The Encounter of Classical Music and Jazz

Gulistan on Music

Besides painting, music is another important part of my life. I indulge myself in many types of music, with Jazz and classical music being my favorites. The latter is the “core” of my inner world. Bach has always been in my favor. Later on, Jacques Loussier played an indispensable role in my career.

Jacques Loussier is a French Jazz pianist. Born in 1934, he received formal education in classical music. In contemporary times, he was the first who played the works of Bach and Debussy in a Jazz style, which makes the “encounter” of classical music and Jazz music possible. Jacques Loussier’s trio playing Bach live from St. Thomas’s Church in Leipzig is my favorite. To Jacques Loussier, who is free in playing classical music and Jazz, there is no difference between the two types of music. It is a coincidence that Jacques Loussier played Bach’s music in a Jazz style in St. Thomas’s Church, where Bach had been the chief inspector of music hundreds of years earlier. It can be viewed as the encounter between Bach, the father of music, and Jacques Loussier, the modern Jazz master. It is said that Jacques Loussier sets free Bach’s notes. As for me, I live with Jacques Loussier’s fast-rhythmic notes. With the notes I sleep, I feel, I compose music. All these bring me to ecstasy. It seems that I was dancing with the eidolons in the universe, sunlight dazzling, music so pure. Such a feeling gives me inspiration for my painting.

Playing Jazz on impulse makes the music perfect. Jazz music is influenced by various types of music, such as classical music, march music, Gospel songs, labor songs, Ragtime, Blues and pop music. Bach’s music has been the source for many Jazz players in each period of Jazz’s development, among whom Jacques Loussier made the best use of it. I hope that Jacques Loussier will take me higher and higher. Being guided by the soul of the pure music, I find a serene nook in the crowded world, where I see more beauty and light. I am absorbed by his fast-rhythmic and powerful notes.

I was told once that listening to Jazz is like feeling an old sofa to recall the old days. I think it is not nostalgia but the judging of one’s whole life. “Long is history, there is no gap between you and it. You can even feel it with your heart, remove the shadow over it. The music played in the old days is reheard…”

Jazz plays a very important role in America. It is an art created collectively. Art is targeted to present something unseen. It enables us to know ourselves in an easy way, for with it, artists express their own emotion, make themselves heard. In addition, art requires more besides individual feelings. It is in constant change, twirling and moving in time and space, seeking light and the meaning behind “plot”. Some “true meaning” and “the world of life” are searched for. Different people have different feelings while listening to Jazz. To me, what I feel most in it is “freedom”. I love freedom and the air over fresh earth.

Listening to Jazz enables us to know individual experiences, from which we see ourselves. When you learn stories about Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington and Billy Holiday, you will believe that Jazz music is a form of celebrating life, human life, and the process of life. It is about sadness and happiness, white and black, man and woman, Old Africa and Old Europe. With freedom as its theme, Jazz is a way to release human feelings. It is a process of creation itself. Creation is a pleasure. With its nature and its mysterious soul, we are solaced. Though man is fettered by time and space, the soul can take off, striving for “time over time”.

Ralph Arison holds that we cannot truly understand Jazz unless we pay attention to the things that run through our life.

At the beginning of the Twenties, Chicago was the center of Jazz music. Louis Armstrong revised the style of Jazz after he joined the Large Jazz Ensemble. Bandsmen gained opportunity to perform individually to show their talents. From the Thirties to Forties, Jazz was in its mature period, which boasted a number of great Jazz musicians, such as Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw and Count Basie.

In the Thirties, swing bands functioned mainly as public dance bands. Jazz was dancing music for most of its history. Swing Jazz might be the most popular type of Jazz music. Accompanying it were a few outstanding bands, such as those led by Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson.

Louis Armstrong, born on August 4th, 1901 in New Orleans, is an important figure in the history of Jazz music. He is the most preeminent trumpet player, being the first important solo player. He is regarded as God’s gift for the world. Energetic as ever, he made it clear that in the future, Jazz would be improvised music played with rich imagination and passion. “He is Bach and Dante in American music. He combined all in the past to show the road for the development of Jazz,” said Gary Giddins, a famous Jazz critic. His “shouting” in improvised performance was followed, even by Ella Fitzgerald. Another figure worth mentioning is Duke Ellington, the most important composer and conductor in the history of Jazz music. A prolific musician, Ellington also composed for film and musical opera.

Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday and Sarah Vaughan, the queens of Jazz, are my beloveds. “Their voices possess a magic power, able to make my soul fly… The voices form a series of notes, hovering around me. The feelings are unspeakable with paintings and words. You have to feel their voices, searching for the melody of your soul together with them.” The melody of their songs helps me feel the “breathing of my soul”. One can feel the heartbeat in their voices.

I am traveling in the world of painting and music. Tranquil is classical music while free is Jazz. I wish my liberated soul can be freer and freer. Inspiration is aroused by the warmth that I feel while listening to music.

Music is a form of life. All artists strive to pursue the state that is achieved in music. Compared with painting, music is much more intangible. The ardor in me about dancing permeates through my life. Painting is vestige through precipitation. Music, making me thrilled, can only be discussed in music terms. It is only with music that a soul can reach heaven in a second on some special occasion. My inspiration comes from Jazz, such as Bach’s music, my spiritual guide, and Ravel’s piano solos which polish my inspiration. Such feelings help me find the true reason to paint and thus finish the painting smoothly. In the process, fluid feelings are embodied by visible paintings while transient time turns into eternity. Driving by feelings in life, I immerse myself in painting.

—Gulistan
(Translated by Guo Jian)

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