Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Poor" showing

have let my experiences accrue again, such that i'm afraid to get back on this thing for fear of the backlog. let's just press on, without regard to completeness...

so i am nearing the end of "Poor People," a fascinating book by William T. Vollmann. this is the latest selection in Laal's and my book club, following Steele ("Toxic Bachelors," yo), Hammett ("Maltese," loved the shit out of it, esp. Spade's coarseness as a character; i lost count of the number of uses of "guttural" in that book...), Salinger ("Franny and Zooey." i'm probably the only person on earth who hadn't read this in high school or early college, but damn this was gorgeous) and Dylan's "Chronicle," about which i rattled on at some length here.

anyway, Vollmann's a pretty famous novelist (though i once tried to read "You Bright and Risen Angels," a long sci-fi-ish novel about humanoid insects, and found it incomprehensible) but he's probably best known for "Rising Up and Rising Down," a seven-volume "critique of violence" that he published recently. that was one of those projects that people loved to name-check, but few actually read (a fact acknowledged by Vollman in the preface to the one-volume abridged edition). "Poor People" is more modest, about 300 pp, though it's still taken me quite awhile.

basically the book is what it sounds like: a kind of travelogue through global poverty over the past two decades or so. Vollmann visited tons of places--including Thailand, Kazakhstan, Japan, Russia, Afghanistan, Colombia and many more--and interviewed tons of poor people about their circumstances. in many cases his interviews began with simple inquiries such as "Why are you poor?" or "Why are some people poor and some people rich?"

weird concept, right? in many cases the answers he got were as brief as his questions, i.e., the sick, homeless Thai woman who replies simply, "I think I am rich," but he amplifies on these simple responses in ways that range from the fascinating to the frustrating.

in toting this book around on the subway--with "Poor People" emblazoned across the front--i felt a weird sense of shame and ambivalence. "how presumptuous of me to be studying poverty via a tidy little volume" and similar thoughts constantly buzzed through my head. apparently they buzzed through Vollmann's head as well, given the number of times he questions his own motivations. i can't tell you how many times he ends a chapter with a self-deprecation or statement of futility along the lines of "...we left him alone beneath the bridge because he was someone we hardly knew and he had forgotten us; we were rich and he was poor...." in other words, for all the effort he expends bridging this gap, he often seems mired in the belief that it can't be bridged.

but there are many sections where Vollmann simply writes his way through this issue, such as a harrowing account of a town in Kazakhstan which is being taken over by corporations eager to exploit is massive oil resources. his interviews with the residents, who know they are being poisoned by sulfur but at the same time value the employment the oil effort has brought to their town, are stunning. let's just say Borat seems a little less funny now.

he compares what the people of that town do--essentially trade their health and well-being for a ticket out of poverty--to prostitutes in various countries (Vollmann goes out of his way not to judge them and even expresses great admiration for their ingenious methods; of one woman, he says, "I wish her many years of contented moderate prostitution") and to the Chinese people who are so eager to get to Japan that they indenture themselves to ruthless smugglers known as snakeheads.

Vollmann speaks a lot about homelessness in Sacramento, where he lives, and his descriptions of crack pipes and shopping carts will be familiar to anyone who lives in a big city. but there are also some remarkable examinations of less obvious circumstances of poverty. for example, there's a long section on the notion of "Invisibility" that deals with Afghan women under Taliban rule. he discusses how under those conditions hiding women away behind closed doors and beneath veils is seen as a gesture of respect, but what if an Afghan woman is poor? basically her "invisibility" prohibits her from addressing anyone, even if it is to beg or otherwise ask for help.

a lot of what i've taken away from the book are random images. there are actual pictures in the back (Vollmann paid many of his subjects for the privilege of interviewing and photographing them), and i doubt i'll ever forget the shot of the Cambodian beggar girl with the intensely deformed nose. nor can i get over the idea of the Japanese whorehouse with a sign that said "Subway Molesters" and which offered patrons the chance to go into a room made up to look like a subway car and grope random women.

at first, Vollmann's constant second-guessing of himself was annoying. he couldn't go a few pages without throwing in something about how he was writing while "sitting in my rich man's chair" or something. occasionally the book teeters on the edge of being some sort of massive confessional. but overall i really admire how he's captured the struggle of this project in the prose. there are long sections on his monetary contributions where he reasons out things like whether giving to a beggar is somehow more noble if that beggar performs a service for you, even a perfunctory one. he often finds himself in the incredible position of being able to change someone's life via his donations, considering how much more wealthy he is than his subjects. he's constantly wondering if any of them remembers him after he's gone.

anyway, i can understand his conflict, given the intense central irony that, as he states in his introduction, "...this essay is not written *for* poor people." in that same intro, he talks bout how this book is intended as an antidote to "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men," the 1941 work by author James Agee and photographer Walker Evans that intended to document daily life among poor sharecroppers. Vollmann calls that book "an elitist expression of egalitarian longings." there are moments where Vollmann's wordy prose risks romanticizing his subjects (talking about a poor Thai girl, he writes "...the sweat on her skin was glistening like the lamplight on the Emerald Buddha, the Emerald Buddha clothed in gold.") but overall this is a remarkably clear-eyed book, mainly because it does not purport to Make a Difference or to be an act of charity in and of itself. it's merely a journal, a collection of one man's reflections, self-doubts, fears, shames, prejudices, etc., that springs out of a range of experiences that few of us will ever have.

whatever you want to say about Vollmann, there can't be too many more out there like him, namely true modern philosophers, willing to expose themselves to distinctly undesirable conditions for the sake of knowledge. he's always quoting Montaigne and reading "Poor People," it's not hard to imagine him as the modern equivalent.


for those curious about my visit to the Church of Scientology, let me just say quickly that L. Ron Hubbard is a remarkably unconvincing man. unhandsome, uncharismatic, pompous, smarmy, quick-tempered, elitist, balding etc. you'd like to think that he possessed some sort of charm in order to dupe as many as he has, but not from what i saw. what happened is that Laal, her friend Alana and i moseyed into the Church in search of some basic info and this dude led us to a screening room and showed us a filmed interview w/ L. Ron.

if i understood L. Ron correctly, the purpose of Scientology is to "help the able" with their problems. apparently anyone who is poor, uneducated, mentally ill or has any other social malady is unfit for the Church. that elitism seems weird to me given that they've resorting to proselytizing in the subway. anyway, i will leave you with some choice quotes from the SciTol literature i picked up.

--> "In Scientology there's something so powerful, it makes dynamite look like putty--it's called auditing." (neat trick.)

--> "The LRH Congress lectures contain far more than the watershed advances that built The Bridge to Total Freedom. There's also that special air of something more. It's what Scientologists speak of when trying to describe the unique feeling one gets just from listening to Ron."

--> "When LRH was asked who exactly should do the PTS/SP Course, he said, 'Every one of them. They live in the United States. They live in England. They have governments. They are on planet Earth.'"

--> (from a supposed personal testimony as to the "incredible results" of so-called Scientology Auditing) "All my disabilities regarding communication blew!" (??!?)


p.s., i have not forgotten about part II of the Walt Dickerson interview. i will try to get it up here soon!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Isn't it L.Ron-ic?

just back from a strange yet fruitful L.A. vacation in Laal's company. no time for full scoop now, but this image ought to give some indication of the tenor of the visit.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stripe tease, etc.

DFSBP is quite psyched on the new White Stripes record. some of the fuzziest, shreddingest, most laserlike guitar playing we can remember hearing in a long while. really natural, catchy songwriting. and i came to the realization that Jack White's voice is basically Robert Plant's but better. nice Conan clip here:

note the unreal short-circuited guitar tone when Meg drops out before the breakdown section. also note her staggering, awesomely syncopated re-entry and how they continue to mine that weird-ass accent. when i first heard it, it sounded like a mistake, but that there is a calculated lurch.


get psyched for Bill Dixon tonight:

--> my interview with the man in Time Out

--> Destination: Out's tribute

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fresh out of doors

thanks are due to Aa members both permanent and auxiliary for a great time at Sunday's Roosevelt Island event. above is pretty much what it was like if you weren't there.

saw many awesome bands thriving sans electricity--including the impeccably harmonious Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend, one of the wittiest and most sheerly enjoyable bands in recent memory (and subjects of a (!) New York Times profile today)--but i gotta say that the award for Best of Island goes to the Fugue.

you familiar with them? perhaps the best noise-rock or post-Jesus Lizard or what-have-you band in the city. lurching brutality of the raunchiest, most perverse sort. anyway, not the kind of thing you'd expect to translate to the nonamplified setting, but damn, did it ever. two acoustic guitars (Tia and a dude whose name i don't know), plus a glockenspielist, plus (of course) front-madman Joe Somar, standing in his Dark Side of the Moon T, sans mike, and just shouting out the words. it was truly courageous i tell you and the songs really held up. the whole thing (just two songs, but really powerful and extended ones) flew awesomely in the face of the feel-good nature of the proceedings at large, but using mood rather than volume.

Somar's lyrics were for once starkly clear and they were as gross, confrontational and sordid as you'd want, but somehow poetic too. best line: "you're just a little Scorpio / it'll never work out / i'm a water sign / and you're an asshole." by that time the crowd was rapt and everyone laughed and cheered at that line. it sounds dumb to say so, but this was a fucking brave performance, esp. coming right after something so straightforwardly tuneful as Vampire Weekend. long live Die Fugue. and Todd P's Springtime Roosevelt Island BBQ as well.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Listen here

the good John (with whose excellent band i will share the outdoor "stage" this Sunday) has asked for a little Dickerson tune-age to go along with the interview below, and i am happy to oblige. here is...

Infinite Love (take 2)

this is from Dickerson's *solo vibes* disc, "Shades of Love," recorded in November of '77. this is an alternate take that wasn't on the original LP, which, incredibly was part of Steeplechase's direct-to-disc series, meaning that--please correct me if i'm wrong--these tracks were recorded in one shot, w/ no do-overs. like how they used to etch directly into wax when recording on vinyl.

anyway, this is one of my very favorite records, just one of the most unique things you'll ever hear. this track in particular really sums up the idiosyncrasies of Dickerson's sound. check out how the vibrato is extremely heavy near the beginning; he just lets the notes build up and drone on, almost in a kind of New Agey way. but then listen to how naked things get around 2:20...

the vibrato is almost totally gone, or at least very tightly controlled. Dickerson's speeding around the keys doing these incredibly dexterous runs: just really quiet, yet acrobatic shit. and then he'll echo it w/ this three-note motif played with a ton of vibrato. and then back to the speedy, echoless plinking. i love how the music just surrounds you and then he cuts the vibrato and suddenly you're in this hushed situation of very minute details. such strange juxtapositions.

there's something about the vibes... what a strange instrument. so few vibists in jazz really experimented with the instrument's fundamental weirdness in this way. the way he goes back and forth is like if you were playing air hockey and experimenting with turning the current on and off, toggling between a very cushiony sound and one that's totally precise. i just love the glassiness of the vibratoless passages.

when Walt and i discussed whether his concept was specific to the vibes, he said that it was, but that "no precendent [had] been set" in the areas he's interested in. very true that. gotta say, i'm not hugely up on vibists other than Dickerson and Bobby Hutcherson. as for younger players, i've loved Matt Moran whenever i've heard him. i'm curious to know whether Gunter Hampel and Karl Berger are worth checking out. anyway, Walt will always be my man. part two of the interview is soon to come.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Walt Dickerson interview, part 1

Update, Jan 2020: 
RIP Walt Dickerson. And here's a great interview with him from 1995 that wasn't online at the time of my original post.


In June of '03, I spent an afternoon with the vibraphonist Walt Dickerson, who is quite simply one of the most intense people I've ever conversed with. If you're not familiar with Dickerson, he made a few straight-ahead hard-boppish discs in the early '60s, and then a fairly out-there one called "To My Queen" (which featured early appearances from Andrew Hill and Andrew Cyrille). years of silence followed, and then in the late '70s, Dickerson re-emerged playing some extremely ethereal and gorgeous free jazz, released on an incredible series of Steeplechase LPs. after that, there was one record for Soul Note in '82 and then nothing since.

In 2003, I did a piece on Andrew Cyrille for All About Jazz and we got to talking about Walt. according to Cyrille, he was living in a suburb of Philly and was easily reachable by phone. I arranged to do a story on Dickerson for Jazz Times, called him up and then paid him a visit soon after. I had an incredible time and, as you'll read, came away thinking that I was actually going to be able to arrange some new recordings or performances for Dickerson. But it was not to be: he never returned any of my follow-up correspondence, and to my knowledge, he never even saw the piece that I published in Jazz Times. I've tried several times to get back in touch, but to no avail. At least i have this document of an incredible afternoon.

For more Walt info, please check Damon Short's database. there was an earlier interview with him in the webzine One Final Note, but it seems to have gone offline. As far as i know, my talk w/ Dickerson is the longest one currently on record. It goes without saying that if anyone knows Walt's whereabouts, please urge him to get in touch. as you'll read, he's truly an amazing thinker, both musically and philosophically. without further ado, here's part one of our talk. I've done my best to comb the transcript for typos, but please let me know if i've overlooked anything...)


Walt Dickerson Interview [part two can be found here]
near Philadelphia, PA; 6/29/03

HS: So you’re from Philadelphia?

WD: Philadelphia, yes, place of birth.

HS: And you were born...

WD: Obviously [laughs]. I engage in a bit of levity from time to time; that makes it very wholesome. I don’t really adhere to dates. To get caught up in the chronological aspect of things over a period of time can have a detrimental effect on the mind and the body, thinking in such a restricted area as the chronological factor or that mode. Since yesterday and tomorrow are today on the space-timeline of infinity, that helps me to remain free and unfettered. So that’s my response to “When?”

I’ve seen some things happen to many people that were caught up in the chronological aspect of things: “This is supposed to happen at a certain point in your life. That is supposed to happen at a certain point in your life.” Part of what makes that happen is that belief that it should happen at that point in one’s life. There again one brings it on one’s self because of choice; the choice is believing in that chronological aspect of things. So I remain ageless; beautiful dynamic, vital and strong.

HS: You’ve said that two of your biggest influences were “The Two Johns,” Dennis and Coltrane. Can you tell me about your relationships with them?

WD: Well we came up in the same era, the same vicinity. We shared thoughts about life, which cannot be separated from our musical projections. What you hear in the musical projections are really our view and study of life, and we had tremendous interchange. The interchange was heaviest between John Dennis and myself; we were inseparable coming up, like the inseparable twins as such. He was allowed to create when he came to our house; he could not create the music that he desired to create in his house because of the restrictions leveled by his, quote [finger quotes], “religious” parents. My parents were religious also, but they loved music. My mother was a pianist; my father sang in a choir. And my mother always encouraged John and myself, and he would play for her and she enjoyed it tremendously. John also had a photographic mind, very capable of also doing three things simultaneously. As so often happens in America, his genius did not yield the fruits that it should have.

Trane, we discussed things a lot, and the discussions were very thought-provoking; they stayed mainly in the musical sphere: things we could do, superimpositions in particular. Because this was not embraced by the main cadre of musicians. They called it [finger quotes] “safe ground”; they’d rather be on safe ground. For some reason even early on, to me that was very restricting because I heard things outside of, quote, safe ground, beautiful things that were even against some of the things that were taught in the universities, as far as musical projections were concerned. So sometimes at first, you would venture and then you would withdraw from that area; when you were aware that you were there, you would withdraw. But while you were there, it was so enjoyable, and the only reason you withdrew was because the teachings, the Western teachings that we were exposed to in the university, conservatory, we realized later how restricting some of these tenets were. I had nothing but the greatest of admiration, love and respect for the genius of John and John. And I realized later that we were not part of the herd mentality—not abjugating [???] anyone, merely stating a position of choice. John and John.

HS: So Philly Joe Jones and Eric Dolphy were the ones who welcomed you to New York?

WD: Well, Philly Joe I knew from Philly [i.e., Philadelphia]. Eric I ran into when I went to the West Coast, and we had a nice relationship. When I performed in Los Angeles, Eric used to sit with my wife most of the time, just about nightly. So I knew Eric from Los Angeles, but Philly Joe was the one that told the people at Prestige about me, and that was the beginning of that relationship, Prestige and myself. That’s Eric and Philly.

HS: Can you tell me about “To My Queen”? It seems like that record was a real breakthrough for you.

WD: Well, there is a way to talk about a person that you find ineffable through music, and my queen [Dickerson’s wife, Liz], being that ineffable person, music was the way that I could express those very beautiful, poignant, intellectual, brilliant, beautiful sides of her. So therefore it couldn’t fall in the realm of most songs or most compositions in the genre but had to escape those restrictions in order to exemplify her. And it doing so, it did open up a new vista of explorations, followed later by several not-to-be-mentioned musicians. It was a very, very happy experience, and I go back to that periodically. I return to that periodically, restating that which is ongoing in our relationship, which is forever.

The individuals that I chose for that outing knew my queen, and their artistic projections spoke of that. Andrew Hill: beautiful projections. George Tucker [sighs]: a rock, sensitive. And of course Andrew [Cyrille]: flourishings, nuances, bracketing the different motifs; he was awesome, and remains to this day, as does Andrew Hill. Two awesome, creative musicians. I don’t consider them musicians; I consider them artists in the highest sense. They’ve surpassed that category, “musicians.” Periodically those are the individuals I miss because now I do more, just about exclusively, solo performances, which by the way that’s what John Dennis did after his stint in New York, after his stint with Max and Mingus. He didn’t care any more for the New York scene. And if you listen to that album which is now a CD, you will understand why. The album that he made with Max Roach and Charlie Mingus, it was originally on the label created by Max and Mingus called Debut, that was the label, and if you listen to that, you’ll understand more and share in his wizardry. After that, solo performances exclusively, John, which I enjoy, solo performances—free and unfettered, initiated by To My Queen; I think that was the subject; that was the premise of this particular theme.

HS: It seems like you and Sun Ra had a lot in common philosophically.

WD: Philosophically we had nothing in common [laughs], strangely enough; that’s why I enjoyed his company. No, we didn’t. I was the reason why he made certain changes in his surroundings at my suggestion, but I enjoyed what he was about, and therein was the camaraderie. Sun Ra was a teacher, and sometimes teachers need to be fed other than what they teach; that’s where I came in. That’s why I used Sun Ra on several of my recordings. He did a marvelous job; I wanted that difference; I wanted that uniqueness that he brought to the table.

The sad aspects of the journeys of the individuals that we speak about I don’t discuss because I negate that from the ether that surrounds me. That’s not compatible with my cosmic surroundings; therefore, it has no place in my mind or my speech patterns except to say that it did exist. I deal exclusively with the beauty of the person and the person’s artistic projections.

See these are themes; these are motifs that we’re talking about. This is all part of a performance. As we discuss things, these are themes; these are motifs. That’s what life is about. Let me share something: [reads] “Consider the seemingly infinite number of ordinary conscious beings wielding power throughout the rational civilizations, existing among the universes - plural. Most of those conscious beings have the power to create far beyond any imagined creations of a mystical god, and unlike the miracles of a made-up god, conscious beings’ creations are real, accomplished naturally within the laws of physics. Each such conscious being, for example, has the power to create an endless number of universes from an endless number of universe-containing black holes existing at every space-time point throughout eternity. Even so, most of those conscious beings have technologically and economically advanced so far that they have long ago in their illustrious forgotten histories abandoned the creation of universes as an inefficient, primitive activity.” Motif number three.

Now we’re beginning to see where our power lies. Now we understand why we’re not one of the mass. Now we better understand our inescapable uniqueness. Now we better understand the circuitous route we have chosen. Now we better understand the awesome powers that each person has. Some are consciously aware of that power while others are not, but all have that power; all are born with that power, but because of the system that they’re born under, that power is usurped, negated, and they are taken on another route. Many never access it- the power that is theirs, the creativity that is theirs, the beauty that is theirs, the geniuses that they are. Computer technology? Ten-thousand units of information density per inch. Human brain? One-hundred-thousand units of information density per inch. Central nervous system? Approximately one-hundred-billion cells, which means you have the capacity to store all of the information in the world today with space left over. Fact and honesty liberates you from the confines of the system. Oh, what a genius you are! That’s motif number ten.

HS: I think I lost count!

WD: They all intertwine, like the music; that’s what they are. That’s where the music that comes forth; that’s what it’s about. Some say, “In the beginning...”. That always stirs a bit of curiosity in me: “In the beginning....” That’s interesting. Existence. Well, existence is axiomatic; existence has always existed. Hmmm... Existence has always co-existed with human consciousness. Hmmm... But they said, “In the beginning...,” but what I just said... Non-linear, far-from-equilibrium situations bifurcate into potentially endless fractals in any finite space. This process self-organizes into patterns of near-perfect order, reaching over potentially limitless distances. Thus evolves not only the cosmos and life itself, but all productive work, creative thinking, and limitless knowledge. “Oh, there’s a tie-in to what you just said.” Of course they all dovetail; that’s a part of the infinite flow.

“Gee whiz, I haven’t heard you in New York lately; I really would like to hear you play, Walt.”
“Are you reading this interview?”
“Then you’re hearing me play. Take a listen.”
“Yeah, Walt, but I’d like to hear you play-play.”
“Just give a call; that can be arranged.”

HS: You mean you would play?

WD: Am I playing?

HS: I’m sure you’ve been asked to come to New York to play...

WD: Oh, I do have restrictions; you’re right. I do have restrictions; yes, I have. I’ve been asked. No clubs, no smoke environment. Concert hall? Fine. Simple. I’ve seen too many suffer from it- various maladies due to those environments- smoke-filled. It’s quite a workout performing. You do take in what is around you in great amounts, and it does have an effect. I care not to expose my body or mind to those things that are going to be detrimental to my body and mind- my being. A home can be very spartan. The people [are] who make it a beautiful affair; that’s all that’s necessary. And I’d be in New York to perform in a New York minute.

HS: So it could be a private environment?

WD: Private? Public? Like one of the theater complexes that used to be down around Houston. Yeah, they have many of them in New York, those venues. That is where I would perform. Yeah.

HS: I would love to arrange something. Would you perform on campus?

WD: Of course. I performed on campuses many times.

...[discussion of arranging a performance at some point]...

WD: Beautiful day. I just drink it in, just sit out here and drink it in. Usually my spot is right over there- Right over there I take that lounge chair, and I put it all the way back, and I take off everything off but my drawers, and I stretch out in the sun right there. Yeah. My wife says, "Now don't stay there too long," but I love the sun; it seems to pull out all the impurities.

HS: Why were there such long breaks between your recordings?

WD: You would have to ask the recording industry about that. I'm not one to go in search of because I am. Therefore, if you are knowledgable, intelligent, and about the progress of the music, and your position is that of a recording entity, then you should be ringing my phone, giving me a call, or knocking at my door. I mean individuals are put in that position to expose the public to the best. And I realize that they don't do that; they don't go in search of that. It's convenience factor, whatever it is, or a hunger factor that they look for. Whatever; only they would know, but it hasn't and will not ever inhibit my creative flow; that's ongoing. So if they care to give the public something that is life-giving because we must remember the creative flow is a life-giving flow, and those that are about creativity are projecting and injecting life into the recipients, which I think is most noble and wholesome. So, Walt is here, ready to record. Give me a call; let's sit down at the table and do what is best for mankind.

It's so revealing when you say, "Well, this is a wonderful, civilized society, so this should never be overlooked." But unfortunately, since it is overlooked in many instances, then we have to ask ourselves, "Is this a civilized society, or anti-civilization?" Hmmm. Ooohhh! [sarcastically] Now we realize that civilized societies do exist elsewhere, far more advanced than this society that we're exposed to, realizing that where I'm from- Maybe that's the fear. Maybe the creations of one not restricted by this society in one's artistic projections is speaking about a civilized society or a society other than the present that we exist in. Now does that bring about a fear in the upper room? In the glass chamber? ... and facts. Therefore those being exposed to those projections will be awakened. Now that's something to consider when you realize the concerted effort made to avoid sitting down talking to one of that ilk. One has to think about those things and then put it in its proper context, and this counters what the attempt is to suppress which causes stress, which takes one out of the picture, causing all types of maladies, resorting to irrational behavior. But it doesn't have that effect on the ones that we're talking about, that we've discussed because they're aware, they're much too aware of the overall structure of things to allow that to happen to them. Yes, they've seen it happen vicarously, and then they made a concerted effort: "No, not yet; no." So, in all the attempts to do that, to suppress it, it still rises up; periodically, it rises up: a recording over here, a recording over there... It still rises up, but you say, an American company to embrace this, to embrace these unique individuals and say, "Well, this would put America at the forefront, because that would take America forward." Why? Because they don't fall into the pattern of playing what is expected or what has come before? Yeah, I guess there obviously is fear of what it might do to the individuals who hear, really hear the music because all of it has an effect. They realize the detrimental effect that some music has. Well, it has a detrimental effect; it has a beneficial effect as well, and this being what it is, it would have to have a super-beneficial effect on those individuals whose ears behold the music.

So, we're about America progressing; we're about people all over the world progressing because we bring the civilization of the universe to a decadent anti-civilization. I don't have to point out to you, a very intelligent young man, the signs of decadence that abound, the destruction, carnage that abounds, the wars, the greed, man's inhumanity to man that abounds. That is the opposite of what the music is about, and most people are starved for the opposite of those things. Therein lies the power of the music: enlightenment, awareness, uplifting, inspiration, never be the same, clarity, vision, heightened, senses heightened; facts and honesty.

Statements made to me by people in general, by, quote, "classical performers" who comprise a good percentage of my audience in many places, one thing in common they say, this statement: "I never heard jazz like that," which denotes quite an obvious restriction in the projections that they have been exposed to. But you see, when it comes from beyond here [gestures to body], of course it wouldn't be what they're used to; it would be outside of those limitations, those unhealthy boundaries. I say, "No"; my reply would be, "It is music for your mind, not your derriere." "Oh, I see; good." And we end on a jovial note. They're happy with the explanation, and I'm happy that I could give them that explanation. Enlightenment. That's why I think discussions are very helpful concerning the music, not from the technical aspect of the music, but from what the music encompasses, what it consists of, what goes into it.

I think schizophrenia, what a segue, [reads from notes]—“Contrary to common belief, schizophrenia is not a split or a dual personality, which is just one of the many possible symptoms of schizophrenia. Rather, the disease of schizophrenia is the detachment of consciousness from objective reality, which is required to convert one's precious conscious life into a destructive parasite or into a humanoid.” Schizophrenia: Motif #12.

Where we live, where we live presently, not restricted by because one does have the choice. My choice? Not to be restricted.

HS: Why do the Steeplechase records sound so different from your earlier recordings?

WD: That's part of the continuous development of the artist. Segment, segment, segment comprising the infinite flow; that's part of the segment, yes. And for you to be aware of it means that you're at the top of your game in analyzing the segment, segment, segment. Yeah, that's part of the flow, that's part of the creative process, that's part of development, yeah; that's part of the growth patterns. And we're either part of the growth patterns or stagnation becomes the modus operandi. Yeah, that's what it is.

HS: So many musicians make the opposite movement, a creative regression.

WD: Well, anything that goes forward can go in reverse.

HS: Do you notice that pattern in other musicians?

WD: Um, no; no, I haven't noticed that pattern. And if I noticed it, I wouldn't say it. The beauty is in evolving. [to Liz] Hi beautiful! ... Yeah, that takes care of that.

HS: Could you discuss your unique use of vibrato?

WD: Because of the things that I hear, it requires more dexterity to play what I hear, and the overtones, or overlapping of sound is part of what I hear because that's part of the whole. See there's a lot of things going on, and I'm familiar with the speed of sound, or maybe with those things approaching, or maybe with those things equated to, and that's part of my overall persona. So what is done pianistically with ten fingers, I enjoy attempting to do it with two mallets because that's what I hear. So what you hear becomes you quest to produce, and in that quest to produce, you find a way to do it. Again, there's no format on it having been done before, which makes it a unique approach, an innovative approach to the instrument, which is where the intertwining, the overlapping of harmonies come into play because I hear outside of the, quote, "normal progression of things." And in order to do that, to perform that, there are various things that I have to do to access those things, and they come to you.

You see, it's already there, it's already there how to do; the "how-to-do" is already there; the book has already been written, how to do whatever it is you want to do which may sound strange to some people, but I told you previously, your powers that all of us have.
So, when you realize certain things, it opens up the door to other things. Knowledge begets knowlege, compounded; ways to do come to you. You don't have to go to the library; I never went to the library to find out, to the library of music or looked in any particular repertoire to find out. It's there; the book is already there! Open up the book! Written a long time ago. You would understand what I'm saying because of the previous things that we've discussed; you don't have to go outside of one's self for certain information; it's already there. Focus; focus on it! What is it you're looking for? Focus on it! It's there; the answer is there, but we've been taught, "Go over to that station, and pick up the information; go over to that station, and pick up this bit of information." I understand that! I too was a victim of that. That's how I know, from experience. That's how these things come about, the way that I play came about and continues to come about. Remember, creative flow is the infinite flow: limitless, unending, forever. What an awesome realization.

See, in our discussion, or rather, this interview, I'm really telling you about yourself: things for you to think about, meditate on, turn it over, inspect it, doubt it, prove it wrong, and in the process, in the final analysis, one day, I'll see you, and you'll come to me, and you'll give me a big hug, and you'll say, "Thanks, Walt." I'll say, "You're welcome, Hank." That's my purpose for being: disseminate that information which is beneficial to all. It takes one life, one's life and puts it on another level: comprehension, apprehension, not an evasion of, but an apprehension of reality qua reality.

I'm looking forward to my next release. It's already done, whenever they call me.

HS: You’ve recorded something?

WD: I said, "It's already done." It's completed already. I'm not playing everyday for naught; I'm producing; I'm creating everyday. That's why I said, "The next outing is already done." When the call comes, that'll complete it...

HS: Is the vibraphone integral to your concept?

WD: I feel as if the vibes are my natural instrument, yeah. It's just that the things that I hear are outside of the things that had ever been done on the instrument. And it's because of where I draw from, the source that I draw from. No precedent has been set in that area, no reference to that area, and I respect everyone that attempts to play any instrument, and in particular the vibes because I'm aware of the enormous difficulty involved. But because my pursuit has been one of not having been before, the area, and not what is expected, maybe that's the fascination I have with the instrument, with music per se, and in particular with the vibes because the area, the limitless area that I care to become involved in, therein lies my uniqueness, yes.

HS: Do you hear other musicians exploring that limitless idea?

WD: You know, Hank, I had models early on. Then, your quest becomes all-consuming, and you've accessed the unlimited area of creativity. So, occasionally, I'll listen to John and John, relax, in my relaxing moments, occasionally. Other than that, I'm listening to the sound waves, the music that's carried by the ether that surrounds us. See those sounds never leave that are put into the air; it doesn't matter the confines; there's always sounds around us. You hear the sounds now [motions upward to birds singing]. That evokes other sounds; that's audible. Hence, there's a sea of sound. We just don't consciously listen, open up, auditory perception, and hear that sea of sound that we're in consciously. So much to draw on! And that's twenty-four hours! It doesn't matter where you are; so much to draw on. We're so rich; our library is inexhaustible: sounds, infinite sounds.

When I do listen to John and John, I'm saying, "Thanks, buddy; thanks; thanks." Then I realize how much work I have to do. Inspiration point, back to work. Work is pleasure; pleasure is work. Playing is pleasure; pleasure is playing. There all one mass of pleasurable pursuits, so therefore, the hope is that it gives the listener, the listeners, pleasure because that's what it's embedded in; the projections are embedded in pleasure. Pleasurable pursuit. It's a pleasure to learn; it's a pleasure to grow; it's a pleasure to think; utilizing one's faculties to the utmost is a pleasure. Choose the pleasures in life. Whatever you do, make it pleasurable, and life becomes pleasurable. What a way to spend every day. It doesn't matter the task, doesn't matter. I choose happiness; I choose to be happy. This is a pleasure [sips water].

HS: I think your music demands to be heard on a very focused level, with undivided attention; so it cultivates the type of deep listening you’re speaking of.

WD: That's interesting, Hank; that's interesting. And you said it; in your statement you said it: It demands to be heard. That's it. You can think that you're not hearing it, ok. Sometimes, you know, you might have a young lady, you might go out to listen, you might have a date, say, "Let's go hear some music." Maybe she's not aware of the music. Maybe she's aware of the music per se, but she hadn't heard Walt, and heretofore, you go out, you have a cocktail or two, you listen; what you're doing while you're listening is you have your periods of conversation. Understandable; that's the usual. But, when you go out to hear Walt, something happens; there is no conversation, only periodical, only periods of making a statement, one to another, concerning music, what's happening with the individual concerning the music, how it is affecting the person with regards to the music. So, then the music is demanding, and it's also all-encompassing, so that after that performance the two of you have a lot to talk about, but it isn't usual, how you usually come away from a performance and what you usually speak about after a performance; yes. And that's the beauty in it, hopefully more stimulating, and maybe you remember some things, maybe you feel some things that you haven't felt. And it wasn't a meter thing—tick, tick, tick, tick, tick—it wasn't a meter thing; it wasn't a groove thing, but there was a stirring of the emotions on another level, and this hadn't been invoked before. It's what I've been able to gather from the remarks brought to me.

I know some things of a very personal nature have been told to my wife by women concerning what was happening to them while they were listening to the music, which I found very interesting. [laughs] But so be it; it was good, or wonderful. What an experience: the power of the music. I know it has allowed me to focus in a very positive area.

I understand the categorization of music. If you care to categorize a music, I could hear, irreversibly, but I really don't adhere to categories at all. I see things in their totality, not in their segmented manner that man has superimposed upon them. "Did you like the music?" "Fine." That's all that's necessary, but I understand why. But on another level, as you and I talk, again, it should be part of the educational process, but unfortunately, it isn't, which again falls into the category of limiting, limiting unfairly.

But then again, having lived in many countries, I don't even adhere to that; I don't subscribe to that: this country, that country. In our travels, my wife and myself—because I never travel alone; my wife is always with me—we found beautiful people everywhere, and we've been guests in the homes of many people. When our children were younger, this [backyard] used to look like a U.N., children from many nations in the summertime coming to visit and stay with us and our children; that's how they grew up. This enriches one's life oustide of the cubicle of their, quote, "country" or "community." I don't see lines: "these people, those people"; I don't see lines; I know better than that. Again, the superimposition by man, creating lines of differences where no differences in reality actually exist. These divisions don't exist in the civilization of the universe which periodically tries to come here and is here in the presence of some of us.

And we've been places, very posh restaurants, elsewhere (that's how I state it sometimes when we get outside of that context: "elsewhere"). When the beautiful people that we were guests of in their homes would say to us, "Walt, Liz, [let me] show you something," and we'd say, "What?" This happened several times, in various places. "We're going to show you; when an American walks through that door, we're going to show you the difference. See if you can pick them out when they come through that door; it's a game." And invariably, you could pick them out when they came through the door: attitude, pompous, too-grating mannerism, acrimonious tongue [sighs]. We never had a problem with anybody; anywhere in another country did we ever have a problem.

So there were times when it would be discussed, the mental attitude: attitude, attitude. Those that are in touch with the civilization of the universe are cognizant of this. And there have been artists—artists, not musicians; artists—that have been in touch with the civilization of the universe, and we know by their projections that they have been in touch and are in touch. Better stated, one of their kind, we're aware of the institutions and the disservice that they have done to mankind on this planet, and coming to rectify the situation is a tremendous task; but then that is our duty, and we perform it with grace and honor in the face of constant opposition which does nothing but crystallize what we're about.

These are the things that in my discussions with students in particular I talk about, I discuss with them. That's why there's always such a variance in an audience that will come to hear me perform, a variance in all areas, they would say; a variance. I remember a concert at a church in New York where the promoters said, "I never saw this before in my life." There were over fifty bikers there, leather-wearing bikers. After which, they asked for a meeting with me; I obliged. They procured a room outside of the auditorium for us to meet; it was one of the most interesting meetings I've ever had. I didn't know I had fans that were bikers; you see, I didn't see them any differently than anybody else; they were people just to me. So therefore, "Let's talk; let's communicate; let's exchange views; let's get into each others' heads; let's enjoy each others' company." And that we did, the wife and myself; we had a ball. Unusual? Yes. Different? Yes. A ball? Yes. [laughter].

Life's experiences are something else, things of beauty that you never forget, forever. And it goes on and on with, as they say, "different groups" again; "You were with these people?" "You were with those people?" This is how others view meeting. Or, "You were with those people?!," "You were with those-?" Ahhh, please, please, please; people are people; let's get together, c'mon! [laughs] When will the madness cease? "Ok, we're doing our best, we're doing all we can to eradicate the madness" because that's all it is: madness. Irrationality; irrationality. Oooh; aaahhh: perceiving that group as that group as that... Irrationality, a prime example. Let me see; let me see; let, me, see. Aaahhh.

Motif number twenty: [reads] “What does it do? Irrationality. Today in our young, earth-bound civilizations, the eventually fatal disease of irrationality is eradicating the future of all human beings.” Hmmm... "Would you clarify that a bit Walt?" "Sure." Irrationality reduces and eventually stops the accumulation of new knowledge needed to prosper and ultimately to survive. Hmmm... Irrationality does that and more. Irrationally damages and eventually destroys the conscious mechanism for processing and accumulating knowledge. Motif number twenty.

I have no part in it. Honesty and facts are what we're steeped in. I have no part of irrationality or any of its neighbors; I'm aware of the lethal effect that it has upon one. Knowing that, we cast it aside; if someone cares to project it into our space, we just as quickly eject it, rendering it harmless to us, of non-effect. Not a part of the civilization of the universe, not akin to in any way. The awareness of it is quite a beautiful motif; it brings forth a beautiful motif: the awareness of the irrationality, yeah.

And they build upon each other; one beautiful motif yields another beautiful motif; that motif in turn yields another beautiful motif, ad infinitum.

[to be continued...]

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Dixonia: Live

capped my weekend w/ a physically exhausting/intellectually invigorating road trip to Bennington, Vermont in the company of Laal. it was a scenic drive but that wasn't the point; i was there to interview the great trumpeter Bill Dixon, so most of the car ride up i was cramming my head full of facts from Ben Young's superlative Dixonia tome. still working out the details of when and where this conversation will be published, but suffice it to say that there's some fascinating material in the tapes that i can't wait to share. topics covered include Dixon's upcoming world-premiere orchestra piece at the Vision Festival on 6/20.

in addition to the man's invaluable thoughts, i came away with Odyssey, an incredible 6-CD box set of Dixon's solo trumpet works. have only dug into discs one and two, but i'm just floored. this stuff ranges from the piercing and scary to the searching and muted. here's a taste:

Tracings II

what insanely tactile music this is. what an organic use of effects. there's worlds more where this came from.

(thx to L for the above snapshot, taken in a hurry as we were departing. maybe the blurriness simulates an analogous quality in the subject's playing?)