31 May 2005

kusadasi//i wasnt expecting such a show, such a brilliantly executed piece of theater to cap my day. day spent on a tour of ancient ephesus, with trips to the death house of the virgin mary, where tied kerchiefs, paper scraps, plastic bags and leaves symbolize wishes of the faithful, and the st john basilica, including the tomb of said saint. i got on my knees to breathe in the magic dust coming from the tomb, wild dust of the fire eyed gospelist, and there saw a turtle walk as quickly as ive ever seen a turtle walk, among the dry grass and stones.

and then the days end, with just a stop, a quick quick stop our adorable guide beste tells us, at the carpet school, where young turkish women strain their eyes wool on wool, wool on cotton, silk on silk, a great vat of hot water and cocoons stirred with a wooden brush and 40 strands of nothing spinning up to the wooden bobbin. the handsome turk, sharp dress shirt well fitting and neatly tucked into grey wool pants, tells us carpet stories, the persian knot, and then invites us into the back room. a notably empty room, with carpets on the wall and carpeted benches all around, but a great blank void of floor in the center. and the turkish hospitality, free glasses of apple tea, coffee, wine and raki. and the man clasping his hands in front of him, taking in a deep breath, and behind him four more men have gathered, arms behind their backs, attentive, composed, ready.

and now:
FWOOM! the first carpet hits the ground and all ready I know im in for it. he starts with the simple ones, wool on wool, geometric, here we look at the quality of the wool and the colors more than the design, and behind him his men are marching about the room, throwing down carpets, FWOOM! we are not so impressed by these simple rugs, and he knows this, and his men are moving quickly, throwing down throwing down, as we move on to wool on cotton, now more intricate. and he dazzles us with numbers, months and knots and square inches, he fascinates us, as two men stand behind him with the first of these wool on cottons, a large one, rolled up and held between them as the ringmaster builds us up, waiting, waiting, waiting, and then FWOOM! they let it fall to the ground and there is a collective gasp from the crowd. aaaahh! and then the men are off again, dancing around each other so smoothly, such polished choreography, throwing down carpets on top of the now forgotten wool on wools. and theyve mastered the room, they know where to stand so that the unrolling carpets come speeding towards you and stop exactly at your feet. FWOOM! what a dance, so swift they walk, so erect and proud. and the ringmaster walks smoothly amidst the chaos, his saffron voice pleasing us all, the raki has my lips anisenumb. and now he tells us of us a special line, a special make that one must obtain permission form the turkish government to make, the specific colors, the specific patterns, two men behind him waiting waiting with carpet rolled, and FWOOM! and its the biggest one yet and its breathtaking. aaahhh! and now the men are throwing the carpets to each other, rolled carpets flying through the air ("yes, these carpets all fly, if you say the magic word. do you know the word? visacard, ha ha"), strange vertical parabolas complimenting the unraveling spirals of wool at our feet. the floor three, four five carpets thick, and we havent even finished, for now, it is the silk, silk on silk. so small the work that only an hour a day can be spent on the weaving, the eyes, the eyes, and this carpet, here behind him, waiting to be born to us, this carpet took three years to make. but first, but first, we have small ones, and now another flight pattern as tiny carpets are frisbee flung on the ground, twirling turkish tokens, shimmering woolen pizza doughs, the twist on the floor and as they turn the light changes them, the colors now glassy brilliant, now deep voluptuous. FWOOM FWOOM! FWOOM! some bigger ones, and two men together pick the carpet up and flip it over in another dazzling dance move, turn it so we may see the colors change. two carpets for the price of one, yes, ha ha. and then, and then finally the final FWOOM! the giant silk is unleashed before us, and yes, my god yes it is really beautiful. these were created here, created dancing shining colors, flowers woven impossible, and he is smiling, he is so proud, so proud of his wares. he is: right. and someone asks, someone finally asks, and were really not surprised, no, now we know that it is worth it, $20,000.

how many bought carpets? how many left, shipping papers tightly in hand? 13 out of 40. i did not, but i shook the turks hand deeply and kept the feeling of the carpets on my fingers later that night, in the rendezvous lounge, playing cheap jazz standards with a too showy trumpet player whose notes werent double knotted, they were high and shallow, and he didnt understand that theater can sneak up on you, theater can be subtle and fairy swift, theater can be carpets and coffee unfiltered, the joy to create, the well dressed pride.

29 May 2005

rome & istanbul//im having a bit of a problem visiting touristed out ancient and religious sites. specifically, the coliseum and the blue mosque. theres problems on both ends, i think, so lets just go chronologically:

why the fuck are people going to these places? why the fuck am i going to these places? its really weird. im looking at a building. its a very cool building. and im looking at it. im soaking it in. and then its over...and thats really all there is. time moves on. but it needs to be more, it needs to be important, to last, and so the tours, the headphones, the lollipop signs guiding guests, the information, the history, the postcards, the tiny models and ashtrays, and then, the pictures, the pictures, the pictures. what is this? this plastered smile in front of the -it- is not so beautiful as the living smile next to you, holding the photos in hand, is it? why that same smile? i stopped letting people look at the camera long ago; i want the interesting pose, the unexpected expression, the loving nuance. but a smile in front of the coliseum is nothing…so soulless it seems! so uninspired! so done. and worse still the photos of just things. why are these pictures being taken? no one will like looking at them, will they? why a picture of every single thing? every single thing?

it feels to me so sad, so lonely, that life seems so empty and we need these photos to fill it up. look, look, i was here, i did this, i saw this, i did something. i have done something. my life has meaning. i am not this empty coincidence of light and sound hurtling through vast space for a infinitesimal moment. i am this, i was here. i did this.

and yeah, im not taking pictures, but im not letting myself off of the above hook. im traveling the world right now, and why? is my life so desperately empty and needing?

following this thread wont be pretty. so lets move onto the blue mosque, shall we?

whey the fuck are people letting people into these places? i like mecca. i like it that i cannot go to mecca unless i mean it. and thats what was killing me at the blue mosque, for there, just over this cordon, are people meaning it, on their knees, meaning it, filling up and emptying out, breathing, crying, needing this, loving this. this place is for them. and im standing there, my sandals in a fucking plastic bag in my hand, looking at the incredible dome, and then just looking at these people right in the middle of a most intimate sacred moment. and this is not a im-a-westerner-not-a-muslim thing, im certainly going to feel the same way next ride when i visit the vatican friday. this is a i-am-not-here-for-the-right-reason thing. oh the people that talk too loud in quiet jazz clubs, they are not there for the right reason...and it hurts, it hurts me when i am nearby and trying to listen to god on stage in this little jazz club, and now here i am just looking at someone while they are talking to god. im just looking at them.

now i work through this, i can see the god in all the tourists around me, and rah rah rah god in my own self scorn. and the god in my plastic shoe bag. and im having a great time, and in the end what more can i ask for, my life is empty, every life is empty, and i can fill it as i may and thats the life. i get moments of transcendent brilliance, suddenly all the filters gone and im listing to the man in the glass box intone the koran over a cheap microphone so his voice sounds like robotogod, and i love it. but i like the dream of mecca better, what i imagine it must look like, and the just as true god i see when im sitting at home, eating an apple, wondering what mecca must feel like, and suddenly i remember to taste, right there at home and not so many miles away and empty.

21 May 2005

gibraltar// i used the map, followed glossy in my pocket, to find the footpath up, which began with great wide steps colored on the sides with the british flag and the word "apes". from there it devolved into a rocky path, and i felt so cool walking swiftly seeking new footsteps in my new too-cool nikes. hiking fast fast up, and think fast fast up in real present time, every synapse firing in seek of the next step; the quick scan of terrain rock and dirt, flash judgments on distance, stability and comfort. and so necessary to your unbreaking legs is this attention to the ground beneath the feet that all extraneous thought is gone, its just find the STEP, find the STEP, find the STEP, and is this suddenly meditation? perhaps.

then there the path ends and now a small stretch of narrow road, now a boring paved walk up up, and aw come on i wanted to hike all the way. ah, but: there: just over a blue gate: is: my god,


going all the way up the side of the rock of gibraltar. easily three hundred steps. and its fenced off, because looking just a bit up i can see the metal banister is completely wasted, twisted and dangling towering-inferno-style, with a sheer drop teasing. yeah, they cant let people climb this. but they havent really done that good of a job of closing it, have they? just a sign, "no access", and a gate, but no, i could jump that very easily. and john cougar (premellencamp) stirs my blood-- "i fight authority, authority always win...well, ive been doin it since i was a young kid and i come out grinning..." and grinning indeed i was as i started up, so many steps, sweat pouring off of me, but knowing that at the top (assuming the rock cops arent waiting for me) ill see the rock a lot more clearly then my taxied neighbors.

something new on this contract is that i dislike my musical director quite a bit. he is old and tired. the soul is gone. he calls impenema. he condescends and yells. he forgets things. hes foolish. he talks incessantly. hes rude, belittles the guest entertainers and av staff to their face. worst of all, he is a terrible bass player, missing accidentals left and right. nothing so bad as a bass note a half step off. he got lost during naima and walked off the stage. and then he keeps playing these power fifths during jazz ballads...what the fuck? anyway.

so i am learning again the songs of hated authority, watching myself with mystery and glee when i am silent and cold, or harsh and belligerent. never am i so unenlightened as when i am dealing with bad authority. such small electric thrill, the game the cruel game i play to let this man know he does not have my respect. you dont get to have my jokes, my eye contact, my full conversation, my easy compliance. i will hold back from you until you remember what you are doing and start to do it well. so childish i am! so so! and i am not as bad as i was in the teen years, but sometimes i break and i bring it on and i am difficult just for the joy of watching him lose his shit. its human, its what happens, and i wont believe that its all bad when i can do it and he can do it. that is: not all negative interactions are necessarily bad. they are the whole, they call me out and slam me and challenge me and grow me. the world of ego cannot just be ignored. now i keep it down, and i try not to spend dinner in the mess spilling my complaints onto the others as so many crew members do, but i enjoy my private jousts, and i delight with fantasies of it going too far, i tingle when it starts to happen again and theres another experience to soak in.

in school a lot i got accused of challenging authority for its own sake, but this is not so; its only disenlightenment that i challenge, authorities who are cold and closed and cruel. and they get it, they get it from me, and i know its not constructive for them, i cant change them, but maybe it is constructive for me. let me feel it. let me remember my me deep inside, hard and inflexible. let me know how people work, what the lines are---

and most important how absurdity fits into it all. ie what if in the middle of this lecture i just start saying meowing at the man, literally meowing and clawing at my boss like a cat? answer to that one: i will get taken out to the deck and yelled at.

that happened a few nights ago. the tension did create some really hot music, ill say that at least.

at the top of the rock of gibraltar, above the monkeys who leapt at me, i climbed still further, off the road, on top of a lookout tower and high onto the rock cliffs where the sky was everywhere and the wind a sea of sound. and there almost at the top there were seagulls, seagulls everywhere, all screaming "CAAA! CAAAA!" and the higher i got the more they screamed at me. until finally they started diving at me, swooping right down at my head with the most deafening high shrill "CAAAAAAAAAA!!!!" and i ducked fast and the wind and the sky and the sea on three sides around me, africa in the distance, and one dropped guano just to my left in a deafening splat and another dive bombs me, CAAA!!!! and im maybe 20 feet form the top. but CA-CAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!! and so i, scared, screamed out loud, "All Right! All Right! Im Going!" and i turned back, back to my human world of taxis and roads and petty ego interactions so far removed from this raw rock and sky. ill play all i want in that human world, but the birds had authority there, and the authority of birds great masters of the heaven, is not to be challenged.

10 May 2005

more aware of the melodies i was two nights ago, accompanying trombone through jobims wave, forever lovely the diminished rising second phrase, "dont worry bout the setting sun". dressed like a blues brother in a tux coat and long black tie, hair wet and spiked. playing less harmonically, less of the chordal clunk, more aware of the contrapuntal weave, this after seeing my own life through new emerald spectacles, given by hermann hesse, kicking ass as usual, in the glass bead game; the game being a culmination of art, science, culture, and religion, a chess like dance of ideas played by monkish master scholars, music and mathematics and contemplation tangled dangled (oh but not mangled!)------> all at once; instead of the passion of the periphery, the single minded obsession, instead the seek for oneness, summation, the journey towards the center, the sum of all things and the dance together.

i am not one thing--
no one is one thing--
and all of these not one things are one thing.

i walked through a drug store in key west, saw the colors of shampoos and lotions around me, the sunglassed dazes of fat tourists with waffle cones full and scorn furrowed quick, the coconut smell, the hemingway ashtray, and the muffled wail of portishead so cinema tragic with strings just beneath and snare and bass rattling my broken small headphones. and so much more, my belly hungry as i prepare to fast for our five day sail across the ocean, my neck tingle insistent as jamacian sunburn heals, and the key lime pie, and the crude tshirts. and all these spun together into one single instant that is the sum of an infinity of melodic thread, at each instant passing each other to form this chord, that chord, each melody distinct and holy yet never so vibrant as when the others around it surround absorb and electric blanket it.

like this gentle bach andante and fugue played on vineyard guitar the senses soak. all of bach independent melodies woven together, so very different from most popular music we hear today, accompanying guitars and pianos clunking out the chords. this starts to happen around mozart, alberti bass laying down the harmony with amelodic repetitions, and its lovely, it works, but its not melodic. it is simple and true, and an electric guitar strumming six notes all at once, and ah all those notes vibrating together and the rich rich, but is not six melodies on a vineyard guitar all at once, it is not the holy weave of bach, (oh and other music of the time; bach did not invent this. he was just soooooooo oooooooooooh), harmony created through the intersection of independent linear lines; a bass grounding, a tenor soaring, an alto stabilizing, a soprano lighting. the chords are there, but only as the consequence of this tangling.

anyone who has taken a basic college counterpoint class will tell you that doing this well, creating even just two independent lines that sound good both by themselves and together, making sure that every chord you pass through gets voiced well, with a root third and fifth and maybe a seasoned seventh or more, and never double the fifth, avoid parallel motion, etc, and i in my passionate youth detesting the idea of rules in music (but oh the truth that the broken rules sound pretty bad). that doing all this, all this well is really, really hard.

but the feeling when it works:

ie the experience of listening to "dear prudence" with headphones and hearing for the first time that subtle chorused out guitar part under the more persistent ostinato melody up top. and hearing the tambourine part for itself, when it comes in just once with the bass, and john rubbing the first note of the melody, an e, against the guitar singing high f#'s every bar, and the third melody in the bass, down seven six flat six five, and later a fourth subtle guitar voice, faaa mi, fa mi, after every prudence, and then the ahs hanging forever on the chorus, and then cymbals for the first time? oh! then we really start in, hand claps now, and my god the cowbell is actually playing with the bass guitar, right along, and on top of everything a brand new voice comes in with george just wailing on guitar, and piano shimmering out of nowhere, so much so much!! and then WHAAA! the whole song hammers halftime, the sun is up, the sky is blue its beautiful and so are you, and the lead guitar rising rising rising and playing the highest note of the song right on "you", and the piano answering it with a little seventh chord! come on! oh my!! bass, low picked guitar, ostinato f# guitar, lead guitar, lead vocal, vocal ahhs, piano, and snare racing forward, tambourine swinging just right, and glorious cymbals shining their own. 10 part daisy chain counterpoint. and thats what makes this song juts floor me every time. open up your eyes, yes! they weave, they roll over each other, and that sand gets everywhere.

and why:
i got shocked with 220 volts of dangling transformer. right into the flesh of my palm the like a dry desert eel. i screamed and swore, laughed and was overjoyed. talking to the russian late in her room i felt twin strains of seduction and friendship welling inside of me, watched my gaze change from desire to companionship and back, as she spoke of russia, how there they are humble, and are judged by there deeds and never the words, never the words...here we shout and pomp "i am the best, i have done this difficult thing, acknowledge me", and it is believed, and always always the quiet ignored and misunderstood. drunk on vodka orange and red i felt such a joy to listen these melodies this woman weave with the others, every melody running through me developing timeless, retrograde inversions of my i. enough for this night to hear these stories and try to learn the tune. and i: love this dance. and i: love a woman far away. and i: love so many. ah, this is working, such a complex fugue she and i have allowed ourselves to feel, all of this happening all at once, growing close so far apart. i will never know who i will be until the very next second, right, *now*, (and right *now*), ((and right *now*)) ((((

glenn gould (famous bach pianist) detested music that wasnt based on counterpoint, and recorded some pretty hilarious recordings of classical and romantic music that just reeks of his scorn, yet transforms the music into something new. he treats the accompanying figures in mozart like another melody, strong and omnipresent and tenacious. and there is a meaning to it, to hear that sameness as a melody grounding and stone lovely.

how noble that life can echo music, how wonderful to know my inside a vast cathedral filled with an infinite web of thoughts, and that the spiders there are not so creepy but just small and smiling little halfsmiles, aware and dancing so agily as they swing on their gossamer and time every trapeze jump so they never crash with another, all lightbeams dancing.