Joe Maneri: Serial Autobiography

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In counterpoint we filled over 7 manuscript books at 100 pages each. After completing all species in triple amounts from the norm 15th and 16th century. We composed full masses in three and four part motets. We examined Palestrina, Di Laso, and Victorio as well. Dutch masters were also included.

Then in motified techniques, independently, we went through the harmony book again through all the modulation through to 5 part counterpoint.

Then we composed a couple of cantatas, 10 piano fugues, one organ fugue and a double fugue for string quartet.

Then we began Gavotte's composition. We composed through all the forms of classical music, for string quartets, trios, quintets, piano music through all the classical, then Romantic, then through the beginning of the 20th century.

Schmid was like a papa to all of his students. He cooked for us, took us all out to lunch, walked us to the train when we went home, and along with us, delighted in watching all of the girls go by.

Once he stopped into a butcher shop and purchased a huge steak for me to take home and eat. Since my work was so slow, he'd say "Yah, Choe, a composer must eat well" or once in a harmony lesson he asked me not to go higher than A in the soprano. Of course, the next week I had one instance of a high A. He walked away and suggested that we have coffee and relax.

Should listeners of avant-garde and free improvisers listen to Schoenberg and Berg? Certainly they should. Today's performers and those of the past always were seeking. The nature of being a creative improviser is one who wants to know it all. Charlie Parker visited Stravinsky by knocking on the door, unsure of himself. Igor answered the door and Charlie said, "I'm sorry to bother you, I must have the wrong address."

My major concern for these listeners is the lack of awareness that they have for jazz history.

The miraculous spirit of our Black ethnic music must be identifiable through the soul of its beginnings.

The horrid pain of slavery has ached beyond the body to the soul.

The song phrase "Go tell it on the mountain" and "nobody knows" has reached the whole world with its most unique calling.

One of my students told me that his great grandfather told him of a certain plantation owner who complained that the songs they sang were too slow and sad. His group of slaves sang the same sad song faster, which made for a happier music. As an American, born Italian, my parents came here to America to be free. I, in profound sadness, ache for my brothers and sisters who paid the price of slavery to be free. This memory cannot be forgotten.

Therefore, today's and yesterday's trail blazers were of the same spirit. Though in the past reviewers were not as open to the freshly creative music of its time, specific negatives were pointed out. Today's stylistic new music is lumped together with the titles and labels "avant-garde" and "free improvisation". Since the music of today's creativity is not talked about as in the past, which was with critical comments, these labels (avant-garde and free improvisation) cut out on critical observation, leaving confusion and unclear labels.



Postscript and Acknowledgements

A few words on how this article came to be: In summer 2000, AAJ modern jazz editor Glenn Astarita and Universal Music's Tina Pelikan suggested that Joe Maneri be interviewed. This writer accepted the assignment.

What followed proved to be as full of surprises as the music of Joe Maneri himself. When prompted with a handful of simple questions about his life and career (covering the period from his birth in 1927 until age 25), the response received was an enthusiastically candid and astonishingly detailed series of anecdotes. It was eventually decided that this should be published, sans questions, in Mr. Maneri's own "voice" as an autobiographical narrative. The only additions are the insertion of headers and a slight resequencing of the original text to preserve chronological integrity.

In conclusion, the year 2001 was challenging if not outright difficult for many people (this writer included). This article should have been published a year ago. Joe Maneri's life is a story of perseverence and determination. It should serve as inspiration, even if one is unfamiliar with his music.

This article would not exist without the help of the following individuals:
  • Tina Pelikan (infinite patience and grace)
  • Dr. Judy Little (intermediary correspondent and good will)
  • Gloria Maneri (intermediary correspondent and good will)
  • Kendra Sue Olson (fax transcription, editing consultation, and joie de vivre)
  • Harvey Pekar (whose wonderful articles on Joe Maneri made me rethink the project)


Photo Credit
Joe Maneri

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