I should start by saying that I have a long-held distrust of the term "post-modern" and all that comes with it. I first came across it in a post-1945 music history class, in reference to Berio, Rochberg, the minimalists (I'll spare you the argument- I thought it a stretch) and- wait for it- Zorn's Naked City, among others. We got a good dollop of the signified and signifier, simulacrum, and the other gobelty-gook that comes with the term. The teacher also pointed us to Umberto Eco's Travels in Hyperreality, which I did enjoy thoroughly, and his idea that somehow wax museums are recreated castles were seeking to be "even better than the real thing".
My distrust is partially academic- the professor teaching the class did some things that I found academically, er, questionable in terms of sourcing and the like to justify his arguments, and in at least one case (Rochberg), what the professor opined about a particular piece and what the composer said about the piece were profoundly at odds. None of the (admittedly little) reading I've done in the field improved my opinion of postmodern scholarship. Further, there has always been borrowing and retooling in all the arts, not just music. Are we going to call Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn post-modern? Renaissance recasting of Greek mythic figures? The hundreds of retellings of the Odyssey through western culture?
More importantly, though, my understanding of post-modernism is that it rests on the idea that no art has true intrinsic value, only that which one, person or culture, bestows on it. If you take that argument back far enough, it leads to the idea that no person, no soul, has any intrinsic value. Which can justify any number of heinous crimes against humanity, which I always thought the creation of art was the opposite of. (Maybe I'm too harsh- please chime it) And if you're ironic (one of the hallmarks of "great postmodern work"), you don't have to be honest, which again I always considered one of the hallmarks of art. (Note irony is not the same thing as satire, though the two are obviously connected) I can say for sure that most of the explicitly "post-modern" music I've either played or heard in performance is definitely more fun for the player than the listener, and has always left me ten minutes after it ended.
That's why I could never get into Naked City, which TIG mentions explicitly; it's a tremendous accomplishment, no doubt, but to what end? I've always thought (and what little I've heard from musicians involved backs this up) that the players thought of it as a game, a lot of fun and a very demanding music, but didn't put too much into what it meant. And it's why I've never thought much about Bill Frisell, featured in TIG's post (or many jazz musicians, actually) particularly in a postmodern context, though I don't disagree with TIG, (since he did quote, well, me) Hence my use of the word "authenticity". I don't consider what Frisell's done with language a whole lot different than what Miles did when he (by his own claims, at least) tried to blend the language of bebop, Julliard and Clark Terry with the delivery of Orson Wells.
Is The Bad Plus post-modern jazz? Behind Zorn they'd be the first place I go with that thought- clear mastery of several genres, lots of in jokes, fracturing source material seemingly for the sake of fracuring it? Stanley Crouch, hardly a post-moderninst ponders this in their interview:
"But you (TBP) also don't play anything after the head that that anybody would call pop music. Your first phrase, after the melody, is always totally "out." I find it really interesting how your audience is shocked and exhilarated by the conclusions you come to with a melody they already know.
To me, the conception of The Bad Plus is actually derived from the way Coltrane and his band played "My Favorite Things," which is really far from hearing Julie Andrews sing it. What Coltrane--what everybody in his band--was playing on it is like…[shrugs] "What are they playing?" --"'My Favorite Things.'" --"Where is 'My Favorite Things' here? I don't get it." That's The Bad Plus, too."Ethan? (In the comments to TIG's post, Mwanji brings up a critic's assessment, very reasonable, I think, of Jason Moran as a high post-modernist as well)
In relation to TIG's comments about Mina Agossi (who I don't know at all), her quote begs the question- what DOES touch her, if Lady Day doesn't? Clearly what she does touches TIG, but does that have to do with what she sings, or what a listener connects to that delivery, or something else? Is that then inherently post-modern?
I used to debate this idea with some heady friends ad nauseum in college, but I grew bored of it- seemed like a fight I didn't need, and didn't have to invite myself to. But the question behind post-modernism always seemed to be, to me at least, is there something in art that is inherently, intrinsically valuable. "Pomo" seems to say no, and that always bothered me. It's the guest at the party that oozes coolness, impresses the herd, says witty but empty things, and ultimately contributes nothing to the event. If that is where art is, or is headed, it's something I want no part of, and want to show up as a clothesless emperor. If not, I need more edjumacation.
To be continued, perhaps- I didn't really answer the question, did I? Feedback encouraged.