December 5, 2023
Performances & Events
“Ornette Coleman’s Utopian Intentionalities, c. 1966,” Dr. Michael Gallope
Department of Musicology
October 6, 2023 | 4:30 pmWatkins Lecture Hall
Earl V. Moore Building
1100 Baits Dr
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Free - no tickets required
This talk discusses Ornette Coleman’s The Empty Foxhole (1966), a collaborative album with bassist Charlie Haden and Coleman’s 10-year-old son, Denardo on drums. In addition to featuring a child drummer, the album features Coleman’s first recordings on the violin, an instrument he taught himself to play left-handed with no aim of learning to play it “correctly.” Critics responded with bewilderment as to how to evaluate The Empty Foxhole, which thwarted normative conceptions of skill and expressive intentionality in jazz. To elevate the conceptual stakes of his album, this paper positions it in context with two discourses: Amiri Baraka’s dialectical writings on Afro-modernism in Blues People (1963), and Coleman’s own philosophy of “harmolodics,” as it was expressed in various interviews and writings from the 1970s onward. In these publications, Coleman’s language skates around ambiguously, evading the assignment of precise technical terms to the album’s sounds and techniques in ways that call into question the human sincerity of intention. Against the backdrop of Baraka’s musical perspective on racial inequity, Coleman’s work aspired to a socially inclusive utopia that affirmed the multiplicity of vernacular grammars while thwarting their synthesis by way of indeterminate rules and intentions.
MICHAEL GALLOPE is Associate Professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota where he is affiliate faculty in the School of Music, the Department of American Studies, the Program in Religious Studies, and the Program in Moving Image, Media, and Sound. He is the author of Deep Refrains: Music, Philosophy, and the Ineffable (University of Chicago Press, 2017) and The Musician as Philosopher: New York’s Vernacular Avant-Garde, 1958–78 (Forthcoming 2024, University of Chicago Press). As a musician, he has worked in a variety of genres that span a range of experimental music, rock, and electronic dance music.
This program is organized by the Department of Musicology at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance.