Wednesday, November 10, 2010

IN WHICH WE START WITH EMILY DICKINSON AND DETOUR THROUGH SHAKESPEARE TO VAN MORRISON



I am Home—home to Myself—that region from which one must begin if one is to find any sort of real Life at all.
Barbara Dana, A Voice of Her Own: Becoming Emily Dickinson


How is this different from the opening of Hamlet's soliloquy?
To be or not to be?


And what is it that you, one, whoever is being?


And why does contemplation of this make my heart pound and make tears spring to my eyes.


Do you know this one, In the Garden,  from Van Morrison? (Don't watch the graphics, such as they are. Just listen.)


The fields are always wet with rain
After a summer shower 
When I saw you standin' 
Standin' in the garden 
In the garden

Wet with rain

You wiped the teardrops from your eye in sorrow
And we watched the petals fall down to the ground
And as I sat beside you I felt the
Great sadness that day

In the garden

And then one day you came back home
You were a creature all in rapture
You had the key to your soul
And you did open
That day you came back

To the garden


Reading those words, "you had the key to your soul/and you did open" makes me weep. Every time.


Well, I guess Van is as good as detour as any. Greil Marcus published an uneven (in my humble opinion) book about listening to Van this year, When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison. I disagree (respectfully) with much of Mr. Marcus' assessment of Morrison's oeuvre from 1980-1996 (c'mon Griel, don't review the process of becoming, man). But I do love and agree with other aspects, which, of course, related to yoga, writing ... (get ready for a long quote here)


    "Van Morrison's music as I hear it holds a story—a story made of fragments. There is in his music a kind of quest: for the moment when the magic word, riff, note, or chord is found and everything is transformed. At any time a listener might think he or she has felt it, every glimpsed it, a realm beyond ordinary expression, reaching out as if to close your hand around such a  moment, to grab for its air, then opening your fist to find a butterfly in it—but Morrison's sense of what that magic moment is must be more contigent. For him this quest is about the deepening of a style, the continuing task of constructing musical situations in which is voice can rise to its own form.
    'When I was very young,' the late Ralph J. Gleason wrote in a 1970 review of Morrison's album Moondance, 'I saw a film version of the life of John McCormack, the Irish tenor, playing himself. In it he explained to his accompanist that the element necessary to mark the important voice off from the other good ones was very specific. "You have to have," he said, "the yarragh in your voice"—and to get the yarragh, for Morrison, you may need a sense of the song as a thing in itself, with its own brain, heart, lungs, tongue, and ears. Its own desires, fears, will, and even ideas: 'The question might really be,' as he once said, 'is the song singing you?' His music can be heard as an attempt to surrender to the yarragh, or to make it surrender to him; to find the music it wants; to bury it; to dig it out of the ground. The yarragh is his version of art that has touched him: of blues and jazz, for that matter of Yeats and Lead Belly, the voice that strikes a note so exalted you can't believe a mere human being is responsible for it, a note so unfinished and unsatisfied you can understand why the eternal seems to be riding on its back."


Germane for me: ... the magic word, riff, note, or chord is found and everything is transformed. At any time a listener might think he or she has felt it, every glimpsed it, a realm beyond ordinary expression ...


A realm beyond ordinary expression ... or experience. Why that sounds like transcendence! Transcending the you that is uncomfortable and maybe outside of yourself. And the you that doesn't quite know where you are or what to do. And then you feel that deeper parter of yourself.


For me it is the part that responds, unbidden and without thought, when I feel/hear/see/type those words "you were a creature all in rapture/and you had the key to your soul/and you did open." Yes I am crying now. As Van said elsewhere, "straight like a cannonball to your heart."


Transcendence into unification. Feeling like you are one with yourself. At Home. Something is True. Something is Real. You can feel it. You are It.


For him this quest is about the deepening of a style, the continuing task of constructing musical situations in which is voice can rise to its own form.


Right. Perfecting his practice. "The progressive freedom to be attained in pursing the yarragh (yoga) is an increasing freedom not for myself but from myself." Am I stretching too far here? Van's music, his successes and mistakes make me think not. 


In my first post of this blog, I quoted Ravindra "...the central question of our life: How can we become a suitable instrument for the Truth to be expressed?"


Here's a bit from an interview with Greil Marcus.




“I think the difference is that Morrison has a different kind of musical gift from Dylan,” he says. Morrison “has this rich expansive voice”, he says. “Elvis Costello was talking about Van Morrison recently, and he said that he couldn’t sing like Van Morrison even if you put him up against a wall and threatened to shoot him. It’s not physically possible. And that is true. Dylan works with far more limited natural musical abilities, and maybe because of those limits he has to create in a much different manner.
“Whereas Morrison can take this table and sing about this table, and the table suddenly begins to change shape and begins to smile. It can give you a dirty look; it can fly up to the ceiling. And so it is very different. Morrison’s transformation of all this stuff around himself is different because, at its deepest level, you can barely be aware of it and you can’t trace anything back to its source."
Van's working it. He is changing the world with his regard, his attentiveness. 
He helps me get Home. (I think our addresses are similar.)

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