M-Base, an explanation
For those who asked, this page is here to discuss what M-Base is and
it is not.
What M-Base is not:
What M-Base is:
- An acronym for some kind of computer language or computer talk.
- A musical style.
- A name made up to fool critics into writing about musicians who
- A card carrying society with members who pay dues.
- An excuse to claim that you are different than other musicians.
- A name that you can call your music in order to get more gigs.
- An excuse to play odd time signatures.
- An indication that you do not like the music of Wynton Marsalis
associated with Wynton.
- An excuse to ignore chords or to think of chord progressions as
- An acronym for Macro - Basic Array of Structured
us this means expressing our experiences through music that uses
and structure as two of its main ingredients. There is no limitation on
the kind of structures or the type of improvisation, or the style of
music. The main goal is to creatively express our experiences as they
today and to try and build common creative musical languages in order
do this on some kind of large collective level (macro, basic, array).
- Music critics have constantly stated that M-Base is a musical
this is not true. Since the beginning of time critics have by and large
been unable to deal with any creative expression. M-Base is a way of
about creating music, it is not the music itself. One of the main ideas
in M-Base is growth through creativity. As we learn through our
then the music will change and grow to reflect that. The idea is not to
develop some musical style and to play that forever.
- This mostly involves conceptual growth as opposed to technical
although that is necessary also. All of the elements in the music come
from life experiences. Speaking for myself, when people hear my music
are listening to a musical expression of how I view the world limited
my musical abilities at that point in time. What makes the music change
is a broadening (or change) in the way I view things (perspective or
or learning more about how to express this point of view through music
(for me this means becoming a better musician) or both. I am not
from the point of view of developing something "different" as any
is already unique and all that is left is learning to express that
music or whatever).
- The conception of M-Base is in many ways a non-western conception
to use music to express experience. For example, for me the western
of time signatures (including so called "common" and "odd time
largely do not exist and have no place in creating music. These
come from European art music and the concepts of M-Base are based
on music from Afrika and creative music of the Afrikan Diaspora
(where in the last 76 years there has been a steady progression to use
non- western concepts as a basis for the music). This music is unique
in the areas of spiritual, rhythmic and melodic development. It is the
spiritual component that is most often misunderstood (and this affects
the way the other elements are viewed). In this M-Base is no different
than many other creative perspectives that have come before.
- Finally the concept of which style is better than another style
place here. Since the goal is the expression of culture and philosophy,
there is no "better". There is only the perspective of the person
the music and what this person hears is largely shaped by his/her own
In other words what the listener "hears" depends on who that listener
The same music can be experienced many different ways by different
For example when I hear the music of Charlie Parker and I discuss this
music with another musician, despite the fact that Bird's music is well
known at this time, I can rarely find agreement with other musicians
musicians under the age of about 45) on how we view Parker's music. I
it's not even close! Who a musician is (I mean who personally,
and culturally) plays a large role in how he/she views music and how
are trained also plays a large role.
Steve Coleman resume
Descriptions of Steve
Interviews with Steve
Steve Coleman's music
Music Collectives (by Vijay Iyer)
Steve Coleman California Bay
Area Community Residency (from 1996)
Activities at the University of California at Berkeley
Songs in MP3 format
Music Links and Other
Last modified on October 4, 2004