Rory Gallagher [Full Album]. (1971)
I took this album to heart in solitude by using good earphones, sitting alone in a small room with a closed door, and listening attentively, uninterruptedly. At times I almost ‘heard’ Jimmy nodding agreement as Gallagher brought his soul into composition. The solid frenzy of the instruments and the grunts of accented voices were welcome revelation of who Gallager is, and it served as an antidote for a dry, silent, thick tome in which I have been secluded of late.
Having ended that book today, this soulful sound of Rory Gallagher is refreshing in its honesty.
You see, over the last four weeks I’ve been reading Kay Larson’s paean to John Cage, “Where the Heart Beats.”
The first hundred or so pages made for eager reading; the author was generous with Cage’s (and her own) wit and insight via stories, escapades, and theories—-often via first and third-hand tales but also with ample historical facts (though some name-dropping seems to have been just stuck in here and there sans rhyme or reason, viz. `José Clemente Orozco`.)
Between readings of `Where The Heart Beats,’ I also attended various films and comments regarding John Cage’s music and theories, to help me understand why Ms. Larson asserts the man is not only brilliant but also is spiritually awake, as in Buddha-like.
Some of the recordings of or about Cage helped me understand Ms. Larson’s implications that the man is indeed a spiritual genius in silence, but neither her book nor his music nor any comments have led me to conclude he (or Ms. Larson) understood what he/she was talking about when he/she quotes or paraphrases D.T. Suzuki.
Indeed, when Cage was most brief, he seemed most cogent about several Buddhist concepts of emptiness and non-duality. Instead whenever he or Ms. Larson go on talking, one may wonder if they are for the most part parroting text, more than clarifying from direct experience.
However, I do not imply the author is fake or cold. Rather I think the author might have laughed with joy often along the way (and the way is long indeed; Ms. Larson spent 15 years writing this book)… I think the author also might have wept, perhaps when her editor asked her to leave out even a word of research or a metaphor of awe. (The book now seems to have been cut short, yet though disjointed the text still feels overlong.)
For this reader, although many happenings are mentioned there are simply too many honeyed praises for John Cage cluttering up the story. (Yet though the author gives hundreds of historical events, when one one regards her ‘References’ there are but titles, not specific pages or even chapters.)
As the book became more and more encrusted by Ms. Larson’s affection for Cage, I found my opening intent as a reader to respect each word as I journeyed to the conclusion (which by then still was more than three hundred pages away) to be melting ever more rapidly each time I resumed reading this theophany for John Cage as a rare genius, a truly new artist, a most brilliant musician, and a genuinely spiritually awakened composer.
First by allusion and metaphor the author exposes her infatuation for Cage, then all too soon she unveils an unblushing idolatry of Cage, a fervor which passionately overtakes her prior clarity, direction, and brevity.
By page 150 the direction of the book had sped into a sea without ports, away from earlier unbiased observation and subtle innuendo—no longer merely citing examples of Cage’s methodology and his need for attention and acceptance, but veering instead into outright assertions of brilliance and Zen wakefullness (often employing hyperbole rather than references— THE VERY AIR CRACKLED WITH LIGHTENING-)almost as an apostle when speaking of the now dead and never-met master.
The book, to me, is an offering to a personal god, which for a Buddhist (Ms Larson is a Buddhist of the Zen school) may feel exhilarating, maybe even liberating, but it did not serve this reader. (I felt as if I were reading the long private notes of a love affair, made public only decades after the lover has died, but which are found to be a tale imagined by a suitor who never knew, much less found union with, the beloved.)
Actors can be like that when in rehearsals they detail for their director, unasked, the inner life of the character they are to portray. When asked instead to show it, and to not talk about it at all, the actor may then either retreat, perhaps feeling unappreciated and misunderstood, or may begin the work in earnest, to find the character in such a way as to unveil that person in stages, in set words, but as if alone in private, yet onstage, due which catharsis for the audience becomes possible.
Ms. Larson might take such advice to heart: don’t talk about it too much: show it, briefly and in stages, and let the audience discover for themselves in time what it means to be fully this human being whom she adores, John Cage.