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Pat Martino: To Renew A Life In Jazz

Victor L. Schermer By

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AAJ: A locked ward?

PM: Yes, because rage was coming out of me. I was enraged- everything had fallen apart. I had gone through these things and finally was released. And procrastination continued, until the procrastination produced boredom, which in turn became the canvas for the decision itself. That's when something started happening. I decided to this for myself.

AAJ: Without the sense of what the music might mean to you? Sort of mechanically?

PM: Mechanically, yes. The psychiatrist at the Institute suggested I get involved with a computer. So I got a small Macintosh Apple with the tiny screen, and in that 127k system was a music program. And I started playing with that like a toy, just like when I was a child, the only difference was mom and dad no longer could say, 'Stop playing and do your homework!' I'd already done my homework. Now I could play. That was the first stage of re-development: playfulness, where I began to lose myself and lose my depression in graphic doodles on this little machine. And when the music program came into it and I could take the cursor and weave the arrow of the mouse across the keyboard, all the notes would come out and they'd go right on the staff! I was impressed. I began to become more and more playful with that stage of playfulness, until finally I began to manipulate the notes themselves, in the same playfulness, with no responsibilities in terms of a career.

After I took care of my parents' estate, I had a decision. I was going to go back to Amsterdam, but I decided to stay in Philadelphia, primarily because I left Philadelphia when I was fifteen, and I was comfortable now that things were taken care of, so I remained. Getting back to the true power of development and the most valuable conclusion of my own interpretation of it was that I remembered a time initially when I was extremely volatile in terms of blame and judgment about all of the physicians and psychologists who had worked with me in the earlier years prior to the proper diagnosis of the aneurysm, which came from a CT-scan. Prior to that, the doctors thought I had manic depression and had me in locked wards. Hey even gave me electric shock treatments.

AAJ: That was prior to the surgery for the aneurysm?

PM: This was long before that, when I was getting seizures.

AAJ: How could they misdiagnosis this?

PM: I was enraged and extremely judgmental about it all. Finally, when I was given the diagnosis as a readout from the CT-scan, a joy actually came to me at that moment. The joy was because I had endured, and temperance was felt for the first time as a virtue. I saw this as a valuable experience, with no need for blame anymore, because I knew what it was, and I gained strength at this point. This is prior to the surgery and the amnesia. That was forgotten, but did release itself in time to come, and I did remember that moment.

So, it came down to very simple facets that have a great deal of meaning in terms of recovery from any form of ailment, I would think, and I've tried to interact with a lot of people about that, in terms of visiting different hospitals.

AAJ: As a result of your experience, what would you like to convey to others have undergone amnesia, and all those who have suffered trauma in their lives?

PM: Well, not only do you forget all of the things that are supposedly important to you, but forget all of the things that are not important to you. So there's some irony in this. You may have what you thought was valuable, but in the process itself, you gain so much value, primarily because you are a clean slate, the board has been wiped.

AAJ: Like the Zen master who raps on your back with the stick?

PM: Yes, yes, exactly. And you reach a point where you're at the beginning. And what I found at the beginning was what I wanted at the beginning. I wanted to play like any child wants to play. My parents did well: they taught me how to survive. Now, I had forgotten how to survive. But all I had done in the process layed the framework, the architecture for the stability in my life. That never went away, that's solid. But the one thing I began to treasure was the ability to be playful again in a childish way with no interruption from others. And I gave more credibility to the child, in terms of childishness itself, and no longer worried about my career, or ever reaching a stage where I felt that I accomplished all that I set out to do. There was nothing to set out to do. In fact, everything was right in front of me at all times. There was nowhere to go any further. There was nowhere to look back. There was no need to look back. I didn't remember the past. I had no interest in finding something for the future. I was more interested in putting an end to the depressive moment of right now that was on me so deeply and so intensely. And at that point, I started to re-experience jazz at the moment. It happened with the guitar. It happened with just about everything.


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