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“jazzskin” is an old, handmade chapbook (1973, 17 pages – click on photos):

"soakin up the bath" & "Lester Young founded the"

jazzskin info. page

The “poetry occurs” idea is a riff off John Cage, whose book “Silence” (1961) begins with “The Future of Music: Credo”: “Wherever we are,” Cage says, “what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating.” In his essay “Experimental Music,” Cage underscores the idea that noise is everywhere and attempts to control it create other hazards, but, he says, “One need not fear about the future of music. But this fearlessness only follows if, at the parting of the ways, where it is realized that sounds occur whether intended or not, one turns in the direction of those he does not intend.” When I was working on “jazzskin,” I felt, as I do now, the same about poetry that Cage felt about music. But Cage was not a jazz fan. He apparently thought jazz was about having a conversation, for which he preferred words.

"duet for snow balls and light bulbs"

jazzskin cover

Lester Young founded the

Related: Jazzskin, a post, and “JAZZSKIN” a poem (follow link or see “About” page).

Satisfactus: “Charlie is My Darling”

Charlie Is My Darling at The HollywoodThe new, old Rolling Stones film, “Charlie Is My Darling,” played at Portland’s Hollywood Theatre this past weekend, and we joined a mellow crowd of folks carrying beers and popcorn into the main auditorium, most of us probably able to claim that we had been raised on the Stones.

The Rolling Stones of 1965 were born before the outcome of World War II was certain. Mick was born the week of Operation Gomorra, the Allied bombing of Hamburg, Germany, the firestorm that literally sucked all the oxygen from the air, killing 40,000, injuring another 40,000. Keith was born that December, the week Eisenhower was named the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

Time was on their side, and ours too, as we settled into the revamped seats to view the revamped film. But time for what? One thing that seems to have died in the war was the notion of patrimony, if only temporarily and sporadically, that one might be born with guarantees, warranties. In its place would come a new wave of egalitarianism. It bartered with time, but still, what to do with it? Over in France, the question was considered existential, but for the Stones of “Charlie Is My Darling,” touring Ireland in September of 1965, the question hardly seems to have created a crisis.

“I am not a musician,” Charlie Watts, the drummer, and Bill Wyman, the bassist, both insist. But that’s a simple argument of definition, for what is a musician? They certainly were not musicians in the sense of the classical pieces tied to their seats in a symphony orchestra. But “I just play music” is the rejoinder of the actor, the musician who takes the stage in front of an audience wanting to feel real time, feel alive and in motion. Thus Mick says he’s acting. Music becomes an act, and part of the act is the audience. There’s a scene in the film when a small crowd takes the stage, and an Irish boy grabs Mick’s microphone stand and takes the helm. But he’s not acting, or is he? It’s today a funny scene, full of dramatic irony, for we know what they don’t. It seems almost staged, improvised, but expected, at the same time. What does the audience want, the Stones are asked. To get close, to touch, to be part of the moment. To be in time with the band.

Time is tight, sometimes, but as time goes by, we don’t always feel so constricted, but nor do we feel time “creeping in [its] petty pace,” taking its leisurely time, but still we feel we’ve time “to wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?,” and time to wonder if blogging isn’t such a waste of time, but time can be impatient with us, or we with time, like the bartender in Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” who simply wants to go home, and calls out repeatedly: “HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME.”

The HollywoodTime is real. What to do? Rock around the clock.

The film release comes in time for the Stones 50th anniversary year. It would be fine if their 50th anniversary tour gigs were as simple as the ones in “Charlie Is My Darling,” the stages low and thin, the instruments and amplification unhyped, the audience small and close, the band members close to one another, no catwalk for Mick’s jagged moves, playing venues like The Hollywood Theatre.

Alas, too much time has passed, and with it, too much innocence.

In the film, though 1965 does not seem like some ancient time, one is startled to see how young the Stones look and how old things seem. They travel by train, and the camera captures some splendid Irish countryside. When they do fly, it’s in a prop plane. The audiences are young, of course, but casual and quick interviews with bystanders show they were well-known, if not popular with everyone. There’s a fun and impressive scene where sequestered in a small hotel room with a piano Mick and Keith imitate Elvis and Fats Domino. Charlie pounds a bit on the piano, too. They had all gone to school on this stuff. And there’s another instructive scene where Mick and Keith are shown making up a song, the others following the process, getting it as they go – yeah, not musicians, though; they just make up songs. Mick downplays the lyrics and intellectualizing any of it. Maybe, but this too is all part of the act. What is their audience not satisfied with, Mick’s asked. Being controlled by the older generation, he says. And why do they feel that way? Because they’re dissatisfied with it.

CharlieThe thin stages, the notable riffs, Mick’s antic catlike, moody body language, the minimal amplification and Charlie’s simple drum kit, were all easily enough to activate and satisfy the audience’s rock and roll impulse, both in the film and in the Hollywood Theatre. This could be the last time. Every time, any time.

What to do, and why not a few songs, an hour upon the stage, or in front of the stage, or, years gone by, in an old movie theatre? Susan sat next to me, I could hear her softly singing, and I could feel her chair rocking.

Lady Gaga Sitting Cross-legged on Her Gomden

Dancers with Band The Touch Yous 2Largess the monstress Lady Gaga sunscalds her saga
Lady who? Lady Gaga, aka radio caca
from Saginaw hitchhiked qua-qua
down to Lollapalooza maga
a funny thing happening on the way to pay paga
and on her gomden she sings her hagiography

Her saintly lady hagiography
with still a lot more to saga
heorte abut America her maga and her paga
and how baba gets her yagas out no caca
on her gomden a tabloid tatoo-bio gone maga
Lady Gaga’s letters to a lil monster qua-qua

Poker faced on her gomden qua-qua
the androginous Germanotta hag
monster tattooed maga
eats her own saga
to satisfy our taste for caca
Lady Gaga please phone yr paga

Speechless she calls her paga
the sharp-toothed Gaga in her qua-qua
on the road in her caca
wrapped in a graphic rhapsody
from ragas to riches sagacity
of rarely heard magnitude

The herd of monsters their magnitude
staggers the Grand Duchess of Paganini
oh, the fame, the fama, the bottle rocket saga
the dressing up of the pointed qua-quas
the beatific dress covers the hag’s gomden
stained and glossed in caca

Eyeless in Caca did Lady Gaga
usurp the sagitta of Madonna-non-maga
her songs to mill on a stone-grind
her etymologically reclined paga
singing la-qua-qua, la-qua-qua-qua-la
sacrosanct slanginess saga

Cacophonically paganan
maga dances the qua-qua
and the gnome sings under the saga

A-caroling we will not go…

Christmas MusicDoes anyone go caroling anymore? Apparently they still go caroling in Australia (see Carols by Candlelight). But I’ve heard no carolers in these parts for some time now. I fear it’s a gone tradition here. I wouldn’t mind hearing some carolers outside our place. Susan would have some wassail brewing. I grab my guitar and tell her I’m going out to do some solo-a-caroling. Give me that guitar, she says. You’ve had enough wassail for one night.

So, no caroling. Meantime, we get the Christmas music out. This year we keep coming back to one of those Starbucks compilations, Making Merry. Willie Nelson opens with Norah Jones on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” featuring a steely guitar and a briefly haunting harmonica break, just enough to bring the chill in, the reminder that Christmases, for all their warmth, all become a Christmas past. Another standout on this CD is Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass on “My Favorite Things,” which ends, oddly enough, with some sort of James Bond theme riffing. But it is cold outside, and I was in Fort Huachuca one winter, and can tell you it gets cold down south too. Anyway, baby, it’s cold outside here now, so to dispel the chill, I put some Elvis on and the place starts to warm. A couple of good ones on this It’s Christmas Time CD, like “Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me),” and “Blue Christmas.”

What am I going to sing with my guitar if I go out a-caroling, Susan asks. Come on, baby, I say. I’ll be Barenaked Ladies & you can be Sarah McLachlan and we’ll do a cover of their uptempo “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” We’ll both be arrested, Susan says, and not by God. Oh, well, I say, and put on the classic Vince Guaraldi Trio doing the jazz inspired A Charlie Brown Christmas.

John FaheyWe saw the great, original, finger-style guitarist John Fahey at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles many Christmases ago. The New Possibility came out in 1974 (Takoma Records), and includes the far-out pieces “Christ’s Saints of God Fantasy” (Hopkins-Fahey), and “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” (Praetorius). Popular Songs of Christmas & New Year’s, with Portland’s renowned guitarist Terry Robb, came out in 1983. Some very cool medleys, and “The Skater’s Waltz,” and “The Waltz You Saved for Me.” Maybe I can talk Susan into a New Year’s waltz, if I can’t go a-caroling.

James Joyce’s Guitar Chord in the 1915 Ottocaro Weiss Photo

What guitar chord is James Joyce playing in this photo?

The original photo, taken by Ottocaro Weiss, in 1915, is housed in Cornell’s James Joyce collection, in an exhibit in a glass closet titled “Poetry and Music.” I first saw the photo of Joyce playing the guitar years ago in the Ellmann biography, and I cut it out and pinned it over my desk somewhere, but I’ve since lost that copy.

Fingers to stray on Joyce’s guitar again after its restoration,” an article by Terence Killeen in the March 22, 2012 Irish Times, discusses the restoration of Joyce’s guitar and contains a fascinating video clip of the luthier at work on the guitar. Gary Southwell, the luthier, guesses, based on the finger wear on the fretboard, that Joyce probably was not a “fantastic” guitarist because the wear suggests mostly first position, standard chord forms: “He wasn’t all over the fingerboard.”

Can we tell from the photograph what guitar chord Joyce is fingering? Assuming his index finger holds the root note, then he’s playing a 1-b5 on the bass strings. If the root is an F, then he’s playing an F-B. But his ring finger appears to be positioned directly over the second fret, so it’s hard to tell if he’s fingering a D or a Db. But anyway a closer look suggests that his index finger is not on the 6th low E string, but on the 5th string, playing a Bb note, the middle finger then (still a flat 5) playing an E note, and the ring finger playing a Db note. But I can’t tell what frets he’s fingering, and at first glance, I assumed he was fingering an Em7 chord (guitar spelling: E, B, E, G, D, E = 1, 5, 1, b3, b7, 1).

In any case, Killeen, in the video, seems to say that Joyce is not actually playing the guitar in the photo. I’m not sure why he thinks not. Joyce looks relaxed in the photo, leaning a bit back and away, probably the better to see his left hand fingering, given his poor eyesight. The thumb of his right hand is hidden behind his palm, but it could certainly be plucking the 6th, 5th, or 4th string. Maybe he was not playing the guitar during the photo because he had to hold still for the photographer. But he’s clearly fingering a chord. Or is he? Again, his index and ring fingers appear to be hovering directly over the frets, not slightly behind them.

I recently acquired a hardback copy of “Giacomo Joyce” (Viking Press, reset and reissued May, 1968), introduction and notes by Richard Ellmann, and was surprised and delighted to find the Weiss photo of Joyce and his guitar used as a frontispiece, spread across two pages.

Perhaps the chord Joyce is fingering in the Weiss photo is from Finnegans Wake, a pun-chord, a humorous play on notes.

Follow up 8 Sep 13: Check out guitarist Gerald Garcia’s Joyce guitar analysis (read through post and scroll through comments section).

|||||| * The Believer * Ninety-First Issue: The Music Issue * July/August 12 * ||||||

The ninety-first issue, the annual “Music Issue,” July/August 12, of The Believer magazine arrived via snail mail yesterday. The snail was slower than usual. The music issue always comes with a CD, a surprise I look forward to, but this year there’s a cassette tape (no, not an 8 track tape, though that would really have been a surprise), and there were apparently a few problems with the tape, the tape taped to the cover, the cassette tape taped to the cover of the magazine, coming off in route. (Remember when cassette tapes got eaten by the player?). Anyway, my copy never came, so I sent a polite email, asking “what’s up?,” and the good folks at McSweeney’s sped a special delivery of the issue, which, as I said, arrived yesterday. I’ve not subscribed since the beginning, but almost. There’s a stack of them (I never toss them out) on the top shelf.

I was reading Silence by John Cage when the issue arrived. The tape is titled “The 2012 Believer Tape: Love Songs for Lamps.” At first I thought it said, “…for Lambs.” But no; it’s, “…for Lamps.” I was reading John Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing,” from Silence. In the “Notes and Apologies” section of the magazine, I read, “In the event that you don’t own a Walkman….” But I have a tape player in the old used car, so no worries, but I did pause when taking out the Dylan tape (“Highway 61 Revisited”) that’s been playing non-stop for months, as if I’m going for some sort of record. But I did also download the “Lamps” songs to iTunes, feeling somewhat with it, it being conversant with contemporary technology. And then I listened to the first “Lamps” song, “Leave Me Alone,” by Hysterics. My first reaction was that it’s a mercifully short song. But I was listening to it on my computer.

Today, Eric and I were heading out, and I told him about The Believer cassette. I had the magazine open, and I read him the list of bands included on the tape: Hysterics, The Memories, Shana Cleveland and the Sancastles – you get the idea, and he had not heard of any of them. And his antennae are never retracted when it comes to this sort of thing. So I was surprised. Then I read, in the magazine, that these bands “…release their work as cassette-only.” How cool is that? I said, cooly. Eric’s the one who ejected the Dylan. And as we headed out, the Hysterics yelling “Leave Me Alone,” I thought, this is a perfect cassette, perfect for the car. Cassettes should have short songs – it makes it easier to find them if you’re searching for just one. But we let it play, and then we heard The Memories doing “Higher,” and I’m sold. Good issue, the ninety-first issue of The Believer. There are also some good articles, an interview with Lucinda Williams, for example.

Where the Palace of Wisdom is Loaded with Vice

John Lancaster’s review of The Road of Excess, Marcus Boon’s book on writing under the influence, appeared in the January 6, 2003 New Yorker, and the review provides an effective, short introduction into drug use in writing as well as the journalistic impulse to too easily categorize, stereotype, and generalize. Associating addictions with occupations simply creates a stereotype. It’s probably true to say that alcoholism travels promiscuously in sales, but this doesn’t mean that alcohol is notably absent from other occupations, nor that all who work in sales are alcoholics, so what does the adage gain us in understanding either addiction or sales? Addictions transcend occupations; we find them everywhere. We may be living in the Age of Drugs, since we also live in the Age of Anxiety. Lancaster points out that most of the drugs we associate with addictions are late 19th or 20th century inventions. But while drugs addict, not all addictions are to drugs. Boon’s title comes from William Blake’s “The Proverbs of Hell,” found in Blake’s long poem, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. The complete line is “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” But Blake wasn’t talking about drugs. He was talking about contraries. When Salvador Dali was asked if he painted while on drugs, as if that might explain surrealism, he responded, no; and asked in reply, “Why should I take the drug; I am the drug.”

Lancaster attempts to level the hyperbole, claiming that beyond the classic cases frequently referenced, attempts to associate drugs with writing usually miss the train we’re actually on. Then, he adds a final paragraph, which unfortunately drags jazz and drugs into his discussion, to support his anti-climactic claim that drug use has, after all, influenced the arts, particularly popular music. “The story of dope-fiend writers is interesting, but the history of dope-fiend jazz musicians is the history of jazz,” Lancaster says. Dope is not the history of jazz, any more than alcohol is the history of any occupation. Drugs have seeped into all socio-economic demographics of our society. Should we say that steroid use is the history of baseball? In the end, the average writer is no different from the average carpenter, who rises early and starts pounding nails, not beers, while the writer is pounding keys. Of interest with regard to Lancaster’s review are the letters found in the January 27 New Yorker “Mail,” Sue Mingus emphatically insisting that her husband, the famous jazz bassist Charles Mingus, listed by Lancaster as an addict, “was not a heroin addict,” and she eloquently argues that Lancaster “perpetuates myths and clichés and reveals little of the nature of creativity.” Another reader wrote to deflate Lancaster’s reference that listening to Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue approximates the heroin experience. The reader claimed that the Kind of Blue album came after Miles’s addictions, seemingly a question of fact; but, in any case, the year we saw Mark McQuire and Jose Canseco hit back to back homers in the King Dome – did that approximate for the fan what it’s like to be on steroids?

As pervasive then as drug use, are the associations we make about its use, and so we were not surprised to hear JazzWax weighing in on jazz and popular music drug use in yesterday’s Sunday Wax Bits. Keith Richards’s recent memoir, Life, provides a fresh example of the JazzWax point that popular music’s business plan has always promoted the glamorization of drugs. But Lancaster also pointed out that writing that is about drugs is usually best when it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is wrapped in humor. We’re not sure we can take Richards’s entire memoir seriously, for it’s a memoir meant to sell a life, and if the story of popular music is about something other than popular music, it’s about an addiction not to drugs, but to money, which reveals itself in exploitation and adulteration, a watering down of goods and needs to wants and consumptions.

Schopenhauer’s Blues; or, On Jazz & Folk Music, from Hoedown to Hootenanny: A Happening Post

Over at JazzWax, jazz journalist Marc Meyers pulls out an old discussion, with Stan Kenton trying to explain a depressed jazz market. Marc focuses on Kenton’s suggestion that the emergence of folk helps explain the jazz recession, but finds Kenton’s explanation historically inaccurate: “I find this entire folk-as-jazz-killer thing a hoot,” Marc says.

Hoot of course is the folk mating call, suggesting hootenanny, a down-home “happening.” Yet the etymologies of both hootenanny and its precursor, the hoedown, suggest that folk and jazz have common ancestral roots in Blues People.

A flat note of interest in the Kenton comments transcribed by Marc suggests an adulteration of jazz through the commercialization processes: “The jazz we have known, explained Kenton, from 1890 to the late 1950s, has spent itself and has become absorbed by American music in general.” But, by definition, we might argue that jazz is that music which absorbs every other musical form without losing its own identity. Jazz is, at its roots, a folk music, and to suggest that folk music isn’t now or wasn’t ever popular is a self-contradictory proposition.

In any case, foraging through the OED this morning, researching the etymology of hootenanny, hoedown, and happening, I culled the following hoots, displayed below:

1963 Daily Mail 11 Sept. 8/4 Hootenanny. …is to the folk singer what a jam session is to the jazzman. 1964 Mrs. L. B. Johnson White House Diary 13 Jan. (1970) 44, I love folk music, but the name ‘Hootenanny’ rather repels me. 1967 ‘J. Munro’ Money that Money can’t Buy ix. 114   Two more cowboys appeared. …They played hoe-down music. 1969 Guardian 2 Sept. 8/2 The atmosphere was that of…a hoedown in—well, perhaps in Hibbing, Minn. 1970 Daily Tel. 29 Dec. 10 Tomorrow the 1,600 delegates will see a ‘happening’ called ‘Thank God We’re Normal’ performed by 70 boys and girls from…comprehensive schools in London.

Music is a language of feeling (as opposed to a language of thinking), though it might sound illogical to think of music as a language, since music not being a language is what gives it its universal character. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “with respect to the theme of achieving more peaceful and transcendent states of mind, Schopenhauer believes that music achieves this by embodying the abstract forms of feelings, or feelings abstracted from their particular everyday circumstances. This allows us to perceive the quintessence of emotional life — ‘sadness itself,’ ‘joy itself,’ etc. — without the contingent contents that would typically cause suffering. By expressing emotion in this detached or disinterested way, music allows us to apprehend the nature of the world without the frustration involved in daily life, and hence, in a mode of aesthetic awareness that is akin to the tranquil philosophical contemplation of the world.”

As good a definition of the blues as I’ve ever heard.