Bill Anschell

Jazz musician Bill Anschell also writes. His essay "Careers in Jazz" sardonically considers the different ways jazz musicians ply their trade. Many of these tropes--gig whore, epiphyte, silver spoon, etc.--can also be spotted in the art world. "How to Be a Jazz Critic" compiles cliches from jazz writing; it's less applicable to art but still a fun read. Excerpts below. (Hat tip HD)

From "Careers in Jazz" [pdf] [html]:


Named after “air plants,” which live without need for soil, these are the true heroes of the jazz world. They eat only out of necessity, seemingly nourished by the music they play, including their hours of daily practicing. Most varieties of Epiphytes thrive in subterranean environments, such as dank basement apartments, with little apparent need for sunlight. They move frequently from hovel to hovel after seemingly exhausting the available air that sustains them. Their skin is wan, and they blink uncomfortably in daylight, preferring to wear sunglasses around the clock.

Epiphytes are the trendsetters in the jazz community, admired and emulated by their peers. Their speech is heavily peppered with cutting-edge jazz lingo, and they are often innovators in jazz vocabulary. Although they are the elite class of the working musicians (short of Chosen Ones, who live in a separate musical universe), they are the least likely to reproduce, finding economic advantage in a more streamlined lifestyle. In this sense, an adverse Darwinian effect works against the forward movement of jazz, as natural selection favors gene propagation from the less talented, more whorish players.


The relationship between Epiphytes and Gig Whores is particularly intriguing: Epiphytes live on the fringes of mainstream society in order to stake their place in jazz music; Gig Whores work on the fringes of the jazz world in order to stake their place in mainstream society. Yet between them is a quiet understanding, a shared realization that there is no perfect solution to the Jazz Problem. Both are driven by a Buddhist sensibility: Epiphytes believe that material objects are impermanent and of no value; Gig Whores embrace the notion that life is suffering.

From "How to Be a Jazz Critic":

America’s indigenous artform, America’s classical music, our national treasure. The sound of surprise, bright moments. It’s a gourmet meal in a McDonald’s culture. It’s a fine wine, a literary masterpiece, gumbo. It’s the blues, gospel, sadness and joy. It’s unacknowledged, tragic, disowned, downplayed, suppressed. An ugly stepsister, bastard child, shoeless orphan. It dies poor, no health insurance, alone in a Brooklyn apartment. The greedy record company releases a compilation of embarrassing out-takes. Touche!