Alexander Calder, 20th century neglected master, said a piece is finished when the dinner bell rings. Clearly he knew truth was ass-backward. Beethoven’s Ninth is pretty good backward too; maybe better. Poor guy, a captive of his times, pressured by the Imperial Court. He had to code his message but he should have outfaced the constabulary and started with the hosannas and cheering and work back thru the darker parts, slogging thru piles of hubris. It’s clear it’s music about a type of joy that’s temporary. Myself, I always bear this in mind. Anyway it’s finished when it’s finished, when it’s as good read backward as forward. Some agree saying put Molly Bloom at the beginning. Others disagree. They say, when looking at Pollock or Gorky you must always start in the upper right hand corner. And there’s Beatrice in a short skirt. I’m in the subway. It’s always full of Dante’s people. She’s pulling her skirt … Click to continue . . .
From where I sit. From where you sit. It’s all relative. You’re deluded. No, you are. I think you both are. In The Great Weaver of Kashmir, the young Halldór Laxness, a future Nobel Prize winner, gives us ample opportunity as readers to judge much concerning delusions and illusions. The novel is ambiguous enough to provide plenty of room, and our weighing and balancing of the various options will have much to do with our own predilections.
Picking up where I left off a few days ago, our hero (or anti-hero), Steinn Elliði, was searching for a way to attain perfection. Thinking he found it in a monastery, he started the process of becoming a monk. The last 130 odd pages take him in a few more directions before he apparently decides his course. Violent, obsessive, bizarre directions that befuddle family and friends. But I won’t spoil the ending by revealing … Click to continue . . .
After nearly 300 pages (with a bit more than a 100 to go), I don’t know what to make of this novel. I do know that the writing is powerful, often hallucinatory, filled with wonderful metaphors and poetic symbology. I do know it makes me think of all kinds of things: Death, Suicide, Heaven and Hell, Love, Masks, Mercurial Personalities. Nietzsche is a guiding spirit. As are the Icelandic Eddas, and the thousand and one journeys through love, hedonism, faith and beyond permeating our culture(s).
The life of a Christian ascetic is something Laxness knew first hand. And the life of a traveler. His protagonist, Steinn Elliði, a young poet, sets out from Iceland to become “the perfect man”. Travels throughout Europe. At this point in the book, he has found his way to a monastery, trying to find peace. I imagine when I return to his story it will take on … Click to continue . . .
Rockers get to be Dionysian. It’s their thing. No one expects them to add the Apollonian, though they must to create music objects, or create as individual artists. They must. But the Dionysian is what their fans want, see, expect — in concerts, at least. Do they expect the same things when they sit at home, alone, listening to records of the same singer, the same band?
Right now, as of 2009, it is probably true that musicians can combine the Dionysian and the Apollonian better than any other kind of artist. Chaos, trance, inebriation, intoxication of one or more forms, group celebration and loss of the self, the dying of the self in that group celebration and swooning fall out. The lone guitar hero, fighting the system, standing outside the system, forever. Making his or her own name against the odds. Creative destruction on stage, in hotels, on the road. Create and destroy. … Click to continue . . .
The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.
— Lester Bangs
Almost Famous is Cameron Crowe’s love song to an era, the end of that era (1973), and a back to the future call to what comes next. His film is both highly personal for him and for anyone who lost/loses themselves in music, grew up with that immersion, or dreams of a life of freedom and abandon on the road. I loved it when I first saw it in a theater 9 years ago, and again when I watched it on DVD a couple of nights ago. In fact, I liked it even more this time around.
Based in part on Crowe’s own experience writing for The Rolling Stone as a teenager, the movie tells the story of 15-year-old William Miller, who stumbles into a life-altering gig covering the (fictional) band, Stillwater. William, played by Patrick Fugit, makes … Click to continue . . .
First to see. Like Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman. 1933. Debut to beat the band. To be there. To be not square there. Ella singing scat with Dizzy in the 40s. Using her voice like a horn, playing with it, like a mad cat running up and down a tree. Running up and down and all over town.
Billie wrote a lot of songs. A lot of people don’t know that. Or care. They just want to hear her sing. And, maybe feel like they’re cool for liking her, knowing about her. Yeah, it’s cool if you’re hip without pushing it. A Zen thing. A Taoist dream thing. Like, you gotta float and move fast while you’re standing still. You gotta be strong as you’re bending with the melody again and again. You gotta flow with the wave that covers you with yourself. Inside you release the knot so the notes can fly.
When Ella sang with Duke Ellington, … Click to continue . . .
Peering into the mountain
The universality of spirits
For tens of thousands of years
Peering into the cave
It’s all there
All there is
It has been that way
Again and again
For thousands of decades
With new incarnations
Every now and then
Here and there
What makes us so sure
Ours in the only one?
What makes us so sure
Ours isn’t just one more mask?
Why would we think that our
Small corner of the world
Even the universe
Is the first the last
The only point in time
Aligned with the Great Spirit?
Why would we imagine
Nothing was on target
— by Douglas Pinson
The above is a work in progress. A jotting. Musing in search of. I’ve been thinking a lot about our collective narcissism. Our collective parochial views. Our insistence upon believing ours is some unique time and … Click to continue . . .
For those of you north of the border, for those of you planning to take a trip to Canada soon, Desi Di Nardo has a poetic treat in store. On Wednesday, May 13th, she will be holding a workshop/reading at 7:00pm.
The location is:
The McNally Robinson Bookstore
Don Mills Road at Lawrence Avenue East
12 Marie Labatte Road
… Click to continue . . .
From the bookstore’s announcement: