on hearing Casals’ recording of Bach’s Sixth Suite
Deep in a time that cannot come again Bach thought it through, this lonely and immense Reflexion wherein our sorrows learn to dance. And deep in a time that cannot come again Casals recorded it. Playing it back, And bending now over the instrument, I watch the circling stillness of the disc, The tracking inward of the tonearm, enact A mystery wherein the music shares: How time, that comes and goes and vanishes, Never to come again, can come again.
How many silly miracles there are That will not save us, neither will they save The world, and yet they are miraculous: The tonearm following the spiral path While moving inward on a shallow arc, Making the music that companions it Through winding ways to silence at the close; The delicate needle that navigates these canyons By contact with the edges, not the floor; Black plastic that has memorized and kept In its small striations whatever it was told By the master’s mind and hand and bow and box, Making such definite shudderings in the air That Bach’s intent rises from the tomb . . . The Earth, that spins around upon herself In the simple composition of Light and Dark, And varying her distance on the Sun Makes up the Seasons and the Years, and Time Itself, whereof the angels make record; The Sun, swinging his several satellites Around himself and slowly round the vast Galactic rim and out to the unknown Past Vega at the apex of his path; And all this in the inward of the mind, Where the great cantor sings his songs to God . . .
The music dances to its inner edge And stops. The tonearm lifts and cocks its head An instant, as if listening for something That is no longer there but might be; then Returns to rest, as with a definite click The whole strange business turns itself off.
A bit melodramatic, like a lot of his stuff, but it still strikes a chord, especially at the end of one in a series of long days. Not that my life is anywhere near this, but isn't that part of the point? A little wallowing has such a cathartic effect. And the piano part is lovely.
Crisis averted, how about a little fun? Not only in keeping with recent events, it can double as a personal, belated "best of 2007" post. Not that I've heard the whole record, but the song is great. I remember the SO coming in once when I was listening to it; she asked, "When was this recorded?" "Um, this year, I think," was my reply. "Sounds like it was 50 years ago," she replied. That's part of the fun of it. Also it reminds one how much fun Tom Waits can still be as a songwriter now and again.
James Panero flags an essay in the Atlantic complaining about the role and status of "quirkiness" in today's culture. Like James, I can't help but cheer at any rhetorical bricks thrown at the insufferable Ira Glass, and to a certain extent agree that the author's later backtracking to only being against "bad quirk" is something of a copout. Still, if one called Jonathan Richman a leading example of quirkiness in pop culture (and the case surely can be made regarding the composer of "I'm a Little Dinosaur") and found that a bad thing, well, so much the worse for the indictment of quirkiness. Jonathan Richman rocks, and that's pretty much all there is to it (perhaps an exception can be made for quirky rock music that always has a strong backbeat.)
I was also quite alarmed when I read James' post and saw the claim that the "inert cuteness of "quirk culture" can be traced back to the Talking Heads and indie rock." While I don't know exactly how James feels, reading the Atlantic article revealed the reassuring news that the author of it regarding the Talking Heads' culpibility for quirkiness to have begun with "Stay Up Late," from the Little Creatures record--you know, the one that when released caused all Talking Heads fans to wonder "What the hell has happened to this band?" When David Byrne sang "Goo goo, ga ga ga, goo goo, ga ga ga" a few years before, it wasn't quirkiness, after all; it was an expression of contempt for the way the rest of his fellow citizens lived tout court. Which may have, you know, its own problems, but Ira Glass it ain't.
Given that Dolly's career had moved on to a very different place by the time I was listening to music (i.e., halfway toward being a joke), I never realized how much Emmylou Harris sounded like the young Parton.
Still working (or, not having time to work ) on the Hodgkin post. Let me distract you with some music (although I cannot compete with this, except to say: Nilsson? Ha-ha.) I wrote about this song by the Ginn Sisters once before, but wasn't in a position to share it. It's no longer on their MySpace page, but you can hear it below. And while I'd mitigate some of what I said about it being like contemporary country (in some ways it is, but it's a lot more basic and honest), I stand by the idea the idea that they sing the hell out of this song.