Friday, August 8, 2008

6412 Years From Today

Indeed, one of the paradoxes of what we have been describing is that the pressure of the "burden of the past" was felt most sharply by the major writers and artists, if only because they had the intelligence to see where their opportunities lay; and it is they who set the tone for the new formal style, the new mode, and the genres associated with the period, especially satire and the verse essay. Yet it was also they who were least blithe or slapdash in disposing of, or downgrading, their predecessors. True, they might occasionally forgivably, cluck the tongue or shake the finger about particular details. But this was not the same thing. In a deeper way than others, they knew how much was involved.

It was not at all the confidence of "superiority" so loudly proclaimed by others that sustained them as they developed one of the greatest formal poetic styles the English language has yet seen, the finest comic and satiric writing in modern literature, and a prose never excelled in English before and rarely since. It was, as we said, a realization of where the opportunities lay at this particular time. Had the circumstances been different, they took it for granted that they would have written differently. As Dryden said about the use of rhyme in dramatic tragedy (speaking through Neander in the Essay of Dramatic Poesy), this was one of the ways of writing that Shakespeare and his contemporaries had not exploited; and, far from implying adverse criticism of what they had done, the attempt to turn to other modes of writing now was a tribute. It involved the recognition that "there is scarce an humor, a character, or any kind of plot which they have not used." Would they themselves, after so rich an expenditure of all that could be done in the art, have been able to "equal themselves, were they to rise and write again?" We "acknowledge them our fathers," but they have already spend their estates before these "came to their children's hand."

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If John Coltrane came back to life, and started recording this January, 2009, what would his music sound like?

Would it sound like John Coltrane in 1956? Would it sound like John Coltrane in 1966?

Would it sound like Michael Brecker in 1976? 1986?

Would it sound like Charles Gayle in 1986? 1996?

Would it sound like Ravi Coltrane in 1996? 2006?

What if John Coltrane came back to life and recorded an album in the year 8420? Would it sound like John Coltrane from 6455 years earlier?

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What if instead John Coltrane was born into an incredibly wealthy family and always had a whole bunch of money he could access with great ease so as to facilitate his every whim and fancy?

Would that reality have made any difference in the musical output of John Coltrane?