professorial compliments & the resistant political imagination

I sometimes complain in this space about how local musicians and professors seem to ignore me and my work, so I should report faithfully that almost every music prof who attends my church complimented me yesterday.

Rubbing up against so many different people as I did yesterday in the course of my work leaves me a bit frazzled. I think this is the introvert in me, the person who values solitude and sitting and thinking. At the same time, this very solitude does lead me back to community, whether flesh and blood or the community of composers, poets and writers I experience in my playing and reading.

All Saints is a big feast in the Episcopal church. We celebrate this musically by combining efforts of several groups of musicians: an array of instruments (flute, viola, cello, guitar, electric bass, handbells, marimba), the Youth Choir and the Chamber Choir. Negotiating and leading this group was both fun and freaky.

The violin teacher from Hope remarked he found it satisfying to watch the viola player hold her viola and sing sections of the little jazz arrangement I did of “For All the Saints” (I think this was a compliment).

I was astonished this morning when I noticed the congruence of the different books and poetry I am reading. I discovered that the section of William Carlos Williams’ book length poem, Paterson, I am reading seemed to correlate precisely with two other books I am reading: The Gift by Lewis Hyde and American Empire by Charlse Maier. Williams and Hyde both specifically refer to Walt Whitman whom I am also reading.

Marie Curie's 144th Birthday

(More confluence occurred when I noticed that the Google logo for today celebrates Marie Curie’s birthday and the section in Paterson I am reading and studying right now uses her as symbol of both radioactivity and feminine success…. weird)

I guess it boils down to the idea that art is cannot avoid becoming political “simply through the faithful representation of the spirit. It is a political act to create an image of the collective” (Hyde).  And in all of these books I am referring to here, it specifically refers to American spirit.

“Whitman envisioned drawing isolated individuals into a coherent and enduring body politic without resorting to the patriarchal articles of the social contract. In short, he would replace capitalist home economics with ‘the dear love of comrades.’ His politics reveal an unspoken faith that the realized and idiosyncratic self is erotic and that erotic life is essentially cohesive. He assumes that the citizen, like the poet, will emerge from the centripetal isolation, in which character forms, with an appetite for sympathetic contact and an urge both to create and to bestow.” Hyde in The Gift:Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World

This relates to what I said earlier about my own solitude leading me back to community.

I’ll close with another quote that shows how important the artist is when the society is sick.

“So long as the artist speaks the truth, he will, whenever the government is lying or has betrayed the people, become a political force whether he intends to or not….  In times like these the spirit of the polis must be removed from the hands of the politicians and survive in the resistant imagination. Then the artist finds he is describing a world that does not appear in newspapers and someone has tapped his phone who never thought to call in times of peace.” Hyde, ibid.


An Undertaker With Purple Nails –

The decorative pillow above Ms. Amen’s head was embroidered with the words “Behind every successful woman is herself.”


Broadway Revival of ‘Godspell’ –

Church and church music has changed so much that this revival of Godspell is so sincere that it unpleasantly reminds this critic of church. Very funny.


In an Iranian Prison, Tortured by Solitude –

First hand description of experiencing solitary confinement.


Telling Americans to Vote, or Else –

Did you know that Australians are legally supposed to vote in every election or get fined?


A Russian Robot, a Martian Moon –

Russians on the move in space. Cool.


His Libraries, 12,000 So Far, Change Lives –

Inspiring library/education story.


A Visit to Typhoid Mary’s New York Domain –

Visiting an island near NY where Mary Mallon and others were quarantined.


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