In case you don’t know what M-BASE is…(read more)

Just as an introduction to this blog, especially for those who are not familiar with my work, this page is here to discuss what M-Base is and what it is not. If you are already familiar with M-BASE, you can move on to the other posts on this page.

What M-Base is not:

  • 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 claim to “play” M-Base.
  • 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 or musicians associated with Wynton.
  • An excuse to ignore chords or to think of chord progressions as irrelevant.

What M-Base is:

  • An acronym for Macro – Basic Array of Structured Extemporizations. For us this means expressing our experiences through music that uses improvisation 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 the music. The main goal is to creatively express our experiences as they are today and to try and build common creative musical languages in order to do this on some kind of large collective level (macro, basic, array).
  • Music critics have constantly stated that M-Base is a musical style and 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 thinking 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 experiences 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 growth, although that is necessary also. All of the elements in the music come from life experiences. Speaking for myself, when people hear my music they are listening to a musical expression of how I view the world limited by 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 philosophy) 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 playing from the point of view of developing something “different” as any individual is already unique and all that is left is learning to express that (through music or whatever).
  • The conception of M-Base is in many ways a non-western conception of how to use music to express experience. For example, for me the western concepts of time signatures (including so called “common” and “odd time signatures”) largely do not exist and have no place in creating music. These concepts come from European art music and the concepts of M-Base are based primarily 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 primarily 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 has no place here. Since the goal is the expression of culture and philosophy, there is no “better”. There is only the perspective of the person experiencing the music and what this person hears is largely shaped by his/her own experience. In other words what the listener “hears” depends on who that listener is. The same music can be experienced many different ways by different people. 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 (especially musicians under the age of about 45) on how we view Parker’s music. I mean, it’s not even close! Who a musician is (I mean who personally, spiritually and culturally) plays a large role in how he/she views music and how they are trained also plays a large role.


6 Responses to “In case you don’t know what M-BASE is…(read more)”
  1. Gouchi says:

    Hi Steve,

    Are you planning to publishing a book about M-BASE ?

    It will be great !

    Thank you, best regards.

  2. Jeff C. says:

    Hi Steve,

    I’m the older radio guy who told you after the Newport concert that I needed to ‘catch up’ with what you were doing…my own dumb fault. Getting connected to this blog is part of that. Again, concert was wonderful and I have procured your last two Five Elements CDs–and beginning to weave them into my program. I appreciate the education I am getting here!

    • mbase says:

      Hey Jeff,

      Sorry for the late reply. Yea, I remember you. At the time you wrote this, I’m not sure what the last two CDs were. Our last 3 CDs are (from latest to earliest):

      Functional Arrhythmias
      The Mancy of Sound
      Harvesting Semblances and Affinities

      • Hi Steve,

        Thanks for writing back. Since we talked, I have purchased “Harvesting…” and “Mancy.” Material from both played on my show. No one’s complaining! 🙂 I plan to contact Pi just to see if I could get some promo music. Nevertheless, I’m enjoying the music and keeping in touch this time around.


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