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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

MY GENERATION

emil nolde, fishing boats, 1925


Late nite classical music and 5 minutes of news, former...Bosnian Serbs...indicted on the most serious of charges...crimes against humanity. When did crimes against humanity become a crime? We have plenty of war criminals of our own. Only they won and thereby wrote the history. So the Supremes pass a law saying they can't be tried. Why? Because they have the power not to be. Or so I suppose. It could be I'm a conspiracy theorist and can't see everything is actually on the up and up like I'm expected to think as a good American. I can see that all this mess going on is as it should be, that it is a time of burning off hate in the world, fire with fire. The people full of hate make a heap of trouble for all the rest of us that would be happy to live in peace. Maybe after these Third World wars the people of hate will have killed each other off or just wore themselves out. I think the cosmic plan is we get so tired of war we quit doing it. But that doesn't give the appearance of being around any nearby corner.



Now I'm hearing a violin accompanied by piano. Lovely. The kind of classical music they only play late at night. Dvorjak's Romantic Pieces. During the day they tend to play big orchestral bombast. I like quartets mainly. I like hearing the individual instruments weaving in and out of each other. Just now put on a cd of the Alban Berg Quartet playing Dvorjak. I keep coming back to Dvorjak. He satisfies my ear in this time of my life. I like Schubert quartets too. Some years ago visiting Charleston, I stopped to see a friend I hadn't seen in some years. She'd just got a new Bose, the big one, and was so swept away by the sound she sat me down and made me listen to it. She put on a Schubert quartet. Though I'd heard some before, this time I heard it the first time. Later I found some Schubert quartets by Melos Qtet and later Emerson Qtet. And Brahms quartets by the Alban Berg Qtet. Auditory satisfaction. Now I have a Bose big one that makes all music just a little bit better, consistently.



Yesterday on the NPR radio interview show Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewed Keith Richards of the Stones for the full hour. When I hear these interviews and daytime talk shows about politics I'm always doing something else, like painting or this and that. I sat down when he started and listened to the whole hour like watching a movie. Last time I did that was when Ralph Stanley was being interviewed by Diane Rehm. I have a great big respect for Keith Richards the musician. I don't care about the rest of his life. He's a great musician in the league with Bob Dylan. I liked of the interview that he talked about the music instead of his reputation that's as far off the beam of who he is as Johnny Appleseed was from John Chapman. Richards has a new autobiography the post-war generations have been waiting for, en masse. He is one of the great musical artists of our time. He is the sound of the Rolling Stones. The Stones have been making the real deal rock and roll for half a century.



Then there is Bob Dylan. He's been at it half a century too. Half a century of songwriting dynamo. It's safe as anything is safe to say he's the greatest songwriter ever or yet to be. The Mozart of songwriting. The Shakespeare of songwriting. From his first album on, he's been in a league of his own, a legend simultaneous with his life. And the legend is all true. He's out there on his own by himself. I've heard that a reporter once asked him about a meaning in a given song. Dylan's reply was, It's my job to write them, and it's your job to interpret them. I'm entertaining possibility that he'll be up for the Nobel Prize before long. He's 70 now.



Heard it told on the news a year or so ago the American poets have received him as a poet. You'd think, since about every university in the nation has a course in Bob Dylan in the English department. Poets are influenced by him at least as much as other songwriters are. I doubt he cares whether or not the poets accept him. They need him, he doesn't need them. They don't want to repeat the gaff of James Joyce overlooked for the Nobel. Rock music is the vehicle for his art form. He is an artist first. Because he is an artist first, I'm guessing there's a pretty fair chance the Nobel Committee will be leaning his way. He's not just a pop artist. He's been a serious artist from his first album. He proved his liberal creds when he declined a dinner invitation to the Nixon Whitehouse. What a thing that was. It was like it had never occurred to anyone before that an invitation to the Whitehouse could be declined. Dylan went way up in my estimation after I heard about that. It was on the news. I felt like he did it for me.



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