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Unspotted

Tuesday 12/11/18

Composed a 500 word piece this morning on a Ran Blake concert I attended last Thursday at Jordan Hall for JazzTimes. Wrote a 2100 word essay yesterday on the greatest Christmas-related performance in jazz history, which I think is a unique piece of music writing. People will like it. Once I sell it.


A friend sent these remarks upon having read "Jesus H. Christ," one of the new short stories I composed this autumn: "Nothing has ever been done like that. All questions, but a story. Amazing. Priceless. It's an odd thing to read that and know I speak to the person who wrote that." Another friend, regarding the same work, sent this: "I've never read anything like it before. You just took that one thing and ran with it in a direction no one ever thought of doing and it just is fabulous. I think someone is going to publish that soon, just the right person. I mean, it is this huge discovery or something, kind of like the double helix."


The premise of the story--which is comprised entirely of questions--is in part that any question is at least one statement, and often many more. Our most powerful statements often are questions. To ask, "Do you love me?" is to say, potentially, "You might not love me," "You have never loved me," "Maybe once you loved me and stopped," "It could be that you started loving me this very moment as I have started loving you." You need more than a musician's ear to write a story where every line is a question, because it cannot be turgid, you can't have the reader be conscious of the device, other than the fact that their eyeballs are noting the question marks. In other words, to make such a work flow, you can't fake it. You need the chops. Not just language chops, but sonic chops. Music chops. In addition to what you're doing at the level of narrative, and, of course, the larger ideas that impact us all, and which are always out there, but in need of a beam of light--or beams--upon them, so that we might start to see what helps us so much to see. As you're inventing a new fictive mode.


It's as full a story as any I've ever done or will do, and what it builds to--via questions--and the turn upon a pronoun at the end, is unlike anything I've seen. And yet--and yet. The firewall. All of the wall-watchers of the industry, at all the levels, guarding the firewall, making sure he who must not pass remains he who must not pass. But this fire is eventually getting out. Not going out--getting out.


Yesterday I walked three miles and climbed the Monument three times. I climbed once on Sunday, but walked ten miles during the day. I attended the Festival of Lessons and Carols at Marsh Chapel at BU in the morning--and damn near fell over from rocking so hard to "Ding Dong! Merrily on High" in the pew--and then Christ Church's annual Christmas concert at night. Better known as Old North Church. The program consisted of works from William Billings ("The Shepherd's Carol," Two Christmas Anthems, "A Virgin Unspotted"), Francesco Durante (Magnificat), Antun Celar (U to vrijeme godista), with an encore of "Silent Night."


Today on Downtown I will discuss all things Rankin/Bass. I love Rankin/Bass. Then, next Tuesday, I will discuss ghost stories for Christmas. Sometime soon, I am going to prerecord some performances, I guess you might say, for their Christmas show and, I think, a New Year's one. For the former, I'll read Charles Dickens's "What Christmas is as We Grow Older" and "December" from John Clare's The Shepherd's Calendar. Then I hope to cap this off with something that occurred to me at Marsh Chapel, which I think is quite radical. Some lines from the Gospel of John entered my head as I sat there. John Clare would convert psalms from the Bible into his own verse. Byron did this, too. What I want to do is do the first two readings, just me, saying a few words before and after, and from the Clare I'll walk us into a reading of a few lines from this particular Gospel, but altered somewhat. So we're not preaching God or whatever on the radio, but we're creating something of a new work--a collaboration--or using useful words, tweaked, to speak to 2018 times. 2018 themes. And while I had these lines in my head, I made the changes. That's never been done on the radio, and I daresay it's not been done anywhere with a gospel. I'm not so much subtracting, as I am repositing; you might even call it going with synonyms. Different words, for the same thing. And a snip here, a snip there.


For New Year's, I wish to read Christina Rossetti's "Old and New Year Ditties," and a New Year's-worthy excerpt from Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh books.


And speaking of double helices--and they actually come up in "Jesus H. Christ"--here is a new piece I wrote on DNA for The Daily Beast.