Liner notes by Makanda Ken McIntyre
If one looks closely at the human cycle i.e., birth, infancy, childhood, etc., and looks at the "forced feeding" regarding the music that is pumped into the urban communities across this nation, under the guise of being popular, it becomes clear that an unnatural phenomenon is operating. Which is a "popular" aspect of music in the African-American tradition is being laid on from the cradle to the grave, and although we all grow older and become more mature the music that surrounds us does not move forward, but operates contrary to our betterment. In fact what does happen is that the vast majority of listeners become grounded, stunted, retarded with the music that is deemed "popular" by record producers, promoters et. al. Consequently there is no Contemporary African-American Music that is accessible to those who are interested in "togetherness" regarding Contemporary African-American Music maturity within the life cycle.
Music has many uses and is utilized to modify behavior. In the traditional African experience music was utilized for every occasion from the cradle to the grave - it was functional. History tells us of the utilization of music on other cultures e.g., during the times of the conflict the Turks in the Twelfth Century utilized music to frighten the enemy. The sounds coming from the horns were fierce, and coerced the enemy into a non-combative state of mind. The utilization of music is with us today in this country and we experience it constantly when we go into a supermarket, visit our doctor/dentist's office, while at work in agencies that are involved with manufacturing, and when we enter an airplane there is music. Music is utilized functionally, and whatever that function is can be defined by the way we conduct ourselves, while under the influence of the particular music at any given time. It, therefore, seems to me that music is being utilized, to some extent, to control our behavior, keep us in an acceptable state of mind - program us. I have no argument with this if there is a choice of the music that is being utilized, and it is only when there is no choice that I have a problem.
The recording industry is a fascinating and exciting business since it captures African-American Music, i.e. blues, jazz, swing, bop, new thing, etc., and encourages sales by the general public through publicity and advertising. There are various ways in which the music is promoted, including guest appearances, announcements of upcoming concerts, printed matter, and of course, radio. The most successful form of communication, publicity, and advertising is the radio since more people have easy access to it than any of the above-mentioned communication media. There are radio stations across this nation that state that they are presenting the African-American Music experience in sound, and to some extent they are. However, the extent to which they are involved is very clearly defined in terms of being called "popular", i.e. that music sells, which in my view translates into SAFE.
I use the term safe since the programmers already know how the listening public is going to respond to the music, and the radio station managers, directors, disc jockeys in order to survive must maintain the status quo, and that is to feed the general public the "popular" music in the African-American tradition. Which of course, is to pump the music of the past, rather than the present - not to mention anything about the future - into communities across the nation under the guise of what the public is buying/demanding to hear. Unlike in the late 40s and early 50s when it was permissible for the buyer of recordings to hear before purchasing a particular number, the public of today is not allowed the experience of looking through a pile of recordings by various artists and then selecting one to listen to prior to buying the recording. The option is not available for the listener to select/reject according to his/her taste, but rather the listener is held as part of the captive audience when he/she turns on the radio.
Put another way, the listener is ignorant of the vast majority of Contemporary African-American Music simply because he/she is not exposed to it. What the listener is exposed to is played several times a day with the disc jockey spear heading the way with some comment usually stating something very positive about the side, and for Jane/John Q. Public that is hip since the announcer is considered hip by the listener. If the announcer is so hip, why does he/she fail to play any of the music in the Contemporary/Avant Garde African-American Music tradition, i.e. Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, et.al.?
The argument that is made against Contemporary African-American Music is that it does not sell, and if that were true, it seems to me that there would be no need to record it. The fact of the matter is that Contemporary African-American Music in some instances is recorded not to be successful in terms of sales, but rather as a tax deduction. For example, during my tenure with a recording company some years back, I was informed by one of the administrative officers - after inquiring why my option was not being picked up - that the reason my contract and several others who were signed on, were being dropped was that the largest stockholder in the company desired to have Contemporary African-American music affiliated with the company. The company, however, had no intentions of building any of the aspiring and not surprising Contemporary African-American musicians but rather was recording musicians and going through motions of distribution etc., only to appease a stockholder.
Television is both an asset and a liability depending on how one looks at it. On the one hand there are programs that deal with issues, entertainment, and education. On the other hand there are programs that deal with ridicule, mayhem, and propaganda. And all of this is at the fingertips of the viewer simultaneously, i.e. television allows one to see events taking place in various parts of the world by just turning a dial. Clearly this is a phenomenon for most middle aged and senior citizens, but for the younger generation television is just another gadget in their world. And because the younger generations are able to experience so much in such a short space/time they spend less time trying to understand many of the joys of life, including Contemporary African-American Music.
As a professor, teacher, lecturer, educator, Contemporary African-American Music composer, arranger, orchestrator, multi-instrumentalist, and conductor, it seems to me that some introduction to Contemporary African-American Music is needed. My serious introduction to Contemporary African-American Music took place during the mid-forties, and I say serious because I was caught up in a very "popular" music of that period which was classified as "Rhythm and Blues". Nevertheless, I was introduced by three of my buddies to the late Charles "Bird" Parker's playing via phonograph recordings. After the first time I heard "Bird" I thought my buddies were losing their minds, since they were all chuckling and enjoying the music - which made no sense to me at all. Since I had known these guys for the better half of my teenage life, and I respected them, I decided to visit the one who had the phonograph and the recordings for several days after school. After about five days of listening, for about an hour or so each day, the music that "Bird" was playing came through to me - it was fantastic! And as a direct result of that listening experience I ultimately became a musician. I say this for people who have thoughts that the Contemporary African-American Music must instantaneously hit you over the head. For some this may occur, however, like so many other aspects in life there is a nurturing and an appreciation that has to take place before acceptance as a way of life occurs.
The response of the listening public regarding "popular sounds" is generally to tap one's foot to the beat, sing or perhaps hum parts of the melodic line, vocally imitate the bass line, shake one's head, clap one's hands, shake one's skin to rhythm, etc. In short, entertainment is the thrust of the music that is currently programmed into the community across the nation. This need not be the case, but unfortunately it is. Several years ago I was involved in a discussion with a well known disc jockey, and when I asked if he thought it was part of his responsibility to shape the new music, at that time, with his audiences his reply was no, and that he did not see himself as an educator. Is radio a form of education? If so, why then is there no Contemporary African-American Music being presented? These same radio stations present the "latest" news but not the latest music.
There is a close relationship between what we hear and how we think, and if what we hear is forced upon us then we will not think but rather we will react to the process that is forced upon us. We are, therefore, caught in a music appreciation/ cultural bind. We are not allowed any option in this regard. This control by a segment of society (record producers, program directors, disc jockeys) is operative in this country. Is it not some form of education that is being sought when one turns on the radio in any attempt to hear Contemporary African-American Music?
Any listening experience translates into a variety of experiences, and since the vast majority of the radio listening audience is forced to listen to the same music in the African-American tradition, consequently there is little room for any new ideas on a variety of subjects/issues. And because of the lack of diversity with regard to listening to Contemporary African-American Music the vast majority of our society is going nowhere fast. That is to say that because of the sameness in the programming of "popular" African-American Music that no new concepts are forthcoming regarding cultural, emotional, societal, and economic experiences. What I am referring to here is that as a result of the present programming regarding Contemporary African-American Music that the possibilities of new ideas which helps a nation in a variety of ways is not being encouraged. And what is happening is the vast majority of the listeners are being held in check, and since time marches onward they the listeners and believers in the "popular" are retarding themselves on many levels. Furthermore, the practice of pumping the so called "popular" music into the communities is to do just what is happening, i.e. control the masses with what is called "popular" music. Since music is a somewhat abstract phenomenon I think that if the masses were allowed to listen to Contemporary African-American Music that the experience would provoke a thought, and that the thought would lead to some action heretofore unheard of by the controlling segment of society.
The lack of exposure regarding Contemporary African-American Music can be solved. The problem, non-existent exposure of Contemporary African-American Music, can be solved in a variety of ways. Allow me to suggest two ways that may begin to deal with the problem, and they are: 1) Contact your favourite disc jockeys by telephoning and writing requesting that they include daily in some segment of their show/program Contemporary African-American Music. 2) Read the papers that carry information regarding concerts and try attending them - although you may not have heard of any of the performing artists before. You may find that you are discovering a new and more positive way of life. Finally, Contemporary African-American Music is for Contemporary people.
Sister Precious another African-Caribbean composition was written in 1975 for the alto saxophone and is a sixteen bar song.
Don't I was written in Japan in 1953 and was originally conceived as a medium bounce number that I played on the flute. However, for this date I decided to slow it down and play the melody on bassoon. The structure is eight bars, which are repeated, the bridge which contains eight bars, a return to the first seven bars, and a tag of four bars bringing the total number of bars to thirty-five.
Daybreak was composed in 1969 for the alto saxophone, is in four-four time and constructed on a whole tone scale starting on E major seventh chord for two bars and moving down to D major seventh chord for two bars, C major seventh chord for one bar, B flat major seventh for one bar, A flat major seventh for one bar, G flat major seventh for one bar and finally resolving to E major seventh, an octave lower, for four bars. The twelve bars are repeated. The bridge is eight bars and the musicians are free to play anything they feel but must end it by the end of the eight measures. Then the first twelve measures are repeated to round out the chorus of forty-two measures.
Puunti was composed in 1973 and is in the African-Caribbean tradition. The title is a pet name that my mother called my sisters when we were youngsters. The melody is sixteen bars and is repeated.
Open Horizon was composed in 1968. The melody is built on perfect fifths starting on D flat progressing upwards to A flat, E flat, B flat, and F natural, and finally to C natural. The pitches when stacked spell out D flat major seventh with the ninth and sixth included. The composition is constructed for maximum creativity by the players, and all of the players are improvising while at the same time listening and feeling each other. The composition ends by retracing the opening melodic line to the original starting pitch, D flat.
Jawne was composed in 1963 for the alto saxophone refers to my brother in law who many years ago pronounced his name John Jawne. The form consists of eight measures of African-Caribbean rhythm, five bars of straight bebop, four bars of African-Caribbean rhythm and finally eight measures of three beats to the bar bringing the total number of bars for the chorus to twenty five. This is a festive composition.
Sendai was written in 1953 while I was hospitalized in Japan. This composition was originally conceived in four-four time, and in the key of G minor; however, for this recording I changed the time signature from four-four to six-eight time and changed the key from G minor to E flat minor. The reasons for the time change is the six lopes whereas the four does not, and the reason for the key change is that the oboe sound is darker in the low register and the sound has more body.
Bee Pod another name for Bebop was written in 1958 for the alto saxophone. However, I had not entertained the thought of doing it quite as fast as we do it here, but I felt one of the tracks for this date should be fast. Hence Bee Pod.