This is mostly a pointer to Frank Chimero’s new post that connects jazz and design thinking to web platforms and APIs in a neat way. Frank is, unsurprisingly, actually walking the walk when it comes to designed content; his approach is simple and very effective. Look at a previous post to pick up on the pattern.
The illustrations remind me of some of the best sections of Watchmen—the graphic novel, not the movie—where whole scenes play out “silently” behind the main action. It’s visual counterpoint—the illustrations not simply, er, illustrating the text, but actually riffing on it. Maybe even satirizing it a tiny bit. It’s just great.
Anyway! I say “mostly” because I also want to tag on a question. Frank builds his argument on the great virtues of jazz. I think this graf sums it up best:
You know what I love about jazz and improvisation? It’s all process. One-hundred percent. The essence of it is the process, every time is different, and to truly partake in it, you have to visit a place to see it in progress. Every jazz club or improv comedy theater is a temple to the process of production. It’s a factory, and the art is the assembly, not the product. Jazz is more verb than noun. And in a world riddled with a feeling of inertia, I want to find a verb and hold on to it for dear life.
Here’s the question. Let’s change our time-scale from years or decades to hundreds of years or more. Does process-based work endure? Does pure process endure?
Will people still be riffing on jazz standards in a hundred years?
This is totally not a rhetorical question! I can imagine a whole line of thinking that goes: Oh yeah, actually, this is the secret weapon. Encode your work as pure process, and it will get made and remade over and over. It’s immaterial and therefore indestructible. This is the trick that every religion has figured out.
But I can also imagine the other line: Actually, process is fragile. It doesn’t survive the fallow periods. It depends too much on an unbroken series of practitioners—of champions. To reliably make it between generations, you need a canonical text or a finished canvas. You need to print on paper or etch in stone. Process is fine, but the finished product is the thing. Materiality is the ultimate ark. Hello, Renaissance?
But, this is pretty abstract, so let’s focus on the simpler question:
Jazz is young—really young. But the jazz icons and jazz standards that Frank invokes actually feel quite old to me. It feels like they’re on the wane, and have been for quite a while. Tell me if I’m wrong. And tell me: Do you think jazz—jazz as process, jazz as platform—is around for the long haul?