Dancing about Architecture

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

– Martin Mull(?)

At first, we’re told, guttural cries
were what passed for expression.
Passed
is not the right word, but professional
critics often rule out categories, deny
expression after the fact, and have tried,
from Mozart to Schoenberg, to call attention
to the various sins against form, the tension
between the old skins and new wine.

Schoenberg, for his part, had no use
for laws that came after the fact,
said they burst under special kinds
of tests — exceptions which make us loosen
rules disprove their need. He backed
off to be free of a tonal bind.

He backed off to be free of a tonal bind
of his own making — tired of being
a test case poster child, perhaps,
or just to hear an audience
understand again. Now we do
dance about architecture, expanding
criticism to throw the rope around the free form
and strangle it.

The jazz cats
cut class when they passed
out theory blue books. Nuts
to the squares who have to sit
with a slide rule and figure out
Coltrane blowed a G#13
or whatever
just to know, just to get back
to the guttural cry, to every
birth
death
resurrection
there
is.

Originally written in the ’90s, and I’ve been tinkering with it ever since.

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9 thoughts on “Dancing about Architecture

  1. That G#13 seems to be a very rich, transitory, and in-between sound, really wanting to resolve up or down a half step! Thanks for mentioning this as I’m enjoying jamming out on this chord!!! I liked the poem also!

    • truth is indeed stranger than fiction – I am a musician, but I’ve got to be honest: I came up with that chord strictly based on trying to have something that looked exotic on paper! I shouldn’t reveal my methods like this… 🙂

  2. heck yeah i like the cats willing to cut their own road…i am kinda like that with form poetry…i smack it around every once in a while but always take my little bits with it….so i will raise a glass to skipped theory class and rule breaking..smiles.

  3. Poetically, the jazz section seems to throw out the prose-like language that comes before, so, given the theme, I like the contrast. I can see why you want to keep tinkering. It’s very difficult to combine different viewpoints: writing about something and/or evoking something through writing.

    • Thanks for noticing that – in an earlier iteration, I actually tried to have a formal sonnet in the earlier section. But that kind of deteriorated as I revised it. You can still see some form in the first section.

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