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Beautiful, Controversial Venice: A Viewpoint on Biennale 2003

Italy, a country whose people aren't afraid of sharing strong musical opinions with the world, has finally opened one of it's most influential cultural stages to experimental Jazz and improvisation.

The controversial move was sparked by Uri Caine’s enticing artistic program, powerfully closing the gap between the ‘purism’ of past ‘Biennali,’ which mainly relied on classical-contemporary music, and this year’s focus on the experimental. Until now, Jazz had not been allowed to walk the central stage at any Biennale. In fact, Jazz in the form of extreme synthetic sounds and crossover (plus improvisation, to make a long story short) would in the past not have measured up ideologically with the concept of avant-garde encompassing the ‘here and now’ of music making. ‘New music’ had been, until this year, forced out from the ‘well-educated’ circles of conservatoires (apart from rare exceptions) - from the ivory tower of notational composition whose stylistic meanings are too often polluted by sociological values of class, race and status and therefore alienating Jazz from the stage of La Biennale.

Needless to say, Caine’s gamble with this symbolical re-appropriation of space for progressive and broad-minded avant-garde in Venice has been rewarded. Not only was there an increase in the attendance of young audiences, but also words of approval were heard from the powerful rank of Italian and International critics.

This year, a precedent was set in the dreamy beauty of the Venetian canals: that of music whose worth rests purely in its aesthetic values, and in its social openness. The Venice Biennale really played the Blues this year and hopefully will do so for more years to come.

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