in the position of waiting to see what everybody else does and then trying to do that and it is difficult to be someone else but it is really easy to be yourself. The main thing that you have to do is to try to find out what your individual calling is and once you have that you go on endlessly.

Audience Member 4 describes the role of socialism as the difference between ‘60s ideals and “hip-hop” ideals: What kind of dialogue is happening between the socialist model of the AACM and the more entrepreneurial model of the hip-hop generation?

RM: Well, you bring up a good point there. Now, what I would like to do is go back to what I said earlier about people knowing about stuff. Hip-hop is popular because it is an accepted art form that makes a lot of money, so, this is what people like hearing all the time, you know. So now, there has to be more situations created where people are interacting more like they used to. I remember concerts in Chicago that were only musical concert …

AM4 interrupts to make a distinction about “underground hip-hop.”

DE: I think that every form has its heights. There are hip-hop artists that are doing strong work. I think any form has weak stuff in it, and because of the commerciality of hip-hop, it has a lot more weaker forces, and because you can captivate people with … Music is a really potent force and what I have done with my classes as an experiment where we look at -- I don’t want to call an artist name per se -- we looked at a piece that was really denigrating women with the music. It was seductive. When you turn the music down, people clamored for it to be turned off immediately, and so we have to realize the magic of music – that it can bring good things, and it can bring bad things. We have to watch that. Wadada?

WLS: You know, life is very hard when there is a disconnect. And there is a disconnect essentially worldwide. I recommend that we need a consultation for what it is coming. I think that the biggest problem with AACM and every other kind of artistic community is that they have not had a consultation among themselves about what they’re doing. This consultation will not include how to make more money or how to get more personal power and stuff like that. But it would be about how we engage the artistic element to improve and strengthen our communities. In reconstruction time, after Johnson and those guys that we call presidents education didn’t make provisions for education for African-Americans and so, African-Americans got together in each community and made those schools and those churches. And, to do that, one individual doesn’t come up with the idea how to do it. For example, teaching is a very important process of socialization where you learn something and then you go immediately teach it, you see. And the problem that I have learned is that there’s a disconnect based on the fact that there is no consultation, where you explore the dynamic range of what one particular artistic community is doing, historically or otherwise, to see what is possible. You know George Busch and all those clowns that run the United States government, they have allowed thousands of people to die and starve in this Katrina disaster. And, people were waiting for them to do something and I don’t think they’re going to do anything. The best thing to do is that, from a social point, is that African-Americans should go back to that model after Reconstruction and not ask the government, and not ask institutions to help them. Because until the clear idea of preservation occurs, you are gonna have these issues because the level of love and commitment worldwide regarding African people on the whole planet is not only low but it probably not go lower, you know?

MR: I just wanted to address your question because I thought it was interesting, being a person of African-American descent with a college degree. I have sat in music classrooms and listened to teachers speak to African-Americans students about music and It kind of goes along with what Wadada Leo Smith was saying that there is this disconnect and I think there is also a disconnect on in terms of education, in terms of hip-hop and improvisation in music, there are all these links there and what I feel like from being a student and also from teaching, I have been teaching time to time, there is a disconnect between educators and African-American students. I went to a predominantly white college in Chicago but the one thing that saved me creatively was members of the AACM because my particular college program did not care about creative music, but that is a whole other story. I was a classically trained person for a while and I had left that behind because I didn’t see enough people that look like me amongst my peers and the history. As beautiful as was Beethoven, Bach, Wagner, all of them, as beautiful as those musicians and composers, I still didn’t see anybody that looked like me, so I gravitated more toward jazz music for that reason and I think that is why you see African-American students gravitate more toward hip-hop. But what I think a lot of people understand about hip-hop: the word hip-hop is the same as jazz. The word “jazz” covers a wide range of music. It is ridiculous! The amounts of different types of musicians and music under that one word, for the purpose of name a genre so that you can sell music, I mean that is what labels are for. So, hip-hop, to me, is the same sort of thing. Underground hip-hop -- it just describes a wide, wide range of music and I saw a lot of educators that I dealt with at that time that kinda of threw it off as a commercial thing but they weren’t really paying attention to people that weren’t commercial and a lot of college educated African-Americans are not … it is not about 50 Cents, it is not about Puff Daddy, any of that, They are not really listening for that, they are looking for something with more substance and there are a lot of hip-hop artists out there that are like that. I think one thing that I do with small children, which I don’t know if it is helpful, I mean, there is so many great jazz records that have sampled over the last ten to twenty year period and you can say what you want to say about sampling but at least, they are bringing, with the exception of that awful situation with the Beastie Boys and James Newton that was completely disgusting, but there are other people that are doing it in a correct way in terms of giving people credit. You take that music to these kids that are listening to that and you play it for them and then you play them the record that the music came of. That is how you have to start making those connections with, you know, high schools students, and I don’t really know if that has being done at the college level, but you have to find that connection because young African-American college students are looking for pieces of themselves that you can not find in white academia. I could not find myself, the only reason why I found it was having a strong family foundation and also Fred Anderson, people like that, giving me opportunities and showing me by example that there are black people that playing creative music. Just open your eyes and open your ears, and here it is so, I think that that gap can be closed, but I think on the part of educators, and I only speak of this because educators have to work harder at closing that gap.

Audience Member 5: I am interested in hearing how what processes there are for inviting musicians into the collective and if that has changed over the years?

DE: It hasn’t changed, really. As Roscoe said, one of the things that you have to do is show an interest in the music, you have to come around the music, you have to be recommended by a couple of people in good standing and then the process go through the body of the AACM, where they deliberate as to whether you would serve in a trial period of a year. During that year you are expected to be an active member, to do all the things that is necessary to help the organization go forward. Part of that is being active in the schools, being active in the concerts, being active in keeping the organization current, real, now, and learning about the legacy of AACM, so that is pretty much in a nut shell what the process is. You know, people, often want to become a part of something but it is only for convenience sake. They really don’t want to invest themselves in it. I know the process for me was a seamless kind of transition, just being around. I remember sitting in the trumpet section next to Wadada, learning from him, going to the AACM school, and then, I suddenly found myself as a member. We have a more formal kind of induction now then it was in the past, but pretty much the process is your commitment to the music.  We did get a phone call saying that Joseph Jarman is suffering from food poisoning and, so, he wasn’t able to make it here. We had to have somebody go over to his house. He had a doctor there and so forth, so, I just wanted to relay that to you. That was the interruption.

Audience Member 6 was curious about the political and social implications of the Art Ensemble: How did that translate to the music itself, or did it? Do you see that or could feel that or did that somehow make it into the music, that the music itself has political or social meanings? Maybe musical freedom represents political freedom or did the music somehow embody that?

WLS: How are-you gonna separate that? You can not separate it. First of all, you said the Art Ensemble, and actually meant the AACM because everybody in the AACM is political. And everybody that is sitting out here in chairs or standing, breathing, and pumping hot blood throughout their body is also political. You can’t really ask a question like: How did you become political? Maybe you have other intentions about what you want to find out with that but won’t get much. So you want to rephrase it? How did you become political? Are you political?

AM6: That is not really what I was asking. What I was asking is: How did the music itself embody some of the political ideas of the AACM, If at all, maybe they don’t, I don’t know.

WLS: Do you consider Louis Armstrong political?

AM6: Yes.

WLS: Okay. How about Otis Redding?

AM6: I don’t know.

WLS: Well, it is just like this. Everybody drinks the same water, OK, and being political is something like getting up in the morning, brushing your teeth, gargling, and then afterwards, drinking a glass of water. It is part of your normal life. You don’t have to make your music something, you, know. Your music is. Whatever you do is already what you are and you don’t have to make yourself something, you are already that. Every piece of music that a person produces, was it understood or not, says exactly what it means in live in a society and be a part of that society. Was that society some place that they feel that they need to change everything in order to get everything to be right and equal, was that status quo and that change basically the same thing? Sorry.

RM: It should reflect life. I would like to back up just a little bit because I should have recognized a person that is here today: Eugene Chadbourne. Eugene Chadbourne, back in the early days, was very instrumental in helping to see that different things happen, he ran The Parachute center out there in Calgary. But I also mention that people move on in their life: Eugene is also a great musician. He is got things that he needs to express in his life, I mean, when we are sitting and listening to the music that doesn’t say anything us, something is wrong there. And this is the problem with the young people; they don’t have any music that they can relate to. So, when History looks back at this period, they are gonna see a dark period: nothing happened. We have such a great, great legacy of music and art that we are privileged to look back upon and I have always found that the things that I often go back to are the things that were happening that, you know, related to the life at that time. I mean, I would go out to hear John Coltrane in a club and the bandstand was behind the bar. Now, how these people were serving drinks and doing all that and it was that quiet, I will never know. Now, you can go out hear music now, people are talking, they are not even listening to it: it is not related to their lives. Certainly, we are not in that period now in our lives. Eugene?

Eugene Chadbourne: Well, since you mentioned me, I think you underestimate the younger generation. All the comments that you make, not to pick an argument or anything but, raising teenagers and having one of these houses where all the teenagers come because I look the other way. But they are really listening to an incredible range of music. I mean, I know 12 and 13 year olds that are stoked with what is on the radio but it is amazing the stuff they listen to. A lot of it is coming from the Internet. They are listening to stuff I wish I could say: I know that because I played it for you, but they didn’t pay any attention when I played it. But, they are really listening to a lot of different music.

RM: Well, Eugene, I am gonna ask you a question: Where are they? I mean, those people I see are the people I have seen 20 years ago, I mean, it is great to see everybody and everything but I don’t really see that many young people. I was at the concert last night: I didn’t see that many young people at the concert.

DE: Look in here. There are a few young people here but everybody is over 90 (Laughs)!

JS: I think it reflects a great deal on what is available to them because they are looking, like you are saying, but what is available to them is a much smaller palette. I think that has to do with the globalization of all the world’s resources and ideas in the hands of fewer and fewer people and we got to take that back! (clapping, cheers) The AACM is an example of just that, a community deciding to do something, and doing it themselves. We keep looking for a handful of people to do these things for us and he is absolutely right about that. The reason why hip-hop is so big is because of how much money it makes. Because, some celebrations of the lower aspects of all people makes money for a few people in suits. It is used to be even major record companies had a strong jazz department but not of these suits are in control. You have to understand that the whole jazz catalogue makes less money that one of their pop groups and as long as this is the only important point for them, then that is all that is gonna be happening. So, I think, it is a world community problem and as long as these few people are trying to make all these decisions for other people, we gonna be all in trouble. This is a world community problem.

DE: I don’t want it to seem dismal. We know there are young people listening, there are always a few people but we are looking at the whole situation. One of the problems that we are facing for example is the fact that, in a country like the United States, you can have somebody who can’t make a sentence in charge. I mean seriously, I mean it is a problem. We know we are in dire straits when you are in a situation like that. Some of the people that voted, one of the sates that voted primarily for Bush is experiencing it now: Louisiana. So, let’s not loose sight of what we are talking about. It is not just listening to music; it is what happens to you after you listened to the music. That is just like eating, just like breathing, if you are not doing it correctly, you are gonna get hurt. We can see about the air, about the food, and we have people talking about how we don’t have a problem, there is no global warming. All these things are related. We are not talking about music in some kind of isolated chamber: we are talking about reality of existence. And so, when we talk about notes and form, we talk about the universe that we live in and so we have to be concerned. And yes, we are involved in teaching young people to this day and we say this panel reflects quite an array in terms of age and in terms of when people came to the association. So we haven’t given up on the idea that young people are our future: it is reflected here but we are talking about the strength of the planet. Where are right now and where we are going. Where resources have been squandered. If the people of the world were really fired up, if the youth were really fired up, we would not be in Iraq. Not that way. We would be thinking creatively. You know, 200 billion, maybe 500 billion has been spent over there. And we are talking that they have allocated 62 billions dollars to rebuild New Orleans, really Louisiana and Mississippi. People haven’t talked about Mississippi. Mississippi got a hit that was worse than New Orleans. New Orleans is a manmade kind of devastation because of neglect, plus, we got to be talking about young people reading, not just listening to music. We talk about the whole spectrum. Any other questions because we are at that time. Yes?

Audience Member 7 asked a question about how the AACM deals with current narrow mainstream media.

RM: Well, you bring out a good point there. I mean, community radio stations, that is on you guys. People that have the knowledge and so on, make sure that the information gets passed around and so on. What is very odd about where I live: there is really a good community radio station there, WRT, that’s been there for 20 years and it is representative of the type of radio that I listened to when I was growing up. I have always believed you’re supposed to give people choices and they can make up their own mind. When you go out in Madison, it is the total opposite. And, in fact, Madison used to be one of the radical universities. When I first got back from Europe and went there in 60s the whole of State Street was full of teargas from student revolutions and so on. People don’t have to do anything but it will go down. I mean, we don’t need all to be puppets, just doing whatever anybody says. People have to have a clear vision in their head of what they would like to do and stick to their own vision and not be swayed. If you believe strong enough that you’re thinking valid thoughts, if anything it’s going to be salvaged. In the situation we’re in now, it’s going to take more than black people getting out there to change it. By the way, my kids listen to music too, they are influenced by me but if there is a situation that is gonna exist where you are gonna bring a pool young people back in again … If I look at Madison, some of the greats in this music have taught at Madison. Cecil Taylor taught there, Bill Dixon, you see, so it is not a situation that never did exist, but you have to reach out for these people. You got to have things that go on in the universities and I have taught in universities but the thing I don’t like about it is that it is too much arguing going on: people defending their own political views and so on and for a serious artist, it is not a good situation. Some people can handle it better than others; I don’t handle it very well. In some cases what I have done is I’ve withdrawn, because the work that I am doing in this period I feel important because maybe I am starting to really learn how to get to things that I am thinking about.

NM: I want to address that part of your question about how we address the challenge of helping others work more creatively. We have a lot of deep personalities in our organization. I think that’s clear to everyone. I found that when we have differences and we have clashes in terms of ideas, all we have to do is go back to that love of the organization, because that’s something that everyone has in common. We have different perspectives about the organization and what we want to do through the organization, but everyone involved has a deep love and respect and determination for the organization to continue. When you focus on that prosperity, that’s how you get things done without getting stuck in personalities.

DE: I would like to add something about the radio stations. There are some communities stations that, when you get out there on the road, like we are, and you have nothing but a CD player, the people who have the power in terms of transmission power, of wattage power, in the Bible Belt, the narrow conservative stuff, you hear people talking about assassinating Hugo Chavez. I mean, we’re in trouble. The other thing about this organization and any organization is that you need bridges, and people who have connections. It’s these personal relationships that can provide the bridge. Not everyone can be a bridge. And sometimes no one is particularly is chosen, but they can provide the connections that establish those bridges. And these things are necessary for this or any other organization, because everyone cannot necessarily relate to everyone else. When you’re a family, there’s going to be some stuff. If there’s no stuff, it’s most likely not a family. So, we’re almost at the beginning of the road, so maybe we’ll field one or two more questions to wrap it up. Not everybody at once. So, we’d like to thank you on behalf of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.


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