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12 Jun


One reason to stay alive.



25 May

Cole Desolation
c. 1836

Thomas Cole

I’m listening to the sound of the glorious invasion, treading water as history’s calvary overwhelms the collective mind of the human herd. There’s a tangle in my mind today. My spirits are low, my energy gravitating back toward bed but my will bids I won’t go. Wait, I’ve been this way before. I know this texture. These blind fingers know the music I have yet to hear.

There is solace in marble rooms built by a now-dead empire; there is comfort in the antique harmonies of strings and wooden pipes, human breath. I am doing nothing, treading water. I have yet to declare my beautiful whatever. I see the eyes of the people about me looking up in anticipation of… something? Revelation? I engage in the safety of dispersonal conversation. Human contact deprived of its physical discomforts, the infiltration of eros and envy. How peaceful we all are in this noöspherical coccoon. My fellow monkeys puzzle me.

In these chambers crammed with Emerson and Brodsky, Aristotle, Orwell, Wilde, Rossetti, Lorca, Delillo and Blake, there’s a man who sits here every day and plays electronic solitaire. Does he win? Outside, a sixteen year old kid watches bullshit hip hop at public expense and makes very loud trade negotiations on his phone. The 21st century black market barter system: if the girl wants his drugs she shall be prepared to swallow his semen in exchange.

At the back of my mind: a woman. Two perhaps. One spirit lying underneath a myriad of faces and curves? I hunger. Others hunger for me and I will not feed them. I have forgotten the name of a poet and retrieve some help from someone I barely knew once and do so no longer. He didn’t make the grade, still he retrieved the name of another long forgotten woman who’s words meant more to me than the legends her circle of acquaintance gave rise to. Legends with dicks of course. Ladies, it’s not that you’re not any good, it’s that you don’t care about immortality enough. You have no desire to make the world in your image.

I check in with new friends and at the same time learn about the new art forms that come of the ability to blend word and image and music at will, broadcast to the world. Things will change, fast and slow. We’re too short-lived to notice. Too fast-living to pay attention. I visit old friends, an almost daily habit. They’re different to me of course. But we communicate thanks to reason and the internet.

The brass infantry lets off a volley. The lone tenor is a cannon. The schizophrenic strings set to their frenetic, hysterical race toward spiritual orgasm: Freude, schöner Götterfunken, tochter aus Elysium…


3 Apr




1 Apr

I’m listening to this, reminds of someone who might be a friend.

I’ve got a little piece I made up, a sequence of melodies punctuated by a rhythm that’s not fully baked. I’m a white guy so the melody comes first then I add the rhythm. I played it this morning. It wasn’t bad. No fans, sometimes I get fans. Someone or other who’s been sitting quietly, listening. Sometimes there’s even applause. Fans are good, I like having fans.

But this morning no. And I didn’t deserve them. It wasn’t that I kept hitting the wrong note in the right key for evoking memories of mating cats. I didn’t, not too often anyway. It wasn’t that I forgot how to play it or anything, there was just something… missing. Something blocked. When I play well I forget myself, there’s no reflection. My mind is not on the task, it has surrendered to the task. There’s a flow that runs straight thru my heart out onto the keyboard and beyond. When I play that way, that’s when I get fans.

Does that make sense?

I don’t know how to play piano really. Haven’t done the work, not like with the guitar. I know hundreds of chords on the guitar, used to. I can transpose without much effort (not that transposition on the guitar requires much). But on the piano I’m proficient merely in the keys of Gm and C. And C’s, like, sooo hard on the piano, not. Still, composition’s a breeze on the piano. Select a melody. It’s not hard. Questions and answers. Dah-dah-dah; Dum. Dah-dah-dah; Dum. Dah-dah-dah; Dim. Dah-dah-dah; Dum. Dum-Dum-Dim; Dum. It’s stupid easy.

Turning it into something requires work tho’. Like coming up with a verse/chorus combo. Getting the lyrics right, striving for days to get the hook, the middle-8, the riff. Or maybe you start with the riff and it writes itself. I don’t know how it works. There’s a language but I don’t speak it like a native. I can’t just churn it out. I’ve only ever written one bit of music and it’s not arranged yet. I don’t have the gear.

But sometimes there’s a public piano where I play. Where I wrote it. There, some of the officials approve. It helps that Head of Security is a fan tho’ he keeps his distance. It hurts that my enemies are senior staff. What can I do? I don’t own a piano these days. And the time’s a little ways off when I’ll once again have a private place for music. It’s come as far as it can, it’s organized, memorized. Sometimes I play it.

And when I play it well I’m hooked unobstructed into the source. Something with a red-yellow glow. Something that’s not really there but actually very much is. Sounds like mystical hippie bullshit and it would be if I wanted to take it on a speaker’s tour: buy the book, buy the crystal pyramids, buy the magic dust and the moisturizer. Join the movement. No!

Fuck that! Anyone reading this, you have my permission to give me two twice in the back of the head I ever do something like that.

No. The source is my way of describing a feeling I hold to be important. And other musicians know what I’m talking about. When you’re in the groove. When you’re in the zone. Not just my music, anyone’s. In these moments you know the song you’re playing at the level of instinct. Like breathing.

This morning was not such a moment. Oh well, shit happens.


13 Feb



3 Dec


Once upon a time, in the deserts west of Los Angeles, lived two boys who were really into music. One was a wop. Looked a right wop too. Wop is American for wog. Back then people looked down on them. The other one was white-bread I s’pose, name of Don. Lived with his parents, his aunt and uncle, grandmother handy… and his girlfriend! This was the ’50s man.

The wop (Sicilian mainly) had the Wop Family. Very respectable. They designed the model. His dad had security clearance at some local research facility with the US military-industrial complex. He was a good guy but he thought it was safe to eat DDT. His wife was a good woman; they had education but not much money. When the kid turned 15 they told him he could have a present worth $5! So the kid made a long distance phone call to the composer Edgard Varèse in New York City. A little earlier he’d bought his first record ever – Varèse’s Ionisaton; brought it home, played it. His mom looked at him like he was out of his fucking mind. She banished the music forever from the living room. Told him to take the Decca into his bedroom to listen to it. They never saw it again.

Don’s family was close but weird. Letting your teenage son co-habit with his girlfriend um-ah. Don’s uncle used to leave the bathroom door open, exposing himself when Don’s girl Laurie walked by. “Ah what a beauty!,” he said, “It looks just like a big, fine beef heart.” Mmm okay. She didn’t move out. I guess they had a sense of humour.

Years later the world’s best rock journalist would visit Don aka Captain Beefheart. Dirt poor. A trailer in the Mojave desert and 39 years-old. The rockpig’s piece waxed lyrical about Beefheart and slagged off the other boy, the wop with the Dad who ate DDT. He wrote that the kid “wouldn’t be hock in a spitoon, much less a “composer” (anybody says that certifies themselves a moron)…” The wop kid, like Don, had made a name by then as a writer/play/producer of highly esoteric music that left some people’s minds blown whereas others just blew up the stereo.


Anybody says it certifies themselves stupid ‘ey? Well I say the guy was a composer and a damn fine one. I say Lester Bangs knew rock better than the people who created it but he didn’t know from shit the art of composition. Last Thursday I listened to a whole Frank Zappa album for the very first time.


I’m not gonna write about Zappa’s music, yet. Hot Rats is the one I’m after next. There’s shitloads of his stuff and I’ve listened to slightly over 1/60th of it. What would I know. But he’s a composer, he takes rock and composes like a modern master, like Stravinsky only with electric guitar. I’m just amazed to find another hero this late in life. The guy was cool. So Lester Bangs didn’t like him. He didn’t like Lester Bangs: “When rock journalism, as a form, finally developed, the wit and wisdom of the Ancient Incompetents became the data base for all writing to follow.”

Take that.

(I like Lester Bangs.)


28 Nov


Perfect for wet and miserable days like these