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The long way home

Monday 1/7/19

I hope I'm wrong, but I think the Tide take it tonight. Clemson hasn't played anyone with that dire ACC. Remember that game against a garbage Boston College team and how GameDay was in Chestnut Hill? Though the Clemson QB has real moxie. Just heard an interview with him. He might as well be thirty-four. That's an eighteen-year-old?

I'm not getting enough done. Tired of being ignored at NPR, too. I am serving up excellent idea after excellent idea, and I cannot even get the courtesy of a reply, which is very frustrating after nearly five years of excellent work there. That piece I did for The Daily Beast on the 200th anniversary of "Silent Night" had been an NPR pitch. The most recent pitch was one for January 30 on the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' rooftop concert, in which I would link that performance--their last--with the one from the day that Lennon and McCartney met. The rooftop concert is the one time that the Beatles played live when they were at the level of musicianship of, say, a Who or a Cream. Technically-speaking. Some of their earlier concerts number among the best any rock band ever gave, but they didn't have the same level of chops they had by 1969. This was a time when George Harrison was one of the six or eight best electric guitarists in the world. In the above clip, note the similarity of the groove with that from the 1963 BBC version of "Soldier of Love." This is black music. Increasingly I think that black music is, in a way, its own separate thing, so far removed from skin color or background. Is that a controversial opinion? I don't care. I think I'm right. It's something I've been planning to write on, and I will do that soon, hopefully this week. I believe that black music can be post-color, if you will.

Listened to a lot of music today while doing work that was not very fruitful. Spiritualized's last album, And Nothing Hurt. Oliver Nelson's Blues and the Abstract Truth. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's Howl Sessions Vol. 1., Notorious B.I.G's Life After Death. Nick Drake's Pink Moon. And the Busch Quartet's renditions of Beethoven's later string quartets Op. 127 and Op. 131. I love competing against work like that. You hear that, and you want to take it on, you want to try to go further. Prove yourself against a fellow real artist, outpace them. None of this calumny I have to contend with all day. I would love to live in a world where you can't get anywhere if you're not better than Shakespeare, better than Beethoven. A best-on-best tournament. Of course, the people with no talent who have things given to them that they don't deserve, for all of the wrong reasons, would hate if they actually had to be good and compete against other people who were good. No one would ever hear of them. True, few people, really, do now, in the grand scheme of things, but even the core members of their sinecure-circle wouldn't hear of them. It's like if you watch Wayne Gretzky play hockey, you knew that he could have been imported to a realm where all of the best hockey players of all-time gathered, the best of the best of the best, and he'd still be the best, he'd still dominate. I'd love to be transported like that, and it's right, let's go, Dickens, and what do you got today, Proust? And hah, that's not going to get it done, Flaubert!

The opening fugue of Op. 131 is one of the towering moments in the history of art. I don't wonder that Schubert heard that and said, basically, "well, fuck me, game over, what are we supposed to write now?" The line "I saw it written and I saw it say"--which is both off-kilter and right--from Pink Moon strikes me as one of the best to open any album in popular music. It establishes that sibilance of what is really a thematically sibilant album, as though it's a kind of sibilant soul, meaning made in the outer curls of discharged breath where the raw ends of truth live--so raw and real that they need to live in the last flicks of those curls. Sibilant anima. The work has a depressive virility--which is to say, it sings with suffering, and in that singing it is a celebration of--or, at least, a reach for--life. Which must have been some undertaking for Drake, likely knowing that he could go no further in the corporeal version of his. Even the guitar on Pink Moon is sibilant. Listen to that string echo on "Know." Your very essence, as you listen, sounds like it is housed inside of that sound hole.

Two pitches went out today--one on Tchaikovsky, the other on Stendhal. I am reading to begin composing the new short story, "Dunedin." It's all set in my head. The pre-writing work has been extensive. But I can't do that before I first write some other things and build up some momentum. Downhill. That story will be the kind of thing that is begun at night, after having written many thousands of words, at the end of the day's work, and within an hour there will be 1100 words and I'll be well on my way with it. That's when you're going down hill--when you're not even trying and there's another thing, another half a thing, the first section of a thing, and it's like stuff gets written accidentally. That you want to have compete against Shakespeare, Beethoven, etc.

Spiritualized are a vital band when they wish to be. This isn't on the last album, but it is one of the pieces of music I had on constantly, in those final days in my house I am fighting so hard to get back. I was writing Dark March to this. And then Anglerfish. This, Alex Turner's Submarine E.P., and the Vaccines' first album. It didn't have anything literal to do with my life, this song. There was no "pretty thing." I knew a demon. All of this, even the music, will be in Many Moments More: A Story About the Art of Endurance. But from an emotional place...I always heard this as the keep going, don't-off-yourself song, this is all part of what you are here to do, have faith. I also, to be honest, spend a lot of time asking God what he wants of me. Why I was given what I was given if this is what it's going to be? What was the point? And I try to have faith that what I've endured, what I have become while enduring, is some vital structural component that will allow me to do for this world what I have in me, what is well established in me, to do for it, when it needs what it is that I can give more than ever. Just don't abandon me completely, was what was on my mind. Has never left my mind. Speaking in terms of God. The plea that rides shotgun in my mind with my ability. Is it my mind? Or is it from deeper within me? is there somewhere deeper in me, or is it just somewhere else? You'll notice around 3:28 that the song wants to modulate, but it doesn't. It stays in the same key. That can be very powerful as a device, when everything is trending towards the modulation, the big change, and the change does not come; and then, when it finally does, and the change, the modulation, occurs (see how we did a little chiastic thing there, which is itself a form of modulation?), it sounds and feels bigger than the sum of all outdoors. And you think, motherfuck, could anything ever have been more inevitable than what has now occurred? And I guess even then, in 2012, that's how I was hearing this song, as I still try to hear it now, because the relevance is not only the same, it might be deeper. Anyway, the modulation happens at 4:17. As for my own, I'll let you know. Of course, you'll already know on your own by then.

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