I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
June 23, 2017 - 10:48 a.m.
I didn't take the walk to Orchard Beach yesterday; I didn't even leave the house. That's not good. I'll have something to talk about in therapy today. I have lots to talk about in therapy today. The problem is that doesn't mean I have lots to talk about here. It's not that I don't trust my Gentle Readers but my therapist gets paid to keep my secrets.
I have a few things in my diary ideas bin. I just counted; I have 27 things in my diary ideas bin, two are still fresh. I'll get to one, maybe both of them now.
The other day I was talking to Aviv about how it took me years to learn to appreciate jazz. It's been a project of my adult life. I felt I should love it, some, especially swing, I did, but most did not speak to me. I had to learn to love it. It's not an intellectual process. It's not like classical music that I always loved but loved even more when I studied what is going on in a fugue or a sonata. It's more akin to learning to love the taste of a food. It's a process of acclimatization. Ken Burns' Jazz series was a big help as it worked its way to the present from the more accessible roots.
People, and I'm a people, want something new but that's not too far from what's familiar. When new artistic ground is being laid it takes some time to catch up. What's euphonic is not purely biological. In the Middle Ages, a major chord was considered dissonant, they preferred an open fifth. Mozart had "too many notes" so Salieri was more popular. This has always been the way art evolves, and it is evolution, not separate creation. This evolution in taste goes on not just in society but in each of our heads. That's what happened with me and jazz. It doesn't help that I grew up in the sixties when jazz had strayed far from being popular music and was self-consciously avant garde. I still don't like that music just as I never warmed to most atonal and 12-tone music. They are designed as intellectual exercises not to please the ear.
I had a similar experience with country music. In high school, there were ads on TV for a best of Hank Williams album. My friend and I used to laugh at how bad it was and would mock the ads, they were mockable, but would also mock Hank's singing. When I read that Dylan said that Hank Williams was along with Woody Guthrie the biggest influence on him I told myself, "no, it's just Woody." Listening to the kinds of music I do listen to and going back to the origins of folk I came to hear the music differently. I came to hear his phrasing and style as moving, not comic. He's now on my very short list of greatest singer/songwriters ever. Part of it was me maturing but part of it was expanding my musical horizons.
When I first started listening to WFUV they played quite a bit of Irish music during the week mixed right in with the City Folk. I didn't like it. When I took a survey, I complained that they played too much Irish Music. Listening to it enough it won me over to the point that I was unhappy when they stopped playing it during the week. I had to start listening to the Irish shows on the weekends.
One more example. In the late 70s, I was a prog rock guy. My tastes were always wide but my favorite was prog rock, Emerson Lake & Palmer and Yes. I liked my rock big with bells and whistles, Led Zeppelin and Bowie. Then along came Punk and I hated it. It was a rejection of what I loved. I thought the Ramones were simplistic and terrible. It took me only 15 years to discover my mistake.
It doesn't mean I can learn to like anything. I never took to grunge. Despite the fact that I adore Hamilton I still don't like rap. Hamilton transcends the genre, it has not proved an entry drug. If I find myself liking Dawes I'll change my meds. 95% of everything is crud but it's not always obvious at first what the 5% exception is.
There is a reward to keeping your ears open for new types of music. My life is enriched by Coltrane, Hank Williams, The Chieftains, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Some people's musical taste freezes in their early 20s, I'm happy that didn't happen to me. I hope it stays fluid till I die.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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