June 14, 2015
a school of higher learning…
‘The poet makes himself a seer by a long, prodigious, and rational disordering of all the senses….This is an unspeakable torture during which he needs all his faith and superhuman strength, and during which he becomes the great patient, the great criminal, the great accursed – and the great learned one!’
‘Jazz is the big brother of the blues. If a guy’s playing blues like we play, he’s in high school. When he starts playing jazz it’s like going on to college, to a school of higher learning.’
Of a socio-cultural phenomenon like jazz, Charlie Haden recalled his counsel to young students, noting, ‘I tell them if you strive to be a good person, maybe you might become a great jazz musician.’
And, why would that be? That is, why would Haden make a rather bold, direct point of identifying just the one musical modality?
Classic jazz—the pieces and players we turn to again and again—is that often-complex musical form composed by a discerning, studious collective, to then be ‘abstracted’ (interpreted, improvised, etc.) by yet other knowing masters of the genre—and, further, to be appreciated by the third element in the aesthetic triad: the devotee of classic jazz composition, performance and recordings.
There abides within the classic jazz idiom, in both composing and performing—and, let it be stressed—a requisite freedom. This most needful thing occurs, in, for example, a player’s uninhibited courting of the creative Muse, that demiurge existing just outside his sensibilities, the familiarity zone of his day-to-day often prosaic, frequently precarious world. To be faithful to that innovative, subtle resource is all-consuming, a devotional akin to the acolyte’s glimpse of the sublime—and, to which privilege other, lesser-gifted beings may at times marvel. A poet of Rimbaud’s vision understood this courting of the Muse in a similar vein, citing a ‘derangement,’ knowingly cultivated, as he put it, in the interest of his vocation—a ‘calling,’ possibly in a literal sense, so acutely did he perceive it:
‘I want to be a poet, and I’m working at turning myself into a seer. You won’t understand any of this, and I’m almost incapable of explaining it to you. The idea is to reach the unknown by the derangement of all the senses….It’s really not my fault.’
The director Antonin Artaud speaks to a similar, disorienting rite (that Rimbaud had fairly apologized to his confidante is an index of the upset), here, for actors in working his Théâtre de la Cruauté:
‘Furthermore, when we speak the word ‘life,’ it must be understood we are not referring to life as we know it from the surface of fact, but to that fragile, fluctuating center which forms never reach… we should become as victims burning at the stake, signaling each other through the flames.’
The jazz player listens, and is attentive to, the nuanced, fleeting cues and prompts from the Muse, which are realized, quickly and accurately, as a phrase coordinating with the underlying harmonic base, as well as the rhythmic pulse. Of his dues. Bird noted that he was playing eleven to fifteen hours a day, for three or four years—internalizing the mechanics of the alto, honing his response, a fluid, graced ‘No Mind’ (wu-shin), as Zen adepts have it. Those thousands of hours of ‘woodshed’—the discipline (discipleship) of an acolyte, a harkening unto Artaud’s ‘fragile, fluctuating center…signaling each other through the flames,’ i.e., post-war Be-Bop visionaries, tout ensemble, remnants of the Black Shoah, fluent in the new jazz argot of upper partials, altered dominant sevenths, the signature flat five, etc.—were a Zen seminary for 52nd Street’s hieratic beatified, the Beat cognoscenti vanguard (The Band’s Garth Hudson: ‘But actually the greatest priests on 52nd Street and on the streets in New York City were the musicians. They were doing the greatest healing work…’). Again, Rimbaud, on any possible catharsis:
‘This is an unspeakable torture during which he needs all his faith and superhuman strength, and during which he becomes the great patient, the great criminal, the great accursed – and the great learned one! – among men. – For he arrives at the unknown! Because he has cultivated his own soul – which was rich to begin with – more than any other man! He reaches the unknown; and even if, crazed, he ends up by losing the understanding of his visions, at least he has seen them! Let him die charging through those unutterable, unnameable things: other horrible workers will come; they will begin from the horizons where he has succumbed.’
Jazz educator and vibraphonist par excellence Gary Burton describes the difference between a solo passage in, say, pop music, and jazz as one of contriving an effect, versus the arc of a jazz narrative, i.e., a ‘storytelling,’ in the triadic harmony, melody and that most essential element, rhythm, as framing device. Again, the composer here is en route to a unique kind of text (texere, to weave), not primarily in a lyric (in the first-person voice, Billie Holiday’s ‘Fine and Mellow’) but, rather, the virtuoso player’s own spontaneity as a composer.
A hallmark, then, of the classic jazz ‘composition’ is a disposition to re-invention upon the foundation—the essential characteristics—of a chord structure: the AABA 32-bar form is just one instance, heard in the non pareil ‘Body and Soul.’ Note Coleman Hawkins’ graced, inspired tenor flight over the proto-narrative waters, touching down here, alighting there, ‘Body and Soul’ as springpoint for the immediate composition he establishes: a narrative upon a narrative, or meta-text via the immediacy of jazz improvisation, Rimbaud’s creative frenzy via the stalwart Muse Hawkins has been courting. Here, an immolation of the Black poet, who rises, and then scales Parnassus via San Juan Hill and Minton’s proving ground, the Harlem crucible where post-war young jazz avatars ‘die charging through those unutterable, unnameable things,’ like the reality of Jim Crow, Charlie Parker denied a cabaret card (disallowed access to his namesake’ 52nd St venue!), or Billy Strayhorn at Columbia Presbyterian, bringing off ‘Blood Count’ with his last spark and will, and so on.
It is the profound sense of purpose instilled therein which informs the classic work, of course—a particularly dramatic account in the case of Strayhorn, certainly, but no less present in, e.g., Lady Day, under interdiction, singing ‘Strange Fruit.’ In defiance of a lifetime of racism, yes, but the healing event that derives from making known America’s ongoing, hideous ‘secret sin’—simply not mentioned among the polite, the white, etc., the healing of sacred witness (‘what you do to the least of my brothers…’), a witness to the grotesquerie of ‘the City on the Hill’ jump-started by the slave labor of King Cotton, etc.—is coadjutor to post-war Black defiance, too. It is a jazz praxis in play here, an aesthetic ideology which mandates an activism—the revolutionary act of speaking the truth (full disclosure) where the false Empire survives via omission, duplicity and loveless addiction to a preposterous, failed ego.
Black America, in its Gethsemane, hears its prophet Coltrane narrate ‘Alabama,’ on the heels of the 16th Street Church bombing in 1963, and the demons of American Gothic are purged, again, again, etc., with every witness, every re-creating and renewing of the piece via Trane’s performance of it, composed on the spot, an unhindered chromatic (<Gk, color) altarpiece and stream of consciousness hymnal, America’s salvific moment, a dispensation and ‘remission of sin’ via its four child martyrs who, in fact, inspired (invoked?) the piece. ‘Alabama’ is a classic work as its mystic, welcoming depth will not be sounded, yet it gives and gives. Surely, it petitions more than condemns. The Black poet—America’s own (not a European derivative)—having been compensated with disdain and the lash, returns quality, instead of kind. That is, he hands America the healing, uninhibited, glad grace of jazz. By his stripes we are healed. Again, Rimbaud might just as well have been considering Coltrane, before the fact:
‘Every form of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he consumes all the poisons in him, and keeps only their quintessences. This is an unspeakable torture during which he needs all his faith and superhuman strength, and during which he becomes the great patient, the great criminal, the great accursed – and the great learned one! – among men.’
So, yes, Charlie Haden, a devotee of the art form has to cultivate a sophisticated, sensitive and learned aesthetic within himself in order to…’understand’ the composer and subsequent performers of the piece, in all their joy, anguish, rage, hope and civilized knowing. The ennobling spirit, the curative catharsis of its better angels, jazz is surely the ‘school of higher learning,’ a nourishing mother and balm…it is twice blest, of a noble quality, for both—herald and beatified—an epiphanic ‘signaling through the flames,’ but of the Promethean kind, an endowing of warmth, light and, here, absolution: ‘take, and eat.’
May 8, 2015
zealots for Power, and the moral conscience is jettisoned…
“Well, this was—this is chilling to listen to the description of a psychologist [James Mitchell] dedicated to the public good and individual well-being talking about destroying a prisoner’s mind and body. And it was chilling to the medical professionals in the CIA, who were pushing back. It was chilling to the inspector general, who was pushing back. The program was shut down. And just at that moment when the program was shut down, the Office of Legal Counsel, the White House, some members of the CIA and the American Psychological Association appear to have all worked together to revive that program and to find the rationale for psychologists to be able to help that program continue” [Dr. Steven Reisner, Coalition for an Ethical Psychology].
This appears to be a variation on the Milgram Experiment outcome, whereby someone is ‘invited’ to participate in a torture scenario, and the prospect of empowerment by ‘authority’ to torture—now, sanctioned torture—drives that participant to the moral and legal edge, and then over…
The irony here is this: the Milgram Experiment was overseen by a psychologist—Stanley Milgram, of Yale U.—whose academic and clinical focus was the volunteer/participant in the study. That is, although SM oversaw the ‘experiment’ with the volunteer, the outcome of the study saw the volunteer/participant propose to the psychologist (i.e., ‘authority figure’) the level of torture to be inflicted.
And now, in an inversion of power roles, we have the ‘volunteer/participant’ in the Bush torture programme—psychologist James Mitchell of the APA—proposing to his authority figure (ultimately, the Bush/Cheney regime) the level of torture to be inflicted…it is the Milgram Experiment outcome for a new era.
“The experiments began in July 1961, in the basement of Linsly-Chittenden Hall at Yale University, three months after the start of the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Milgram devised his psychological study to answer the popular question at that particular time: ‘Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?’ The experiments have been repeated many times in the following years with consistent results within differing societies, although not with the same percentages around the globe.”
Milgram, it is to be noted, designed his ‘experiment’ with the compelling events of the Eichmann trial in mind—i.e., that of the mindset of a war criminal (Eichmann). Here, in this recent unfolding, we have APA members not only involved in the torture, but aiding and abetting as well. The chronicle of US torture has come full circle with the Mitchell/Jessen/Brandon, et al., zeal to sadism as war crime.
That is, we studied a war criminal, and, subsequently, we became the war criminal. Robert Jackson of the Nuremburg tribunal cautioned, and we chose not to heed that warning: the return of the repressed.
The key point with correlating the Milgram Experiment to the Jessen/Mitchell ‘dalliance’ with the Bush/Cheney torture regime is this: in the Milgram Experiment, what Stanley Milgram (and his colleagues) came away with was the utter zeal demonstrated by those finding an ‘option’ to torture another human being—this repellent, obsequious zeal to…’please,’ to ‘satisfy’ (‘satiate’?) the ‘authority figure’ is present in the current APA torture event.
The APA was the willing liaison between Bush/Cheney and the somewhat reluctant CIA (there may yet be a link to Obama’s regime as well…). They (Mitchell, Jessen, Brandon et al.) offered the Bush/Cheney regime the cachet of APA endorsement to coax along this torture programme so eagerly sought by the White House…
And, the motive? For the Milgram Experiment volunteer/participant, the impetus of his ‘obedience’ was—what?—an idée fixe, with the authority figure displacing any moral conscience: an identification with power.
With the APA members, the ‘reward’ had yet another dimension, befitting our obsession with career/financial gain: a lucrative contract with the CIA? a career-move pathway inside the Beltway? Or, both…
In each instance, however, the outcome is the same: blinded by the opportunity to accommodate Power, we disavow the moral, i.e., in the first instance, as a momentary lapse, and in the second, the idée fixe abides. Empire persists, and the American psyche replicates its morally bankrupt, destructive contours.
June 26, 2013
Obama’s enfeebled impersonation of ‘staunch guardian of democratic ideals’ is as multidimensional, as complex, as a pay-per-show Ivy League soft-porn sweat fest: it exists on just one mephitic, tedious plane, full of sound and fury, with the quite obvious, soiled capitalist mattress he lies in—with, e.g., his benefactress, the effete doyenne of Chicago’s ruling-class elite, Penny Pritzker—further betraying earnest claims and appeals to the idealist ‘security’ motif underwriting his oh-so-bad, essentially war-criminal, demeanor.
The only aspect of the US social, political and economic construct being ‘secured’ lies in the realm of investor-class interests, their prerogatives, their entitlements, their ‘right to know.’ As for the rest of us, we will continue to be treated to contemptuous, defiantly brazen lying, all in the service of sustaining the global parasite, i.e., the investor class-configured status quo.
These final assaults by Empire—being the death throes of the moribund Late (finance) Capital—are as panicked as the investment bank debt markets are agitated to find and rape new coffers, when scarce few are left. The bleached bones of the sacrificed working-class—both here, via the urban homeless, as well as the offspring of same, swept up in a doomed-to-fail global militarism—witness to the piggish, self-indulgent, degenerate rich, their servile allies in the State, and the goon, hoodlum-like enforcers of the rule of their law.
This is Acton’s ‘absolute Power’ writ large…it is Arendt’s ‘banality of evil’ run rampant inside the Beltway, inside the boardrooms, as well as the editorial offices of the corporate propagandists ensuring it comes off without a hitch—and, it does…
And, what is the cure? His name is Edward Snowden, his name is Bradley Manning, his name is Julian Assange, his name is Daniel Ellsberg, and the Berrigan brothers, Dorothy Stang, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and the many nameless activist/participants who deny the claims of Power-for-its-own-sake by resistance, by truth to Power. Thwart Power, challenge Power, resist Power, frustrate Power, obstruct Power, yes, even cheat Power. And then, give to Community, sustain Community, be in Community. It belongs to Community, it was stolen from Community—take it back.
January 29, 2013
Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep.
[Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of WWW, upon hearing of Aaron’s passing…]
Internet activist Aaron Swartz, hounded to his grave by Obama’s DoJ…
Yes, by all means, let us mourn our loss—that’s correct, our loss, since Swartz’ activism was directed at the enemy of the Community, both in the immediate and global senses. And, let us not forget—ever—Aaron, both his name and what he took on his slim shoulders, the injustice and the inequity of it all, in a world driven mad by Late (finance) Capital, its acquisition and its ‘worship’. To perpetuate his memory, ideals, etc.—this is our responsibility.
And, as we grieve (“to grieve well is to live well,” goes the old saw), let us remember that we also have another responsibility: to work at ensuring that we do not have yet other wakes to attend, to mourn, to grieve, of other beautiful, young idealists using the Internet to deliver the vast majority of humanity from the will of Power brokers and rentiers who almost demonically, it would seem, drive us on (all of us, including themselves) towards an abyss…to wit:
AMY GOODMAN: Last week, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange mentioned Jeremy Hammond in a rare address from the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he has sought asylum.
“JULIAN ASSANGE: I have been sustained by your solidarity, and I’m grateful for the efforts of people all around the world supporting the work of WikiLeaks, supporting freedom of speech, freedom of the press—essential elements in any democracy. While my freedom is limited, at least I am still able to communicate this Christmas, unlike the 232 journalists who are in jail tonight; unlike Gottfrid Svartholm in Sweden tonight; unlike Jeremy Hammond in New York tonight; unlike Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain tonight; and unlike Bradley Manning, who turned 25 this week, a young man who has maintained his dignity after spending more than 10 percent of his life in jail without trial, some of that time in a cage naked and without his glasses; and unlike so many others whose plights are linked to my own. I salute these brave men and women.”
Hammond has his own ‘Ortiz’ to face: her name is Loretta Preska. Here is CCR’s Michael Ratner:
MICHAEL RATNER: And so, they really—I mean, they want to make—right now, the government is going to—trying to make an example out of all three of these people. I mean, look what they’ve done. They’ve got Jeremy Hammond, no bail, in a federal detention facility.
AMY GOODMAN: In Metropolitan Detention Center.
MICHAEL RATNER: In Metropolitan Detention Center.
AMY GOODMAN: Which is?
MICHAEL RATNER: Which is in Manhattan at Foley Square. You’ve got Bradley Manning finally moved to Leavenworth, where his conditions are better than they were at Quantico, for sure, but in prison. And you’ve got Julian Assange—
AMY GOODMAN: Your client.
MICHAEL RATNER: —living in an embassy. So what the government is trying to do is destroy the idea that the government’s secrets and its corruption and its crimes ought to be known, and get at the whistleblowers and the publishers who are doing it. And so, we’re seeing that across the board. These three, really, are the three that they’re obviously focused on putting away for as long as they can” [Democracy, Now!, 12/27/12].
However we define it, whatever form it takes, let us re-dedicate ourselves to the same cause which informed the work Aaron took on—resisting the evil which informs our—America-as-Empire—almost 237-year-old narrative.
January 19, 2013
“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
Warren Buffett, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway
The Great Taboo broken here is that of Empire, which would that mention of the phrase ‘working class’ be suppressed.
And why might that be so, i.e., why might it be the case that the State/corporate/MSM regime studiously avoids acknowledging the essential, malign effect of capital?
Mainly because it would risk alerting the slumbering giant—i.e., the overriding majority of the rank and file—that such a thing as ‘class’ even exists! That is to say, one of the ways that consent is manufactured to control those who have been marginalized by predatory capitalism—marginalized as a function of its top-down, exploitative hierarchy—is by perpetrating the ruse that we have 1) a democracy, where 2) “all men are created equal.”
That feint by those courting and wielding Power has great utility in that the working class is placated and tranquilized—i.e., drugged!—and thereby kept off balance as would-be activists. The psy-op process works something like this: “Even though I am a plumber’s assistant [or store clerk, or office worker, etc.], I am just as good as anybody else in this country and—by extension—in the world, since we Americans are exceptional!”
It is an utterly cynical tactic used by those preservers of the status quo, playing upon the worst features of a humanity beaten down by elitist interests—i.e., it belies the actual antagonist (that identity purposely obscured) and, as victims are predisposed to become victimizers, it ultimately sets one worker against another, both globally and at home, as the true source of his immiseration is elided.
That is, (and, secondly), by broaching the term, its counterpoint–i.e., the investor class—is inevitably brought to the fore. This is problematic because now an antagonistic dyad—i.e., pairing off—has been determined and, therefore, also serves to alert the rank and file that there does, in fact, exist another collective of which 1) he is most certainly not a member, and 2) he is, in fact, shunned, feared, kept at a safe distance, etc.—literally, via housing/education/health care strata, and metaphorically, via elitist entitlements believed owed only to those comprising the rentier/property owning opulent minority.
January 17, 2013
It remains a sobering truth that ‘victim’ will never translate into ‘innocent,’ no longer ‘responsible’ (not in the sense of ‘blameworthy,’ but, rather, in the sense of being…fully engaged with one’s social milieu) no longer involved, etc. We never become ‘free’ of being ‘responsible’. We never cease being full participants, agents and actors in the unfolding of our environment—both in the immediate and global meanings. In a word: we are obligated.
We may, however, revise how we will respond as adult agents—this remains a highly viable, even consoling, option. But claiming a non-identity, non-participant, ‘neutral’ status—i.e., withdrawing—is never a choice we may adopt. In that sense we may never lay claim to a ‘this-has-nothing-to-do-with-me’ worldview because of a grievance, wound, etc., and believe we may no longer respond.
Our informed response—from each and every one of us—is a precept of life itself, and, we are charged with its issue. It is our mandate, and it is not altered or obviated via victimhood…
Sartre: l’homme est condamné à être libre.
We are involved, we are not existential ‘neuters’…
We will choose, and we will respond…
We remain obligated, and far from being an oppressive fact of the human condition, that we are enjoined to respond morally attests to our capacity for same…
being a refutation of same via the Bakhtinian concept of the Carnivalesque…
A current vogue in OWS ‘scholarship’ has it that the arc of the OWS cause is sorely needing a specific litany of core demands, i.e., or it risks deconstruction. The agent of such observations is, typically, a well-intentioned Liberal observer—not participant—who is seemingly intent upon conflating Left activism as all of a piece. All too often such observer/adviser figures employ an activist benchmark akin to late sixties/early seventies’ “special interest” politicking, e.g., as seen in opposition to war, Black liberation, Feminism, Green activism, etc.
What is ignored in the academic assessment of the current regime—i.e., the era of Late finance capital—is the utterly diffuse havoc being played upon all cadres, all organizational fronts, etc., via the class war waged by rentiers, the Fortune 500 CEOs, the banks, etc., against a mutually dissociated collective, i.e., the working class. Further, this oppressive state of financial massacre has as its concomitant effect a dispiriting malaise of anomie, helplessness, depression, etc., all serving to keep any would-be activism by those being preyed upon in abeyance, with actors fragmented, and uninvolved. And this, a reality in Empire for time out of memory.
The unique nature of the current manifestation of investor-class hegemony, however, is seen in the highly accelerated and aggressive nature of the opponents of We, the People. That is, the financial gain for the 1% is so impossibly high that a seduction exists to destroy the 99%, which seduction running rampant and sustained by the state as well as the corporate-owned media.
That is, there exists an abiding moral social pathology which is sustained by denial, distraction (e.g., “entertainment”, consumerism, etc.), etc., in tandem to a prevalent suffering: suffering at the individual, familial and community levels—all occurring simultaneously!