Tuesday, November 20, 2007

We don't never pay much attention to him, but neither does he to us, mostly. His table in the corner rests wreathed in a curtain of dense, torpid fog, a constant languorous blanket obscuring the glowing ember at the tip of his cigar like the eye of some crouched ghoul in a dank cave. I haven't much spoken to him; he has a name, Morgan or Morris or some-such, a heavyset and imposing sounding name, a name that weighs down the tongue as it is spoken. It fits him, though, whatever it is... though he doesn't much bother to leave his cracked leather booth in the corner, his presence holds percievable force, an anchoring gravity exerting itself silently, imposingly, from above and behind whatever events occur in the bar. The time Jacky had too much and found himself staggering drunk, barechested, atop a table, screaming obscenities and raining shattered glass, coming dangerously close to the edge with every step, the bear in the corner was there, yawningly large, to wrestle him down and escort him to the door. About the only time I think I've seen him leave his table. It's not as though things get to that point often though, I swear it, our crowd is very quiet and peaceful down-to-earth people, mostly hard workers at the plant, sick and tired after long days at the saws and grinders and ready for a beer and a breather. As I said, though, he don't usually worry himself about us, us fellows, even as the night stretches on and the conversations blur together and the bar begins to waver, the frost begining to crackling and spread across our windshields in the parking lot outside.
I figure he had a girl here at some point, but as far as we can tell, he spends his nights in the bar, alone but never lonely, smoke curling around his face, until closing time or whenever, I've never stuck around long enough for to find out. It's the only explanation I can find; none of the plant workers know him or his proper name, old Terence always changes the subject when we mention him, even Scabs can't say much specific about him. I've never seen another man in his seat, I'd swear to it, but I can't imagine he's here every night. Even the girls can't say anything about him, though a few have in fact paid visit to his cabin the valley, they themselves seem to be even more confused.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

"I've been waiting for you..."

Certain songs have an indescribable something, an implacable dynamic that surpasses the sum of it's parts. The Pixies, for example, and Pavement, rarely rise above the barest musical simplicity... the bass hits keeps a single note, 8 beats in each measure, the drums vary only in the bass drum beats and fills, the guitars are usually lost somewhere in wailing avant-garde nowhere-land. what is it, then, that I like so much about these songs? Is it that the third, fourth, fifth time that I listen to them, every single note and chord change and every minuscule subtlety seems to be placed in exactly the perfect spot, that the idiosyncratic and usually off-key lead singers seem so finely tuned to the emotional potency of the music (whether or not their lyrics make sense), that the melody is of the sort that comes to inhabit a corner of your mind, set up a tent, and put it's two cents in at none but the most appropriate moments of your life (walking along an empty city street at sunrise, lying under the stars with old friends)? What is it in funk music that makes us want to dance, what is it in Marvin Gaye that makes us want Sexual Healing, what does Yngwie Malmsteem put into his guitar that makes him capable of slaying a dragon with the power of ROCK, what is the poignant sadness generously whisked into all the best love songs? Here's a bit of Rumi:

Listen to the story told by the reed,
of being separated.

"Since I was cut from the reedbed,
I have made this crying sound.

Anyone apart from someone he loves
understands what I say.

Anyone pulled from a source
longs to go back.

At any gathering I am there,
mingling in the laughing and grieving,

a friend to each, but few
will hear the secrets hidden

within the notes. No ears for that.
Body flowing out of spirit,

spirit up from body: no concealing
that mixing. But it's not given us

to see the soul. The reed flute
is fire, not wind. Be that empty."

As Coleman Barks, the translator, pointed out, the music of a reed flute is not in the breath of the musician. It is somewhere behind, it is borne of the consciousness of the musician, and it bubbles to the surface from a place beyond notes and chords and theory. Music is a carrefour to emotion- it directly and viscerally affects our hearts, tiptoeing around our rationality. Of course we all hear music differently- we all interpret books differently, witness events differently, experience love differently- but every person, I think, has a deep shared emotional consciousness that certain patterns in our senses (sight, hearing, etc.) trigger.