Thursday, July 31, 2008

How Many is Three Trillion?

Indeed, for frail human nature the use of exclusion or denial is immensely seductive as the answer to most problems, including moral and social ones. It is always easier, as Johnson said, to throw out or forbid than to incorporate -- "to take away superfluities than to supply defects." In the title of George Granville's Essay upon Unnatural Flights in Poetry (1701), with all that it suggests, we sense the relief that neoclassic theory could provide: something still remained to be done, and the difficulties were not insuperable.

In the very limitation, in other words, lay much of the attraction. ("No one unable to limit himself," said Boileau, "has ever been able to write.") If in our quick summary we appear to belittle, we should remind ourselves that what we are saying can apply to any formalism that is deliberately exclusive (as opposed to the necessary exclusions in primitive arts), and especially if it is a formalism trying to free itself from,
or establish itself after, a strongly emotional and richly mimetic (that is, "realistic") art. We have only to think of the immense effort of the arts, including music, of the early and middle twentieth century to get the nineteenth century off their backs. So strenuous -- at times single minded -- was the effort that, during the childhood and youth of those of us now middle-aged, many of us began to assume that the first requirement of the sophisticated poet, artist, or composer was to be as unlike his nineteenth-century predecessors as possible. We even had moments when we suspected that the principle influence on modern poetry, for example, was not so much the array of abstractions cited in the recondite search for aim or justification, but rather the poetry of Tennyson. What we are trying desperately to be unlike can tell a great deal about not only what we are doing but why, and a movement may often be better understood by what it concretely opposes than by its theoretical slogans. In short, this is a situation in which we ourselves have directly shared, and when we confront something like it in other periods we should be able to approach it with some empathy if not with the most fervent applause.

W. Jackson Bate, The Burden of the Past, p. 20-21

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Something still remains to be done...right? There's still notes on the saxophone yet to be played, there's still more licks on the guitar yet to be mastered...right? It really isn't all about money laundering and tax write-offs, is it?

Oh to crawl up that cooter and back into the dope drenched goateed womb of Jazz. A nice masters degree program, somewhere warm maybe. Somewhere with a good meal plan. A place to network with other like minded people who also believe that there is still fresh milk in those sagging, well tugged udders.

A coloring book, as opposed to a blank canvas. Or maybe a paint by numbers.

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Are "we" still trying to get the nineteenth century off our backs, or are we trying desperately to get the nineteenth century back on our backs so as to provide some lines in which to color--so as to combat "blank canvas" syndrome?

Now that it is the 21st century (are we off to a great start or what?) is there an effort to get the 20th century off our backs? Is it too early to define the 20th century? What is it about the 20th century might we want to shed? The shedding? Will the 21st century be about shedding the shedding?

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As an entirely unrelated aside, once upon a time I spent an afternoon sharpening all 64 crayons with the built in sharpener. Once I was done I took all the 64 color shavings and melted them. (Do I know how to have fun or what?) In the melting, those 64 color shavings all became one semi solid mass and assumed a delightful monochromatic brownish grey color.

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Speaking of crayons and Jazz and official versus unofficial tribute bands, how's everyone feeling? Anyone feeling depressed?