American Parallels Galore

“Early baseball (i.e. U.S. rounders) was supposed to give batters more opportunities than in cricket, by reducing the role of the pitcher/bowler to that of “feeder.” Yet today’s baseball is a pitcher’s game, while modern cricket is the sport that really gives batters the major role. Baseball and cricket, then, came from very similar backgrounds. They looked a lot like each other, in baseball’s early days. But after 1850 the two games drifted apart, and each assumed its own character and identity. The major difference between early rounders and cricket in North America was that the bowler/pitcher had no role in getting the batter out; the batter could only be “run out” or “caught.” Gradually, the rules were also changed to give back the ‘feeder’ or ‘pitcher’ more of a role in getting batters out: they were allowed to pitch as they wished, not how the striker wanted him to (as in rounders). Cricket became a longer and more leisurely game as batters (batsmen) began to dominate the sport, and wanted more time to display their individual skills. Baseball, on the other hand, became shorter and more abbreviated. Pitchers assumed an active rather than passive role, then came to dominate the sport.”

“In the minds of most people, at the heart of jazz is the improvised solo.  Critical attention is almost invariably devoted to the analysis of solos by the great jazz musicians. Discussions of ensemble work are rare indeed in jazz literature.  So much is the improvised solo seen as the essence of the music that listeners feel cheated when they discover that a solo is not the sudden outpouring of an open heart but has been memorized and repeated night after night, or even written out and played from sheet music.

“Jazz, as American art music situated in modernity, minus the solo, ceases to exist in any form worthy of critical analysis.  The improvised solo is the essence of jazz.

“There are specific historical bases for a marked rise in individualism within America and subsequently within America’s music.  An analysis of the first recordings of jazz music indicates the absence of the solo.  The first quarter of the 20th century yielded only an ensemble form of early jazz.  (James Lincoln) Collier designates this as a function of European or white influence, ‘the Victorian nineteenth century was the great age of the massive ensemble… it was the time of the large marching band,’ and describes the occasional solo in music as ‘the spice in the stew,’ whereas ‘the meat and potatoes was the ensemble; the larger, the better.’

 “What changed?  Again, Collier has the answer:        

‘What happened, I think, was that by the middle of the decade, the new spirit of modernism, with its crying-up of freedom, emotionalism, and expressiveness, had escaped bohemian and artistic circles and was rushing into the mainstream.  The call was no longer for community, but for individualism.'”

“On the face of it a one-step system, like Daguerre’s, would seem preferable to a two-step system, and there is no evidence to suggest that Talbot would have devised the negative-positive system if a one-step system had suggested itself first. The principle of (more or less) endless reproducibility later came to be thought of as central to the very meaning of photography, but it was not a central issue to the generation that invented photography. It was their grander and less utilitarian goal to capture a field of energy on a screen.

“Nevertheless, once Talbot had demonstrated his simple, brilliant idea, it was obvious to anyone that one negative could yield an infinite number of prints—or at least more than the world would conceivably want. The idea of publishing photographs, in books or as loose prints, followed soon behind.”  -“Photography Until Now”

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