Tribute to the Artist Bruce nauman (J. Tartaglia) - 2008
This track comes from my 2008 album, Dark Metaphysic, the first to contain bona fide jazz-philosophy fusion. It was also my first foray into jazz-funk; we called the band the ‘Free-Funk Assembly’. The musicians are Sonja Morgenstern and Lizzi Wood on vocals, Ben Thomas on trumpet, UK jazz legend Annie Whitehead on trombone, me on tenor sax, Matt Ratcliffe on keyboards, Jennifer Maidman on bass, and Mark Huggett on drums. The title was inspired by Anthony Braxton’s album, For Alto, which includes various ‘Tribute to…’ performances. When I went to an exhibition of Bruce Nauman’s work, I was impressed by the philosophical content, which largely derives from Wittgenstein. By breaking down and reassembling the common things we say, Nauman tries to inspire reflection on the forms of human life. One piece I found particularly memorable was a video installation in which he manically jumps up and down saying ‘work, work, work, etc.’; I sometimes had this in mind when I was writing the first chapter of Philosophy in a Meaningless Life (2016).
Schopenhauer’s Blues (J. Tartaglia) - 2014
This track comes from my 2014 album, Kooky Steps, featuring Sonja Morgenstern and Dagmar Wilhelm on vocals, Annie Whitehead on trombone, Thomas Seminar Ford on guitar, Jennifer Maidman on bass, and Mark Huggett on drums. ‘Schopenhauer’s Blues’ is my attempt to imagine somebody being persuaded by Schopenhauer’s cosmic pessimism. So Wilhelm (a philosopher) plays Schopenhauer and reads a memorable passage from his book, The World as Will and Representation (1844). Morgenstern listens, and the character she plays (‘Sunny’) is slowly but surely drawn into the ideas, as the enormity of what Schopenhauer is saying sinks in. There is a serious point to the absurdity, namely to reflect on what philosophers think they are doing when they try to persuade others that everything is terrible; that kind of thing is still going on. Even if the arguments were good, as they are invariably not (hence a large component of the absurdity of this song, to my mind), it does seem rather spiteful (at worst) or irresponsible (at best).
Gibbons (J. Tartaglia) - 2014
This track comes from my 2014 album, Kooky Steps, featuring Sonja Morgenstern and Dagmar Wilhelm on vocals, Annie Whitehead on trombone, Thomas Seminar Ford on guitar, Jennifer Maidman on bass, and Mark Huggett on drums. ‘Gibbons’ is the band improvising with a recording of gibbons singing. Humans and gibbons singing together, with the humans using their technological ‘instruments’: that strikes me as something philosophical to contemplate.
Rorty on Panrelationism - 2019
The band is me on alto sax, Steve Tromans on piano, Mike Green on bass, and Tymek Jozwiak on drums. I am reading a passage from Richard Rorty’s 1994 essay, ‘A World without Substances or Essences’, published in his book, Philosophy and Social Hope (1999). This recording could hardly have been more spontaneous: the only preparation was that I selected the passage before heading to the studio, and recorded a solo saxophone track to use when I got there. I didn’t tell the musicians what was going to happen – all I knew was that the saxophone track would play as I read the passage, that they would improvise, and that I would try to achieve empathy with Rorty’s view that everything which exists is like a number. As the music carried me, however, and I achieved the empathy I was looking for, it proved too difficult for me to maintain Rorty’s perspective and my own burst through.