Spontaneous Order in Jazz

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Spontaneous order has order. It is not chaos or random. The order comes about without central planning. That is what spontaneous means. There is competition to produce order, however. Individuals plan, propose fashions, sounds, grammatical structures, produce objects of art, formulate theories, and so on. People accept or decline what is offered, join or do not join. There are orderly processes of choice within the competition that bring about what is then termed a spontaneous order. Spontaneous doesn’t mean emergent without human action. It means emergent without a central planner. Spontaneous order presumes a free environment in which the order arises. It is not an order produced by force of arms or conquest, edict, rule or threat.

Jonathan Wightman sent me his observations on jazz:

“Jazz is not constrained by rules and regulations of a single central planner. How possibly could one composer know exactly how unique individuals should play the notes (and which notes to play for that matter!)? It is music that is spur of the moment and it’s possible to never hear it played the same way twice…and certainly never the same way if played with a different group of individuals! How sad Jazz would be without individual creativity and expression. Free to experiment and make beautiful music…free to make mistakes…free to learn from everyone and follow no one…free to do your own thing and be encouraged/rewarded for doing so. Freedom and Jazz? Perhaps not by accident.”

Jazz music came about spontaneously but via human action. Certain musicians played in ways that were adopted by others, and certain other ways were discarded. Some musicians explored new harmonic paths, others new melodic paths, others new instrumental combinations, and others altogether new ways of playing an instrument. Exploration proceeded via individuals who had definite ideas of beauty in sound, freedom in playing and expression, coordination of several musicians, and order, but the overall process was still spontaneous and had no central planner, no coercion. The tuba gave way to the string bass. A rhythm section came about. One could write a book or many books on the innovations alone. There was and still is a large amount of experimentation in every possible aspect of this music. And yet there came about order. Not all music is jazz and not all that anyone freely performs is jazz music.

The whole process of jazz arising and changing has been extremely interesting.

11:24 am on November 22, 2013