Olympic Jazz

By Stijn Viaene, professor of Management Information Systems
(Source: Smart Business Strategies, February 2012)

  • Professor at KULeuven and Vlerick Business School
  • Partner at Vlerick Business School
  • Deloitte Research Chair Bringing IT to Board Level

2012 is touting itself as the year of the Summer Olympic Games in London. The papers will be packed with Olympics news. The bulk of the news coverage in the run-up to Sport’s High Mass, by the way, is perfectly predictable: how the organisation is running hopelessly behind schedule, and how all sorts of incidents are endangering the Games. But even so, in the final analysis, we’ll find that everything will be ready in time! We will have jumped to conclusions again, and the planning will not have been so bad after all.

The other day, ‘New Music 20x12’ caught my eye: a musical Olympiad that will grace the world’s largest sports spectacle with exceptional new music. Under the auspices of the Olympic Committee and the BBC, no less than 20 outstanding new works in the most diverse genres have been specially issued for this occasion. Among those nominated for New Music 20x12 is saxophonist and composer Jason Yarde. A richly deserved prize, if you ask me. The man is a gifted modern Jazz musician, about whom The Guardian once wrote:

“…it’s fascinating to witness how seamlessly Yarde’s writing and improvising intertwine… Swing, hip-hop, improve – you name it – he can make it all sound as if it was meant to live together, and he's getting better at it all the time…”

The brilliance of the best improvised music, like good Jazz, is that it feels like the finest written composition. Improvisation and composition flow perfectly into each other to arrive at a totally unexpected beauty. Is that perhaps the secret Druid elixir that will ensure that the 2012 Olympics, despite the predictable turbulence in the preparations, will be able to start off without a hitch? I’m firmly convinced it is.

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