Composed and conducted by Gil Evans; performed by Miles Davis
So, there’s this thing that we all count on where we assume that the intractable problems of today can find solutions tomorrow because part of the problem is the people who are trying to find the solution. They are locked into prejudices and modes of thinking that prevent forward movement. Progress may be a generous term for the spurts and false starts that add up to history, but the long view seems to favor overall gains in many, many fields.
The history of art illustrates this well as movements have come and gone. Generally, new movements rise among up and coming generations. Part of the requirement is that the elders make room. With that stepping aside, even reconciliation between traditional foes becomes more likely.
In recent decades, many advances in the arts have been technology driven. Beside the incredible rise in marketing across all arenas, popular arts have been successfully commidified by corporations (as well as the less popular arts).
As a growing adjunct, we now have available more art than anyone could possibly consume in a lifetime. Over the past century, we have created documents of music, opera, theater, literature, and all the rest. The quality of those documents has improved substantially in the last half century to a degree that much of this “older” art remains in circulation and competition with work being produced today. No matter how much you love any artist working today, their popularity pales in comparison to The Beatles- and I mean their popularity today and not in their heyday.
In 1910,you might have remembered Eugène Caron fondly, but he was not in direct competition with Erico Caruso, but any new recording of Tosca has to compete with Luciano Pavarotti.
This is all by way of long prelude to saying that Miles Davis hangs over jazz music in a way that boggles the mind. Sketches of Spain, which includes Solea, is one of the great musical recordings of all time. That amounts to the last century, doesn’t it?
But it is only one milestone among many. Other people might point to Kind of Blue or Bitches Brew as absolute favorites. The list does not stop there, but I will.
Essentially, Davis with his fellow musicians carved out this remarkable landscape on recordings which remain widely available. They are wonderful- we continue to hear them.
Maybe there is a group of future innovators growing up somewhere on the planet now. They will develop a new, much loved variation in one of the arts. It will be that much harder as a part of their potential audience to set aside Miles Davis to allow them room. Add to that the deluge of art created by the democratization of art production. I wonder how we recognize the next great thing… because I’m not sure Miles Davis really looked all that promising early on.
What’s it all about?
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 110 more to go.
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