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Bill Dixon: The Benefits of the Struggle

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By Bill Dixon

I appreciate your interest in having me say some things that you can present in your paper to interested readers, readers that may be interested in my work, how I go about it, how I have existed, what my work means, how that work is arrived at and my general feelings as they relate to music and art and all of those things [everything in toto, if one really wants to look at it definitively] that relate to them.

I thought things over and it had occurred to me that there weren't really that many people who claim an interest in this music and its non-commercial events, if they can be called that, that would even consider what I said as even being relevant. And if I am in error with regard to that then where are these people?

The genesis of feelings experienced, put together and cemented into ideas after 50 or so many years of experiences all seemingly designed and aimed at the justification of the above...

However and at the risk of being or appearing maudlin, I am coming to New York this month. Yes I am coming to NY to do the Vision Festival. I will be coming from Montreal where I will have participated in a conference sponsored by McGill University that will have focused on the relationships that exist [if they do] between the visual arts and the musical arts, the art of this music, especially. I will have shown drawings, paintings, etchings, lithographs of my work that span 30 or more so years and my "paper , more oral than written, will have concerned itself with how I have approached both of these art forms in terms of aesthetic and philosophy and methodology. I will have performed a small portion of the piece of music that I will be doing in total at the Vision Festival. While I will be doing that section in solo form there in Montreal I will be doing it situated for a quartet in NY.

In the last year I have been philosophically and methodologically engaging in an even more deeper penetration into areas of solo trumpet performance that at present, from the standpoint of being a full time endeavour, have, for most of the players, seemed only useful as an adjunct to the other areas of their performance on the instrument. And, of course the reasons for this is obvious, audiences want to hear you play the things that they want you to play that indicate to them that you can play effectively and coercively in manners that get their attention in the ways that they want their attention gotten.

In August of last year I was able, in performance at the Baha'i Center (with the quartet of double bassist Dominic Duval; vibraphonist/drummer Warren Smith and piano/synthesizer player Tony Widoff), to focus on those things that, at this particular point in time, are of principal interest to me with respect to the instrument and with music, composition and improvisation naturally being considered.

In October, I went to Baden Baden, the Donaueschingen Event, at the invitation of Cecil Taylor, as one third of three established musicians in this music that had Cecil Taylor, Tony Oxley and myself poised to do music that would serve to reflect our collective and individual places, achievements and contributions in this area of music.

The performance format utilized for the realization of such music that might ensue out of this instrumentation, which after Donaueschingen included Portugal and London in November, was such that it permitted my continuance of the work on my areas of interest without sacrifice or dereliction of my obligation as a member of the trio.

The format for the performances had, for analytical purposes of discussion the following layout: three solos that preceded a short break that then led into a tutti performance by the trio. Oxley always took the first solo orchestrated to permit him maximum leverage and continuity to reveal the focus of his musical interests and concerns.

I took the second solo which let me, knowing what had preceded my entrance and what was to follow it, work with maximum freedom, regarding material, approach to that material and the handling of that material without concern with trying to establish any idea of an [for me] "artificial relationship to the other two players long established and comfortable with the norms of their years of performance as a duo, to the extent that when I felt that I had established my point(s) of view [musical] and reference, paved the way for the next solo which was that of Taylor.

The short period of silence that followed permitted the dynamic of the totality of the trio to come to terms with all that had existed [musically] previously. A fitting way, in my opinion when one is able to understand and appreciate both the freedoms and responsibilities that are resolutely attached to this kind of performance that the uninformed prefer to label, erroneously as "free .


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