Saturday, June 14, 2008

But what is it?

Communication is huge. I mean, if you really ended up on a desert island would you really listen to those ten records? Or any for that matter? And with whom would you share what you'd found?

I say, you wouldn't; you wouldn't; and no one, respectively.

Hopefully I could be magnanimous, choosing ten records I'd only heard good things about, taking them along to form feral memories once I got there. I've never heard one of the good Little Feat records, never (really) gave Jay-Z a chance (though truthfully the sandiest isle is unlikely to change that), never got to hear the really good first Scorpions record about which Max speaks so highly. Ideally some day I'd be rescued from beach and music alike, and those memories would emphasize a faith in mystery and a reliance on the kind of hope that doesn't cling to old markers.

I mention it because lately I've been listening to classical music more frequently, and as often confronting questions obstructed by a real language barrier. I have no idea how--beyond a kind of non-descriptive, basically grunt-like, effusion to communicate about what I hear. And suddenly that is a very big problem.

Scholars want to talk about theory, remote points of historic interest, and in such a jealously encrypted adjectival language; everybody else wants to talk about The Scorpions.

Maybe I'd be luckier if I ended up on a desert island with just the greats--all of them in encyclopedia form, and no distractions. I could just listen and learn, like it was 'Spanish'. Then with luck I might eventually find my way home, bringing with me with some sound linear perspective on what made Hector Berlioz Hector Berlioz.

For now it is the enjoyment of labels like Columbia Masterworks in the 50's (the lp shown above was made in 1953) which seemed capable of transcending the communication woes commonly associated with listening to classical music, using the art, graphic detailing, analog austerity, and last but not least, musical substance. To use a term commonly associated with Ben Shahn, the artist whose work decorates this cover, it is humanistic. Somewhere in its aspirations is a good-hearted desire to explain something that cannot be explained, merely sensed and accepted--non-descriptively grunting all the while if need be.

On a final, digressive and somewhat deranged note...

It seems only appropriate to conclude with a recurring dream seeing how it expands on some deeply seeded, but evidently manifested misgivings I have about the desert island disc list concept. In this dream I am waylaid on an isle roughly the size of a portobello mushroom. I'm satisfied with my new fate for a while. However, all too quickly the satisfaction fades, and my interest in all foreign mysteries such as they are, fades with it. Desperately I shape a blade from a wedge of volcanic stone and cut myself on the wrist as I'd seen done in movies. Then, for what reason is unclear, I jump back into the ocean, perhaps hoping the surf will render me unconscious and I don't suffer so much. Great tumbling occurs, interspersed with white and green arcs of water. I'm spit back down on the beach only to find the wave has cauterized the wound. Disastrous. More desperately still I cut more away, fingers, the hand, to the elbow the arm, etc. But each time, having returned to the sea I am spit out with wounds sealed. Finally vanity intercedes, and I stop. I haven't so much left to cut off, and I do want something left to be held by the ladies when I get back.
Look, there he goes. He's the one who conquered Nature. My hero. He has the hands of a sculptor who has worked in iron for many years.


alford said...

"Get a radio or a phonograph capable of the most extreme loudness possible, and sit down to listen to a performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony or of Schubert's C-Major Symphony. But I don't mean just sit down and listen. I mean this: Turn it on as loud as you can get it. Then get down on the floor and jam your ear as close into the loudspeaker as you can get it and stay there, breathing as lightly as possible, and not moving, and neither eating nor smoking nor drinking. Concentrate everything you can into your hearing and into your body. You won't hear it nicely. If it hurts you, be glad of it. As near as you will ever get, you are inside the music; not only inside it, it is the shape and substance of the music.
Is what you hear pretty? or beautiful? or legal? or acceptable in polite or any other society? It is beyond any calculation savage and dangerous and murderous to all equilibrium in human life as human life is; and nothing can equal the rape it does on all that death; nothing except everything, anything in existence or dream, perceived anywhere remotely toward its true dimension."

james agee, "let us now praise famous men" p.16

Daniel said...

"never got to hear the really good first Scorpions record"

Next time you're in town, dawg (surprise, surprise).