Monday, July 18, 2011

Body and Soul: Redux

As we continue the Book of Richard, we find these words:

"...but even after obeying, after killing, they still ruled him.  He was their property, heart and soul, body and blood; what they did claimed him sleeping and waking; it colored life and dictated the terms of death."

The easy thing to do with this passage, even all of Native Son, is to run the critique of the gangsta stance, from the first time we sang about a gun going rooty-toot-toot on a rekkid 'til Ice Cube defined a good day.  But that'd be easy, and therefore incomplete.

So instead we observe that the passage reminded us of our versionology of "Body and Soul."  We are taking careful, slow steps up to a few posts on the way music makes meaning in the Book of Richard, and we are uncertain that this passage belongs in those posts.  Nevertheless, the dialectic is obvious, just as it is when we read through tropes of visibility in Native Son and imagine tropes of invisibility that loom so large in the Book of Ralph.

Let us begin by observing that the passage cited offers important political nuance to the approaches to the lyrics we posted back in the day.  In light of this, we think we should come back to the material and consider the place of the citizen in the song.  We should also consider how Dunbar/DuBois, as ancestors concerned about the masks that dual civic status places on citizens, informs the versionology, however indirectly.

As we go, we will, of necessity, observe that the Book of Richard proposes, of necessity, a totality that is belied by the simple historical proof offered by the example of "Body and Soul." This is the same topic we have been addressing in our recent readings in the Book of Langston.  Freedom is demonstrated when we defy the expectation that we'll repeat ourselves, that we'll be consistent.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Blues Keep on Coming

We 'a post up a devilin' versionology, maybe this weekend, but we 'a say two things early.  1) 'tunes have developed the groove to carry this one, even if it is not as thoroughly minimal as their signature grooves.  2) This may mot be the most lyrically explosive example of what either Pusha or Tyler have done, but we can say that, even w/out the video, which promises to be interesting, they are aware that they are doubling down like crapshooters on a sure bet in here one.


Thursday, July 14, 2011


  • "Portrait of the Artist's Mother," Henry Ossawa Tanner (1897).


  • "The Annunciation," Henry Ossawa Tanner (1898).  we do not think the power of this painting can be understated.  

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Musical Foundation of Native Son

We will put up a longer post on the what's in your headphones when you read Native Son.  Suffice it to say that the book of Richard, or at least this chapter, is more skeptical than either the book of Langston or the book of Ralph.

Mark this highly nuanced passage:

"The singing filled his ears; it was complete, self-contained, and it mocked his fear and loneliness, his deep yearning for a sense of wholeness.  Its fulness contrasted so sharply with his hunger, its richness with his emptiness, that he recoiled from it while answering it.  Would it not have been better for him had he lived in the world the music sang of? It would have been easy to have lived in it, for it was his mother's world, humble, contrite, believing.  It had a center, a core, an axis, a heart which he needed but could never have unless he laid his head upon a pillow of humility and gave up his hope of living in the world.  And he would never do that."


The Cinematic Foundation of Native Son

After polishing his nightstick:

"He frowned in the darkened movie, hearing the roll of tom-toms and the creams of black men and women dancing free and wild, men and women who were adjusted to their soil and at home in their world, secure from fear and hysteria."

-- Richard Wright

Where We're Coming From

"Many eyes in the room were fastened upon Bigger now, cold grey and blue eyes, eyes whose tense hate was worse than a shout or a curse."

-- Richard Wright, Native Son

Sunday, July 3, 2011

What We're Hearing: Street/Opera

Woke up this morning, devilin' on the mind.  As we listened to the Geto Boys, we came back to the crossover tension of the streets.  It's one of those Xeno's paradoxes, dig?  The closer you get to the other side, not matter which way you're going -- to the unnaground or to your piece of the pie -- you still have an infinite distance to traverse.  It's like that, and that's the way it is.

So as we listened to the boys our mind deviled over to the book of Langston.  No one has mastered the details of crossing over better.  And we blew the dust off of Street Scene.  We'll have much more to say over @ the blue light in the near future.  But just hold the big crux for a minute: how far from the street is an opera?  how close to real is the street?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ornette's Crossroads

One day, I walked into a place that was full of gambling and prostitution, people arguing, and I saw a woman get stabbed—then I thought that I had to get out of there. I told my mother that I didn't want to play this music anymore because I thought that I was only adding to all that suffering. She replied, "What's got hold of you, you want somebody to pay you for your soul?" I hadn't thought of that, and when she told me that, it was like I had been re-baptized.

Another Place to Take a Slow Start

The more time we spend w/ the book of Langston, the more we turn the pages of other books as well.  And so the book of Paul.

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
    We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
    We wear the mask!

This is what we mean when we say, "near-tragic, near comic lyricism," bro.

What We're Hearing

"But I find that it's very difficult to do, because the jazz musician is probably the only person for whom the composer is not a very interesting individual,  in the sense that he prefers to destroy what the composer writes or says."  --Ornette Coleman (1997)