The world faces major problems. I have decided, upon reflection and given the perspective of personal maturation, that the music of Eric Ewazen is not actually one of them.
Musician Patrick Higgins, interviewed by Jeremiah Cymerman on the 5049 Podcast:
“That’s what leads to great style…nothing to do with the instrument, particularly…it’s attitude, technique, and social application…[that’s] the shit that works.”
Charles Bowden, in Blue Desert, hiking Sonora’s Pinacate Wilderness in the 1980s:
“And I cannot stop walking. I want to keep moving into the country although all I seem to do is move through it. I fall each night into a dreamless sleep and wake each day in a dream. The landscape comes from the far side of the mind—black slopes, blue sky, burning sun.”
I listen to the recording over and over, until I can sing along with every note. Usually I lie on the floor for this part. Then I go to the piano, and figure out how to play what I’m singing.
In the process I am learning about what, exactly, a musical “idea” is, how large or small a unit (and a unit of what?). I’m learning about how memory works. I’m learning about awareness, about listening. This becomes an exercise in the alteration of consciousness.
Listen deeply enough, and any piece of music will cease to resemble in any way the conceptual ideas or verbal descriptions previously appended to it. Example: Bill Evans’ piano solo on “Solar,” from Sunday at the Village Vanguard. Heard fifteen or twenty times in a row, this three minutes ceases to be “jazz.” The word simply slides off, like the label from a can of tomatoes. I’m hoping that if I keep listening, its essence will continue to clarify until at some point the essence is all there is. This is not merely theoretical. At some point the solo might also cease to be “music.” At this moment both of us will be free.
You can’t un-check your email.
In classical music, excellence is just defined so narrowly. How about a virtuosity of listening — of collaboration — of inclusion — of friendship — of imagination — of openness — of comfort onstage in one’s own skin?
Just in case you’ve never heard what natural swing sounds like in 13/8: here is Bartók at the piano playing the third movement of Contrasts.
I was in love with potential, and it could only end with a broken heart. Time and logic might take you to a place beyond your wildest expectations, but the wildness of potential was always inhered by the foreknowledge of loss. No matter how beautiful the map, it can never replace the question of the white space.
Here, the cartographer said, be dragons.
“Hearts are made to be broken,” Oscar Wilde wrote, more than once.
I’ve read a little poetry lately. I have a method.
First, I try and alternate, fiction, non-fiction, poetry. In my late twenties I found that I was reading disproportionately more non-fiction all of a sudden. I’m told this happens as one ages. Reading fiction is important. I feel better when I keep everything in the rotation.
Second, I endeavor to read poetry the same way I read everything else. I got this idea from someone on On Being. I don’t study it. I just read it.
Third, I go to the library. There is a small one two blocks from my house. This fact was not irrelevant to the choice of purchasing said house. I go to the small shelf which is the poetry shelf. I browse. I pick out a book. I take it home. They are often short.
Fourth, I try to honor my tastes, within a reasonable perimeter of self-challenge. I like Mary Oliver, Jim Harrison, Richard Brautigan, Gary Snyder. More to come, in this space, about Ray Gonzalez.
Fifth, I try and let go of the desire for logic. Because I read poetry like I read everything else, and because poetry is made of words, it’s easy to feel like I’m reading rhetoric. But I’m not. A poem has no thesis. Or at least it doesn’t need one. I try to allow logic to spread out, soften, liquify, seep across boundary lines. I try to think laterally, if at all.
10 Best of 2014
January: Wyoming and the Open
February: New Mexico and the Holes
Notes on The Accounts