The ‘New Thing’ as Polemic: Aesthetics as Identity, 1965–1967
Agency and ownership, on the part of both music creators and their audiences, are themes that emerge in this discourse. Specifically, abstraction in the new thing was targeted as the means through which an artist’s motives, as well as the integrity and value of the music itself, might be determined and judged. I consider how techniques of abstraction in the new thing disclosed, citing Phillip Brian Harper, a unique representation of “social facts” that subverted the expectation of legibility so central to modern jazz criticism and consumption in postwar United States. How the aesthetic challenge of the new thing might be framed as a matter of knowingness—a recognition of the artists’ personhood and an acknowledgment of creative expression’s intrinsic politics—is my attempt to unravel experimentalism’s thorny reception in the music literature of this period.
Kwami Coleman is a musicologist, composer, and musician. He is an Assistant Professor of Musicology at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. He released his debut recording, Local Music, in February 2017; it is a bricolage of original compositions for keyboards, bass, drums, and interpolated field recordings captured in Harlem, his home neighborhood, between 2014–16. Kwami is at work on a book tentatively titled Change: The “New Thing” and Modern Jazz, but the title may very well change too.