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“A Door to Other Doors”: Henry Threadgill Interview with Daniel Fischlin

Daniel Fischlin

Published: 2011-12-07

Henry Threadgill is one of the great original, iconoclastic voices in American music, and sits comfortably with other great voices from the U.S. and elsewhere: from Charles Ives through to Aaron Copland and Elliot Carter; from Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler through to Anthony Braxton and John Zorn; from Igor Stravinsky through to Edgard Varèse and Luciano Berio. In this extended interview with Daniel Fischlin, Threadgill covers aspects of his personal history as a youth growing up in Chicago, his first contact with the AACM and other experimentalist musicians in Chicago, his thoughts on the connections between improvised music and the Civil Rights Movement, and a lengthy reflection on the importance of improvised music and its pedagogy. Conducted in public before a large audience of 2011 Guelph Jazz Festival goers, the interview shows Threadgill as an eloquent, impassioned, and astute observer of musical phenomena, especially in his appeal to improve access to quality musical education in North America and in his dismissal of the attempt to impose European musical structures on African American forms of musicking based on “replication” as opposed to “creation.”

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Improvisation implies a deep connection between the personal and the communal, self and world. A “good” improviser successfully navigates musical and institutional boundaries and the desire for self-expression, pleasing not only herself but the listener as well.

– Rob Wallace