Soliloquies of Survival


Now Muriel plays piano
Every Friday at the Hollywood
And they brought me down to see her
And they asked me if I would —
Do a little number
And I sang with all my might
And she said —
“Tell me are you a Christian child?”
And I said “Ma’am I am tonight”
—Marc Cohn – Walking In Memphis lyrics

That ‘s a great song.

Odd, where are today’s great songs? In this age of AMERICAN IDOL and “insert reality/music show here” and media consolidation, we’ve embraced the gimmick, regurgitating endlessly the old, but the new… and I have heard the new, the truly new… doesn’t make it to the big stage.

The truly new and innovative and dangerous, the challenging, which is really what so much of great music is, anthems of rage, Soliloquies of survival are… ignored by a medium intent on keeping music… a tool, to sell you Sprite or that new car.

The songs of Dylan and Beetles reduced to selling pop drinks.

Culture and art reduced to nothing more than a sound byte for corporate pimps.

Be aware of that.

Keep seeking out the artists who aren’t being shoved in your face.

Do a search for music on my blog and you’ll come across a lot of recommendations.

Search out those… anthems of rage, and Soliloquies of survival.

Search out art… that matters.

Because we need it.

Devoid of it we become… like the ‘media’ we do consume, cowardly, sycophants, blowing ignorantly to the most venal breeze.

Artist and those who love art, tend to be people who actually care about something beyond the… trivial. They’re the only people I can stand to be around anymore, people with… courage. And with… individuality.

“So that even unbeknownst to me, off the top, BeBop was a movement and a spontaneous cultural crusade. To restore the music to its deepest and profoundest originality, the essence of what gave it important cultural meaning.

Diz, Monk, Bird, and the others were restoring improvisation as the critical factor of jazz creativity. They were restoring the blues, as its sensuous history and self-consciousness. They were reinserting the polyrhythms of Africa and freeing post-1940s jazz from the Tin Pan Alley prison.”
–Amiri Baraka on THE HIGH PRIEST OF BEBOP from DIGGING:THE AFRO-AMERICAN SOUL OF AMERICAN CLASSICAL MUSIC

Today’s Selected Readings

“These are the largest names I know,
To be so included that they spell the entire
Direction of the Flow. The flow of Song
Through them, from way back beyond
And forward, to and through us, lie a
Melody, heated and transported by rhythm
Touch you, carry you, as it do, as harmony

Bessie Smith is always connected to Louis the Satchmo, America’s “Pop”. For the combining of Blues and the instrumental diversity and copiousness of the new jazz. The original innovation of instrumental Blues. So Louis + Bessie is the beginning of the 20th century.”

“Kimako’s Blues People, which my wife, Amina, and I direct, produces plays, poetry readings, concerts, the last Saturday of each month for the last ten years. We must energize the indigenous popular culture of our communities. Rather an art gallery in your garage, a theater in your basement, a collective publishing house, than to stand around yapping about Knopf or Fox and waiting for them to discover us and turn us into what we now dispise…

Use our resources collectively, our friends and colleagues together, to produce an alternative superstructure. This is the first step in social revolution, to change the minds of the people.

As teachers we must go to the source of strength in U.S. life, its diversity, its post-European openness and earthiness. If we claim to be Americans we mut claim the whole of culture. Anything american is African, European, and Asian(Native), and to be American we must not only be that but claim that and seek to reorganize the whole of that culture to inspire, educate and social-economically develop the whole people.

We seek [true] Majority rule, the control of society by… its workers, and farmers, its oppressed nationalities, its democratic petty bourgeoisie, and even those of the national bourgeoisie (shaky at best) who oppose imperialism. This is our task. Let us get at it.”

—from DIGGING:THE AFRO-AMERICAN SOUL OF AMERICAN CLASSICAL MUSIC by Amiri Baraka

O Tidings of Comfort & Joy! Israel America and Dark Reichs

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

I’m listening to old 70s Soul Cinema trailer clips, and they are cracking me up. The best? This little tag line from Fred Williamson’s BLACK CAESAR…

“This Caesar comes to bury you!”— How Frigging cool is that!I have to pick up that movie on DVD and watch it now. 🙂

God rest ye merry gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our savior
was born on Christmas day.
To save us all from Satan’s power
when we were gone astray.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

The odd thing I find about Christmas, and this supposedly benevolent time of year, one of them, is it is typically the time America ramps up her military strikes against non-christian countries.

“Celebrating Ramadan with your families are you? Well let me drop off my present from Uncle Sam….
this megaton bomb bitches!! Merry Christmas MFers!!!”

I sadistically jest, but the truth is that sadistic without any jesting involved.


From God, our heavenly father,
A blessed angel came.
And unto certain shepherds,
Brought tidings of the same.
How that in Bethlehem was born,
The son of God by name.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

I want to highly recommend a book I had mentioned picking up previously, DIGGING:THE AFRO-AMERICAN SOUL OF AMERICAN CLASSICAL MUSIC by Amiri Baraka.

A compilation of essays covering several decades of this uniquely American art form of Jazz/Blues as only an insider can, it is not only a seminal dissection of the times and the players in the music scene, it is as brilliant a dissection of America the American id and American fallacies as I’ve ever read.

It is an essential book, and is easily my recommended read of 2009.

It is a book on the masters of the medium, Trane, Coleman, Miles, the list goes on, told by someone who knew and played and laughed with them.

It is a book told with an authority, validity by one of not just the world’s preeminent poets but one of the world’s preeminent music lovers, and you’re NEVER going to get that again, EVER. By anyone.

Because those pioneers are all shuffled off this mortal coil, and what is left is the vultures to retrofit their memories and their music. The vultures who would paint Black Gods white.

We are now deep in the age of Sony and Time Warner and American Idol and corporate bs as the end all and be all of music.

Deep in the age of the tail wagging the people.

So the discussion DIGGING engages in, of the music as the gestalt, and the natural by product of the fears, the hopes, the politics, the loves, the controversies, and most of all as a chronicler from an abused mass of Americans not allowed to be Americans, this understanding of music as a call and a component in change, you are NEVER going to see presented from this capitalist controlled society again.

Music to them. the suits, is either a way to sell you something or to divert you from something, but never a way to engage you in something constructive or progressive or enlightening.

So DIGGING, written by this eight decade old LIVER and SURVIVOR and SHAPER of the most turbulent of American Years, I see as absolutely a historic document from day one, and an essential component to understanding what music was, and what it can be again.

You’re looking for a gift to give that music lover in your life? This is the book you give them. His list of recommended CDs alone is worth the price of the book!! I’ve tried some of his recommendations and they are dead on. Highest Recommendation.

“Jazz is the music of Americans who were not allowed to be American.”

To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

I’ve followed the recent rash of removals of Black Mayors, from offices throughout the country, for the most trumped up nonsense with some interest. It is very Jim Crow like, and in the age of Black Newspapers and Black Radio Stations and even Black owned theaters… we would have called this convenient confluence of events what is it… a witch hunt, and a power grab, and a turning back the clock.

We would have called it clearly… injustice, and undemocratic, this usurping of the duly elected representatives of the people, by legal maneuverings of a very few people.

But we no longer live in an age of Black owned anything. Brown vs. Board of Education led the way to that.

Brown vs. BOE while a good case in the micro-level, on the macro-level can clearly be seen for what it is, a defeat cloaked as a victory. Zora Neale Hurston said this decades ago, and she was derided for it by everyone, Blacks as well as Whites.

She ended up dying a broken woman. But she was right, and no one has ever been more right.

“Our victories give them weapons they did not have before”

Separate but Equal, there is nothing wrong with that concept. The problem was the practice. America was never Separate AND Equal. It was alway seperate AND UNEQUAL. Inferior service, inferior representation, inferior choices.

And BROWN vs BOARD rather than treat the root cause of the problem, unequal and unjust allocation of dollars and resources, instead became a model for even more unequal allocation/distribution of resources.

That leads to our present atmosphere of disenfranchised people, devoid of real recourse or representation. With representatives picked off one by one, with not even a real Black owned paper or radio station left .

And you may be saying, I’m not Black why should I care?

You should care because

“what you do to the least, you do to to me”

or

“They came first for the Jews, but I wasn’t a Jew so I said nothing”

or

Because ultimately the crimes they, the robber barons of this… trifling age, get away with in Haiti or Iraq or Palestine or Philadelphia today, they are ultimately perfecting to try on you tomorrow.

Because while I’m fond of terms like Black and White, the truth is that this is a class struggle, between those who want to be, once again, their fathers’ sons and be the masters of men. And they will not let color deter them from your fall. They want the mass of men as slaves or serfs, and each peoples’ fall, from Liberia to Haiti to Iraq to Palestine brings them a step closer… to preparing your fall.

They are greasing America to fail, the agents of Oligarchy, they hope to put to bed, at last, even the lie of liberty.

So that the people, frustrated with services closing, taxes rising, food and water unsafe, quality health unaffordable, cost of living escalating, fear and crime their only constant food, and hunger and pestilence and perversion and death in the air, and America made into Gomorrah… so the people, frustrated, will be ready at last for their nation’s march to terror and totalitarianism.

Will be ready, at last, for America’s fall.

Mistakenly blaming their liberty for their pains, when it was not liberty that failed them, but they that failed their liberty by not killing the leaders that led them to such mire and such madness.

So remember this… rambling of mine from the edge… the next time you hear of a suspicious removal of an elected representative, or of an odd arrest, or a case tried in the press/tv, as many increasingly are.

Because with every broadcast, you are being manipulated closer to that day of your own dark Reich.


Ohhhh,
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

What I’m Reading and Listening to

“We love only heroes. Glorious
death in battle. Scaling walls, burning bridges behind us, destroying
all ways back. All retreat. As if
some things were fixed. As if the moon
would come to us each night (&
we could watch
from the battlements). As if
there were anything certain
or lovely
in our lives.”

— excerpt from “THE DEATH OF NICK CHARLES” by Amiri Baraka (available in the great anthology BLACK VOICES)

*************

I have been listening all day to an old time radio program called CRIME CLASSICS. From the 1950s it is absolutely riveting half hour based shows, that dramatize infamous places in history. It dramatizes our crimes. From Lizzie Borden to Billy the Kid to others who I have never heard of. It tells of places deep and dark and devious, that can only accurately be called the human heart. It is brilliantly directed/produced by Elliot Lewis, written by Morton Fine and David Freemen, and captivatingly introduced by Lou Merrill portraying Thomas Hyland and performed by some of the best radio actors of the day, from Paul Frees to William Conrad to Bill Johnstone.

I don’t know how to sell someone on audio dramas, anymore than I know how to sell someone on reading. To me it’s analogous to having to sell someone on breathing or sex. It is something people should be, of their own volition, racing toward… racing to do, racing to consume.

Audio dramas, the best of them, are such a pure medium. Such an interactive one, while still being a completely solid vision/narrative.

And Old Time Radio is a very reflective medium, it can teach, by that distance of time, of old oaths that we have turned our back on, and old follies that we have embraced.

I highly recommend this show. And you can find it here. I recommend getting it quickly as the shows have a tendency to disappear as greedy corporations and venal lawyers and their lobbying… erodes the concept of Public Domain… erodes the concept of The Public. It is a great show. Enjoy.

****************

“His name is…

Will it ever come to me? There is a grand lapse of memory that may be the only thing to save us from ultimate horror. Perhaps they know the truth who preach the passing of one life into another, vowing that between a certain death and a certain birth there is an interval in which an old name is forgotten before a new one is learned. And to remember the name of a former life is to begin the backward slide into that great blackness in which all names have their source, becoming incarnate in a succession of bodies like numberless verses of an infinite scripture.

To find that you have had so many names is to lose the claim to any one of them. To gain the memory of so many lives is to lose them all.”
—From Thomas Ligotti’s GRIMSCRIBE short story collection

I find Ligotti an acquired taste. I’ve read several of the stories in GRIMSCRIBE in his more comprehensive collection, THE SHADOW AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD, and I wasn’t particularly taken by them there. I thought the GRIMSCRIBE selections were the weakest part of THE SHADOW AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD (an uneven, but worth having anthology, because the stories that do work, four come to mind, are worth the price of admission). But I found the above excerpt from Ligotti’s introduction to GRIMSCRIBE quite compelling.

********************

“Formal business has certainly decayed in the city centre, with empty shops, boarded-up office blocks. Maybe a Black guy will buy a shop and start selling pap, the local food, but there’s been no boom of Black businesses- prices are still high, and because of the Group Areas Act it’s mainly Asians who own the shops and warehouses. There are plenty of traders and hawkers in the streets now, ladies doing other ladies’ hair for money and services like that. There are big working-class taxi ranks because the public transport is so bad. But the general economic trend is very clear: the rich have got richer and the poor poorer. Under the ANC, South Africa has now surpassed Brazil as the most unequal country in the world. According to Statistics South Africa, the average African household has got 19 percent poorer in the past five years, and the average White household 15 percent richer.”
—Trevor Ngwane discussing the current conditions of South Africa, from Tom Mertes’ A MOVEMENT OF MOVEMENTS.

A few true Words

Profound things I’ve recently read or reread:

“If we live all our life with lies, it becomes hard to see anything if it has nothing to do with those lies.”
– Amiri Baraka (writing as Leroi Jones at the time)

I met him today. Went to hear him speak. It is rare when the fact of a man, lives up to the myth. Mr. Baraka is such a rarity.

He spoke on many things, in his 70s, he spoke on many things, with wit and grace and humor, and something very few people fractions of his age have… with passion.

Document-1-page1

He was very much still, that young man who sought to, and to great degrees did… change worlds.

Still that Angry Young Man. And I use that phrase in its finest meaning. Not Anger that destroys, but Anger that motivates, that asks of the world to rise from burning beds. Conviction is perhaps the more accurate term, he had the conviction of that younger age of Panthers and Prophets. Of men who did, rather than discussed.

He had more energy in that 70+ year frame than in a whole city of young, confused , direction-less Black men, being herded, and in many cases running headlong, to the prisons and the graves.

The whole wheel of our society is designed around what DuBois called THE MIS-EDUCATION OF THE NEGRO, our schools, and entertainment and churches and urban centers and laws and fractured homes, geared to produce ignorant masses.

Why?

Control. Control has always been the fuel and the feast of the tyrannical.

A ruling class, maintains rule by concepts of supremacy and inferiority. A bigoted system doesn’t just prefer, but needs the stereotype of the thug, the menace to society, because that villain… is inferior and is easily dealt with, easily used, easily enslaved, and easily turned against his own and turned to the needs of the state.

But a Baraka, a Shabazz, this nation has fought internal wars of terrorism against the growth of such men.

Because such men, resist stereotypes. And not only do they give the lie to the concept of White Supremacy, not just by proving themselves the equals of their detractors, but they make a very compelling argument for being their betters.

The 1960s is when America, and the world was on the verge of a real… evolution. When we had in our sights the chance for growth, not of our technology, but our humanity, our conscience, our unity, our art, our peace.

And it all hinged on this idea of self determination, from China to Cuba to America to Senegal… the whole world was fighting to grow out of their fathers’ lives. And perhaps into their own.

From the Black Panthers to the Zapatistas, it was all the same fight. A fight against entrenched colonial evils, entrenched slavery. But more than that, it was a fight for evolution.

Instead of evolution however, powers and principalities won the day in the 60s, and crushed globally, but most notably in America that burgeoning social consciousness. And from that point to now, when the rule of law was put on hold, and assassination of the enemies of empire green lit, going on 50 years, we have not evolved. Our technology yes, but not our humanity, not our art, not our dreams, not our conscience.

We largely are stuck mired in the same entrenched hates, and economic folly, and capitalistic wars, of the 60s. In fact it’s worse, because our technology increasingly allows our hates and our ignorance a greater ability… to harm.

So in the 60s when we put down those Angry Young Men who spoke, before anyone else, of community based health care, and community schools, and self-love, and true community/tribal policing, and pan-national unity, when we stopped them because of their dreams and plans of Camelot… what did we stop them for?

Is the average American, whether white or black, any better than his father? I would say we are worse, sure we have toys, but we also have an America on the verge of economic, cultural and societal collapse. We are Germany, poised before the rise of Hitler.

We are poised again for Fascism. Again for Rome.

We have gone backwards since we turned our back on those young men, who pointed us to the future. We murdered them and caged them for life, and allowed the greed of the few, to condemn the many to failure.

Failure for the dream of America. Failure for the dream of something better for our children.

Your racism is a class construct used to make you a tool, make your children tools, and preserve a decaying power structure of Disney and Time Warner and Sony and Shell, to preserve a decaying, fabricated system of lords and serfs, that should have been demolished and strewn to the four winds, five decades ago.

Your racism keeps you… a slave. A nigger. That’s the war we fight. Not of name calling, or ethnicity, but of reason and ignorance. It is a fight to see the whole chess board, not just the piece you sit on. And ultimately it is a fight to evolve, and that cannot happen in a world run by multinational corporations and robber barons, in a world of unchecked capitalism/fascism.

“If we live all our life with lies, it becomes hard to see anything if it has nothing to do with those lies”

That’s why I go out and listen, and hopefully learn from these women and men who still speak the truth.

I have some hopes, that the word, in an age of orbital nuclear weapons and designer diseases… I have hope… that all of it, all of it, all the lies, all the powers, all the principalities, can begin falling like dominoes. Knocked down by men and women… who will never cease speaking… a few true words.


[p.s. Many of Mr. Baraka’s books and plays have long been out of print. He’s making them available for purchase through his recently setup website. I of course highly recommend supporting him, and owning his books. You can view his site here.]