This is Howard C. Park's blog. Interests: live music, simulations and modeling, languages, iPod, social and business networking, systems thinking, history of science, management, BBQ, trivia, good coffee, organizational learning, traveling, personal histories.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
The Secret of Jazz (Part I)
This post will be the first in a series... probably over several months.
I once started a list of "100 things to do". On that list was "discover the secret to jazz". I didn't grow up listening or "doing" jazz. There was lots of music I've had a chance to play and see up close. And here lies the difficulty for me to discovering the secret of jazz. For many people, listening to music is fine way of absorbing what that song, artist, genre, instrument, period, etc. is about. Not for me. In order for me to "understand" and even "like" a specific piece of music or genre, I have to somehow see myself in the music. I have to imagine myself playing an instrument, recording a part, writing or arranging the song, singing the backup, holding the mic.. somthing directly related to what I'm hearing.
This is not about talent or a specific ability. In fact, most of what I enjoy listening to, I can't play. Oh I can play a part here, or may have even covered a song. But the best way I enjoy music is to somehow see myself in the music, even pretending to play something I know I don't know how to play.
Which is why it's been hard for me to discover the secret of Jazz. I've listened to a lot of jazz over the years, but I haven't been able to place myself in it. I play percussion, but jazz drummers play in a way that seems very foreign to what I know on drums. I can follow a bass line, but I can't follow the chord changes, and I can't seem to be able to know where a complex line is going.
Katheryn has listened to a lot more jazz than I have, and she loves it! The last time we were in NYC, we went to The Jazz Standard to hear The Steve Nelson Quartet. We went with some friends who are musicians. The music was wonderful.
I started to see something I hadn't picked up on before in the times that I have seen jazz, and of course almost impossible to pick up when you're listening to a recording. That ability comes with time, I think. There must be many secrets to jazz, but I want to keep it simple for now, and build from that. One word stands out: influence.
One of the essentials I picked up during my last trip to the "American and Oriental Food" store was this. I am a ramen junkie, and even though I'm no longer a graduate student, I find myself gravitating towards the not-so-healthy but oh-so-easy and my-that's-a-cheap-meal ramen dish.
I found the instructions on this specific package a bit confusing. We have a two-step process, and it's presented in three languages. First, it's in Korean. Then in Chinese, then finally in English. My Korean isn't that great, but it seems that for the readers of Korean and Chinese, the instructions are different than for the readers of English. If you can read Asian, you should use 700cc instead of 650cc. Now why is that? Possibly different measurement systems around the globe? I recall that one of the baby bottles we used had different scales for UK and US measurements. Or do Asians prefer a more watered-down version of the same dish?
Maybe it's because many Asians know about the secret ingredient that you can add to ramen to actually turn it into a meal: a raw egg.
I was recently in Koreatown, near I-10 and Gessner. I stopped by a grocery store to pick up some essentials. I had noticed this sign before, but thought it was worthwhile to point out something.
The English under the Korean letters has "American and Oriental Food". That's very nice and inviting. This used to be an old Kroger's, so perhaps this is a nice one-stop shop for a wide range of groceries.
Too bad that the Korean says "Korean Groceries". It's like a little joke for the ones able to read Korean. This worries me as I have to rely on many English translations when I travel. So when I see a sign translated as "safe for 120V appliances" or "this water is potable", I should be careful.