You're here because you know something. What you know, you can't explain. But you feel it. You felt it your entire life. That there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there. Like a splinter in your mind -- driving you mad. -- Morpheus
My life sometimes hates my brain. And it is for any number of complex reasons that it does. There is certainly a profound social reason, but since I am the sort who likes to believe my own actions matter I tend to take a responsibility which is perhaps larger in my head than in reality. I think my life hates my brain because I can't often get it to that place where it can breathe free and make the connections its hardware dreams of making. Connections between the abstract and the real, between the ideal and the practical, between God and man, man and woman, music and philosophy and a list that wants to go on down this page, but can't because I do have a life.
Between my brain and my life is therefore a compromised mind. A mind that bears up sometimes and wears down other times. That makes excuses and rationalizations and bridges the gap between the desires of my wetware to crank and the time I have on this planet to focus. It is the creature that must worldswap when I'm on a 6AM conference call with the practice manager on the East Coast and my 15 year old daughter knocks on the bedroom door.
But there are times when I work out the three, the life, the mind, the brain. It is through nothing less than the tried and true - reading, writing, listening. A discipline of engagement one could almost call 'the life of the mind', where all parts are in harmony and mostly satisfied. It was once a journal. For a time it was performance poetry. A decade ago it was an online community or two or three. Since 2003 it has been this blog. I have a category in this blog called Mind Splinter, and I have another.
There is a sound I am searching for.
Benzon reminded me this morning about the connection between Africa and Europe being played out in American music. Some of that was done and perfected and put down on wax. Wax doesn't last. But memories do, memories of music in my mind. My brain hungers for the things it might generate in the presence of such a sound. My mind could be put at ease in guiding my life and brain to that point of excitement. But I have a splinter. It is the inability to track down where that sound has been recorded. It is a problem of search, perhaps. But it is also a problem of context, because the thing that created that sound in the first place now has no place to go. And that is why I only know of two or three clips of it.
I call it Negro Operatic. And maybe it could be described as African spirit wearing a European Christian dress as Benzon describes the some fraction of that musical connection. But I know that it is close to my home. It is a kind of extremity of performance reaching beyond perfection in the hopes of attaining the practically transcendent. It is a creation of mind, coaxing the brain to achieve something that drags the life out of the dust to the mountaintop and beyond. It is like reaching up and trying to touch the face of God knowing you stand in robes on stage in front of people who may be merely entertained. You take off the robes and head out the back door into the streets. You live for the next moment of creating that sound and your brain hates your life, and your life hates your brain, and you employ your mind on the daily to keep them from snuffing each other out.
For those who have been trained by it, no discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful.
Robert McFerrin Sr. sung that kind of music. And I'd like to get my hands on some because I want to be put in that frame of mind. I want to drink from the well of spirit that created the sort of virtue that seems superfluous in today's market of music. I want to hear music that makes me cry - a crying of a different sort than is evoked by swelling violins and deep screen kisses. I want to hear it and I cannot find it. It sounds a little something like this:
Do you hear the perfect diction? Do you hear the perfect harmony? Do you follow the dynamic lead surrounded by the power of the chorale? Can you hear the contrast? Did you catch the off key denouement and diminuendo? Aren't you amazed all that could be done in 79 seconds? I play that album every year during the Holidays and have ever since I've been married. It is in may ways the single most profound piece of music I possess.
But I've heard the sound before. For a moment, Take 6 will go there as they did riffing 'Rock of Ages' on 'David and Goliath'. There is of course McFerrin's 'Discipline'. But that's it. That and the way I sung in the Gospel Choir at St. John's Episcopal Church in 1977. Alto.
I'm going to start looking. And maybe you and Benzon can help. I fear we are losing some of the old world as everything goes to iPad. There is a sound beyond soul out there. And maybe it might never be recorded. Maybe it isn't a problem of search, but of something else entirely. But there you have my splinter.