|1 Aug 2007 @ 13:19|
All of us are watchers---
of television, of time clocks,
of traffic on the freeway---but
few are observers. Everyone is
looking, not many are seeing.
---Peter M. Leschak
You ask why I live in the mountain forest,
and I smile and am silent,
And even my soul remains quiet:
It lives in the other world
Which no one owns.
The peach trees blossom.
The water flows.
My nature is subdued
to what it works in,
like the dyer's hand.
Amid hectic preparations for a move to Providence, Rhode Island, Professor of English Emeritus John Tagliabue---the muse of Bates College for more than forty years---and his wife, Grace, took time out for portraits by Phyllis Graber Jensen in the garden of Muskie Archives. The caption, a fragment from a poem in John's book New And Selected Poems: 1942-1997, reads "...a breeze hails our way,
we lift our sails;
we hold on to each other for dear life." (Bates Magazine, Spring 1998)
And so a year has gone by. A year without friend and poet John Tagliabue. A year without Tagliabue and the sun has shined its radiance with slight dimness. Music of the spheres has played less sparkling. The dancers whirl without shout. His death last year was certainly at his time, but it has meant a year without my teacher pushing me closer to the edge.
Besides a flutter of poems tumbling out like petals from blossoms, his letters and conversation always contained what books to read. He urged them as he did his assignments, shrugging off your foolishness if obviously you didn't read them. There were exhibits at the museums and he would tell you. Dancers and actors on the boards, and he needed to share with his own advertisements. There were foods and people from so many countries to visit. Be sure to have pad and pencil for jotting down impressions of human scenes on the train.
One time, when I was a junior at Bates College, where he taught and I learned, he decided he wanted to see Martha Graham dance in New York. It might be her very last time. We were in Maine. John had a car but he never learned to drive. Refused to. Usually his wife Grace took him somewhere he needed to be, but for some reason this time he asked a few of us students if we wanted to drive him. And we'd see La Martha of course. More >
|8 May 2007 @ 08:58|
In the photo Grange boards plane to meet Al. (1960)
Death Of A Bebop Wife
by Grange (Lady Haig) Rutan
Published by Cadence Jazz Books, Redwood NY 13679
The modern pianist has a very special relationship with his drummer and his bassist. As his instrument has hammers, it resembles the drums; and as it has strings, it's like the bass. His position in the rhythm section is more detached, and more ambiguous than that of his partners, the bass and the drums. If he feels like it, he can stop playing for a few bars and let the bass define the harmony and the drums ensure the rhythm. He can suggest new harmonic directions, fall into step with a soloist, then break away a moment later. On again, off again. He opens or he closes. He's present at the heart of the rhythm, then suddenly he's gone.
---Laurent De Wilde
from chapter 5, p. 21
There's a scene in Grange Rutan's long-awaited book about her first husband Al Haig in which the legendary piano player introduces his young bride to Miles Davis. The men had played together with Charlie Parker in the tumultuous beginning years of bebop, and Al was pianist on one of Miles' Birth of the Cool sessions. By the summer of 1960, Miles Davis was packing in crowds at the Blackhawk in San Francisco, but Al Haig was scuffling for work. After turning down Miles' urgent invitation to sit in with the band, Al sheepishly confesses he and Grange have no place to sleep. Without hesitation, Miles reaches into his pocket and hands Al Haig the key to his dressing room. It was there, on a stained mattress in a shabby back room of a nightclub, the couple consummated their marriage. The bride looked brave, despite 2 black eyes.
Much about jazz, its artists, its working conditions, its devoted followers, and both the generosity and freakouts, is revealed in that passage. There have been many books written about the history of the music, including the death-defying years of bebop, but here's one long overdue from the perspective of a woman who loved a man who created some of it. And Grange Rutan goes beyond her own marriage of 2 1/2 years with Al Haig, into his next marriage which that girl did not survive. Rumors of murder persist to this day, and Grange presents her view as to whether Al could have done it. More >
|10 Mar 2007 @ 13:08|
No more games. No more bombs. No more walking. No more fun. No more swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No fun---for anybody. 67. You are getting greedy. Act your old age. Relax---This won't hurt.
---Hunter Thompson's suicide note (1937-2005)
It often happens that I awake at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the pope about it. Then I wake up completely and remember that I am the pope.
---Pope John XXIII
Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself and yourself alone one question. This question is one that only a very old man asks. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I do understand it. I will tell you what it is: "Does this path have a heart?" If it does, the path is good. If it doesn't, it is of no use.
The photo is the unfinished and unsold "House of the Day" at a website where a caption reads: "I was thinking maybe I wanted a bigger backyard, more privacy and more closet space." [link]
I, on the other hand, was thinking of writing a deep, philosophical essay today on what it feels like to turn 67, especially given what Hunter Thompson had to say and do at that age. But the Pisces swims up and down the stream, and wriggles out of hand just when you think you've got him. And so, as on many Saturdays, I've run across some stuff to read that could not be denied...and just didn't get to it. So? I can do whatever I want to on my birthday! More >
|22 Dec 2006 @ 09:54|
If you want to know who I am, don't ask me where I live and what I do, but rather ask me what I am living for and ask me in very small particulars why I am doing so little about it.
The gift given to us comes struggling to escape from the tinsel and wrapping that disguises its coming and is the gift of Hope. It comes simply, in the form of a child, born into stark poverty, without a glimmer of material excess. Here is the very heart of the Christian faith: not a threat, but an invitation. God coming to us as a baby to do for us that which we could not do for ourselves. Offering us his very life of love and justice.
---John Sentamu, Archbishop of York
The sign of Christmas is a star, a light in darkness. See it not outside of yourself, but shining in the Heaven within, and accept it as the sign the time of Christ has come.
---A Course In Miracles
The 12-wheeler roaring over that rise bears down on a scattering herd of reindeer. Do you think it's pretty certain the heavy piece of equipment on it hardly is intended for improvement of life in the Sami culture that depends on those animals? Or are these Santa's reindeer stampeding away from commercialization? But wait, those reindeer and the truck are headed straight for me, standing in the way with a camera in hand! The whole image struck me as particularly appropriate to how I feel about the approach of Christmas this year. "Christ is born" replaced by borne down upon: not good. Let me see what I can do to lift the heavy load. More >
|4 Nov 2006 @ 13:02|
Time is simply God's way of keeping everything from happening all at once.
No, no, you're not thinking, you're just being logical.
The most important thing in music is what is not the notes.
In this photo from a rare LP are (l-r) Jason Smith, Michele Weir, Mary Schmid, Sara Jennison, Joe Finetti and John Paddock: The P.M. Singers (1984, corrections welcome)
About 20 years ago I learned something was happening in a kind of music I like, but it wasn't until yesterday I found out what it was. You'd think in this day of instant communication I could have done better than that, and probably were I a musician I might have known more or sooner. Some of my most important lessons have dawned slowly I guess, and that's OK. It makes aging tolerable.
People who know me pretty well realize I've always liked singing groups...especially ones with close and intriguing harmonies. I've never been a singer though---except for a couple of unique occasions when I got talked into something. But a year ago my wife and a conductor ganged up on me and I've joined a choir. Look, I'm at the age when a guy should do everybody a favor and stop singing, but of course I seem to live a lot of life backwards and so suddenly I'm learning more about group vocalizing.
So on with the story: back 20 years I understood the vocal groups I liked (The Four Freshmen, The Hi-Lo's and even some Beach Boys) were pretty much past their prime and it was the end of an era. There was a group around called The Manhattan Transfer whose repertoire tried to cover everybody from The Pied Pipers (who had the breathtaking Jo Stafford singing lead---and Frank Sinatra sometimes adding a high baritone) to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross with some doo-wop in between, but clearly there wasn't much of an audience even for them...except when they made a disco hit out of the theme from Twilight Zone. But I ran across an LP in a cut-out bin by some people called Phil Mattson and the P.M. Singers that suddenly perked up my musical life. More >
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