Monday, August 01, 2005

beta watches shadows dance, finds earth boring

i have scribbled down in a little notebook a quote from W.G. Sebald's lecture reprinted in On the Natural History of Destruction: "Such is the dark backward and abysm of time. Everything lies all jumbled up in it, and when you look down you feel dizzy and afraid."
okay, it's not quite that drastic and dark to me yet, but i admit to feeling a bit dizzy just peeking. at what? well, there is still my own past, and i spend most of monday walking to parks to sit and scribble away in yet another notebook. (if i don't go outside, i'll just F5 the Inbox fifty times (okay, five hundred) a day). a letter back home gets written out (yes, i still write letters), as well as thinking about young faces that have now aged or died a good number of years ago, trying to capture just enough of their visage to save them in a few black-penned scribbles. it's a story that starts with the chewing of a bit of blotter. to recall the mindset of teen kicks, the stupid shit that doesn't become smart shit in looking back, to take a real event from the past, and charge it so that it twitches in the present. to make the shadows dance.
dancing shadows...i know that image is familiar, and dig into a box of cds that hides under a table weighed down by newer clutter, cds i don't dig deep enough for anymore when i look around out the new stacks and see nothing worthy of listening to. it's hard to forget a title by a band with the awesome name of the Myth-Science Arkestra, or anything created by Herman Sonny Blount, and this is no exception. it's paired transitional albums, when Ra was about to leave Chicago, and right when he arrived in New York. (maybe i can dub it backwards and send along to Amy Phillips (who i saw Saturday afternoon on my way to the show in central park, hauling shopping bags of promo cds to sell before she moves from The City to Chicago)).
i heard about Sun Ra's passing, from of all sources, MTV News. the day after Le Sonny's death, i recall even the weird earthy denim my father stretched over the sofa, sitting there as Kurt Loder described the music of Sun Ra to me: outer-space sounds, ARPs and moogs, Egyptology, intergalactic noise, sequined costumes with elementary school solar system models sequestered and held together by coat hangars for their domes...what could be a more out-there kick than that? Loder suggested that the adventuorus start with Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy, and i got off the couch and special-ordered it right away.
for some reason now lost to me, the first jazz record i ever listened to was by Coltrane, allegedly created while everyone was tripping on acid. that first impression of jazz stays with me, all colored by OM. in any form, jazz sounds weird to me, haunted, full of cries, of plumes of human flame shooting high into the stratosphere, the murmurs about "clarified butter," the sound of time as the clock winds down, and gears spring free from their constraints...but even that didn't prepare me for the purple scratches that configure the cover and what is imprinted below it.
the first thing i did was spill strawberry milk on it, the pink splotch mingling with the purple. it seemed so alien to me, but in a Star Trek sort of way. it still shocks me when Pat Patrick's enormous baritone sax bursts through the droning horns and Ra's "astro space organ" having hovered precariously over the forboding ladscape like a paper-plate UFO or ship with a garage door for its portal, honking like an irate Martian goose midway through "And Otherness." from another planet, and yet...perhaps cursed by its human creators and engineers, it has to resemble Earth forms in every way, much like the greenskinned hotties, strange blue flowers, and odd red rocks that were on every distant planet's surface that Capt. Kirk dipped into, if only tinted a different color. what other shapes are there? despite the dogma, the assertations, this was still human music, made for Earth, not for space. and i laugh whenever i hear a phone ringing in the background (as it does often on "Adventure-Equation") or for that matter, a salesman pushing the buzzer (elsewhere in the expansive universe of the Ra catalog).
i devoured as much of Ra's music as i could, the more outward bound, the deper into the cold void of space, the better. but somewhere along that line, i began to arc, a V2 following gravity's rainbow, falling back to the earth. going through the discography again, i am comfortable not in twenty-minute moog solos or paint-bubbling horn blats, but in the warm and winking charts that Ra made, modelled from his tenure with Fletcher Henderson, the bluesy stride piano he could play when not preparing the synths for liftoff. i was comforted by the slightly-off chanting of June Tyson, the space mantras about "Walking on the Moon" and "Interplanetary melodies-interplanetary harmonies," fearlessly signing up with shady business fronts such as "Outer Spaceways, Incorporated." yes, i did indeed find earth boring, but it was also, as Robert Frost put it, the right place for love.
the rhythms that Sun Ra's Arkestra under the direction of Marshall Allen still play are what strike me now, the complex horn charts that few terrestrial minds will ever transcribe again, the space chants that have their voices dwindle as time moves ever into the future. all of it so precarious, fragile, thin and resilient, teetering at the end of its time. of course, i again refer back to Jon Pareles' review of staurday's concert with the dMkCt53 calling what the two futuristic groups trade in as old-timey music. you can be at most a generation ahead, someone has said. time will erase such rhythms, to where no one will be able to remember how that pattern or that particular patter went. to think that such music will soon slip away when Allen passes, or when Wayne Kramer goes, and that all the present will hold is plastic discs of the past, i look down at the reflection, at that pink spill of strawberry milk forever, and sway just a bit as the tape reverb hisses on "Voice of Space" and hints at the true breath drawn.


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