Just as scientists would hold up a mirror to Nature,
so artists would turn their audience into its own object.
In order to get off the ground, the project
must contain the promise of power, or make sure
to prompt enough hatred to spark animosity.
The latter is not a way to awaken curiosity
that any peace-loving artist could use,
at least not on purpose; but history teaches
that a work of art which actually breaches
the bounds of what is expected of the Muse
(by the Establishment of any time and place)
is certain to provoke the rage of the same:
even the famous are not made out of granite.
I am almost what they call a senior citizen.
Since the time I was born, the number of sistren
and brethren who are alive on the planet
has nearly tripled: over five billion
new faces already pack the pavilion
of this circus of ours. The changes they’ve brought,
or which have occurred along with them
and continue to pour out of the cistern
of Earthly events, are a tremendous lot,
though not all steps forward in terms of quality.
In particular, attempts to reduce inequalities
in basic standards of living have faltered,
run up against the law of the jungle.
In such a situation, it is easy to fumble
and lose the ball as one’s audience has altered.
One is no longer dealing with the small groups
of intellectuals who supped on the same soups
and either knew, or knew of, one another
up until the middle of the last century.
After all they did and said, some sort of pleasantry
is still begged if one was forgotten by mother
at the supermarket when only a toddler:
she might have counted her kids, but why bother?
Today, it is essentially as a supernumerary
that one lives and can hope to reflect
a living audience in an essential respect.
Changed in essence is the figure of the luminary,
of she or he who may have something to say
to some part of humanity in its novel array.
All with only walk-on roles in the global farce
whom our one-and-only system, despite all its success,
cannot help but consider as being in excess,
leave to sit on the bones of their arse,
deserve attention as they haven’t gotten thus far.
Plainly, I’m not going to get up and start
talking of hidden realities I know little about;
but I would tell of treasures of which I know well
having assisted to their accumulation and burial.
One cannot expect modern-day talent scouts,
who toil to feed hungry mouths and/or pay alimony,
to be able to distinguish the routinely phoney
from true work of genius—in the unlikely event
they should ever cross paths with the latter.
Since it cannot be fit into categories
that are taken for granted, nothing can prevent
it from being mislabeled and placed
on the wrong shelf, if there still is space.
There it may sit for many a decade
gathering dust, until unearthed by chance
or mistake, and, ceteris non paribus, seen at a glance
to be, not only ahead of the times when it was made,
but also sublimely beautiful, and forthright to boot.
For example: at some future unspecified date
it might be discovered that one of the great
“unanswered questions” at the root
of the involution of Western culture
in the final quarter of the last century–
What do Bach, Beethoven, and the Beatles
all have in common (besides names beginning
with “b”)?–had had its own singing
reply in an obscure band called the Weals1
already at the very start of the decline.
Many other musicians as well had tried
to extend the great synthesis twixt
classical and rock modes on the model
of the “four persons in one God”
(as protonotary apostolic, Monsignor Jim “the gist”
Sullivan, aptly defined the divine quartet);
but they had invariably failed to get
to the bottom of the harmonic system,
of the hypercubic method of composition
that Johann Sebastian, Ludwig, and those mission-
pledged souls from Liverpool instead had in them.
In reality, practically every hit song
that has ever been written moves along
propelled by the same felicitous mix
of melodic afflatus and harmonious structure;
but most represent strokes of luck,
occasional, successfully pulled tricks
within repertoires hardly on the par.
Only a few musicians have become stars
on the strength of a precise methodology
in their compositional technique–I can think
Ventures, Bacharach, Hendrix, but then I blink.
Mine is no treatise of didactic musicology,
the point I simply want to make
is that there obviously exist ways
to write music that quite systematically
produce entirely successful results,
paths that lead the spirit to exult
in a manner not symptomatic of manic-
depressive cycles or bipolar disorder.
I forgot to mention the Motown artists, of course:
they too knew what spots to put the dots on in their scores
to exhilarate and empower across boards and borders.
The Weals had carried the analysis a step further
with melodies evolved from lyrics that cried murder
just as the great involution, the catastrophe
in the economic, political, and cultural spheres
began to unfold, heralding the Age of Fear
once that of Anxiety had reaped its last trophy.
Such humor, such irony, such sense of purpose
exude from their songs, it weighs like a curse
upon the fate of America that they went unheeded
when there still was more hope for her story:
it would not have been the first time in history
that art had provided what was most needed.
The man behind the wheel, Dennis2,
has–reassuringly–kept up his tennis,
gone on to write ground-breaking symphonies
while most everyone else has been grooving
to fusions–those of musical genres having proven
easier than the nuclear to intone.
His Symphony Number Three is an example
of a uniquely articulate sound, like no other sample
of classical music I’ve heard walking around.
Listen for yourself, follow the link:
if what you hear doesn’t cause you to shrink,
drop us a verse, let us know you’re in town.
The Weals played in New York at Max’s Kansas City, CBGB's, Tramps, and La Mama between 1977 and 1980. The musicians involved at one time or another were: Kevin O’Neal (guitar), Mark Campo (drums), Jay Elfinbien (bass), Larry Katz (bass), David Van Tiegham (drums), Mike Eck (drums), Mark Batchelor (bass), Dennis McCafferty (vocals, guitar, vibraphone). The band changed its name to the Ushers in 1980 and continued playing until 1989. The musicians who at one time or another played in the Ushers were: Larry Goldman (bass), David Neskie (drums), David Kavenaugh (drums), Mike Derrico (bass, guitar), Jose Rodrequez (guitar), Frank Nemith (bass), Dennis McCafferty (vocals, guitar). ↩
Dennis Anderson McCafferty ↩