About John Coltrane Essay Research Paper James — страница 4

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new attitudes and offering new stimuli, would necessarily arise. They did arise. And Trane’s was the most magical of formal revolutions. II … The poet’s limbs lay scattered Where they were flung in cruelty or madness, But Hebrus River took the head and lyre And as they floated down the gentle current The lyre made mournful sounds, and the tongue murmured In mournful harmony. –Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book Eleven Whether the Maenads dismembered Orpheus at the behest of Dionysus or; as Ovid suggested, in a fit of sexual pique, one thing is clear: this supreme creator was the victim of an inexorable clash between the Dionysian principle, represented by the Maenad’s ungovernable zeal, and the Apollonian ideal which he, as maker of songs, venerated. The power of Dionysus–which

civilization inevitably tends to suppress–erupts with a vengeance. In the process, energy may overwhelm order, expression may burst into scream or dissolve into silence. The deformation of Orpheus is thus an attack on form itself. Yet, as Orphic bearer of new black culture, the Afro-American rebel-artist needs and celebrates his ancestrally privileged energy, and so must always risk the annihilation. On the other hand, should he fall too far back into the Dionysian sources of fervor, should he avoid all abstraction and structure, he will have expunged the motive for his being: the healing of the fractured communal will. This complex tension is strongly felt behind the technical ingenuities of Coltrane’s music. Its assault on form has, in all probability, no exact parallel in

the history of Afro-American music. It is at once more various, destructive, and self-conscious than its precedents; it challenges the idea of form itself and resolves that challenge by forcing new demands on every aspect of the medium. No category of space or time, order or chaos, arrangement or improvisation, solo or ensemble, tone or mode remains quite intact after this upheaval of the imagination. Yet it is worth remarking, particularly in view of the misleading impression left by Trane’s critics and admirers alike, that the supersession of established formal principles did not lead to formlessness, to an irreparable splintering of the Orphic lyre. The dynamic power that Trane and his "new wave" brethren unleashed seemed to shatter the very possibility of clarity

and form–such was the force of the new content that was being freshly conceived. But there is a rigorous inner logic at the root of those works which, upon scrutiny, makes it hard to believe they were "amorphous," "random," or simply "shucking," as critics claim. [. . . .] If, in his capacity for surprise, Trane knew the scope and holiness of sound, he also divined the plenum of silence. Pauses and silences are often the climaxes of his late works, the still centers of the prophetic storm, the nuclei of tension around which the whole movement is structured. The more one listens the more those silences seem to be among the first causes of the overall effect. This is, again, partly a technical consideration. From pieces as early as the Miles

Davis/hard-bop works, Trane was leaving large rests within lines, delicately spacing bursts of triplets, in the effort to achieve rhythmic variation within given harmonic limits. When his playing became liberated from the centripetal force of tonality, time became his prisoner and silence a consequent choice against time–a choice that facilitated expansion within the ultimately temporal musical order. The authority of the silences is a direct consequence of the late pieces’ density of texture: each note and each rest is part of an integrated design of utmost economy and vigor. The mystical effect, to paraphrase Nathalie Sarraut’s account of the new, "nontonal" novel, is that of a time that is no longer the time of our intended life, but of a hugely amplified

present. But this dialectic of sound and silence betokens more than just a technical imperial expansion over wide, new territories. Trane’s is the silence of Orphic utterance momentarily stilled, of the voice that temporarily ceases singing in the face of mystery, only to embrace a new strain that will henceforward echo this silence, but in song. This silence presupposes the possibility of song and the relevance of expression to the life of the individual soul and the community. Trane, like his African forebears, was delving for the primal Sound that lends music its magical quality. The very possibility of such discovery, he intuited, begins in the silence of the quest, what Kenneth Burke termed the hunter’s "silence of purposiveness." [. . . .] Baraka, Coltrane’s