Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ange Mlinko named it: Enchantment -- feeling transported -- that’s what we want from poetry -- and, by extension, any art.

It’s the most inspiring thing I’ve read on aesthetics since I-don’t-know-when.

And the great thing is: There’s no prescription. Whatever the cure is, it’s over the counter. And uncountable. We don’t know how to get there or when we’ll arrive. When we get there we’ll know.

“Enchantment” sounds like mystic mumbo-jumbo; the fashion for the last 30 years has been to speak of pleasure. I prefer enchantment. “Pleasure” sounds so -- trivial. And art can be trivially pleasurable -- that’s fine. But that’s not what keeps anybody coming back, and it’s certainly not what puts art-hounds on the trail. Although, to give pleasure its due, it does have a sexual connotation.

(David Antin has a riff in his masterpiece, “the structuralist,” in which the title character, a linguist/translator/poet/painter and friend of Antin’s named Nasi, goes off on the erotic undercurrents of the submorphemic sememe /pl/.

I wanted to quote the poem but the page layout limitations here preclude that, so I’ll just list the erotic /pl/ words mentioned --

and “plant,” on account of the long poem by Erasmus Darwin called “The Loves of the Plants,”

and concluding with “plunge” -- “right away an erotic word” -- “almost embarrasses me to say it.”

End digression.)

The route to enchantment is unknowable. At the Michigan-Purdue football game a few weeks ago, with my brother and my cousin and my cousin’s wife and a bunch of their friends, I teared up when the marching band played at halftime, because it was the first time I’d been to a game without my dad, and the first time I went with him was 38 years ago when I was six,

and the marching band played the same tunes they have been playing for 50 years, in fact they had their chief arranger of 50 years ago back to conduct his 50-year-old arrangements of the pop songs of that era because it was Homecoming and he was still alive and up for conducting,

and while Alex Ross and Ben Ratliff can discuss charmingly the respective states of classical and jazz today in Slate, and sometimes sound like there’s a crisis afoot,

and some people think there’s a crisis in pop or semi-pop,

but nobody talks about the crisis in marching band music

because there is none. Marching bands play the same music at the same events that they have for -- how long? 100 years? The music has changed some in the last 100 years, but it has changed extremely little for 50.

And everybody is satisfied -- even if they don’t like it, even if halftime is the time take a piss and get a cola and a hot dog, the marching band doesn’t annoy, because it’s there the way it always has been there.

I happen to find it enchanting -- rousing, exciting, charming, goofy, sweet music. And, of course, nostalgic.

Nostalgia can be painful now that my dad has died.

Halloween I was listening to a compilation of hits from 1948, and it put me in a sad way -- it used to be something to connect with Dad over, and now it reminds me of his absence. The music hasn’t changed, but I have.

Coltrane and Rashied Ali duet as I type this. Tremendous music. I saw Rashied Ali 12 years or so ago in New York City. His quintet played a tribute set to Coltrane. Ali is a lyrical and light touch among the fierce free-jazz drummers. His band sank its hooks into my heart -- the seriousness and virtuosity and intensity -- of music, of life, of all-that-there-is -- music that swings a rhythmic lasso around the drifting of the galaxies and swoops it into the room.

Grateful for the music -- and poetry -- for all of the wonderful poetry and music.

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