He's not satisfied hearing missed opportunities, so he is "forced" to compose and perform on his own terms.
> Either you play a whole chord against it, or else . . . but don’t try to play it like you’d play, ah, Walkin’ the Dog. You know what I mean?
> They move up in triads, but there’s all those chords missing – and I never heard any Spanish thing where they had a figure that went
> and you’ve got to have the rhythm section along; you just can’t keep on playing all eighth notes.
Imagine that every time you listen to music, there's something else you want to hear. You have to get better at making music, or else you'll never get to hear that thing you want to hear.
Personal anecdote: I was reading the other day and started to get disappointed, angry even, at the kinds of stories I was reading. I kept feeling that the stories were laden with missed opportunities for exploration, drawn out tension that couldn't carry the weight it was given, and hackneyed philosophy.
I got a bit frightened that I might "have to" become an author. I'm not that good at writing, to be honest. But in order to read the story I want to read, I might have no other choice.
(And of course, I'm glad Miles Davis was a musician and not a critic.)
I think there might be a difference between enjoying a discipline and needing its produce.
I definitely code for the latter purpose and envy those who have both.
(1) "I like Louis! Anything he does is all right....That's Bobby Hackett, too; I always did like Bobby Hackett - anything by him. Jack Teagarden's on trombone. I'd give it five stars." September 1955, on Louis Armstrong's _Ain't Misbehavin'_
(2) "I don't know who that was, Leonard. Sounds good in spots, but I don't like that kind of trumpet playing....It's a good little number except for that interlude and that tired way of playing trumpet. I'll give that three stars." August 1958, on Don Elliott and Rusty Dedrick's _Gargantuan Chant_
(3) "Clark Terry, right? You know, I've always liked Clark. But this is a sad record. Why do they make records like that? With the guitar in the way, and that sad...piano player. He didn't do nothing for the rhythm section - didn't you hear it get jumbled up? All they needed was a bass and Terry." June 1964, on Clark Terry's _Cielito Lindo_
(4) "I don't dig that kind of , man, just a straight thirty-two bars, I mean whatever it is....It's formal, man, and scales and all that....No kind of sound, straight sound - no imagination. They shouldn't even put that out....Freddie's a great trumpet player....if he's directed, because he must have other imagination, other than this. I wouldn't even put that on a record." June 1968, on Freddie Hubbard's _On the Que-Tee_
Admittedly, I might not have always picked the exact version but it's sometimes hard to tell. Also, it's for the 4 different sessions as linked by jeroen: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4258777
I think it's in everyone's interest, and especially HN's to learn as much as possible about, and from, all masters in their fields. Anything that can broaden your horizon can give you a better perspective on not just culture in general but your life as an individual.
Thanks to this article I found a fantastic song in "Desafinado". Maybe one day I'll happen to be in conversation with a jazz buff and I'll be able to discuss it with a modicum of intelligence.
One should never argue that learning in any field (especially from the masters) is "irrelevant" (not saying that you are), as any and all learning is precious.
 I'd posit that HN is less about software, programming, startups, etc, etc than it is about enlightening people to become entrepreneurs and taste makers within our individual fields (which happen to be computationally based) while encouraging a general thirst for knowledge.
 As entrepreneurs and people who hopefully deliver value to customers, knowledge about the culture we live in is tantamount in delivering a product that resonates with our target market.
Here's why I think he's interesting:
1. He was an astonishingly good businessman in a time when black men were rarely given opportunities in business, even in the music industry. He is nearly unique even in the jazz world (which was better for black folks than most other industries of the time) for the level of his business success.
2. He was a great leader. He's regarded as one of the best jazz band leaders ever. He helped nurture multiple generations of jazz greats. If you can name a jazz legend from any time until his death, they probably played with Miles before they were a legend. An executive at a startup would do well to learn from him how to pass on skills and help develop even greater talents than their own (many people who played with Miles ended up being better musicians than Miles, and pretty much all became better than they were before they played with Miles).
3. He's interesting. Which could be enough. Nerds like interesting people and things.
I "know" Miles from his younger days with Diz and Bird. A middle class kid from KC - one or both parents dentists who weren't planning on a musician for a son. Much talent at a young age - he toured w the creators of Be Bop, fer cripe's sake. Think he rescued Bird on the road more than once.
All of this is recalled from Phil Schaap's Bird Flight on WKCR. It'd be great to know Miles was a briliant businessman in addition, too.
"And the Prince of Silence is still being royally rewarded for doing it. His Highness's treasury is overflowing. Money is every bit as important to him as creativity. Or rather, they are inseparable. Obliging record companies, promoters and broadcasters to pay top dollar also commits them to saturation promotion, which encourages business and maintains the price. Money is a symbol of reality, even - especially - money for nothing.
Miles said he could put together a better rock band than Jimi Hendrix. He advised young musicians to learn rock, rhythm and blues and funk tunes rather than jazz standards. "I have to change," he said. "It's like a curse." Miles goes to the money, but it's more complicated than that: The money comes to him.
He has been paid millions to expand frontiers, to reflect the best of our urban experience, to do exactly what he wanted to do and did better than anyone else - to "play what's not there." The artistry with which he relates to money is an art in itself, an integral part of what makes him - whether he likes it or not - a living legend. His multimillion-dollar mansion in Malibu is one of his greatest hits. Miles Davis plays money with as much conviction as he does the trumpet.
After college, I worked in my family's business. Jealous of Miles for making money and music, I compensated by eating and drinking. Coming out of the Russian Tea Room after a three-martini lunch with Bethlehem Steel one afternoon, I crossed Miles stepping out of his Ferrari on the way in. Wearing a Savile Row suit, a Billy Eckstine shirt collar and leather driving gloves with belts on them, he punched me harder than playfully in the stomach and said: "You're getting fat, Mike.""
Found in http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html
I'd say this definitely gratifies my intellectual curiosity, though I can understand if you don't feel the same.
"Off-Topic: Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon. Videos of pratfalls or disasters, or cute animal pictures. If they'd cover it on TV news, it's probably off-topic."
It is an interesting article and I love Miles Davis but it doesn't belong on HN. Stop trying to fool yourself. Almost anything could be considered to satisfy one's intellectual curiosity. That is a silly cop-out.
This article says nothing about why Miles was a good businessman or expound on his leadership skills. All it gives us is insight into his taste in composition styles. That, coupled with the fact that music is a highly unscientific endeavor and the reasons he gives for disliking some of the works might be the exact reasons why others might love those very works, makes this article completely useless IMHO.
Does that make it "HN-worthy"? I dunno. It got voted up. I don't consider that a sure sign of worthiness...memes and jokes would also get voted up if they weren't ruthlessly removed by mods, and they definitely aren't HN-worthy. But, I suspect this has something to teach us...or at least provides interesting conversation fodder in areas that most people here probably previously had none. I studied jazz at a high school for fine arts and in college, and Miles Davis is a huge part of a jazz education; I still feel like this gave me some knowledge about Miles that I didn't quite have before (I knew he was a merciless critic, and extremely forthright, and occasionally an asshole; but I don't think I'd ever read it straight from his mouth...I'd read what his band members had said about him).
Also see this econtalk episode: http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2012/06/jonah_lehrer_on.htm...
> And I thought about the following. Jobs and Dylan had something in common, which is they blurted out often cruel things to people around them, which we often call--as adults we call it selfish. [...]
> [Jonah Lehrer]: It all comes back. No, no, it's a fascinating question. What really interests me about that is, especially in terms of Steve Jobs, because I think we've got this epic biography of him at this point, is the way it complicates our traditional notions of self-control. I think we often think of self-control as domain-general : If you've got self-control, you can exert self-control in every facet of your life.
All I am trying to say is, in this case, the article is a bunch of opinion from a Jazz musician about fellow Jazz musicians and bands. How does this fit in with other HN threads?
I would say that something like Frank Zappa on censorship   is much more suited to HN discussion than this link.
How do you rate the musicians you play with?
I have to make judgements about students and (at this time of year) prospective students in terms of which course and which level to allocate them to.
I imagine that the founders of a startup who are responding to a sudden increase in use/market have to make judgements about their colleagues when scaling up the responsibilties.
The way Davis is making judgements about his peers and the particular recordings shows something about his approach.
But not everything ought to fit in! The mandate is simply to be interesting and not lame.
I'm over my meta quota now.
p.s. I like your use of the word 'claustrophobic' there. Very nice.
You seem to conflate "unscientific" with "anything goes".
I believe his contribution to music was more profound because he kept evolving and maintained his no-bullshit attitude. I admire that as both a musician and a software engineer. I'm grateful for this link showing up on HN too!
P.S. That recording of "Desafinado" that he comments on is one of my favorite songs of all time. All of that Bossa stuff that Stan Getz did for that matter.
This piece is good because it's a great artist speaking frankly about his craft. It's surprisingly vivid. I'm not a jazz fan and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
You can learn more from a great artist in a different field than from an average worker in your own.
Miles was one of my first loves in high school. RE this article, he praises some of my favorites, and slams some of my favorites, so the upvote is because I never knew his take on these songs and players, so it's very enlightening!
If he were a modern programmer he would hate Rails, but know exactly why the bad decisions were made.
oooh, them's fightin' words...
If languages were music, Rails would be something gloriously bombastic like Dream Theater's live performance of Six Degrees on their Score album. C would be BB King - timeless and simple yet complex. I think Perl would be that guy with the funny haircut who sounds like a modem
We can't be that bogged down with fake sincerity/showmanship that this is seen as novel or particularly harsh, can we? I don't know. There's nothing pompous about this. He sounds like me when I listen to a thing or read a thing or watch a thing, though I'll feel a little guilt about thinking those things at times since I haven't exactly reached Miles Davis status.
But it feels very much like the criticisms I hear all the time in the Irish traditional music scene. I recently listened to a bunch of sound samples from a duo recording by two top Irish musicians. It sounded like two great musicians playing at the same time, rather than an actual duo. The difference was probably all things that someone who wasn't experienced with the field would never notice. For instance, the tiny internal rhythms of the tunes were not syncing up.
My guess is that Davis is hearing things like that in the recordings and legitimately complaining about them, rather than just being hyper-critical. Especially the "What am I supposed to say to that? That’s ridiculous. You see the way they can fuck up music? It’s a mismatch. They don’t complement each other," comment on "Caravan". He sounds really disappointed that three musicians he loves aren't making better music together.
Edited to add: I believe the album in question is Money Jungle. Just listened to a sample from that track. I think I can hear what Davis is talking about, but that might be the power of suggestion. That said, the album as a whole has lots of really favorable reviews on Amazon.com...
Just because something is creative, or created, doesn't mean it is worthy of uncritical adulation. You actually have to critique to improve; assuming perfection limits your capacity to learn from the flaws. Considering a work and grasping what it seeks to be, then understanding where its missed the mark - that can produce learning and drives the question, "How can I improve? How can I incorporate this knowledge of the gap into my own work".
Got to play with Kenny at a jam thing a decade ago. Absolutely amazing experience.
There is so much that I can extrapolate on this subject, but I believe the greatest hurdle for a serious musician is that after you master all the dexterity, independence and music theory, the biggest hurdle is your own fucking self.
Even the greatest Jazz legends would typically say they only had a handful of performances in their career where they were really satisfied and where everything came together and worked perfectly. And these were musicians who practiced hours on end each and every day, on top of performing. Truly humbling.
Very similar article featuring guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen. I'm not sure you could paint Malmsteen in the same well-rounded light as Miles, however, from a guitar players perspective, it's quite entertaining to read.
>> Each month a star guest is played an eclectic and
provoking series of records which they are asked to
identify and comment on, with no prior knowledge of what
it is they will hear. The conversations that ensue are
often controversial and always entertaining.
Also, I felt a sick pleasure hearing him rip apart eric dolphy- I have never liked that guy! why did coltrane play with him?!?!