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part of the preface

When students only have read a few poems, in exclusively academic contexts, they often approach poetry with what the li...

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Creativity

I have this book on creativity, by an artist or art teacher, you probably know what I'm talking about, that   claims the right side of the brain is more creative, since this is the visual side. Of course, this kind of crude bicameralism is scientifically incorrect. Not only that, why does only the visual get to be creative? Why not the musical and verbal?  I feel as creative when I am noodling as when I am doodling.  Even more so, since my songs are better than my drawings. I don't even try to write new songs now. I just play and once in a while something will occur to me and I will develop it into a song.

I think I need to do more song settings.  Maybe Herrick?  

I am sure that there are uncreative artists, just as there are uncreative creative writers.

Also, once creativity becomes the province of corporate culture, won't it lose any value?

Another bad poem



Ah, the altered chords of Bill Evans, they bring me back

to the days of glamorous cardinals in the trees

the female drabber than the male, but still a thing of beauty

on an overcast day like today

those rootless voicing, and maybe Paul Motian on the drums

if I remember rightly, and the tragic early end of LaFaro

they massage my memory and make me think of lovelorn lasses

of laws repealed before their time, and a sweet lyric by Mercer

didn't he write the one about "days of wine and roses"?


Monday, March 20, 2017

Anger

Next time you feel angry, ask yourself:  "What benefit am I getting from being angry?" This is not a trick question: there may actually be a benefit of some kind. If there is, then hold on to your anger. If you see that there is no benefit, though, then your anger might dissipate a bit.

This is not to say that your anger is not justified.  All emotions are justified.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Breakthrough

I've suddenly felt an improvement in my piano playing.  My fingers are finding better chords with both hands, and I can actually improvise a bit. I've been trying to break out of a mechanical mode in which I was always playing the root, third, and seventh in my left hand and playing a melody in my right.  That worked for me up to a certain point but it is much better to play root and seventh, and then a third and a ninth or 13th above that, or skip the root all together.  Although I've known this in theory for a long time, it is hard to break out of a comfortable habit.

For example, my E flat flat seven is Eb / Db / G / E.

I still have a long way to go.  I could tell you all the things I still can't do.  It is strange though that I feel just as positive about those things, seeing them in my future.

As kids we imagine flying, and flight in our dreams feels very real and possible.  We can also fantasize about doing other things that seem barely possible. What if there is a thing that is as fantastic as flight, but actually plausible as a human skill? That's what piano playing is for me.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Language and the flat nine

The flat nine is a cool sounding chord extension. So I have an Eflat 7 flat nine in a song, right after a Cmaj7, etc...  The flat nine of E flat would be D. [correction: E]

But those words are meaningless, if you don't know what that sounds like. I myself barely know what this sounds like, because my ears are not that good.  I couldn't sing one for you on the spot. I could sing an octave and then up one half step, that's what it is.  I couldn't recognize one listening to music.

It seems inadequate, then, to say we think in language.  We can certainly use that label for that interval, and make ourselves understood, and understood to our own selves too, writing it down for future reference. But is the manipulation of such signs without understanding their meaning thinking? To really make the flat 9 the object of thought one would have to already be thinking musically, not just manipulating the signs of another system of thought--language.

Words cannot express, we say...  But it is a fallacy to think words ever express anything. I could try to evoke this in a poem:

"Ah, the flat nines of Bill Evans make me think of magnolia trees!"

You might get the illusion of understanding here.  The language is not really evoking the music, it is just gesturing toward it, and the person reading this line won't figure out what it really sounds like.  Words have their own sounds, and I guess those will never sound the same as any flat nine either.  Even people who claim that the referent doesn't matter won't read poetry in languages they don't understand semantically.  Of course, if we already know what magnolia trees in bloom look and smell like, then we can evoke them in a poem. The reader without this knowledge can substitute a similar kind of memory and go along for the ride.

Brilliant

From this same brilliant poet / philosopher.  She claims that Homeric poetry had a merely utilitarian function, to unite the community through myth, and that the only function of verse was to make these myths easy to memorize. Aesthetics was an afterthought, and the function of being pleasant [placentero] represented a kind of decadence. She say that ars poetica is decadent.

It is hard to know where to begin.  With people like this among the ranks of poets, who needs Philistines?

I am not using the word brilliant sarcastically.  She actually is brilliant. This is all the more disappointing because of higher expectations for such a person.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Persistence of Memory

As I write my memoir of reading--the appendix to my "Things to do with Poems"--I am coming across a phenomenon that my friend mentioned to me yesterday: if you spend a considerable time thinking about a particular era of your life, or a place you lived, then more and more details will come back. I'm not particularly concerned with accuracy here, since I'm confident that I will be inaccurate to some degree. I just have to be careful that may lack of accuracy is not too self-serving.

I do remember having a the Norton Library edition of Herrick and bringing it to school with me in High School. I don't think that is a false memory. I looked it up on amazon and it is the same color as I remembered.