The release of saxophonist and composer Jon Irabagon
's album Inaction is An Action
poses an interesting question. When should an artist release a record?
It is not a matter of talent. Long ago, Irabagon has proven himself. He has won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition and gained success in every measureable way, including release on a major record label and critical acclaim.
It is also not a matter of good or bad. Inaction is An Action
is the kind of record where it does not really make sense to evaluate it. How do you evaluate an experiment that questions the very notion of music? It does not make sense. The question is who is supposed to listen to this record?
Surely, it is a niche record. Not only a solo record, but also a sopranino saxophone solo record. Fellow musicians will be able to appreciate the different and difficult techniques that Irabagon uses. Just like a painter is able to admire the advanced brushstrokes of a kindred artist. What about the "ordinary" listener?
The point, perhaps, is that Inaction is An Action
is the kind of record that constructs its own ideal listener or, said in another way, it is a statement about the way it is possible to listen to music as sound and vice versa. In that sense, it follows the philosophy of composer John Cage
, who famously questioned the difference between silence, sound and music. Cage discovered that music can be performed by avoiding notes as well as by playing them. Inaction is an action.
There is also the gesture of the instrument. For instance, we speak about the sound of the saxophone. The ironic thing is that Irabagon's sopranino saxophone does not sound like a saxophone all the time, far from it. Sometimes it does. Other times, it is more like a vacuum cleaner or the whistling of wind or pops of percussive click sounds. A parallel can be drawn to the cover painting Still Life with Sopranino Saxophone
by Kyonghee Kim. It depicts a sopranino saxophone, but it is not a sopranino saxophone. As René Magritte would say: "This is not a pipe."
So what is Inaction is An Action
? It is art and it was released because it was necessary, at least to the artist. It is art for those who care to listen. Do not trust the words, listen to the sounds.