syncategorematic: (guitar)
( Apr. 17th, 2014 03:01 pm)
A marvellous piece of music journalism, even for someone like me who knows almost nothing about the blues: The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie, the story of seeking out the story of two brilliant African-American women blues musicians of 1930.

A must-read; the twists and turns of this history just keep building up.
 Since I seem to continue to be on a kick of journalling in verse...

In an abandoned bandstand
By a freshwater inland sea,
Three teenage boys and two guitars
Sang a song in a minor key.
They were backlit by the sundown,
And no one else came near,
But they sang in open harmony,
And I had to stop to hear.

Backlit by the sundown,
A bass root and a chord.
Backlit by the sundown,
No matter that no one heard.
Backlit by the sundown,
The shadows hid their face,
But their voices lit the sunset
In that time and in that place.

A quarter of a world away
And seven years before,
Three other boys and another guitar
By another inland sea shore,
It was already past sundown,
And stars had lit above,
But they sang in open harmony,
In a song in a key I love.

Backlit by the darkness,
They had sung as I passed there,
And I never saw their faces,
But they brought me out of despair,
And so whenever chords will ring
By the shores of any sea,
I'll stop and I will listen,
And add a harmony.

And once upon some sundown,
By some other sea or star,
I may be the one who sits there
With a song or a guitar,
Unable to see the faces
Of listeners who came,
Just knowing the ones who'd sung for me,
And hoping I'll do the same.

Backlit by the sundown
Reflected in waves below,
Backlit by the sundown,
However the words may go,
Backlit by the sundown, 
Whatever chords are right,
Backlit by the sundown,
Singing against the night.

(Incidentally, these ones played a cover of something whose lines now escapes me; then when I made my presence known, they played "Fuck You" by Cee Lo Green (but got lost at the bridge) and switched to Bob Dylan's "One More Cup of Coffee", which is the first time I heard it. Wikipedia now says that the melody has a middle-Eastern flavour, which did not come across in that cover with guitar and unplugged bass. It's too late in the evening for me to listen to the original.

The lads by the Black Sea in Odessa, whom I've told about before, had sung "Autumn" by DDT, and I had joined in. Lake Michigan-Huron is an inland sea for all practical purposes.)

Hmm. When I was seven years old, between Israel and Canada, we stayed for a couple of weeks with my aunt in Sofia, Bulgaria, and, how I do not know, went to see an opera. The first opera that I have ever seen. This would be 1992.

I am absolutely certain that the opera was Nabucco. I remember the costuming as being for Nabucco, the scenery, and the program, written in Bulgarian, from the plot synopsis of which I vainly tried to puzzle out what the heck was going on beyond the fact that Nabucco was a king and Hebrew slaves were somehow involved. Somtow Sucharitkul assures me that even if you understand the libretto and the score, do not expect the plot to make sense, so it wasn't just my Bulgarian skills (I would have liked to have seen the remake that is all about the other soprano).

I remember the lead soprano wore a striking pale blue dress, and the second soprano wore red, beige and a turban, and the male baritone lead had a very Assyrian-looking beard.

I also remember one single piece of music from that opera. One. Later, the senior orchestra would play the Nabucco overture, and I would love it dearly and do to this day.

But that piece of music I knew. I knew how the baritone with the Assyrian beard began its first verse, and then the soprano burst in on the second verse with a blindingly beautiful word beginning with "tra" (I did not know until years later even what language the original opera was in.) And that piece of music I would recognize when film scores, etc, used it.

And today I've finally confirmed that the piece of music is Verdi's "Libiamo ne' lieti calici" - from La Traviata. Absolutely certainly from La Traviata. People more fond of movies than music may recognize it as the music of Michael and Apollonia's wedding in The Godfather.

Still, I am absolutely certain that the first opera I've ever seen was not La Traviata. It was Nabucco. Hebrew slaves were involved.

And yet I can still see that sky-blue-clad Abigaille singing "Tra voi, tra voi sapro dividere il tempo mio giocondo..." (With you all I can share my happiest times...)

This shall remain one of the great mysteries of my life.
Today, due to a messup of my own making, I let a dream die. I think my visualizing something, picturing what words I would use, how the other person would react, how I would react, how I would feel, is cursed; never, ever have things come out exactly the way I've visualized them. Picturing getting such and such a result may work for pro athletes and for readers of The Secret, or so I am told; for me, visualizing a scenario in my head is almost guaranteed to destroy it. It may be that I actually get the words I've planned out, which happens far from often; it may be that they even sound the way I wanted them to, which is even rarer; in that case, any other person is guaranteed not to react the way I expected/wished for them to react. For that reason, learning from almost-bitter experience, I do not visualize my first novel publication very much, or meeting the love of my life and knowing he is thus, or receiving a Hugo Award. I tell life, "I want a Hugo Award; I want love in my life; I want people to read what I've written and laugh and cry and look at the world with new eyes, and I want libraries to rank my books among the most frequently stolen; now I'll leave the details up to you, because when I start specifying the details, I mess them up. Guaranteed."

And it works, actually (well, it hasn't worked for the Hugo Award, yet, but like heck I'm going to get a Hugo when I haven't yet finished something to submit!) Often when I want a conversation on a particular topic with some person particularly important to me, the conversation happens, not the way I imagined it to, but in many ways, better. And I still manage to get in the good jokes I made up, especially if it's by email (probably one chief reason I like turn-based communications better than real-time ones; the dreams live just a little, breathe just enough to see the sunrise, before they die forever as my playing them ahead of time had doomed them).

It's like Heisenberg's uncertainty principle: you can either have the chief purpose of some action, or the details of it. If you want the chief purpose achieved, you give up on the details; and if you are going to stick your guns and stick to the details, sure, they are wonderfully clear. In your head, not in reality. And you don't get a chief purpose neither.

I tell myself that there are reasons for false dreams to die, that they die to make way for more beautiful realities.

But sometimes I still want to weep over them, silly as that is.

On other topics: Conversation with a coworker:



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