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

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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.

A RIPOFF OF WALLACE STEVENS

I was enjoying the music

Loud music, sometimes

When everybody in the band landed with the drums

On the same beat

Such a powerful pulse of air was produced

It hurt

The music wasn’t the rhythmic pulses of air

Nor would it be cathode-ray oscilloscopal wave forms

Nor was it resonating vibrating ear cilia

Maybe it was the electric synapse lightning-flowing pathways of sparks

Of the brain,–some people think so

The cascades of my emotions

Grooving like air pulses can’t

Grieving in the blues

Thrilling to the guitar licks

Loving the ensemble harmonious sound and the beat

As no oscilloscope can

Movements of my soul

Undulating to what is now music

Is the music

Music

When I last blogged about my new CD of original music, the disk was only available on CD Baby.  It is now available on most online venues: Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, CD Baby and others.  Music has been very much a part of my life, though I haven’t made a vocation of it.  Keeping music private means that I don’t have to follow the dictates of a music professor, I don’t need to follow popular taste;–I write what flows from my heart and delights my ear.  I hope it delights your ear, too, and moves your heart.  I have two songs from my CD uploaded in the music tab on my web page, with a slide show about Carol and me.  I invite you to check out these musical offerings.  And if you like what you hear, I invite you to visit my onepage:

revdavefekete.hearnow.com

From my heart to yours.

Jesus Christ Superstar Revisited

I remember hitch-hiking to the lake my uncle lived on, one summer in 1970.  I got picked up by a car with four girls in it.  As a male adolescent, I couldn’t believe my good luck, riding in a car with four girls in it.  They had the car radio tuned to the FM rock station (back then there was AM radio, which played “bubble-gum” pop music, and there was FM which played acid rock like Hendrix, Clapton, Ten Years After, and Jethro Tull).  “Jesus Christ Superstar” came on the radio.  I asked the girls, “Is this Jesus Christ Superstar that everybody’s talking about?”  They didn’t know.

The fact is, everybody was talking about Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970.  It was one of the most popular rock-operas next to Tommy, by The Who.  And it launched Andrew LLoyd Webber’s illustrious career, who wrote the music for Jesus Christ Superstar.  Everybody had to have an opinion about Jesus Christ Superstar–stoners, clergy, church-goers, theater buffs, everybody across the board.  It was that much of a sensation.  Life Magazine devoted a whole issue to it.

Jesus Christ Superstar challenged religion, which happened a lot in the late ’60’s/early ’70’s.  The very title, calling Jesus a superstar, was a challenge.  And Jesus Christ Superstar was good rock music.  We listened to it over and over again because we liked the music.  But this rock-opera also took the Jesus story seriously, and engaged with the story seriously.  I remember one evening while there was a social event at our church’s divinity school.  One minister offered to listen to the whole rock-opera with any church goers who wanted to do so.  Then, after we heard the piece, he opened up the floor for questions and comments.  We took it that seriously, and the minister took it that seriously.  Some thought it was sacrilegious; some thought that it brought the Jesus story into the modern world; some thought it was a holy opera; some thought it was too strange a mixture of religion and rock.  But everyone had something to say about it.  Godspell came out later, but it wasn’t the musical masterpiece nor as sensational as was Jesus Christ Superstar.

What occasions these reminiscences is my TV.  On the retro channel, due to the Christmas season, they just played Jesus Christ Superstar.  Watching it so many years later, I had many feelings.  But I was mostly struck with the thought that they could never make this album and movie today.  Back in 1970, religion had a strong enough influence in society that you could make an album about religion, and it would mean something.  There is so much religious apathy today that Jesus Christ Superstar would largely be ignored.  And Andrrew Lloyd Webber’s career wouldn’t be launched by it today.  Consider two films, The Passion of the Christ in 2004; and The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988.  I thought I should see The Last Temptation of Christ.  It was a  shocking movie in its day because it depicted Jesus and Mary Magdalene in a sexual relationship.  I didn’t see The Passion of the Christ, and didn’t think I needed to.  These films came and went but weren’t the sensation that Jesus Christ Superstar was.  And they were only movies, they weren’t music and film and theater all, as was Jesus Christ Superstar.

It would largely be ignored today because religion is largely ignored today.  An opera that engages seriously with the Jesus story wouldn’t catch on because of the so few people who also engage seriously with the Jesus story.  Or with religion itself.  W. H. Auden writes, “But on earth indifference is the least/We have to dread from man or beast.”  I think today’s indifference to religion, though, is indeed something we do have to dread.  If we still can dread anything–other than something that threatens self-interest.  Apathy and indifference is more of a threat than we may credit it to be.  I’m glad that the abuses and ridiculous and hurtful ideas from religion are being denounced and done away with.  And if apathy is the remedy for this, well and good.  But by the same token, the bland world I am finding myself in today, is still frightening.  To me, it is a deafening silence.

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