Monday, November 3, 2014

What Simplicities Do Simple Declarative Sentences Declare, and Where Are They to Be Found?

For almost as long as you have been thinking about art as a tangible force in your life, your thoughts and impressions had to do with the effect of a particular work on you.  This meant you were admitting straight away  that you had standards and expectations when looking at, watching, or listening to art.  This also meant you were so excited by the effects art had on you that you were not content to let things rest.

Some of the first things you wrote in the first notebooks you carried about with you were not even in complete sentences.  You still didn't have to understanding or vocabulary to describe some of the things that happened during your early exposures, didn't in fact have the emotional and verbal vocabulary any more than you had the ability to describe such ordinary things as entering a dark room, whereupon you turned on the lights.

In some of the museums near you, the dioramas, murals, and larger combinations daunted you because there was so much to take in.  Listening to music, you preferred shorter works because, once again, something long,a symphony, for instance, required you to pay attention through four different acts, making sense, as it were, of dozens of themes.  

In your growing-up years, recorded music on the old 78 RPM shellac disks ran about three minutes.  Some of the larger discs could contain the better part of an entire movement on one side.  Record albums had sleeves to contain the necessary number of disks to include the entire work.

Listening to music on the radio or at live performances meant someone else took care of the continuity you'd lose,changing the records.  Then came the LP and you could do at home what you did at the Hollywood Bowl; you could listen uninterrupted, a great boon to your attention span.  With more attention, you could read beyond short stories, chapters at a time.

Thanks to contemporary technology and a library-like Internet site, YouTube, you can revisit the old 78 RPM records of the eleventh grade, when you were a first a distant witness then a more avid listener to the then evolution in jazz called bebop.  On a near weekly basis, you listen to the likes of a near idol, a scant five years older than you, who'd earned a scholarship to the Juliard School, which he accepted only because it allowed him to hang and play with such "older" influences as John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, Charles Parker, and the even then amazing trumpeter who had ten years on you, Clark Terry.

You are speaking of Miles Davis, whom you remember thinking of as having been born cool.  Some of the records featuring him were cut before he was twenty.  Still in his teens, he was blowing cool, assured, professional, things you wrote about him in your then notebooks.  Even then, you associated these things with professionalism.

One solo Davis took on a record featuring Charlie Parker seemed so effortless and laid back against the excited tempo and tonalities of bebop.  You listened to it hundreds of times, thinking how this was the way you hoped to come onto the page when it was your turn to publish.

The first book you remember keeping you up all night was Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, which you recall because it had the qualities to keep you moving beyond the point where you even thought about attention span of being sleepy.  You were none of these time and space things, you were in the work.

There is nothing so exciting for you as the sensation of being drawn into a book you've already read with the promise and delivery inherent of coming away from it with even more.  The complexity of bebop and the complexity of fiction you admire had a shaping influence on you.  True enough, what you were hearing and reading in those years was linear in comparison to what you've learned from relistening and rereading.

True enough.  In fact, the direction your tastes took you were in a way your undoing; they were such accomplished performances that they caused you to think you could understand them, then wish to do your own writing.  You in effect had the confidence and laid back cool of Miles Davis, going into writing.  In the years that followed, in which you learned such things as the relative genius level of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker and, later, Miles Davis' pianists, first Wynton Kelly, then William "Red" Garland, you began to understand how you'd been had.  What you were drawn to listening to and reading, even when complex, emerged accessible, seemed doable.

Small wonder some of your favored poems have to do with young men starting out, seeing a vision, then spending the rest of their life in quest of it.

Smaller wonder still, before starting to work, you listen to some of these, or read some of the equivalents, men and women who had the exquisite concentration to make their work seem simple and real.

Ah, the years you've been after simple and real, bewildered at times by how complex, fantastic, and eerie these qualities are and this life is.

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