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.

What I Learned By Not Thinking About It (draft 2, dVerse prompt)

It wasn’t that important to solve anyway,
which is good, because it doesn’t yield
to analysis or much of anything.

Even in physics we learned one can observe
vector or velocity, not both,
which leaves room for something. Call it God,
but not the god of flannel cutouts in cigar boxes,
musty Sundays, leading us to ever more thinking.

But it’s not nothing.
Or if it is, it’s the type of nothing
expressed in the tired old lines:

Have you seen my wife?

Is she about 5’2″, red haired, wearing a blue sweater?

That’s her! Have you seen her?

No, man, I haven’t.

A Few Calls About Death

My father at the breakfast table with Mom,
hanging up the phone: “Well, Dean is gone.”
My mother’s damn-you tears: how can you?

What else could he do? The time he called
to tell me about our friend who’d been
electrocuted, we were crossing the state line,
my wife and I, the young childless couple
heading back from vacation, and he said:
“There’s no good way to tell you this…”Read More »