Endless Enigma: The Aesthetic Phenomenon
This is a complete re-enactment of man and woman (circa: Adam and Eve and from then on; both black, although she may be as brown as some of Duke's women). It is the God-given power of woman to completely bewitch man, but here we have the "damning indictment" of both being black (or brown, or her being white) and the impossibility of giving because of the societal dictates of the Puritanism that drove American society (but, ironically, continues to haunt it today). The resultant gestalt is a black society that is pushed 'outside' the norm, to inhabit the illicit relationship pimp and his woman, so that individually and severally, they may never be one with each other and with their fellow-men at large.
Mingus uses duende masterfully, with the magical guitar of Jay Berliner, his own bass (violin) and the horns. He masters tone and timbre and texture as he carves the air with sound, imitating this life, this misery... and eventually, the joy of release and freedom from the shackles of convention IN DANCE! The music most dramatically and appropriately is conceived as a balletic score life in the guise of dancers, accompanied by the musicians who become them as the 'score' progresses towards its conclusion. This music is utterly beautiful. Magic and mystery in struggle and despair, hope and freedom in the notes that emerge from the sublime minds of sublime musicians... every moment of the work of art!
But then the clouds darken and if we care to listen to the apocalyptic shout, we come to realize that human existence has reached its nadir in its penchant for making war. This we hear in Ornette Coleman's masterful Skies of America. How ironic that three hateful bloodbaths have occurred since Coleman's work was composed, rejected and finally performed!
Surely this magnificent score came to its composer in that moment of inhabiting an elevated state of mind. It is almost as if the composer was standing outside and looking in on a society that has become its own monster. As dramatic as a Socratic or a Shakespearean tragedy, it unfolds on us. Strings and horns collide in one of the earliest harmolodic exploits, as the sky above America turns dark, then red. It is both fearful and deathly. You cannot listen to its music without the feeling of the mindlessness of our penchant for destruction that drives man today.
Through Coleman's opus, we become witness to our own dark side as the sky above reddens with the blood of thousands that give their lives up in the fruitless pursuit of "because some of us are superior"!
Then we shall turn to John Coltrane's Meditations, for hope in ourselves. Late in his own life, Coltrane was driven by spiritualism the quest for perfection, in the art he came to honor with grace and dignity. With his spare, but "thousand-piece" quartet of Jimmy Garrison, McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones, accompanying his now horn-of-the-spirit-world, Trane left us with conflict and resolution. In his "Father, Son and the Holy Ghost," we come face to face with the power of the Trinity that creates, sustains and destroys not life but rational thought (this, that often leads to our destructive nature)... and in doing so, breaks the spell of the tonal universe. Now we are able to "hear" music as it was intended unpredictable and full of surprise. And as we listen with heart and soul, rather than with mind and reason, pre-recorded cause and effect, we may live by the spirit of renewal the and the way that we were created to enjoy our brief existence.
And so, what to make of this magic and mystery? Jorge Luis Borges, in his essay on the savage legacy of Shih Huang Ti, emperor of Tsin, strikes a telling note: Borges believes like Benedetto Croce, the creator of a 19th century thesis "that all arts aspire to the state of music, which is the perfect form. Music states happiness, mythology, faces belabored by time, certain twilights and certain places [that] try to tell us something, or have said something that we should not have missed, or are about to say something; this imminence of a revelation which does not occur is, perhaps, the aesthetic phenomenon."
Bob Parent Archive