The Wire

In Writing

Ornette Coleman 1930–2015: Otomo Yoshihide

June 2015

The Japanese omni-musician continues our online tribute to Ornette Coleman

The most important thing I gained from Ornette Coleman’s music was the realisation that it is OK to create your own rules for music and that there is no need to conform to pre-existing conventions – even in terms of elements like rhythm, harmony and melody that normally cannot exist without conformity. Perhaps it’s possible for rhythms to expand or contract, or the criteria for the integrity of harmonies to be found in your own body and memories and not somewhere external. What, then, is necessary to hold music together? Ornette’s music let me think about that.

I first heard his music in 1976, in a jazz cafe in Fukushima. Since then I have kept returning to engage with his music. To be honest, I have no idea whether what I do is the same as the free jazz that Ornette pioneered. But I have no doubt that my music is the result of engaging with the musics created by the new pathways that he opened up.

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