Sunday, October 13, 2013

How a Kosher Butcher Helped Define Story

More often than not, you use music to open your imagination to the potentials waiting for you in composition.  Jazz, because of its embrace of improvisation, makes an attractive choice, although some of the so-called classical composers who, themselves, have been influenced by jazz, come to mind and ask to be heard, thus Gershwin, Ravel, Poulenc.

Sometimes, also, when you are of a sense of wanting the kinds of inspiration you associate with a full, orchestral harmonic pallet of colors, you approach your iTunes, looking for Stravinsky or Copeland, Mozart or Beethoven.  Then there are those seeming times where the need arising is the lush, vigorous ethnicity from Dvorak and, if there is a hint of romanticism to go with that notion, even Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev.

Only in recent times, since you've begun to consider approaches to your work conflating acting techniques and the creation of characters for short stories, novellas, longer novels, and yes, even dramatic poetry, have you begun to see two salient forces at work, resident in both music and writing.  These forces are emotional tone and improvisation.  Music sets the mood and the spirit of improvisation  to work; you rush ahead, eager to discover what you will discover, then how you will connect it, give it some kind of foundation.

When you think of foundation, you are often yanked by the collar of your imagination back to the sandbox on the south side of Hancock Park Elementary School, the sand box-play area for grades one through three, as opposed to the sand box and play area for grades four through six in the north yard.

With a spray bottle and some odd pieces of lath, you have constructed a scale model of a large arena in which spectacular plays with enormous casts can be performed.  You are eager for recognition from the playground monitor, a sixth grader named Norman, even then a tall, scrawny fellow, known for his no-nonsense honesty.

Norman approached your construction, appreciated your thought to use sprays of water to make the sand more obedient, but in the long run, had little in the way of praise for the venture as a whole.  "No foundation,"  he said.  "Things need foundation.  If a thing does not have foundation, it cannot stand for long."

For all these years, you recall the pronouncement of a ten- or eleven-year-old boy when you consider the word and implications of the word "foundation."  For all these years, schoolyard visions have attached themselves to your memory.

Several years later, on errands for your mother or your maternal grandmother, you entered the Kosher butcher shop on Fairfax Avenue, scant doors north of the iconic Canter's Delicatessen where the self-same Norman had become a partner in his father's endeavor.  After some prodding, Norman admitted he was impressed that you and he had gone to the same grammar school, but could not remember you, not even when you related the story of your sandbox construction and his discourse on foundation, for even then, it had become a discourse.  Having attained your own sixth grade status, you understood the wisdom of his.

"Torah is foundation," he told you on the day of your visit for a pound of ground round and two pounds of short ribs.  "Talmud is foundation,"  he told you.

Thus, nearly twenty years later, Norman's wisdom was imprinted on you again, along with your own that his beliefs about Torah, Talmud, and foundations were appropriate for a Kosher butcher.  In some degree of snobbery, you dismissed his wisdom as appropriate for you for some years to come.  Even now, while you are not as conversant with Torah or Talmud as you wish, you are aware of the implications of foundation, the memory of Norman, and the difficulties inherent in snobbery.

With attention to foundation, structures of ideas and concepts are less likely to fail because you will have been considering ways of shoring up the walls or weight-bearing walls of ideas and connective pieces.  At some point in your consideration of them, you will know how to make sure an idea can stand on some supportive surface and if it will be enhanced by a mood, a feeling, perhaps even an attitude.

Process is a fine thing, even a splendid thing, hard come by, dependent on the wisdom of attempt and the willingness to listen to ten- and eleven-year olds.  But process alone is lacking the foundations of feelings, of moods, attitudes.  If you love what you are doing, there is a strong chance the edifice will stand while you are attempting to discover where the doors and windows go.

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