With this in mind, we can examine the "mythic representation" Taylor's music represents. While his music is clearly rooted in the modernist aesthetics and values of self-expression and individuality, it's ultimate realization really creates Radano's "complex and encompassing web or subverted binaries."20 Freedom is simultaneously asserted and eliminated, the identities of the individual and the group are undermined the moment they are established. The music abandons jazz and classical traditions at the same moment it invokes them; it is simultaneously anarchic and highly organized, egalitarian and repressive, gendered and androgynous. It is about group dynamics and "social response" at the same moment it is about Taylor himself. Descriptions of the performance have usually included personal responses to the power of the music, they were "drained," and critic Phil Elwood even titled his review "Surviving Cecil Taylor's Musical Avalanche."21 The experience of the event was so powerful, I believe, because it was an actual struggle between the very forces that make up culture. As such, the issues of freedom, individuality and the like were not laid to rest by the end according to a narrative agenda; they had been explored but the exploration led away from resolution rather than toward it; there was no closure.
In the final moments of the last set of the Jazz Festival concert, much of the orchestra had left the stage and Taylor played alone. He began by playing a slow series of ascending chords, utilizing the entire range of the piano. It seems to me that he is consciously reflecting and commenting on the entire evening, which in its complexity the spanned the "abyss," the "surface of the earth," and the "astral." That night, the music was the sound of culture itself, a culture whose identity was in a constant flux, always in the process of "Becoming."
20 New Musical Figurations
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21 Philip Elwood, "Surviving Cecil Taylor's Musical Avalanche" San Francisco Examiner, October 27, 1995: C 11. back