NOTE AND WORD

Notes did more than ride on rhythm

Pulsing through the unity that was the song, is the song

Uniting string, amp, voice, and ear

Hearing players sound together song

Dionysus dance energy and harmony

ALL HARMONIOUS

 

What text can never do, even if spoken

Written reference to literature speech and word

But there is the I AM

Logos

Being in existence and the regression into terms

Name and it’s gone

 

The harmonies that played together knit

Player, hearer, heart, and feet tapping

Nodding, dance, night-time, night-club

Night after night and us three

All harmonious over time

And a long time

 

Life vicissitudes over much time

The song sung together, composed of us three

Now and echo

To talk about together

ETHICS AND COVID-19

I drove home today, after a long walk in the park,

Past the reopened bars, coffee shops, on Whyte Avenue

Observed the patrons seated at tables outside and inside in the darkness

During the past few months ethics were easy:

Stay home

That meant pass time, pass time well, at home:

Read good books, go on walks, play music, binge TV

My little money lasted longer

Now that I don’t have to stay home, is it enough

To pass time, pass time well, at home?

Why did I wander around shopping malls, eat breakfast at coffee shops, lose money at the

casino?

Crave more money.

I know why I went out to hear live music.

Maybe I will still shelter in place

Read good books, go on walks, play music.

I am not the same since COVID-19

Will not be the same.

We’ll see about binging TV, craving more money.

MUSINGS ON MUSIC

Music isn’t just pretty sounds, a pulse

Rock isn’t just a distorted guitar

Blues isn’t just a 12-bar form

Music should strike fire from the heart, so said Beethoven,

Music is poetry of the soul, heart and soul

Soul music, the existence of the soul

Touched by fire, music is a living thing

Life-giving, live or recorded, alive through ages

Living with individuals through life, through aging,

In youth or age, youth and age

Peasant and king hear the same music, so say the Chinese

Pounding through the heart, hearing, heard with soul

Existence of the soul, sounds’ salve, alive

Conducted through electricity in the brain

Singing through synapses in the soul

Symphony of the senses sent from on high

Humans sang before they spoke,

The lilt of language’s inflections

Performances perfecting the human condition

Culture, cultivation, culmination of the muse’s calling

Meaning so much more than pretty sounds, a pulse

THE CITY IN COVID-19

The city is quiet

There are hardly any sirens

Traffic is lighter

When we go for walks

In the deserted park

Drivers wave as they pass

On the nearby roads

I dodge sparse people

In the grocery store

We decided to order take-out

From our favorite restaurant

At home, I write music, play and learn, record,

Read, and there are other projects, chores

But mostly I watch TV

Where I learn the latest about COVID-19

IT NEVER USED TO BE

Mike noticed me shaking

Playing at an open stage

The way we had in clubs years ago

The legacy of my psychotic episode years ago,

The effects persisting in my involuntary shakes, fear, and incompetence

Brett noticed me shaking

Almost convulsing onstage at the keyboard

It never used to be like that

The ease, the drive I had to perform

Then the caving fear onstage

The lingering apathy that stole

My passion to play hour upon hour at home

Getting better hour upon hour enthralled

Or onstage before crowds

Eager, excited, up

Darryl tried to jam with me last spring

Remembering my former ability

Thinking me as capable as it used to be

It was sad, the attempt, his generosity

One player quenched by bipolar disorder

Likely doesn’t mean much

But it does to me

ARCHITECTURAL NOTES OF ONE MEMORABLE EVENING

The jazz band transformed the narrow, ceramic-tiled club

They rearranged the ratio of people to sound to dark woodwork

The club’s architecture became the chord structures’ foundation to melody

The harmonic structure transported solos all the way up to the ceiling, blew the roof off

And into the sky, out to the streets, I imagined

I didn’t understand the people jabbering and blabbering through it

I stood rapt in the packed club, transported, transformed

Maybe the people had heard them before

(The trumpet was a fixture in town)

In the intense content, I, even I, was content after the two hours.

I noted that any given musician only,

Playing measures measured over time,

Time after time, would finally time out.

Variety shows the composition of the universe

Different faces, voices, combos, intonations

Render exquisite the transportation, the transformation

Of the architecture of a club’s tone, music and staff, vibe and patron

The very foundations—flying and buttressing the harmonic structure

Of one memorable evening

PARNASSUS

The Other World is too much with me

And not enough getting and spending

I live downtown, not high atop Parnassus

Though I do consort more with the muses

Than I do with the Dow Jones Industrials

I bask in Apollo’s rays

Even in the coldest economic climate

Nectar is the food of the gods

My food is peanut butter and jelly

My books, musical instruments, art

Content me with little cash

I’ve made calculations, estimations, projections

Playing Prometheus with my present, future, future finances

I’m alright, going to be alright

What Is the Blues?

As a musician, I thought that I knew what the blues is.  But after a visit to Chicago, I don’t know.  I had thought that the blues was a feel, certain notes and often a stylized 12-bar chord pattern.  But after my visit to Chicago, I’m not sure that the blues is a matter of musical notes.

My first experience of Chicago blues was the House of Blues.  The walls of the Chicago House of Blues are covered with folk art.  The folk art was powerful, sometimes “abstract,” striking and soulful.  It affected me,  and set the tone for my experience in the club.  One collection of drawings had someone shot in every picture.  One woman had about 20 bleeding bullet holes in her.  There was a Santa Claus dead and bleeding from a gunshot.  There were other artworks that had smiles, grimaces, faces, figures–all carrying a heartfelt message.  In the upstairs concert hall, above the stage were symbols of many world religions with the words, “All Are One” in the central panel.  The stage of the downstairs club had red curtains with a large heart on fire on them behind the band.  The impression I had in the House of Blues was that I was in a shrine.  I even told my partner that this place was spiritual.  The music was part of this spiritual experience.  Heart.  Community.  Togetherness.

In Buddy Guy’s Legends, guitars were hung on the walls signed by the likes of Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, B. B. King, George Thorogood, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and other legends.  The MC who introduced the band worked the audience.  He asked where we all came from.  There were people from Canada, Switzerland, Turkey, England, Texas, South Side of Chicago, and other places all over the world.  As people in the audience called out their homes, the rest of us cheered.  The MC made jokes, warmed up the audience and brought us all together.  The music was communal, communion.  Heart.  Togetherness.  The music was part of the overall experience.

I live in Canada, and we have a good blues club here that brings in bands from all over North America and even Spain.  The music here is good.  As good as Chicago.  But we don’t have the bond of hearts I experienced in Chicago.  It’s more like an informal concert.  And I have never felt our club is a shrine.  I don’t know what the blues is.  It may be heart–soul.  Not good notes.

TIME AND REFLECTION ON LIFE CHOICES

He did alright for himself

That’s how I see my friend, now

He made a living out of music

Married and raised a family

 

A benefit of age is perspective

I knew him before it all

He was a waiter and I a doctoral student

We played in a band together

 

He got a job teaching music at a ma and pop store

Pretty much the town’s only music store

I set my sights on a university professorship

I wondered then if that’s all he planned to do in life

 

He taught and gigged the past thirty-three years

Married, now the father of grown adults

A house, a family, a musician

He did alright for himself

 

I got the Ph.D., but the professorship never came through

Ordained a Swedenborgian minister a decade ago

A long-term relationship, travels together and moments

In retrospect—the gift of age—we both did alright for ourselves

Don’t Go to See John Wick

Speaking to the unifying power of music, an ancient Chinese proverb says that an emperor and a peasant hear the same sound.  The blues club I frequent has a great band this week.  Total strangers dance together on the floor; couples embrace during slow music; regulars become friends; we all come together and get happy.  I made the mistake of foregoing all this to go to a bad movie tonight.  I thought that John Wick would be like Jack Reacher, with plot turns, a good story, and action adventure.  John Wick was none of these.  It was a mixture of WWF wrestling and the Assassin’s Creed video game.  What I mean is that John Wick was 2 hours and 11 minutes of graphic murder.  There was no story.  It was 2 hours and 11 minutes of killing.

I don’t understand why people want to see so much murder.  I know that video games are like that, with heads blowing up, blood splattering, limbs being severed, bullets flying.  And that doesn’t make me feel any better.  People were literally laughing at some of the grosser kills–as at a WWF wrestling match.  I was ready to walk out after about a half hour of this, when I realized the kind of movie I was watching.  But I don’t know if my partner wanted to stay, and, out of misplaced manners, I didn’t want to talk in the middle of the movie.

What bothered me most about John Wick was that I could have spent the same two hours and 11 minutes enjoying the Dionysian experience of the blues club, with the hot band now in town.  Instead, I was subjected to graphic representations of killing.  I noticed that the theatre was filled largely with young people, who are probably used to seeing this kind of thing in the video games that are becoming a narcotic.  This also explains the kind of of music being produced today.

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