Archive for the ‘1960’s’ Category

Get Satisfaction

April 6, 2020

In 1964, I turned 13 years old.

Like most kids in those days, I was listening to a lot of popular music on a transistor radio.

My first hearing of the Beatles happened  one night while laying sleepily in the dark, in bed.

I’ll never forget that moment. Perhaps you have had one like it.

Their sound was absolutely unique, new, and fresh. Paul and John’s two-voiced harmony rang so clearly through my juvenile brain:

 

Well, she was just seventeen;

You know what I mean,

and the way she looked

was way beyond compare.

Now I’ll never dance with another

since I saw her standing there. . .

My heart went boom

when I crossed that room

and held her hand in mine!

 

Along about that time, there were some other groups knocking out their raucous vibes over the airwaves. I remember one joker came along ranting:

 

I can’t get no I can’t get no I can’t get no satisfaction!

When I’m traveling ‘round the world

and I’’m trying to make some girl . . .

who tells me baby you better come back next week

cuz cant you see I’m on a losing streak.

I can’t get no I can’t get no I can’t no satisfaction!

 

Yeah, yeah, whatever, man.

Not my cup of tea.

Years later, I began wondering just what kind of trip the music industry was trying to put on me and my g-g-generation. Well, that’s a profound question, and it goes much deeper than just “the music industry.”

As years passed by, I had a lot of great experiences, and  of course a few bad ones.

Now it’s 2020 and I’m sitting around the house wondering where the Covid is going to take us before it plays out its invisible death scenario among us. And I have some time to reflect on the meaning of life and all that . . .

Today, while strolling in the sunshine on a park trail, social distancing,  I realized that—looking back on it all— I have discovered, thank God, what satisfaction truly is. I’m not kidding.

Forty years ago, I met the love of my life, married her; she gave birth to our three children who are now grown and living productive, happy lives.

And we have managed to get through that very long “gotta make a living” phase of life—forty years of it. Well, she’s still working . . . ICU Nurse in this time of Covid, while I have made it to that classic, gold-tinted “retirement” state of mythical bliss.

And it will not be so very long before I pass on . . . into that eternal life with the Lord who created us and guided us through these paths of fulfillment.

So I’m approaching that great, big open door that will be like nothing else this life has shown me so far.

They say . . . as one approaches that final  stage, one may become feeble, losing a few neurons along the way and finding some of those ole dependable body parts unable to do what they used to do.

And . . . and yet . . .

this person who is beside me as we approach this unfamiliar juncture . . . this person who has been with me since . . . forty years . . . this woman who has made my house a home, guided my children through better paths than I could have done alone . . . this woman who is still with me as we draw near to that last sunset, whenever it comes . . .

LifeSunset

I have found it! The Satisfaction! . . . the meaning of life:

To have one person who does this long journey with you all the way through, and is there—so familiar and comfortable and caring— all the way to the end, when the sparks start to fall short.

That’s what it’s all about! Whoever thought up this plan—my hat’s off to Him!

Now I realize this personal revelation that I have described may not be your cup of tea. I get that. It takes all kinds to make a world. But I do want to leave you with this little piece of advice.

If you have one person to love—and who loves you—stay with that person. The sacrifice of loving one mate all the way through the journey is definitely worth all the .  . . whatever it takes.

Chances are,  you don’t fully appreciate the full significance of faithful love until you approach the final stages. That’s when the deepest reward is realized. Today is the day I have understood this most clearly.

Glass half-Full  

The Underground

March 19, 2020

Half a century before the Russians mustered enough rebellion to  depose the Czar, a deep current of discontent had begun oozing up from somewhere deep down in those thawing Russian steppes.

Since that era, we have come to call what that discontent represents: The Underground.

Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevksy caught and early wind of it. In his 1864 novel, Notes from the Underground, Dostoevsky identified and fictionalized an uncomfortable alienation that (he noticed) was mounting up among certain attentive and sensitive citizens of that restive country.

This alienation has, since then, become a characteristic of modern life.

In our day and time, Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson points out that Dostoevsky and other writers (most notably Friedrich Nietzsche) detected this early alienation and wrote extensively about it.

There was, you see,  a deep, dark void in the European soul.

It was there. . . deep down in there, somewhere in the metamorphizing life of the 1800’s . . .  a sense that something was missing . . . something important, something—it must be something— essential.

Where some spiritual or soulful entity had, through many ages, carried European civilization along a certain path of cultural development, now there was nothing.

“Nihilism” is a word that was brought in to identify that void.

In our day and time, Jordan Peterson explains the development of nihilism—how it is related to the lapse  the Church, which had formerly evolved as a religious matrix around which the framework of European civilization and culture had manifested across almost two millennia of time.

Dr. Peterson attributes the identifying of this nihilism primarily to those two 19th-century writers, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche. In his lectures, Dr. Peterson often mentions that these two prescient thinkers predicted—or one could almost say “prophecied”—the horrible carnage of our 20th-century wars.  Our two modernized hyper-mechanized destructive wars broke out as modern men desperately strove—through futile attempts at communist and fascist totalitarianism—to establish a meaningful State, or Society.

Instead of—let’s just say— the Church. Comprenez-vous?

Denizens of “the Underground” are those misplaced souls who have searched elsewhere—apart from the Society or Culture at large—for their own meaning or identity.  Even further than that, they will likely work collectively with other fellow travelers, striving for some collective opus that enables us—if not now, in the future— to live and thrive together.

When I was a young man, I composed a song about some of these deep urges toward meaning and liberty.

Underground Railroad Rides Again

I have empathy for the Undergrounders of this world, although some of them have, from time to time, carried their discontents too far, beyond the rightful constraints of decently civilized life. The Weather Underground of the 1960’s, for instance,  crossed that line of acceptable protest when they began making home-bombs,  one of which enabled one Undergrounder to blow up himself and his whole dam NYC apartment building, in spring of 1970.

But hey! Life goes on, in spite of all the abuse and injustices people pile on one another. In spite of all our myriad societal dysfunctions. The world persists in its predictable revolutions, whether you approve the changes or not.  Nations change. Seasons come and go. Our winters of discontent always as mellow out as . . .

a new wind, a fair breeze, and this year’s equinox a day early!

Now in 2020 A.D., about midday on this first spring day, 19  March, I was strolling along our local greenway, here in our little town of the Blue Ridge, observing obligatory social distancing protocols mandated by the COVID-19. When my walk began, the weather was dreary, misty and chilly. But as I neared the turnaround point of my 3-mile path, the sun was peeping out from behind the clouds, the air turned amazingly warm and dry, and suddenly! spring has sprung!

‘T’was then I encountered an Underground of different sort:

Molehills

This springtime sprung-up version of the Underground has been popping up with alarming regularity for a very long time. . . far longer than we homo sapiens have been struggling to find meaningful identity in our civilizations.

As I beheld these silly-pilly little dirt mounds, I disclosed the discovery to myself . . .  (as they say on the video spy dramas) what we have here is mole!

King of Soul

The Senator from Minnesota

February 12, 2020

Just a few days ago,  we were walking around in Haifa, Israel. That port city is really thriving with energy and productivity.

As we strolled near the Mediterranean shore, we came upon a cable-lift, which we rode upwards to a point about halfway up Mt. Carmel, passing in the air over a cave that is traditionally called “Elijah’s cave.”

Whether in that cave, or some other, the prophet Elijah heard a “still, small voice” of divine encouragement, while he happened to be at that moment in an hour of great need of some help from above. . . or whether Elijah’s word from the Lord happened in some other cave, I don’t really know. But I do believe, like Elijah of old, in God who is watching over us daily, and encouraging us if we listen in the Spirit for that still, small voice.

Moving right along . . .

Before we hopped on that cable-lift, I noticed this sign:

HHsignHaifa

Of course I was reminded of the Senator from Minnesota. He was Vice President under Lyndon Johnson, back in the day.

You know, Humphrey got a bad deal. He might have been President. While the Democrats were trying to have a convention in 1968, their public persona was severely damaged because the heavy-handed Mayor Daley of Chicago was sending his police out in great numbers to whack the protesting kids who were trying to end the Vietnam War.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes in the other political party in ’68, the Republican nominee Nixon was tampering inappropriately with the peace talks that our diplomats were trying to conduct with the North Vietnamese in Paris.

In Chicago, Hubert was trying to establish his own peace-cultivating identity at the donkey convention. He was laboring under the duress of heavy-handed Lyndon’s invisible hand manipulating the convention to his own ends.

Long story short, Hubert got a bad deal and Nixon ended up getting the Presidency, only to be run off during his second term for sending some crooks to break into Democratic offices.

Humphrey, had he won, might have been a better President than Nixon. But some things we’ll never know, like who was behind the murder of JFK and so forth  and so on . . .

Well now we have another Senator from Minnesota who rises into the national limelight after New Hampshire, and I’m taking a close look at her candidacy. Maybe Amy will pull a Jimmy Carter on us and somehow take the White House.

Anyway, when Pat and I arrived back in USA a few days ago, having spent two weeks in the amazing country of Israel, lo and behold if we didn’t return to a situation where all hell was breaking loose and some folks are even talking about civil war between the elephants and the donkeys.

This is not good.

Now I am proud to be a political moderate, altough I have for a long time been registered as a Republican.

There are some things I like about Mr. Trump’s take-charge attitude, but generally I don’t think his Presidency is good for our country. He is too divisive, and destructive, like a bull in a china shop. And I don’t give a hoot about his damn wall. I say let ‘em in.

“Send me your tired and weary, your huddled masses yearning to be free.”

So this morning I wake up and Bernie has won the New Hampshire primary.

Well good for him and all those young people—like we were in ’68—who propelled him into this victory. But New Hampshire is his home state and this victory is a flash-in-the-pan because he is too far left, and propagating socialistic programs, to win the electorate across these here entire confederation of states that we call USA.

Therefore, in the interests of our already-great nation, I think I’ll vote for a moderate Democrat rather than take a chance on another divisitory four years with the Donald.

I’ll have to switch my party affiliation to Democrat, of course, to vote for Amy Klobuchar, but it seems to me to be the best thing we can do to keep this still-great nation from falling apart at the seams.

I’ll go with the Senator from Minnesota.

Amy Klobucher

 Think about it, although we still have a long way to go before November, and a lot of bad and good things could happen along the way. Amy’s moderate history indicates, it seems to me, that hers is a better direction than what is now tearing us apart at the seams.

Glass half-Full 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 20, 2020

 As a person who grew up in the deep south in the 1950’s-60’s, I wrote a song about

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1977, by the grace of God I was able to record the song in a studio in Nashville.

Hear now the message of the song, which is about two great, historical leaders

From careyrowland.com . . . Mountaintop

         MLKing

Glass half-Full

A Story from LSU

January 10, 2020

I grew up with LSU. My daddy went there in the late ’40’s; my mama did too.

Growing up in Baton Rouge was all about LSU, and so I moved across town to enter the University as a freshman in 1969. My freshman dorm room was in North Stadium, which was–you guessed it–Tiger Stadium. And I don’t mean Clemson Tiger.

From a south-facing window in Death Valley, I had an excellent view of Mike the Tiger’s cage. At that time, our mascot was called Mike the Third, or Mike III.

LSU always had a great football program, and it was a big deal in Baton Rouge. Back in my junior high days, my friend Johnny Lambert got me a job selling concessions at the Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium (known to our opponents as Death Valley.)

By December 1973, I had somehow managed to graduate, in spite of being a useless sometimes-PoliSci, sometimes-English major.  Very near Mike the Tiger’s cage (mentioned above), the University had built a new indoor stadium for the basketball team. My graduating class was the first to walk the aisle in the Pete Maravich Center, better known as Pete’s Palace.

Years went by. In 1975, I relocated to North Carolina, where I have lived ever since. Since that new beginning I have lived, married and raised three young’uns in the state where Press Maravich coached NCState basketball before he coached the Tiger basketball team, which included his son, incredible phenom  “Pistol” Pete.

For many, many years since leaving Louisiana, I have followed the Tigers. I have to say it has mostly been a frustrating experience.

Until now. Oh, there was a victorious flash-in-the-pan or two. We won a national championship in 2003, but had to share it with Southern Cal, because the AP writers couldn’t make up their minds, or some such. In 2007, we had another NCAA title when we beat the Buckeyes.

Before that, the way-back-in-the-day championship was in 1958, when beat that other so-called tiger team-the one from somewhere in South Carolina–the same team that we will beat this coming Monday night.

To commemorate our immanent victory, I’ll share a scene with you, from my recent novel, King of Soul, that takes place at LSU during 1969-70. This turn of events came as I was reflecting on my life, recalling those college years at LSU. The story revolves largely around what was happening to our nation during the Vietnam War.

As I mentioned above, I was an English major, which is why I spent most of my adult life banging nails, building houses in North Carolina. But I have managed to get four novels written and published out of the English major deal.

In  chapter 11 of the fourth novel, King of Soul, we find the main character, Donnie Evans conversing with Marcy Charters, while they are getting to know each other. In the scene, Donnie asks her:

           “You live in Savannah?”

“I did. Now I’m living in Baton Rouge.”

“Glad you’re here.”

“Thank you. There I was, the middle of July and I still didn’t know where to go to school.”

“Did your boyfriend want you to go to Georgia?”

“He did.”

“But you didn’t want to.”

“That’s right. I wanted something different. Or. . .some place different, and it wasn’t going to be France, and there I was sitting on a park bench in Savannah, by the waterfront. . .not knowing what was going to happen but knowing that I had to do something. This is not me, you understand. I’m usually right on top of things—“

“Sittin’ on a dock of the bay,” Donnie inserted, “watchin’ the tide roll away.”

Marcy stopped in her tracks. They were beneath the crepe myrtles now, near the entrance to the Union building. “That’s it,” she said, eyeing him surprisedly as if to say who are you and how did you get here ? “It was just like that—like Otis sang it,” she exclaimed.

“Otis Redding. I hear ya, babe.” Donnie snapped his fingers, started crooning the tune. . .”watchin’ the ships roll in, and I watch ‘em roll away again. . .” Yeah, Otis knew all about it; he was the King of Soul.”

“King of Soul? I thought  James Brown was the King of Soul.” she said.

Donnie laughed. “He might have been at one time.”

Up the stone staircase, into the palatial student Union building, breezing through high, grand hallway, and then they turned into the cafeteria line where she got salad, he got a sandwich and of course the two coffees. Then they were out in the grand dining room, sunshine streaming in through the high glass, the buzz of multi-voiced cacophonic conversation rising into the high ceiling, contributing to the wisdom of the universe, or the serendipity of Friday afternoons with someone who just transported from a crunch time decision while sitting on a dock of the bay, in some place far, far, away. . .

When they sat down, she sang:

      “I can’t do what ten people tell me, so I guess I’ll just stay the same.”

Then she spoke: “And the best way for me to do that was to come here.”

“And they just let you in? Are you so special?”

“Well, I had already been accepted, in April. But at that point, this whole LSU idea was just a kind of a lark thing.

LSUmems

Glass half-Full

Update: A day in the Life

September 12, 2019

I read a tweet today oh boy

  about a cocky man with a rant parade.

And though the news was really bad

  well I just had to laugh one more time.

I saw the comment thread online.

He blew our minds out with a rant:

  he hadn’t noticed that the Climate Changed.

A crowd of people seethed and stared

  they’d seen the bee ess before

Nobody was really sure if it was from the 1% core.

I saw a video oh boy

  the 1%ers have just scored some more;

A crowd of trollers  were abhorred;

  but I just stole some looks,

  having once read books.

We’d love to lead you o. . . . n.

  SgtPeprs

I woke up, gotta outa bed,

  found a mem, inside my head,

  made my way downstairs and tweeted it,

  and twittering, knew I was a twit.

I made this up, but grabbed my phone;

I posted face,  still felt alone,

Found my way upstairs and caught a streaming;

  somebody spoke and I went into a dreaming, ohhhhhh……

   etcetera etcetera, etcetera, you’ve read the news

I read the web today oh boy:

  four million holes inside our atmosphere.

And though the holes were rather small,

  they had to stop them all.

  Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the global ball.

We’d love to lead you o. . . . on.

           https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCbZ15JpxPg   

Glass Chimera

Bridge across Time

July 9, 2019

Setting old stones with new methods lays a solid foundation for future pathways of our life together.

Here’s a Blue Ridge Parkway bridge, near my home, built when I was a kid long ago, in the 1960’s.

BRPHollowa

It’s a well-built public-works project.

Incredible strength was laid into the bridge’s inner structure when concrete was poured around a steel rebar framework. Unseen in the finished structure, the silent steel still contributes to ongoing structural integrity and function. Internal strength assured the bridge’s longevity, allowing the structure to bear up under the heavy demands of continuous motored traffic for many and many a year.

This solid piece of work has been sustaining motored traffic for most of my 68 years.

Use of reinforcing steel roads, tied together with wire like cages, then buried forever with gravel aggregate in solid ‘crete mud, is a relatively new architectural practice in construction history. The internal rebar method was devised by constructors over time, to assure deep integrity and resilience in vast concrete structures.

Such built-in reinforcement has enabled folks to progressively build bigger buildings, longer roads and bridges, as civilization marches on.

BluRiOvPas

This strong, continuous, time-tested concrete underbelly enables motorists to drive without stopping, on a road that crosses o’er a  road that passes beneath it. In this photo, you can see the structure’s rock-hard underbelly, which bears the surface imprints of wooden planks that were used in forming the main arch  when the concrete was cast, back in the mid-1960’s.

Certainly our attention is drawn to the large veneer stones on the outside face of the construction. These chiseled rocks, having been skillfully cut with calculated angles, lend a classic appearance to the roadway, which would have otherwise been a dull utilitarian construct.

Thus did the bridge become something far more than an elevated roadway; it stands as an artistic statement of architectural continuity, in agreement with its older, 1930’s-era bridge “ancestors.”

The stone masons who erected similar Blue Ridge bridges back in the earlier days were ancestors–whether by profession or by blood– of the rock masons who set these stones three decades later.

Such chisel-sculpted work  becomes a masonary tip-of-the-trowel to time-honored traditions of stone masons who lived and worked on this same 469-mile parkway back in the day, and then eventually crossed that great celestial bridge to eternity.

Having stood the tests of time and traffic, this good work stands as a long-lasting homage to both structural integrity and graceful design.

About six miles up the road from the bridge pictured above, there’s an S-curved structure that I tied steel on, back in the early 1980’s– the Linn Cove Viaduct on Grandfather Mountain. It’s a very special construct, being the final missing-link in the middle of a 469-mile, 50-year Blue Ridge Parkway project. But this one was special–not for the classic stonework–but for the cutting-edge technology of building the thing from the top down, instead of the bottom up!

BRPLinConst2

Here’s solid evidence that in this life it’s a good idea to do things right. Build it to last, whatever it is you’re working on in your time here.  Our children’s children will notice the quality and be inspired to do great works in their own time.

Search for Blue

Death by War

May 26, 2019

I wrote a story about an American traveling through Europe in the spring/summer of 1937. In the novel, Smoke, which I published in 2015, young businessman Philip Morrow accepts an unusual errand, which takes him through London, halfway around the far side of France, then to Paris, and ultimately to arrive at a place called Flanders Field in Belgium.

At his specific Memorial battleground destination, Philip sees for the first time the final resting place of his father, a soldier of the American Expeditionary Force, who had died there in 1918 during the last week of World War I.  Philip had been eight years old in 1917 when he hugged his pa for the last time, then  beheld  his mother while she tearfully embraced her  husband, a mountaineer marksman named Clint.

In chapter 27 of Smoke, Philip arrives at the Memorial cemetery accompanied by a newfound friend, Mel, an old Frenchman who expresses his appreciation for Clint’s courageous sacrifice–given in his last full measure of devotion– for freedom, to defeat tyranny.

Clint’s total offering in 1918 was not the first, nor the last, to be put forth by millions of other soldiers since that time. In Washington DC, I snapped this photo of a newer Memorial–that one constructed for us to remember the dead of Vietnam.

VNMem (1)

We Americans do appreciate the families left behind.  Their sorrow and sacrifice is painfully precious; it  runs deep–deep as the blood that pumped through soldiering bodies alive with determination–blood that still streams through the beating hearts and minds of  us Americans and Allies.

Here’s my offering, from chapter 27 of Smoke:

       “How could this place have been a battlefield for a world war?”

‘The old Frenchman cast his eyes on the passing landscape, and seemed to join Philip in this musing. He answered slowly, “War is a terrible thing, an ugly thing. I did not fight in the war; I had already served my military duty, long before the Archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo and the whole damn world flew apart, like shrapnel. But I had many friends who fought here, and back there, where we just came from in my France, back there at the Somme, the Marne, Amiens. Our soldiers drove the Germans back across their fortified lines, the Hindenberg line they called it. By summer of 1918 the Germans were in full retreat, although it took them a hell of a long time, and rivers of spilt blood, to admit it. And so it all ended here. Those trenches, over there in France, that had been held and occupied for two hellish years by both armies, those muddy hellholes were finally left behind, vacated, and afterward . . . filled up again with the soil of France and Flanders and Belgium, and green grass was planted where warfare had formerly blasted its way out of the dark human soul and the dark humus of lowland dirt and now we see that grass, trimmed, manicured and growing so tidily around those rows of white crosses out there, most of them with some soldier’s name carved on them, many just unknown, anonymous, and how could this have happened? You might as well ask how could. . . a grain of sand get stuck in an oyster? And how could that oyster, in retaliation against that rough, alien irritant, then generate a pearl—such a beautiful thing, lustrous and white—coming forth in response to a small, alien presence that had taken up unwelcomed residence inside the creature’s own domain? The answer, my friend, is floating in the sea, blowing in the wind, growing green and strong from soil that once ran red with men’s blood.” ‘

“Now they were arriving at the battlefield. Jacques parked the car, leaned against the front fender, lit a cigarette. Mel and Philip walked through a stone arch, along a narrow, paved road lined with flowering linden trees, spring green with their large spadish leaves, sprinkled with small white blossoms. The sun was getting low behind them. Shadows of these trees had overtaken the narrow lane, turning it cooler than the surrounding fields, acres and acres neatly arranged with white crosses and gravestones, and continuous green, perfect grass between all. Having reached the end of the linden lane, the stepped slowly, reverently, along straight pathways, passing hundreds of silent graves on either side. The setting sun was still warm here, after their cool approach from beneath the trees.

“At length, they came to the row that Philip had been looking for, the one he had read about in the army guidebook, where his father’s grave was nested precisely and perpetually in its own place in eternity “. . .

King of Soul

California!

April 18, 2019

there’s gold in them thar hills,

somewhere up near sutter’s mill:

them’s words that sparked the great gold rush,

and set us up us for the great golden push

Gold

California be the place you gotta go

so we loaded up our siri for sausalito

cruisin’ somewhere o’er the rainbow

where gentle dwellers come and go

speaking what makes their property ’ssesments grow

them gatlins said all the gold that’s there

be locked in some bank in beverly here where

somebody else will that precious stuff share

but hey

this is what i say

whatever stuff upon your dreams do thrive

whatever you do to keep that dream alive

whether you track with ferlinghetti

or train your sights on images of getty

keep that california dreamin alive

lest u get waylaid in some hotel california dive

where some say there’s alchemic gold

in that stuff that owsley sold

cuz when you wish upon a star

makes no difference where you are

whether u b goin’ to surf city surf city

or lookin for dem hollywood pretty

maybe try to hawk you little ditty

in tinsel town jez be twitty

cuz it be a factory town you know

they crankin up th’dream factory fo’ show

and when you wish to sight a star

makes no diff’n where you are

Cal the place you oughta go

so we loaded up the boat for sausalito

where weather underground stars did go

then caught light of day in law’n’order show

while light falls apart in a little room

like Alice with some kind of ‘shroom

on stanyan street

if you catch by beat,

where gentle dwellers come n go

speaking softly of how property ’ssesments grow

yeah demmie residents come and go

speak’n of what makes dem property ‘ssessments grow

but this i know

it may be all for show

okie from muskogee said

California or bust or ’til i’m dead

but whether u  b muskogee okie

yes i know i b get’n lit’bit hokey

or if’n  you b some smart silicon geek

u got to admit dat state is pretty sleek

been California dreamin’ all this week!

though you know i aint no freak

oh what fools’gold these mortals seek

u gotta believe it I know

and i be tellin you fo’ sho’

as so i been told

dem streets be wired wit gold

Citygold

though i now be gettn’ somewhat old:

all that glitters is not gold

what stuff our dreams are made of, or so i’m told

may the bird of paradise eclipse  your deepest woes

in the land of gold’n dreams and shows

here in California.

Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

King of Soul

Life~Trouble~Tragedy~Music!

April 13, 2019

In chapter 18 of King of Soul, we encounter one exploration of how music arises from human life.

In the year 1969, Professor Victor Komienko explains to his Music Appreciation class how a certain kind of music may arise:

“The University is the Defender of  high standards in all of the arts; music is no exception. In the slings and arrows of outrageous  intrusion, the best standards of the ages are maintained at the Conservatory, or as we have here, the University. This is a college where the fundamentals of performance are passed on to the next generation of musicians, and where time-tested principles of effective composition are taught. At the same time, the Conservatory—or  University—retains and extends those foundations, so that appropriately innovative works can be brought forth.” Dr. Komienko looked up to the top row of the auditorium; he surveyed his class purposefully from the top row down. The baton in his hand tapped out a quick little rhythm on the podium.

“Do you have any questions so far?”

Teddy, halfway up the center aisle, raised his hand.

“Mr. Scher, of course you would have a question.”

“How do you feel about electrified instruments?”

“You are asking about electric guitars?”

“Yes, sir.”

“As you know, electric guitars have a high profile in contemporary popular music. As for their use in the classical legacy, we have not yet seen it. I will say, however, there is an indirect influence insofar as some of the big jazz bands of the 1930’s, such as Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway.  The electric guitar, used primarily as a rhythm instrument, has become a standard part of their jazz arrangements.

“George Gershwin has included in some of his compositions rhythms and melodic figures that originate with the Negro music, which has been brought over, as we know, from Africa. Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is the most notable example of this influence. The sound of the electric guitar itself, as an instrument, has not yet been heard to any extent that I know of.

“Traditionally, the guitar, unamplified as an acoustic instrument, has found an honorable place in the classical repertoire, most notably in the works of Spanish composers such as Segovia, and  Rodrigo.”

Teddy Scher raised his hand again.

“Yes?” Dr. Komienko responded, with a slightly disconcerted tone.

“Have you heard that the London Symphony has performed with the Moody Blues?”

“I have heard that they have done that. I have not heard any of the recordings. Thank you, Mr. Scher, for bringing that to my attention. We must, however, move forward with our syllabus now. Today, we will listen to a selection from the Italian Baroque period, Vivaldi’s Summer movement of the Four Seasons.

“The composer wrote notes to communicate to the orchestra the character of the music. In this case, Vivaldi had written a poem, which included the image of a shepherd boy being frightened by the fury of a thunderstorm. Vivaldi evokes, in the music, the fearsome effect of that storm. Additionally, he wrote at the top of this score—the piece you are about to hear—this musical instruction: Tempo Impetuoso. What does that tell you? Let’s listen to it, and perhaps  we will comprehend just what the composer was indicating by the use of that descriptor, Impetuoso. I do believe, Mr. Scher, that you will agree with me after hearing it, that, in some ways, Antonio Vivaldi was a forerunner of the rock music genre, which is driven, in its 20-th century heart, by that”—the professor raised his hands, indicating quotation marks with his fingers—’electric guitar you mention.’

“Of course, there were no electric guitars in Vivaldi’s day. However, in this case—the piece you are about to hear—I believe that same impetuous spirit of a present-day  lead guitarist was resident in a virtuoso  solo violinist of that day, whoever he might have been at the time.

“The violin concerto—commonly  called  Le Quattro Stagioni, or the Four Seasons—was originally named by Vivaldi, in 1725, as Il Cimento dell’ Armonia e dell’ Invenzione , or translated, The Contest of Harmony and Invention. Perhaps, as you listen to this selection from it, you can surmise why the composer considered this work to represent a contest—or a sort of dual—between conventional notions of what music should be, as opposed to what music is as it is created and performed by the impetuous innovator—in this case, the soloist. Such  is the perennial contest, from age to age, between art that is generally acknowledged as appropriate and new art that is thought to be too disruptive.

“Now listen, and hear if you can, , the composer’s prescient gleaning of what music might become two and a half centuries later.  Arnold, please roll the tape. . .”

You will find one demonstration of this phenomenon here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaoqCARilbA 

 

King of Soul