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27 April 2009

Fools rush in...

Miriam Zolin Image: Miriam Zolin  

I think it was Albert Einstein who said that foolish ideas are the only ones that lead to something really new happening. That is a paraphrase of course, but you get the gist.

The idea behind extempore—a bi-annual journal with content inspired by jazz and improvised music—has from the beginning been a foolish idea. Let me count (some of) the ways:

1. extempore is at least in part a literary journal. In a country with a large number of literary journals already, it would be reasonable to question whether we need another one.

2. The journal is themed. Not just a literary journal in a market that already has its fair share of them, it also reduces its potential readership by limiting the scope of its subject matter. Wouldn't it be smarter to be un-themed, remaining available to the broadest range of readers?

3. AND as if this weren't enough, the theme of extempore is that its content is all inspired by jazz and improvised music. The optimist who understands Australian readers could be forgiven for being hopeful about a new journal of writing and art. We Australians love to read, so maybe there is room for one more bi-annual offering. But we all know, don't we, that jazz is an old or at least an underground art form, under-represented in the areas of funding, media space and audience numbers? Surely it is very foolish to think that anybody is going to want to read 200 pages inspired by that kind of music twice a year! Wrong! (thankfully)

4. The journal is also foolishly attempting a dual role. The jazz scene in Australia, with its rich history and vibrant present deserves to be well-documented. Of course extempore is not the only place where this is being done, but we are doing it to the beat of our own drum. We fearlessly present poetry and fiction by enthusiasts side by side with anecdotes and interviews by musicians. We team photographs of musicians with illustrations and prints by musicians. So we're a literary journal and a jazz journal. To make a point, we're launching Issue 2 as part of both the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival and The Sydney Writers' Festival. We blend and blur the boundaries, refusing to admit we are completely one thing or the other or neither or both.

Issue 2 has just hit the streets and although that means we are still very young, I can happily report that Issue 1 was very well received and Issue 2 is generating an immense amount of positive feedback. Anything could happen—we could fold at the next issue if we don't find a way to fund ourselves through these early years—but our foolish idea is taking hold. I am finding out, from people I meet and through emails and notes in the mail, that people have been hungry for something like extempore. I'm finding out that the music has audiences everywhere. I'm being thanked by enthusiasts for giving them something to read about the music and musicians they already enjoy. And I'm being thanked by some readers for introducing them to some Australian sounds they didn't know were being made and to a music scene they weren't aware was this active and exciting.

Very, very foolish.

Further links

extempore - www.extempore.com.au
The Sydney Writers' Festival - http://www.swf.org.au
Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival – http://melbournejazzfringe.com

Miriam Zolin is the Melbourne-based editor of extempore. She is also a writer who enjoys listening to jazz and improvised music. She particularly likes it live.


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