Saturday, January 3, 2015


I am in Chicago sitting quietly on a friends couch waiting for the illustrious Shirah Neumann to pick me and drive us to Kankakee, IL, a town which I have never heard of, to install a show called "Transmissions."  The installation is loosely titled "Coal Trane," but I am not sure that it will stay that. En route to Chicago I started reading Amiri Baraka's "Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music."

Baraka is an intense sound. At first I found his writing very difficult to follow. His rhythm fell very much in an African realm. It felt disjointed to me, a person who had never experienced that language in a medium other than hiphop and soul music. But after I reached his essay on rhythm the text began to move with a strikingly poetic fluidity. It is always difficult to read the history of blacks and other ethnic minorities in America as it is near impossible to do so without feeling an immense amount of guilt, but Baraka lenlighttened me with a truth that was always right in front of my face. So obvious was the thought that I felt not guilty, but embarrassed when he led me to it. We were always taught about the history of Blacks in America. This is what THEY had to go through. Even in the sense of our learning about the Afro-American culture we are encouraged to view this race as other. It's a little painful to be able to draw similarities between a David Attinborough special and the history of a people that make up a significant portion of our populace. 

And so Baraka has left me thinking. He goes on to speak about how people dig for information, for communication, for the need to feel as one, and for the love of life, exemplified rather than ignored through the need to get down. As I've read this book it has occurred to me how much the music has always meant to me. This piece started as a pun on Coltrane, coal Trane, because it sounded like soul train. This made me think of all the music that I thought fueled my soul, but I realize now that that is wrong. I realize now that the music is our soul. It is the personification of an idea that swims in the ether of our being. If you feel it you can hear, play it, paint it. But if you can't then you are left outside waiting for your heart to beat. 

So blow that horn blow and feel that jam from the ground through your feet and all over this wide planet. The key to the world playing nice is feeling. You can feel the world if you feel their jams. Don't listen. Be the vibe and find the groove.  Drop the needle and spin into another condition. You gotta git it in your soul man.  


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