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Review of "Yesterdays"
Posted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 1:31 pm
When I was young I longed to luxuriate in the atonalities of Arnold, Alban and Anton, but their melodies were just too fucking ugly, as if, in order to exterminate the mosquitoes of bourgeois sentiment, the composers made me to lie down in insect repellent. Maybe it's a European thing to reinflict the trauma that causes suffering in order to bring relief. I dunno.
But this I do know. Lennie had too much respect for suffering to pretend to relieve it. The best he can do--and Wally Cirillo bears witness--is to make it beautiful. Marv Friedenn
Posted: Sun Aug 26, 2007 1:13 am
Beautifying suffering sounds exploitative. But only beauty can give suffering its due. By providing the suffering with form, with beginning, middle and end, beauty and beauty alone conveys the hope that suffering will ultimately cease. But not yet cease. For beauty knows the obstacles that stand in the way of ending suffering. Hence, beauty spurns resolution and thus shares the desperation of the sufferer, who, like beauty, dies suffering.
I'm speaking here of atonal melody which takes the unity of tonal melody as its model but by means of wide intervals stretches that unity to the breaking point without actually rupturing it. On the contrary, atonal melody takes unity to a higher plane which reflects suffering rather than, like tonal melody, represses it, however sweetly, in the name of not letting down one's guard. When, on the other hand, the atonal melody fragments, we feel that suffering has driven the song insane.
Monk's tunes are like patients relaxing after violent episodes. The unity of the atonal melodies is straight jacket tight. Perhaps that's why Lennie didn't dig Monk. He may have thought that Monk's apparent simplicity was tied up in knots.
Posted: Sat Sep 20, 2008 9:04 am
Atonality exposes the fallacious eternality of tonality--that is, that tonality expresses eternal (rather than expedient) truths, essential (rather than indoctrinated) feelings. But if thatâ€™s all atonality does, it ends up ingeniously ugly. The mark of beautiful atonality is that it believes in its own legitimacy. It no longer makes excuses for itself expressed musically by overelaboration. It states simply and clearly what it is and explores deliberately and passionately its implications. When atonality is experimental, it burns a hole in tonality. Later the hole widens into a tunnel which gradually fills with light.
Once we catch on that civilization is a sham, and that the civilized have coopted tonality, atonality is our only recourse. Hence beautiful atonal music nurtures our belief in the possibility of a better world. We hear the possibility even if we donâ€™t see it.
For those of us for whom the mainstream abruptly breaks off, Lennie Tristano captures the vertigo of going over the falls.
The lesson I learn from Lennie is that creativity is a fall. Itâ€™s not, as traditionally represented, an ascent. One must of course climb before one can fall from a height. But just as the sport of skydiving lies in the precipitous fall not in the ascent, so creativity lies in throwing oneself headlong from whatever pinnacle of knowledge one has attained. Creativity, to paraphrase Lee Konitz, is forgetting what you know. But the more you know, the richer the fallout.
Art documents a fall from grace. The sensation of beauty associated with the fall is vertiginous. It is no longer as formerly ecstatic--that is, one no longer steps outside oneself to take flight. On the contrary one steps within and falls down a well.
We canâ€™t break the spell that life is a rat race because we have no reason to doubt that weâ€™re rats. And sadly we never will have a reason to doubt it. And this for the very good reason that whatever it is we are remains (and always will remain) to be seen.
I predict what ought to happen. What will happen is far too sad and ridiculous to imagine.
The price I pay for hopefulness is depression. Depression at being engulfed by the hopeless some of whom prefer the fantasy of heaven because life deadends in earth. Others of whom cynically eschew all fantasies among which they include a just society.
Re: Review of "Yesterdays"
Posted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 1:44 pm
Marv Friedenn wrote:When I was young I longed to luxuriate in the atonalities of Arnold, Alban and Anton, but their melodies were just too fucking ugly, as if, in order to exterminate the mosquitoes of bourgeois sentiment, the composers made me to lie down in insect repellent. Maybe it's a European thing to reinflict the trauma that causes suffering in order to bring relief.
Thatâ€™s an interesting tag for the Second Viennese School. I myself only checked them out (the three Aâ€™s) because Frank Zappa raved about Webern so much. On my first listen, Webern sounded psychotic to me. Beyond Pink Floyd psychotic, you know, the kind of psychosis where one is clutching the wire fence looking out at the â€œnormalâ€
Posted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 1:54 pm
When I was young I luxuriated at the piano, playing completely free form. Atonality and tonality swirling together. No key or mode predominated. Indeed, 88-tone music. My only reference was the record collection I had access to. It was all beautiful to me.
Then bourgeois sentiment hunted me down. Forced to go to public schools and private music teachers, I was subjected to this (curiously western) Ionian Bias. All music was reduced to C Major, as if nothing else existed. Presented in such a way as if to say, "little bt you have to practice this for ten years before you can play what you really want to play". As if to say, "music is too much for your little brain to handle so you have to do this". Conform conform conform. Believe in everything we are telling you. The divine right of kings [and governments, et al.]. The â€œchurch of your choiceâ€
Posted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 2:11 pm
Hypothetical Musician Says ...
"But sir, C Major is the basis of all Western Harmony ... "
Itâ€™s only a perspective, and a totally arbitrary one. Dividing the octave into 12 tones is arbitrary. Tweaking all the notes (i.e., tempering) so that all 12 keys are in tune is arbitrary. Having white and black keys on a keyboard is arbitrary. Selecting the white keys from C to C as the basis of all music is arbitrary. [Letâ€™s tell Spain that they canâ€™t go on the white keys from E to E, and wipe out the whole beautiful tradition of Flamenco.] Beauty exists within Western music, and without it, as well. Music is infinite, and no one has the right to claim it. As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so it is in the ear of the listener.
Posted: Thu Sep 25, 2008 9:31 pm
Beauty in the eye of the beholder sounds to me too much like the beholder has something in his eye, is hermetically sealed off instead of being on the receiving end of a communication from the producer of the beauty, namely, the artist. Beauty is a social product, a collaboration. The artist has something to say. The beholder is hard at work trying to decode the artistâ€™s message the semantic range of which encompasses feelings, temperament, attitude, wit. Itâ€™s an uphill fight on the part of the beholder requiring an attentiveness bordering on clairvoyance until at last the landscape shakes, the structures of resistance collapse and he sees what the artist is getting at. For example, who doesnâ€™t hear in B Tâ€™s art his respect for the purity of the â€œuglyâ€
Posted: Sun Oct 19, 2008 12:40 am
When B T speaks of luxuriating at the piano, playing completely free form, indeed 88-tone music, I think of 8 seconds of Lennie's solo on "Yesterday" (New York, March 14, 1949 with Billy Bauer), beginning 27 seconds into the piece and ending at 35 seconds, where left and right hands defy their assigned harmonic and melodic roles and instead sleepwalk into atonal space, each too oblivious of the other to notice they are dancing.
Writers also have left and right minds, the left sounding a recognizable theme, the right personalizing it. Taking Lennie as my model, I encourage my left and right minds to proceed independently on the chance, which sometimes happens, that together they create an integral mind.