Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Jazz Talk

So I was at an information session on super, and how they were investing stuff. This was prior to my degree when my interest in finance was just blossoming (before it withered and died) and they were saying a lot of things about dollar cost averaging and other investment things. But he was talking about the asset classes performance of the previous year (then 2006 or some shit) but the presenter from the managed fund made a point he needed to make: "profit = risk, and property performed best therefore it must be the highest risk."

It's a principle certainly, profit = risk. And you can derive from that principle another one: no profit = no risk.

Now let's talk about Jazz. I've only recently had the point of Jazz, particularly free jazz explained to me. It's about being open to new listening experiences, for the performers - communication. Of course it's also about experimentation, an open state that leads to creativity.

But I feel an injustice is being done. Jazz as a genre of music is low risk. And it must be, because it is so much less profitable than pop. Counter-intuitive yes, how can 'boy meets girl, boy loses girl' be more risky than playing free jazz that drives certain crowds out of the club.

But it's simple, everyone can assess and subsequently reject any particular sample of 'boy meets girl, boy loses girl' whereas one requires some kind of expertise or standing in a community to accept or reject an experimental jazz tune.

Experimentation, is a low volatility, tinkering approach that can produce happy and sad accidents. That is why I value free jazz, and Jazz's influence on the evolution of mainstream pop music is phenomenal. But the profitability out of more vanilla three-chord progressions is undeniable.

Jazz is your classic technology industry where the innovation is rare and hard fought for, and rarely does the inventor reap any profit beyond recognition from fellow experimenters. But it isn't bold and brave and furthermore, is not entrepreneurial. It's low risk, guaranteed to make no money and virtually guaranteed to not speak to an audience.

One can fail at pop, because it is a high risk genre to experiment with. Devolution of music into noise can ruin a pop composition. Not the case with free Jazz. The majority of free jazz music is certainly not worthless, discovering what doesn't work is still progress, but that doesn't mean that it is worth listening to. In the same way that practicing scales or rudiments is not worthless, but not worth listening to.

So Jazz away, audiences and performers can stand to gain a lot, but no kudos for being risk takers, it is the antithesis of risk taking.

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