“Let’s take it from the top.” This musical expression reveals a simple, ordinary truth: the only place to start is at the beginning. It is precisely at this, genetic point where things become most difficult. There is no widespread agreement on where the song begins. No one seems to know the intro. We don’t even know whether we’re in tune with each other or not; and some (fashionably) reject the very existence of music. How, then, can we begin?
There have been many philosophical attempts to get at this beginning—or to get around it completely. The result has been something like a negative attunement: we only share the fact that we don’t share very much. We have no foundational, genesis stories or realities to wrestle with and chew on; and this has become our foundation. This is kin to the harmony of some forms of free jazz, where everyone is so far gone, so “out,” that they dwell in a radical, rooted unity.
I am not convinced that this chaotic and wild sort of attunement can sustain the rigors of our subjects and objects of inquiry. I am not selling it as an axiom or a solution. My opinion of it, like my opinion of most free jazz, tends to think that it is too shaky. I am simply trying to describe what I think we have to work with. I don’t know if these ingredients go together at all, whether they will be good for us to eat or whatnot: but I do think that we cannot escape the fact that this is what confronts us in this early stage: the problem of where to begin.
We do not know where or when or how to begin. Everything is guesswork. I, for one, have very little confidence in the terms of this discussion: from Formative Justice to that nebulous and slippery term, ‘education.’ But there is so much work to do. Who has the patience—or the indifference—to sit around wait for a good place to start? Our task is everywhere and it is obvious and concrete. So, perhaps, there is something—a provisional foundation—that gives us (or at least myself) enough traction to start.
For me, it is this: there are people in this space who are serious, who have been working on their instruments for longer than I have; with skill, dedication, and sophistication; with whom I am very excited to improvise. This is where it all begins for me.
You are invited to this space to too. Join us! It’s a jam session.
So, where do we begin?