HIP...in a square world

From the '40s through the '60s I was heavily involved in the jazz world 
so my remarks about it are not those of an outsider permitted to observe 
this life - I lived it. I was a musician, composer and broadcaster. I 
never expected to be outside that world, as I in fact am.

I first became involved because my high school library had a 
subscription to Down Beat magazine and its competitor, Metronome. These 
journals celebrate a little understood world peopled by musicians, fans 
and critics who were privy to musical experiences that would never be 
shared by people under the spell of other forms of sonic art. Now they 
teach it in school.

Hipness is an element I discovered through my love affair with Jazz 
Music but it is a component of all groups. Old people are hip to certain 
experiences that cannot be had until the right time; gamecock fanciers 
are hip to what real courage consists of; backstretch people have 
intimate knowledge of class; we are all hip to something. They never 
quite get it. If you haven't walked in my shoes... It's a Black Thing, 
you wouldn't understand. Maybe not but I believe I understand your 
feeling of understanding.

To be hip and tolerant is similar to experiencing the joys of privilege 
without the sociopathy of exclusivity. Having shared the joy of being 
moved by the music of Santeria, I get an extra boot from seeing your 
wonder in the discovery that certain drumming affects you as deeply as 
it did me, and when I avoid the jealousy that accompanies 
possessiveness, I feel better. Sure, the Grand Canyon is diminished by 
the presence of a hundred thousand tourists but that's life. I can 
choose not to trample the fragile ecosystem of the Galpagos and though I 
might dream of standing at the South Pole, I have learned to accept 
others' vivid descriptions of the feeling without contributing to the 
pollution there.

One thing I have noticed is that the shoulder standing phenomenon is 
very apparent in music and athletics: "unbreakable" records fall and the 
Ives Piano Concerto that was almost unplayable becomes the entrance exam 
to Juilliard - and Super Sax plays transcribed Charlie Parker solos more 
cleanly than the originals. There was a traditional clarinet solo on 
"High Society" that was supposed to be difficult, later Lee Collins 
said, "shit, now they can play it on trombone."