Return of the Son of
From The Beach
By Beppe Colli
Aug. 17, 2010
Due to a series of semi-random factors - some pieces
of conversations I heard coming from people sitting nearby at the beach;
a few newspaper titles I eyed here and there; also, a few articles I actually
read - I happened to think about Husbands And Wives, a Woody Allen movie from about twenty years ago;
and especially, about a specific scene that's very important for the development
of the story narrated in the movie and which I will describe in a minute,
after giving readers a tiny bit of background.
The character played by Sidney Pollack (whose
profession in the movie I can't really remember, but I'm pretty sure it
must be either lawyer or University Professor of some sort) has just split
(but only temporarily, as it turns out later) from his wife, his new flame
being a much younger girl called Sam, an "aerobics trainer".
When he meets them walking together, the character played by Woody Allen
can't help but declare his puzzlement about his friend's choice, given
her low IQ and unrefined taste (he calls her "a cocktail waitress").
So we come to a crucial scene: at a party
given by some friends of his, the young lady (unfortunately) champions
astrology, discusses signs, and the fact that more killings occur in the
nights of full moon. We see her puzzlement when she notices that "so
many cultured people appear not to know about such elementary facts that
anybody knows to be true". Let's now have a "freeze frame".
It's precisely at this point that viewers
(and now, readers) have to ask themselves what to make of the knowledge
gap that exists between this "aerobics trainer" and Pollack's
friends. More precisely (and let's not forget that here Allen has organized
his material in a way that we are supposed to sympathize with the young
lady, especially when one considers what's about to happen in a moment
or two): Is the knowledge she possesses one of an "inferior kind"?,
that is to say, a
"non-knowledge"? Or what we have here are two different kinds of
knowledge, each equally valid in the eyes of those who believe it?
It's still the old dichotomy (wider and wider
with each passing day). On one hand, all we have in the world at this point
(medicines that heal us, clothes that dress us, airplanes that take us
somewhere) is the fruit of science and its technological applications.
Unfortunately, as we all know so well by now, the world science describes
is not very "hospitable". The logical consequence being that:
the richer our life gets thanks to science, the stronger our desire to
believe in something that's "non logical".
Which, adopting a "sociological"
point of view could bring very positive results, for instance making it more
difficult for people to develop hysterical neurosis, or choosing mass
suicide as the only rational solution. However, though it's perfectly
understandable that one considers those who believe in macrobiotics with
a certain degree of
"sympathy", it's only at our peril that we forget about the unavoidable
consequences of these beliefs, when widely held. For instance, the prospering
and proliferating of those "industries of beliefs" whose intentions
and motivations are a lot less innocent and naive than those of their clients.
While sunbathing, I happen to chat for a bit, by cell-phone, with a
good friend of mine. We share our views about Diane Birch's recent album,
Bible Belt, which we both happen to like quite a bit.
We both agree that the album sounds fresh
and lively - which is even more surprising when one considers that the
"raw ingredients" are quite well-known (a fact which makes this
album an even stranger beast in today's panorama). We don't appear to agree
about the way drummer Cindy Blackman uses time, my friend being not terribly
enamored of the way she "pushes" time.
This for instance - which appears here only
by way of conscious design - could appear to prove those who argue about
the unavoidable existence of different "points of view" that
we can never indicate as being "right" or "wrong",
"multitude of equipollent opinions" as an unavoidable consequence,
to be in the right. Astute readers, however, will notice that the two
"opinions" discussed here are about the same "fact":
that Blackman appears to (consciously!) "push the time". And this
"neutral" fact whose existence we can easily ascertain, simply
by using a metronome.
There are still aspects pertaining to taste
left to consider, of course. But well before this, we have to examine the
relationship between "beat placement" and narration in a song.
And here I immediately think about an old article, which I decide I'll
look for as soon as I get home.
The article in question deals with the relationship existing between
the "metronomic time" of a given song and the way a drummer builds
what s/he sees as the "appropriate" groove for it. After a brief
search, I found what I was looking for in an old issue of US magazine Musician
(it's the issue no.128, June 1989).
The title of the article is Michael Blair:
Time (subtitle: A noted drummer reflects on how important it is where your
beat is placed).
Blair divides the field in three sub-groups:
Behind the Beat, On the Beat, and Ahead of the Beat, showing the complex
relationships thanks to short, but in-depth, descriptions.
His chosen tracks appear below. Interested
readers are invited to look for the complete text on the Web (good luck!).
Behind the Beat
Song: One Love Stand from The Last Record
Album (Little Feat, 1975)
Drummer: Ritchie Hayward
Song: Chewing Gum from Spike (Elvis Costello,
Drummer: Willie Green
On the Beat
Song: If I Fell from A Hard Day's Night (The
Drummer: Ringo Starr
Song: Fast Car from Tracy Chapman (Tracy
Drummer: Denny Fongheiser
Ahead of the Beat
Song: Take It As It Comes from The Doors
(The Doors, 1967)
Drummer: John Densmore
Song: I'm Gonna Love You, Too from Parallel
Lines (Blondie, 1978)
Drummer: Clem Burke
(Unfortunately, I got news of Ritchie Hayward's
death while I was writing this piece.)
As it often happens to me when I look for an article in a bunch of
old magazines, I find myself re-reading this or that. Here I hope that
the cover image which appears below is clear enough to give an indication
of the scope of this magazine (in this issue there were long excerpts from
an unpublished Mingus interview from 1976; while among the drummers profiled
in the pieces announced by the title in the lower right were Jim Keltner
and Pheeroan akLaff).
For about fifteen years (the 80s, and the
first few years of the 90s) Musician was the perfect example of a magazine
which offered great variety, depth of thinking, balance sheets well in
the black, and a circulation that, in different times and circumstances,
oscillated between 150.000 and 250.000 copies (Musician was also sold at
The fact of writers being adequately remunerated
for pieces (and reviews) of quality had two preconditions: a) lotsa ads
(from record companies, obviously, but also from makers of musical instruments,
amplifiers, mics, studio stuff, and the like); b) a literate, passionate
audience who asked for in-depth articles, reviews, and interviews; which
meant that, when necessary and appropriate, artists of some renown were
openly criticized - which must have been a risky move when it came to those
What happened to the industry we all know.
But what appeared to vanish in the air was that type of audience - and
the deep, long attention spans they were capable of. The listener that
a magazine such as the old Musician needs is of the attentive, selective
kind; one that's maybe not so knowledgeable about the causes and implications
of a given fact (to use the same for instance given above, a drummer who "pushes
the time", and the effect of that on the song), but who easily
"gets" the thing by "feel".
And so, at this point in time, we have no real choice left but fasten
our seat belts.
© Beppe Colli 2010
| Aug. 17, 2010