“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
just to know, just to get back
to the guttural cry, to every
Originally written in the ’90s, and I’ve been tinkering with it ever since.