Endless Enigma: The Aesthetic Phenomenon
“ All arts aspire to the state of music, which is the perfect form. ”
There is magic and mystery in the art of making music. The glorious enigma of sounds that arrive at the deepest recesses of the artist's heart to quicken the blood! These notes and those notes pitched seemingly from mouthfuls of air, when the artist lets loose his heart-song. The interminable hum of a random melody now harmonizes with the strings of the soul, setting the body on a spiraling expedition heavenward. Fingers tapping on a piano top, drumming out a rhythm hot and holy! Then melting into a living song breaking like a flaming dawn in the interior landscape of the mind. Synapses shooting across its universe as music breaks in thunderous waves on quivering lips. Magic and mystery tormenting the artist deliciously as the music courses through mind and body until it bursts through the fingertips on the ebony and ivory of piano keys... on determined guts stretched, taut, across a fret board... and then some through lips pursed in perfect embouchure on shell and horn... and beaten out of the skins of a myriad drums.
Opus Dei! The artist is a mere vessel of pure energy through which a voice unknown and divine speaks. The doors of chance and heightened perception are opened and the artist is drawn into the unknown, uncontrollable and unpredictable the nagual universe. Poeta nascitur, non-fit and like the poet, the musician too is born, not made! But the musician cannot be divine, so he becomes a sorcerer. In his art he enters the hyperreal. And when he does... Saudades, or duende... or soul! All of this brings about a state of mind, a transcendent moment of perception that can occur when the musician sublimates himself into the complexity of emotion that he is seeking to express, taking you out of time with him. Instinctively, emotionally and intuitively he is now capable of (musical) feats that are limited only by the vastness of his inspiration and imagination. None of this can ever be manufactured. It simply exists with its soul-mate the musician on a higher plane, where everything exists and flows in a rarified state; where even the mere sight of water can be intoxicating! Like saudades, or duende it cannot be seen, but it appears and disappears illuminating everything in the artist's path: strength, drive and courage. Thus it is, this magic and mystery, in essence and virtue: like the child and in absolute wisdom: like the ancient.
Throughout the 1940s Charlie Parker created possibly the most dramatic music of the past one hundred years, most of this preserved forever on the Dial and Savoy labels. But I believe that it is his mind expanding excursions on the alto saxophone, on "Embraceable You," that reaches the zenith of perfection. You are sucked into his world, through his sublimity in this short song. You hear the agony of the inequitable relationships that an African American must endure. You feel the pain in his arms as they wrap themselves around the saxophone, ironically imitating the pain that a black man must endure as he reaches out in vain for the woman who will make him whole again. You feel the powerful drug of love course through his veins, corrupt by unacceptable color and race. You feel man, music and every tingling emotion melded into one.
There are many other instances of the magic and mystery, where music sublimates human existence. Few come close in the intensity of that moment in time than the command performance of the Duke Ellington Orchestra when it first presented 'The Black, Brown and Beige Suite'.
Throughout his life Duke avoided confrontation with the pain of racial discrimination. But his music gave vent to his deepest feelings. In 'Black Brown and Beige', however, Duke heard Divine intervention in the divisive society, which surrounded him. He heard the murmurings and shouts of his own heart as he put sought to express his pain and joy. And he heard this in the way he painted the notes of his music with the textures he saw and the tones he heard, echoing from his brass, woodwinds, piano and percussion of his soul mates his band as they interpreted his epiphany... the growls and rants of protest, the peacemaking spirit and the joys of freedom on a different plane from all prejudice.
Music is a record of events. A history rendered by a human race that marches through time. It is in its most sublime form a record of struggle and of triumph. None better, I believe and it is my view and my view alone, I suppose than Charles Mingus' Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.