I’ve recently been revisiting my musical roots. I recently visited the home of my dormant music career (Memphis, TN) and spent time former band-mates and collaborators. I’ve been also been dipping back into the jazz and classical composition worlds, learning who’s new on the scene and rediscovering old favorites.

Something has stood out as I’ve been browsing through online material connecting the dots again. It’s a part of the culture I took for granted as a musician but which now feels sort of foreign. Musicians often talk about each other (and even themselves) in terms of their influences.

An example:

Among Dolphy’s early influences were Charlie Parker and the sounds of nature.

It’s also common to talk about who taught you as a musician. Here’s a snippet from my college roommate/bandmate’s bio:

Chris Parker was born in North Little Rock, Arkansas. He first learned from local Arkansas musicians, most notably:   
Charles Thomas, Art Porter, Sr., Bob Steele, Lee Tomboulian, and Michael Bates. Chris moved to Memphis, TN in 1991. 
There he received his BA degree from the University of Memphis and learned from/ studied with musicians including Gene
 Rush, James Williams, Herman Green, Fred Ford, Calvin Newborn, Bill Mobley, Alvin Fielder, Kidd Jordan, Joe Jennings, and 
Vernel Fournier.

This creates a strong emphasis on creating a tradition which is carried forward and evolve generationally. Jazz is a fairly new genre but here’s an example “family tree” of jazz: Lester Young was influenced early on by Frankie Trambauer. Dexter Gordon was heavily influenced by Lester Young. Dexter Gordon was in turn the biggest influence on a young Virginia Mayhew.

So we have Frankie → Lester → Dexter → Virginia → ???

This visible passing on of tradition not only conveys a pride in the craft, but it gives listeners an understanding of what to expect when approaching a new artist. Not a completely road map but at least some clues.

In My Job Went to India I wrote about standing on the shoulders of giants in our industry. Musicians make explicit which giants they’re standing on the shoulders of. It strikes me as a bit of a shame that we don’t do that as programmers.