Saturday, January 27, 2007

Writers Writing about Writing, Right?

Dear Billy Collins,

Some of my favorite writing is that of writers writing about writing. But you have taken that a step further, a poet poetizing about poeting.

The other day I read, I don’t remember where, (Where would that have been? Online? In a bookstore? Metropulse? Not here.) I read a passage by John Lennon that brought you to mind. He talked about wondering why people in his life didn’t notice how special he was as a child. His observation was a bit like yours in You, Reader from The Trouble With Poetry:

I wonder how you are going to feel
When you find out
That I wrote this instead of you

Is writing, and especially writing poetry, a competition of some sort? Are we, writers or aspiring writers, really so self-absorbed that we think that it is only we who see the beauty and must announce it, teletyping it out across the wires, racing to say it first, to break the news. . . Sumer is icumen in or. . . the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n. Do writers write to write or do they write to be read, or perhaps, (ah, less worthy than we thought) do they write to write better than other writers?

Certainly, our greatest writers have left behind a trail of evidences about why, after all, they are writing. Annie Dillard describes the writing life as if an architect, "laying out a line of words." Welty wrote and not satisfied to tell us just about her writing beginnings, told us both what she would and would not advise.

But, this is your life and you have the pulpit, should we criticize you for using it? No, for we wish to hear your words, see your visions, look out your windows. And after all, you are right that:
The clerks are at their desks,
The miners are down in their mines,


The poets are looking out their windows
because it is their job for which
they are paid nothing every Friday afternoon

Thanks for writing.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Zorro the Raccoon Visits the DeGeorges

Dear Zorro,

It is so nice to have you join us as a new member of our flock. What was it you were saying last night as you ate the cat food?

"Don't these people serve sweet tea?"
"These cats are crowding me a bit."

At any rate, come back for a quick dinner anytime. We love watching you eat.



Friday, January 12, 2007

20th Century Music or Ooh, That Modern Music Really Drives Them Wild

Dear Arnold Schoernberg and Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky,

I was blown away recently! I never got it before and now I really, really get it. It is so incredibly interesting.

OK, I have to credit Robert Greenberg from the San Francisco Conservatory, because he is the one who explained it to me in his course on Understanding Great Music. I have been a fan of what I call 20th century music for a long time, but I never understood what you three composers were pulling off exactly, until now.

Arnold, you were conducting a Freedom Ride or a rescue, a liberation effort. It is so clear now. Robert says your were freeing melody from the enslavement of harmony. Yes. It’s amazing. I am enamoured by Pierrot Lunaire and it's sprechstimme. (See cool pix of manuscript.) You said, away with traditional harmonies, we have twelve tones, let's use them. We will no longer be shackled to traditional harmonic expression. (As Greenberg says, you freed "melody from the predetermined control of harmony by ignoring Pythagorean definitions of fifths and embracing an ignorance of dissonance." Wow.)

And Claude, you were doing a similar thing, approaching harmonies in new ways and allowing them to speak freely, apart from the rigid command of a melodic line. You said, "I have tried to obey a law of beauty which appears to be singularly ignored in dealing with dramatic music. The characters of the drama endeavor to sing like real persons, and not in an arbitrary language on antiquated traditions. Hence, the reproach leveled at my alleged partiality for monotone declamation, in which there is no melody… To begin with this is not true. Besides, the feeling of character cannot be continually expressed in melody. Also, dramatic melody should be totally different from the melody in general… I do not pretend to have discovered anything. . . but I have tried to trace a path that others may follow, broadening it with individual discoveries which will, perhaps, free dramatic music from the heavy yoke under which existed for so long."

And Igor, you are the champion of rhythms and the force of the beat. There are people who might say that the father of rock and roll is Chuck Berry, or Little Richard, or Elvis Presley, or even Johnnie Johnson. I, though, look to you, the wild innovator who cut the cords that bound rhythm to music as merely accentuation, and called upon it to speak on it's own, with a voice as primitive as a rite to dispel winter and cultivated enough to set the tempo for all the music of the 20th century.

The thing I love about classical music is that it is, like great literature and great art, so deep that you can spend your life trying to understand it. These moments of great revelation in understanding are wonderful.

Thanks Robert Greenberg. And thanks Arnold, Claude, and Igor for your vision and the gift of music so different from anything anyone had ever heard before.


Monday, January 08, 2007

How to Saddle a Horse Plus How to Be Desaddled

WARNING: Scroll down only if you aren't medical-x-ray intolerant. (Warning as per request of Conversely!)

Dear Nebuchadnezzar,

I don't know whether to love you,

or hate you!

OK! I still love you.


P.S. My first YouTube post. I am so techno-pleased.