“Take that Kreutzer Sonata, for instance, how can that first presto be played in a drawing-room among ladies in low-necked dresses? To hear that played, to clap a little, and then to eat ices and talk of the latest scandal? Such things should only be played on certain important significant occasions, and then only when certain actions answering to such music are wanted; play it then and do what the music has moved you to. Otherwise an awakening of energy and feeling unsuited both to the time and the place, to which no outlet is given, cannot but act harmfully. At any rate that piece had a terrible effect on me; it was as if quite new feelings, new possibilities, of which I had till then been unaware, had been revealed to me.
Archives for February 2005
If you haven’t read Ben Ratliff’s interview with Pat Metheny in today’s New York Times, do it now.
– “The guitar for me is a translation device. It’s not a goal. And in some ways jazz isn’t a destination for me. For me, jazz is a vehicle that takes you to the true destination–a musical one that describes all kinds of stuff about the human condition and the way music works.”
– “Well, for me, let’s keep jazz as folk music. Let’s not make jazz classical music. Let’s keep it as street music, as people’s everyday-life music. Let’s see jazz musicians continue to use the materials, the tools, the spirit of the actual time that they’re living in, as what they build their lives as musicians around. It’s a clich
Eleven years ago I read an amusing book called Going, Going, Gone: Vanishing Americana that catalogued the long march of obsolescence through postwar America. It occurred to me as I opened my medicine cabinet this morning that the time had come for someone to publish a new book on the same subject. To that end, here are a few of the things I no longer use, do, or see:
• Toothpaste in tubes. I bought my last tube three years ago. Now my toothpaste comes out of a squeeze bottle.
• Ketchup in glass bottles. Ditto.
• Newspapers and magazines on paper. I can’t remember the last time I read one (except for a couple of the magazines for which I write). If I can’t read it on line, I don’t read it.
• Fax machines. I have one, but I rarely use it more than twice a month, both ways.
• Going to the post office to mail packages. I use FedEx and UPS almost exclusively.
• Black discs and cassettes. I got rid of the remnants of my collection when I moved to this apartment two years ago. I no longer own a turntable or a cassette deck.
• TV commercials. I now watch all TV programs after the fact (having previously recorded them on my DVR), meaning that I only see commercials as they whiz by silently and at very high speed.
• Typewriters. I disposed of my last one ten years ago. The only thing I miss about it is not having to address envelopes by hand…
• Stationery. …but since I rarely write personal letters on paper, it follows that I rarely address envelopes. Nor do I have fancy stationery with an elegant-looking letterhead. I used to, but that was three addresses ago. When I feel the occasional need to write a letter by hand, I use cards decorated with reproductions of paintings I like (I favor the Morandi notecards sold by the Phillips Collection).
• Going to the library. I don’t even have a library card anymore. If I really need a book I don’t own, I order a cheap used copy through amazon.com.
• Electric can openers. I don’t own one. Most of the cans I open nowadays have pop-top lids.
• Floppy disks. I back up my computer on line every night.
• “Water-cooler” TV shows. The last TV series to be viewed on a regular basis by more than a handful of my friends was The Sopranos.
• The evening news. My family watched Walter Cronkite religiously, and my mother still watches Dan Rather each night after supper. Not counting visits home, I can’t remember the last time I watched an evening newscast (or a Sunday-morning talk show).
• Dinner parties. I didn’t go to more than two or three last year.
• Renting videos. Again, I do it maybe three times a year, tops.
UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has picked up on this thread. Among his nominees: stick shifts, corded phones, videotape, ice-cube trays, Christmas cards, and downtowns. His readers are commenting, too, and some of them are really angry, for reasons I find utterly inscrutable….
– WEDNESDAY: Finished a 6,100-word rough draft of the first chapter of the Louis Armstrong biography, which I am now tentatively calling Hotter than That: A Life of Louis Armstrong (go here, scroll down, and click on the appropriate link to hear why). Met Maccers at Playwrights Horizons for a press preview of On the Mountain, followed by dinner at Le Madeleine, where she told me war stories from the dating front that made my hair stand up. I had nothing to offer in return but a tale so mild in the telling that I considered slinking out of the restaurant in shame. (She was quite nice about it, actually.)
– THURSDAY: Get up early to write Piece No. 1, my Wall Street Journal theater column, due at noon today. Houseguest arrives circa noon. Lunch at Good Enough to Eat, followed by intensive editing on Hotter than That, followed by dinner (allegedly to be prepared by houseguest) and nostalgic chitchat.
– FRIDAY: Get up early to write Piece No. 2, an essay about The Aviator and Being Julia, due by day’s end. Cram in as much Hotter than That editing as time permits. Take houseguest to dinner, followed by a press preview of David Mamet’s Romance.
– SATURDAY: Turn houseguest loose on an unsuspecting city. Finish editing first chapter of Hotter than That (si capax). Take Friend No. 1 to Lincoln Center to see her very first Apollo.
– SUNDAY: Start writing Piece No. 3, a Commentary essay about Joseph Horowitz’s Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall, due by end of business on Monday. Take houseguest to dinner, followed by Jim Hall
at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (has there ever been a dumber name for a jazz club?).
– MONDAY: Houseguest departs at 9:30. Meet Friend No. 2 (a/k/a Bass Player) at the Metropolitan Museum at ten for a press preview of Diane Arbus Revelations. Finish writing Piece No. 3. Start drafting second chapter of Hotter than That.
– TUESDAY: Get up early to start writing Piece No. 4, my monthly “Second City” column for Sunday’s Washington Post, due by day’s end. Take Friend No. 3 to dinner, followed by a press preview of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.
– WEDNESDAY: Continue drafting second chapter of Hotter than That. Take Friend No. 4 to dinner, followed by a press preview of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
– THURSDAY: Collapse of middle-aged party. Memorial service to be announced later. (This has a suspiciously familiar ring. Will I ever learn?)
“The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.”
Hunter S. Thompson, Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ’80s (all other versions of this quote are inauthentic and/or apocryphal)
“I often think that at the center of me is a voice that at last did split, a house in my heart so invaded with other people and their speech, friends I believed I was devoted to, people whose lives I can only guess at now, that it gives me the impression I am simply a collection of them, that they all existed for themselves, but had inadvertently formed me, then vanished. But, what: Should I have been expected to create my own self, out of nothing, out of thin, thin air and alone?”
Lorrie Moore, Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?
I’m in this morning’s Wall Street Journal with a piece commemorating the centennial of the birth of Harold Arlen:
The greatest American popular songwriter of the 20th century was born a century ago last Tuesday. Warning: You may not know his name….
Arlen never quite managed to reach the top rung of renown, and though dozens of his songs are firmly stamped on America’s collective memory, he hasn’t a fraction of the name-above-the-title recognition of George Gershwin or Cole Porter. Only his peers fully grasped his greatness, among them Irving Berlin, who summed it up with characteristic economy when Arlen died in 1986: “He wasn’t as well known as some of us, but he was a better songwriter than most of us and will be missed by all of us.”
Why isn’t Arlen better known in his own right? One reason, perhaps the main one, is that his gifts were essentially undramatic. Though he knew how to write a show-stopper, his most characteristic songs were such intimate, introspective monologues as the yearning “That Old Black Magic” and the despairing “One for My Baby.” Like Johnny Mercer, the finest of the many talented lyricists with whom he worked, Arlen preferred evoking a mood to driving a plot. As a result, he never wrote a successful Broadway musical–most of his hits were hand-crafted for Hollywood films–and his reputation was built song by song, not show by show….
No link. To read the whole thing, buy a copy of today’s Journal, or (better yet) go here and subscribe to the online edition. It’s a bargain.