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November 12, 1972 - Image 15

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1972-11-12
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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s
Page Fourteen

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Sunday, November 12, 1972

Sundav, November 12, 1972

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

.-I"T 1%-#%.A 4F , w , -, . --. . -, . I I -

Page Fourteen THE MICHIGAN DAILY

TO A CERTAIN TYRANT
He often came here. Not in riding breeches yet,
a plain cloth coat, inhibited and stooped.
When later murdering world culture by
arresting frequenters of this cafe,
he wreaked a kind of vengeance (not on them-
on Time) for poverty, humiliation,
the cups of putrid coffee, and the boredom,
and games of twenty-one which-he had lost.
And Time has swallowed up this vengeance now.
It's crowded here, with many people laughing,
and records echo loudly; but before
you take a seat, you tend to look around.
There's plastic everywhere, and chrome, all wrong;
a taste of bromide soda fouls the pies.
And sometimes, before closing, he comes here
after the theater, but incognito.
When he comes in the people all stand up:
some--from duty, the rest i-from happiness.
And then the slightest motion of his wrist
returns the evening all its coziness.
He drinks his coffee-better far than then-
and eats croissants, reposing in an arm-chair,
so tasty that the dead would shout, "Quite good!"
if they were resurrected.
January, 1972
Translated by Carl R. Proffer
TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: The original is in iambic pentameter, rhymed
ababcddc.

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"There's something par-a loxical about a fence"

H

6 (elebratioti takes

TO

POEMS

by

Joseph

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IHBap6 1972 r.

Are festivals lowering

d,

Anyway . . .
There is a kind of reaissuring
predictability about the twelve
bar form and the 1-4-5 progres-
sion. I always know pretty much
where the music's gonna go and
how it's gonna get there. In the
blues, there are rarely any struc-
tural surprises for the listener,
Surprises are rare enough to be
a welcome change. When some-
one d o e s something innovative
with the blues and brings it off,
it makes me laugh with pleasure.
I have in mind early Buddy
Guy Jinior Wells and Butterfield
just before and after he switched
to the larger band.
Usually the blues are a very
simple and stylized form. The
goal for the performer (like all
those football coaches are fond
of saying) is "proper execution."
The objective is to do it right,
to share a special message with
the audience, to put an ambience
in the air, the performer, and
the audience's head, to get folks
nodding to the rightness of the
music and- the lyrics, to generate
identification, a kind of appre-
ciative empathy. We are togeth-
er, knowing how hard it can
sometimes be.
There is an intensity to all of
it, sometimes soft and unassum-
ing like John Hurt's music, other
times driving frantic and nearly
out of control, like Robert John-
son's brand. Some folks shout
the blues, some whisper them.

Bessie Smith must've just wrap-
ped them around everybody in
range.
For a person who's spent most
of his young life hurrying along
big city streets from one school
to another, it is healing to sit on
a porch somewhere, listening to
someone pick out a soft slow
blues, accompanied by a sweet
rough voice.
"So," you may be asking your-
self at this point, "how come this
self-confessed aficianado did not
get it on with everyone else at
the 1972 Ann Arbor Blues and
Jazz Festival? Eh?"
The whole music festival scene
has already made me very un-
comfortable. It's not that I have
an aversion to large crowds. I've
been to Washington for those
wonderful tear gas parties the
Government has insisted on
throwing for us. I regularly at-
tend Big Ten football games and
get pretty far into that gladia-
torial spectacle.
But somehow, I find it impos-
sible to enjoy the blues in its
contemporary Cinemascope set-
ting. I associate that music with
tiny clubs and coffeehouses and
people's porches. The big busi-
ness / mass production ' carnival
setting is irreconcilable with my
private vision of the blues. I
think the music is made lousier
in that milieu.
In a festival setting, , the cele-
bration of life and community
often seems to take precedence
over what is going on between

the m"sicians and the listeners.
Who you see and what you've
done up is as important, if not
more important than what you
hear.
A festivl aidience responds
as readily to its own cues and
theater as it does to the per-
former's. Audiences have more
dlaces to turn for stimulus at a
festival. There's little reason to
focus all your attention on the
stage. There's a lot more going
on elsewhere. I hasten to add
(nastily) that there has always
been something very paradoxical
for me in the idea of a festival
with a fine strong fence around
it.
I'm not advocating a full-scale
retreat by audiences to an older,
more passive sit-down shut-up/
applaud -only-when- it's all-over
approach. A lot of the blues is
fine dance music and dancing to
a person's music seems a pretty
fair exchange of gifts. I'm try-
ing to say that the meaning -and
mess-age of the blues is dissi-
pated and rendered diffuse for
me by all that festival brouhaha.
It seems to have the same effect
on a lot of musicians, too.
Moreover, the blues musician
is also responding to different
cues these days. The availability
of long-deserved recognition and
large sums of money, seems (as
far as my jaudiced eye can see)
to have changed the emphasis
for many performers from mu-
sicianship to showmanship. For
every five minutes of really fine-

the hi

assed music you may get from
Buddy Guy or Big Mama Thorn-
ton these days, you're liable to
get ten or fifteen minutes of
clowning, jiving, and songs start-
ed only to be interrupted for
rambling sentimental monologues
about the blues. I'd go to a con-
cert or a club to hear the blues
and instead find myself listen-
ing to someone telling me about
them.
In its own way, showmanship
gets people as far off as good
music. Showmanship has a very
respectable ethic all its own.
In fact, the two modes are in-
separable. A good musician un-
derstands timing, pacing, and
presentation. No theater sur-

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