Post-Modern Blues

My life is becoming busy. There's work, which is a set number of hours a week, a set number of hours that expands as the job demands more as I try to do it better. Forty is a jumping off point. In addition to the job (which is a hobby) there is the hobbies, (which are my real professions). It's the stuff that I fill my time with when I'm not earning the money that is the axis of sustainable capitalistic existence.

There's my partner, first and foremost. She has her own world, and her own spinning axes, and thankfully we can overlap our globes together for the pleasures of companionship and partnership.

Then there's a lot of other things. I don't know what you call these things; hobbies is a stupid patronization, interests is too business-like. Yet they are investments, because they require time and resources be expended, and they certainly give returns.

I'm not talking about humanistic, soul-returns either. This is part of production--strictly material. I'm making something here, can't you see that? Well, perhaps not, because the production is not strictly spatial, but it is material all the same. No afterlife, no karma, no sense of defiant self-worth here. But I'm making it, and when its done, it will be done, and on to the next.

There's the cardboard tree in the next room, build from one-inch tubes and hot glue, growing not from the root or the buds but from an effort of my own to convert time into space and make "it". Making what? A tree from the processed pulp of real tree? No...

There's the writing, that's every where. On the computer, on the desk, taped to the wall, and under the chair. Vague theories about sending it somewhere and getting something back, but meanwhile, maybe the instruction manual to the machine, or maybe just more wasted paper pulp.

The food: not just sustenance, but foods requiring "preparation", tools, rare ingredients, magical poltices ground and manufactured for expressly kitchenic voodoo. Why? Why not? Goes well with wine.

Music, expanding over and over, crate after crate, millions of empty electronic crates grouped into megas and gigas. One song isn't enough, there must be more, they will beat the hammers on the rivets of THIS machine, winding springs. Gravity transformed into not just a down-and-in, but outward, and up, and prepositional shifts that make me dizzy, spinning on thousands of tiny gyroscopes.

That's what I'm doing now; Saturday morning, woke up early, cleaned the kitchen, made coffee and sat down, frantically busy.

Louis Armstrong: The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings.

Four discs and a companion booklet, free from the library. I try to get most of my resources as free as possible, saves wear and tear on the "job" axis, more time on the downstroke for the upswing and... well, et cetera.

Early Armstrong, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929. Dixieland, swing, big band. Compared to Coltrane it sounds slow, old-timey, porch and lemonade. This is eighty years ago. Now we have punk and electro that would make Louie's head explode. Maybe.

Then it was "race music". You know what it is. Not marketed to everyone, just an opportunity to make some more money on the sides. Today we call it a sub-culture, then the "sub" was less substantial.

A funny thing happened; white people started to like it. It could be popular, what this black man in a white tuxedo was doing. It was big, and was bigger once they made more and sold it. Hot Five became Hot Seven, other numbers just became Hot Five, and the money was made. It was now pop, what the race was doing. Jazz was next.

But what was going on? Was it just that Louie was that good? Good enough to pass as a white trumpet player? Jackie Robinson on the cornet?

Of course not. There was A, B, and C; there was X, Y, and Z; there were numerous plotable points of artistic ingenuity that show, without a shadow of a doubt, that the clines were rising, that the times were changing, and that time x space executed a dramatic cultural capital transference that surplused even the white man's profits, so that there was something that "we" could "all" benefit from, even those non-racist whites that lived after Louis was already dead and on a postage stamp.

It had that, that SWING, man. Listen to it... just listen to it. A blow of air through a metal pipe vibrating at the speed of frequency, warmth, breath, hip and hop. Elan vital, of course, of course. Says Robert G. O'Meally, "a forward-tilting, dynamic process of coordinating with diverse but nonetheless connected fellow-workers/players and listeners/dancers alike." A vibrato that could make a single note swing. Yes yes, very good.

But listen to it, and... what, what is that? The trumpet is doing, doing that thing, what Django's guitar does; it's what Coltrane's sax does; it's what the distortion of an electric guitar does, it's...

Fist-pumping, foot-tapping, head-bopping, crowd-jumping, body-touching...

Henry Chinaski said, "Only assholes talk about writing." I don't think Henry Chinaski could play any instruments.

O'Meally sums it. "Like the twentieth century's other supremely influential figures--Einstein, Picasso, Joyce, Stein, Ellington, Le Corbusier, Freud, for example, Armstrong's original conceptions changed the field of music forever. Like these others, Armstrong made changes in his chosen form of expression that corresponded magnificently with the sophisticated moment at the beginning of the century when, across the disciplines, the focus and agenda radically shifted to reflect a world that was suddenly faster, smaller, and more technologically advanced: a world of new information and answers to old questions that spawned new sets of hard questions, new uncertainties and anxieties. With his majestic sound, Armstrong intoned lines of improvisation that parodied and deconstructed received originals as they created new structures in their place. In his playing, one discovers an apt soundtrack to the new world of particles and waves, moving pictures, lightening quick communication, Freudian psychology, the New Negro, stream-of-conscious writing, the Manhattan skyline, cubism and color cut-outs, world wars, modern weapons of mass destruction as well as revelry and ribaldry in spite of everything."

Yup, Louis Armstrong is everything all clogged together in the post-modern kitchen sink, including the sink itself, spinning downward in Coriolis loops of stream-of-conscious writing.... Wait a minute, stream-of conscious writing?!?!

Well, maybe not. Or maybe so. Maybe post-modernism just seems to fit it correctly, because that is what is going on outside that porch with the old Victrola and delicious lemonade where my consciousness is sitting, listening to Louis Armstrong blow a trumpet like god-doesn't-fucking-know-what. But he really is all that, and more, because it just sounds so good. Listen to it, just listen to it. "Georgia Grind," "Cornet Chop Suey," "Drop that Sack". Drop that sack! Oh yeah, like crazy.

Anyway, the point is, I'm really busy this Saturday morning, because I'm listening to Louis Armstrong and drinking coffee. This isn't just for fun, or because I'm interested in it. I'm working. I'm building something, producing something, and when it's done maybe I'll let you use it a little bit. We'll see. How do you think that Louis did it? He just practiced a lot? That's all there is?

I think more people should work harder. It's important to keep yourself busy. Not because down-time isn't good, but because if you aren't working on building it, on producing it, you can be sure as shit that nobody else will do it. They'll just sell you someone else's. You might be lucky, and get ahold of Louie's, or someone else who worked real hard and was good at it. Or you might just get some hobby project, some half-baked crap on TV that someone only made because they had to, not because they were really working on it.

I gotta go, gotta get back to work.

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