Happy birth of the cool day!

Phil Ford

It’s Claude Thornhill’s birthday today. Friend of the blog and jazz radio hipster extraordinaire David Brent Johnson just turned out a Thornhill centenary episode on Night Lights, although David points out that it has just been discovered that Thornhill was actually born in 1908 (in Terre Haute Indiana, no less). David and I just had breakfast this morning and DBJ pointed out that Thornhill is one of those guys who jazz buffs always like to call “unjustly neglected.” Ah, the trope of unjust neglect — where would we be without you? But jazz arrangers really do get the shaft — no-one but the hardcore jazz geeks remember who they are or what they did, even though they are often responsible for what we remember about our favorite albums. Case in point, Thornhill had as much to do with the much-mythologized “Birth of the Cool” sound as Gil Evans did.


Anyway, DBJ and I decided that hipsters need a national holiday, and August was wide open. So we have deemed August 10, Claud Thornhill’s birthday, to be Birth Of The Cool day. DBJ and I celebrated by loafing around at the Runcible Spoon, which seemed appropriate. Those of you playing along at home might not have an institution of such unimpeachable hipster credentials in your town, but be inventive. You could get a six-pack of PBR or bake some cupcakes or something. (Is that still hip? I actually have no idea.) Whatever you do, it should involve


  • not working
  • aimless socialization and BSing
  • listening to jazz or some canonically hip substitute. Dylan is good, but maybe a bit obvious. How about Bruckner? Don’t be afraid to try new things on Birth Of The Cool Day! To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, hip is whatever you can get away with.
  • consumption of drugs — well, caffeine, anyway. Cigarettes recommended only for historical reconstructionists and original-instrument fetishists. Mormons and Straight-Edgers can substitute chocolate.

The dress code for Birth Of The Cool Day is naturally a rather complicated matter. DBJ wore a Lester Young T-shirt, which is cool, while I wore my Stanford T-shirt, which is uncool, but I was hanging out with DBJ, so it was OK. You have to kind of play these things by ear. Hang out with someone cooler than yourself and watch what they do.


So, onto other news. Dial M is growing! After three years of writing Dial M, Jonathan and I want to keep it going but don’t want it to be just our show. The original conception for Dial M was that it be a forum for multiple voices within the discipline of music scholarship, so in the next few weeks we’ll be seeing some posts from new folks, who I will leave to introduce themselves.

About Phil Ford

Chairman of the Committee for the Memorial to the Victims of Modernism
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1 Response to Happy birth of the cool day!

  1. Lyle Sanford says:

    Very happy to see you’re going to keep blogging. Hope that Dial M phone just keeps on ringing for a long time. And party lines (if any of you are old enough to remember them) can create interesting moments.
    Will get out a guitar and sing what verses I remember of “The Gates of Eden” for a belated celebration of Birth Of The Cool Day.

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