Steve Colemans Antwort1) auf die Frage, wie Von Freemans Aussage „Don't tune up too much, baby -- you'll lose your soul!” zu verstehen sei:


Here is what I believe Von meant by that quote.

The concept of pitch tolerance (i.e., how narrow or wide the perception of pitches is) is different for the various traditions, even in different time periods within the same tradition. This all has to do with the orb or area of influence of a pitch.

An orb is a sphere of interest, influence, or activity. I view it as a window, inside of which an influence is said to be effective or in force. The same is true with pitches. Musicians typically do not play the exact pitches by science definitions. If A = 440 Hz is the pitch standard of a given community of musicians, and in a performance a musician plays the pitch A (above middle C), it is almost certain that it will not be an A 440 Hz that is played, but something ‘close’ to A 440 Hz, close enough that the group of musicians would still call the pitch A. It may be a little above or below the defined A. The question is, how far above or below A 440 Hz can a pitch be, before it is called another pitch?

This is what I call an orb. The same concept exists with rhythms, and it also exits in astrology. The Wikipedia definition of an astrological ‘orb’ is:

In astrology, the orb is how much an angle made by two points differs from the exactness of an aspect. A trine, for instance, is 120 degrees. If two points were 123 degrees apart, they would be said to be in a trine with an orb of 3 degrees. It is generally held in astrological delineation that the larger the orb, the less powerful the aspect's effect is.

So, astrologers would say that 123 degrees is still within orb of a trine.

This concept exists everywhere in Nature and with artifacts. How far does a language have to get from what is considered proper English, before it is not longer considered English?

So, to answer your question, Von told me this after he invited me up to play, and then I asked the piano player (John Young, a cat who grew up with Von) to play the pitch A, then I started to tune up my saxophone. And it was taking me a while, LOL. So as I went on and on, Von looked at me and said, “Don't tune up too much, baby -- you'll lose your soul.”.

And at the time, I was thinking something like “What is this old man talking about now?”. I didn’t have a clue what he was saying. I was taught in high school (just a few years before this happened) that you should always tune up before you play, and try to be as in tune as possible. But as time went on, I noticed that I'd never seen the cats from the era of Von Freeman, Sonny Stitt, etc., tune up even once, at least not the African-American cats. They tuned up (i.e., adjust the pitch of their instruments) as they are playing.

For a woodwind instrument, there is no such thing as being perfectly in tune. You 'center' the instrument in a certain pitch zone or window, depending on your technique, embouchure, etc., and then from there you have to 'play' in tune. But unlike European Art Music (i.e., European ‘Classical’ Music), in the tradition that I learned, there is a lot of pitch manipulation, bending of tones, use of different timbres, etc., so that the pitch concept is very malleable. 

Expressed in a certain way, which is culturally dependent, a lot of that variability is perceived as an expression of soul. What Von was trying to tell me was not to get too far away from all of that, because that aesthetic is a major part of the music. But at the time that he told me this, I was too young and inexperienced to realize what he was saying, it took me many years to understand. That's the way these cats taught, usually with these one-liner parable-like phrases, that are planted like seeds in your mind, and then the understanding grows over the years.




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  1. am 18.2.2012 im Internet-Forum Steve Coleman Archives Forum; Internet-Adresse:



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