Monday, July 4, 2011

It's About Time

At one point in your late teens and early twenties, you were envious of the musician; all they had to do was play the notes from the score.  The notes, you believed, would take care of everything.  The notes would lead the listener, as they led you, to the interior regions, where the feelings roiled like the water waiting to unlock the essence from the tea leaves.

You were not only younger then, you were also jealous.  Even if the musicians were not present enough to unlock the panache within the music, they could follow the notes as written.  The notes would bring them in, glorious with the composer's intent so inherent in every measure, the certainty of Beethoven so immediate in evidence, the fraught nuance of Mozart revealing itself as the arc of design progressed, the stunning surprise of discovery and awareness spiraling from Coltrane's  improvisations.

Much younger, then.

One of the reasons musicians practice so much is to allow them to be present when they play so that you, without even thinking about it, would believe they were present when you hear them.

In this particular sense, nobody gets a break.  Regardless.  Whatever the medium--poetry, photography, dance, short story, acting, drawing, novel, oil, essay--one has to be in it for "it" to have any shot at emerging for anyone.  You practice in part to develop your chops, but the real reason you practice is to make sure you know the way home, which is to say inside the thing you do.

All these forms you just mentioned have as their common denominator time; they are all depending on the use of and interpretation of time.  When you look at, say, fine art photography or urban landscape photography or street photography, the nudge of recognition in your emotional breadbasket should among other things remind you how important it is to manage the moment or moments in a story or essay.  When you see a dancer achieve a dazzle of elevation, appearing to hover for a long moment before descent to the stage, you could, if you watched closely enough learn how to cause a sentence, possibly an entire paragraph to remain suspended for a long moment, causing within the reader an ache or awareness and recognition as the paragraph rejoins its brother and sister paragraphs.

You are no longer jealous, or even envious; you watch brothers and sisters you admire, realizing again and again how easy they make it seem because they practice until it has become muscle memory.  You look at your sentences, deployed about the page, showing off with the braggadocio of taking that extra risk and making it seem so effortless.  

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