Texaco and the Knitting FactoryThere's an article in the July 20 Nation about what kind of business interests Michael Dorf of the "avant-garde" Knitting Factory had and has: avant garde niche market. It's a telling joke how he and Texaco teamed up following the racist remarks on the Texaco tapes. Texaco had the dollars, M. Dorf, stroking his goatee, had the race-culture cred. I haven't read that article yet, but I recall hearing or reading some time ago that Texaco took some heat for its connections with Fascist regimes in the 1930s and started sponsoring the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts as part of a campaign to clean up it's corporate image. Plus la change, plus l'est la meme chose. (But I have to admit that I enjoyed the hell out of those broadcasts in the 1950's especially, when they exposed me to music I would otherwise never have heard.
For the same reason, I think it's good that the Knitting Factory is getting "bigger". But I don't know how much hope I have in it being other than a negative reason. Though I havn't thought about these things dialectically.
Improvisation in music has become a genre: improvised music. Recording/commodifiction and improvisation are mutually exclusive. Improvisation implies a temporal situation, an interaction that cannot be separated from, that *is* its very temporal context--that recording makes static, and most importantly available to be repeated. And here I'd stress I'm not being idealistic. The spirit of improvisation may sound through the recording, but the process among the musicians, the interaction, the production of that spirit, eludes the systematization, the composition, that happens to any sequence of sounds after enough repetitions. It's a distinction between production and consumption.
Jacques Atalli writes a little about this stuff in his _Noise: The Political Economy of Music_. He periodizes the history of music. We have it pretty rough today, though, because according to him we're in the "repetition" phase, where the music commodity works to silence or at best rechannel direct dissent. That's why improvisation is crucial, it's a rupture of repetition, and a useful thing to consider in the nexus of music commodity/body/musical instrument (or CD player or turn table).