Regina Fringe Festival, Artesian Hall, 7/10, 5:15; 7/11, 7:30; 7/12, 9:15; 7/13, 12:00; 7/14, 2:45.
Winnipeg Fringe Festival, Duke of Kent Legion, Wed July 17-Sat July 27, 7-8 pm, except Sun July 21 & 28, 2-3 pm. Preview, Review1 & 2 & 3 & 4
Canuck Quixote gets 4.5 stars in Winnipeg – 2 from CBC Winnipeg and 2.5 from Winnipeg Free Press!
Edmonton Fringe Festival, Old Strathcona Performing Arts Centre, Fri, 8/16, 4:45; Sun, 8/18, 2:15; Mon, 8/19, 10; Wed, 8/21, 11:15; Thu, 8/22, 12:15; Sat, 8/24, 6:45.
Canuck Quixote gets 2 stars from Edmonton Journal, 4 stars from Edmonton Vue Weekly, and 4 stars from one of its readers! Review 1 & 2
From The ABC’s of CanGit I got the idea for a Canadian version of the musical, Man of La Mancha, called Canuck Quixote, in which I conjure quixotic musical portraits of Aboriginal and African people in songs by Lightfoot, Cohen, Mitchell, Cockburn, Young, Boyd, and Breau. You’ll meet the man of Orillia, Gordon Lightfoot’s, Don Quixote, Neil Young’s Pocahontas, Liona Boyd’s Hiawatha, Leonard Cohen’s Mohawk saint, Bruce Cockburn’s Guatemalan rocket launcher, Lenny Breau’s oreo queen, and Joni Mitchell’s boogie man.
Canuck Quixote relates Don Quixote’s Impossible Dream (from the musical Man of La Mancha) and Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream “to transform the jangling discords of [society] into a beautiful symphony” (from his I Have a Dream speech) to the musical visions of seven quixotic Canadian musicians, and it compares the leitmotifs these musicians employ to portray Aboriginal and African people.
Symphonic form derives from the unfolding of a major triad, the harmonic basis of Western tonal music. Leonard Cohen, in his song Hallelujah, describes “a secret chord…the minor fall, the major lift.” Singer Anjani Thomas refers to C major as “the chord of Cohen.” From Cole Porter’s song Everytime We Say Goodbye: “How strange the change from major to minor.” Do the leitmotifs of these seven quixotic Canadian musicians conform to the harmonic norm of the major triad, derived from the natural phenomenon of the overtone series? If not, do the leitmotifs incorporating the Aboriginal minor pentatonic scale and the West African blue notes require cultural assimilation by means of tonal modulation?
Janheinz Jahn: “The blue notes characteristic of the blues, which go back to the middle pitch of the West African tonal languages, and have a modality between sharp and flat, sound sad to European ears.” (Muntu, 223) Joachim-Ernst Berendt: “People from different nations and different times hear differently.” (The Third Ear: On Listening to the World, 65) Ornette Coleman defines his practice of harmolodics as “music intended to bring out the fundamental of the listener without modulation.” (Prime Time for Harmolodics. Down Beat, July 1983, pp. 54-55. Quoted in Gioia (1990), p.43.) Coleman said that what he was trying to do with his music was to conquer death. A. B. Spellman relates an example of Coleman’s unmodulated music. “[Don] Cherry recalls that during one set at the Malamo they were playing “The Song Is You,” and that while he was playing his solo, Ornette ‘whispered in my ear and told me about playing a flatted ninth from a flatted fifth and that put me a half step above the key I was playing in.” (Four Jazz Lives, 121) Compare with Heinrich Schenker’s notion of a sacrificial will of tones for the preservation of a harmonic system.
Synopsis: Western music is based on the dynamic of tension and resolution to the major chord, traditionally an aural symbol of the Christian Trinity and the tripartite psyche. Traditional aboriginal music and modern Afro-American jazz and blues music employ minor and diminished melodies. The quixotic quest involves modulating these melodies and assimilating the subjects portrayed with them to the harmonic norm of the major chord, derived from the natural phenomenon of the overtone series.
Traditionally, the west wind is considered the most favorable of the directional winds. Named Zephyrus in Greek mythology, the west wind brought light and warmth. From the General Prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: “Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth / Inspired hath in every holt and heeth / The tendre croppes…Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.” Gregory Hartley published an article titled A Wind from the West: The Role of the Holy Spirit in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. The main melody of Boyd’s Spirit of the West Wind, from her suite My Land of Hiawatha, is written with a minor pentatonic scale.
Sonny Greenwich’s Black Beauty is written in a minor scale and features what Branford Marsalis calls John Coltrane’s “blues lick” from A Love Supreme. Coltrane: “‘Perhaps my main fault at the moment is that I have a natural feeling for the minor,’ Coltrane apologized in 1965. ‘I’d like to do more things in the major.'” (Kahn?, 116) Coltrane in late 1966: “‘There is never any end. There are always new sounds to imagine, new feelings to get at. And always there is the need to keep purifying these feelings and sounds so that we can really see what we’ve discovered in its pure state. So that we can see more and more clearly what we are…we have to keep on cleaning the mirror.'” (Ratliff, 198)
Coltrane’s natural feeling for the minor can perhaps be contrasted with a supernatural, or spiritual, feeling for the major. Dane Rudhyar: “personal love, when it leads to biological union, turns out to be asocial and ultimately tragic, as for Tristan and Isolde, and the sin of Amfortas in the Parsifal legend. The tragedies of love and frustration also had to find their field of expression in music. They are associated with the minor mode in which the first third interval is flattened (C to E flat), evoking a descent of the energy of love to the physical level and a deep feeling of the futility or tragedy of the ascent of human nature.” (The Magic of Tone, Chapter 9) In the song Five O’Clock Bells Lenny Breau reharmonizes Westminster chimes with a flat five substitution. These musical symbols of aesthetics and metaphysics deviate from the harmonic norm of the major chord, extolled by music theorist Jean-Philippe Rameau: “That first burst of nature is so powerful, so brilliant, so virile – if I may call it thus – that it surpasses minor and shows itself to be the master of harmony.”
Values in 6 Guitars and Nashville Hurricane: Black and Blue ain’t Bad and White is not Right.
Is music politically correct? Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen doesn’t think so when concluding that “it is naturally better if one hears music that draws one up higher than one is by nature.” Neither does Viennese music theorist Victor Zuckerkandl when describing folk music as “a primitive model, a humble seed, showing no trace of the splendor of the organism when fully developed…only…in composed [classical] masterworks…does music reveal its true essence and full range” (Man the Musician, 14). Thus Yehudi Menuhin opines: “We will always return, if we survive, to the music of the great classical composers, to restore ourselves in body, mind, soul and heart.” (Compleat Violinist, 80) As Trump proudly asserted: “We write symphonies.”
Tricia Rose recognizes “a mainstream cultural adherence to the traditional paradigms of Western classical music as the highest legitimate standard for musical creation, a standard that at this point should seem, at best, only marginally relevant in the contemporary popular music realm (a space all but overrun by Afrodiasporic sounds and multicultural hybrids of them). Instead, and perhaps because of, the blackening of the popular taste, Western classical music continues to serve as the primary intellectual and legal standard and point of reference for ‘real’ musical complexity and composition.” (Black Noise, 65) This reference point is based on the hierarchical nature of tonal generation. Guitarist John McGlaughlin (2:44) implicitly acknowledges this standard when admitting: “Writing a piece [of rumba flamenco], you can do it in a couple of days, because – come on – we are not writing Beethoven’s Ninth or [Wagner’s] Parsifal, you know, we are writing small tunes.” Referring to Native Americans, philosopher Hegel states: “’Such peoples of weak culture lose themselves more and more in contact with peoples of higher culture and more intensive cultural training.’” (in The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, 66) Rose’s reference to “the blackening of popular taste” indicates that the opposite is the case in contemporary Western culture.
Drummer Elvin Jones contrasts symphonic and blues music: “‘I was always taught that I would be the percussionist in the New York Philharmonic or something like that. I started studying with that in mind and then I got interested in jazz…and [began] thinking in terms of putting that kind of knowledge and training into ahhh [laughs], the blues.'” (Kahn or Ratliff, 122) Jones’s deprecating laugh matches saxophonist Branford Marsalis’ devaluation of blues music when responding to his own question: “You know Whole Lotta Love or 7th Son? That’s the bass line in A Love Supreme – it’s just a blues lick.” Similarly, Sonny Terry sings, “you just a white boy lost in the blues“, and Steve Martin & Co. sing, “atheists just sing the blues.” Jon Michael Spencer cites Afro-American journalist Lucius C. Harper: “‘Our blue melodies have been made popular because they are different, humorous and silly. The sillier the better. They excite the primitive emotion in man and arouse his bestiality. He begins to hum, moan and jump usually when they are put into action. They stir up the emotions and fit in handily with bootleg liquor. They break the serious strain of life and inspire the “on with the dance” philosophy. They are popular because the American people, both white and black, relish nonsense.'” (Sacred Music of the Secular City, Introduction, 33)
Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis transvalues brother Branford’s devaluation when defending the blues as a token of black (and universal?) identity. “We were lost – and still are….To us, the blues….represented what we were trying to get away from: somebody moaning about his woman to hide the reality of white people’s foot stuck up his behind.
We used to say a tune was ‘just’ a blues. We didn’t understand that there was so much of value in the Afro-American tradition, so much to help us survive our contemporary struggles. We didn’t realize that…the blues could provide you with a sense of pride and of belonging.” (Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life, 56; see The Majesty of the Blues) Marsalis: “when you embrace the blues, no matter who you are, you’re embracing your own heritage as a human being.” (61) Marsalis: “It reminds me of people in search of their ancestry….America is a melting pot, but swing is our rhythm and the blues is our song. Know who you are.” (70) Marsalis states that in “the late seventies, early eighties….Malcolm X’s ghost was riding the wind, and Black Nationalism was the chosen philosophy of every young black person of consciousness.” (55) Marsalis: “in the sixties and seventies…Black Nationalism was the language of the young and hip.” (99)
Afro-American spiritual leader (of the Nation of Islam) Louis Farrakhan, who was the keynote speaker at the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., condemns blues music when presenting evidence to support his belief that white men are devils: “Whitey playing the blues now – hard guitar. Elvis, the King, Presley. And you’re all just getting sicker and sicker by the moment. Whitey got you in his grip.” Emily Raboteau cites Dr. Khazriel, head of the School of the Prophets of the African Hebrew Israelites, founded by Ben Ammi: “’Jesus wasn’t white. Neither was Adam. They were black men with wooly hair.’” (Searching for Zion; from Best African American Essays: 2009, 203) Raboteau cites one of Khazriel’s many wives, Sister Aturah: “’Everything we do promotes life and healing. What we put in our bodies, what we put into the earth, how we sing. We don’t sing the blues anymore.’” (205)
Farrakhan’s evidence also condemns rock and roll in the person of its supposed king – Elvis. Noel Ignatiev notes that Elvis “was anticipated by Sam Phillips’s remark, ‘If I can find a white man who sings like a Negro, I’ll make a million dollars.’” (Race Traitor, 21) Jerry Doucette represents rock music as adolescent or infantile when singing: “Mamma let that boy play some rock-n-roll, jazz is much too crazy, he can play it when he’s old; he’s too young for the blues, he’s still inside his first pair of shoes – he’s just a baby.”
Jim Goad mentions “the faux-nig blues of the Rolling Stones.” (Redneck, 28) The Stones’s song It’s Only Rock and Roll represents this genre as subordinate to others, whereas Spinal Tap extolls, albeit farcically, The Majesty of Rock, only to be usurped by Pantera’s Heavy Metal Rules, Judas Priest’s Metal Messiah, and Steel Panther’s Death to All but Metal. In the video of this last song a student disobeys his teacher when naming heavy metal as the most important music genre of the twentieth century. The importance of baring breasts is evident in this live version. Steel Panther as anti-Christ? Perhaps politically correct classical musicians should refer to ‘just a fugue’ or state that ‘it’s only a concerto’. Dimitri Ehrlich: “when I met Keith Richards and told him that his music had changed my life, he raised his plastic jug of beer and, cracking a leathery crocodile smile, said, ‘As long as it’s for the better, darling, as long as it’s for the better.’…yes, Keith, the music has probably changed us for the better – even if it’s only rock-and-roll.” (Inside the Music, xiv) Terry Eagleton: “spiritual and material development by no  means always march side by side. One has only to look at Keith Richards to recognize that. There are many kinds of material affluence which spell the death of the spirit.” (Why Marx was Right, 91-92)
Rock isn’t one of the six genres covered in Chase Padgett’s show 6 Guitars, but country is, and country singers seem less concerned with competing with other genres than with claiming divine approval as practitioners of an elect genre; for examples, Roy Acuff in I Wonder If God Likes Country Music, Maranatha Singers in the more assertive God Loves Country Music, Anita Carter in I Dreamed of a Hillbilly Heaven, and Jason Cassidy, who sings “even the good Lord loves a country song” in Honky Tonk Heaven. These last two songs reveal different values of a generation gap. When Cassidy was a kid he wanted to be a rock star, and his song is in the genre of country rock, which is reflected in the opening and closing honky tonk blues riff with a flatted fifth (Jimi Hendrix: “Rock is blues based.”), suggesting some honky tonk women in his honky tonk heaven. Linda Martin and Kerry Segrave: “Gary Brown, leader of the Maranatha tour group, stressed that ‘music is either from God or Satan – it’s never neutral.'” (Anti-Rock, 287)
The notion that the hits of heaven are country songs may be analogous to Ma Ferguson’s announcement in the early 1930s that so long as she was governor of Texas no state-supported school, from junior high up through the University of Texas at Austin, would be allowed to teach any foreign language whatsoever, and her reason for this she expressed in the following sentence: “If English was good enough for Jesus, then I suppose it should be good enough for us.” West Vancouver’s Doug Collins riffed on this thought: “the Boss told me right off, if English was good enough for Him, it should be good enough for everyone else. If everyone spoke English, He said, things would be much simpler and there’d be more money for defense….English-speakers in Quebec are the new white niggers of North America” (The Best and Worst of, 125, 183)
In defense of country, and Western classical, music, it is based on the diatonic scale, which can be claimed to have a natural basis as it provides a melodic framework for a harmonic cadence resolving to the major chord of nature. Thus, Frank Kofsky observes that “the peculiarly non-Western character of the [jazz] avant-garde would appear to reside in its presumably deliberate abandonment of the diatonic scale; for once the diatonic scale is given up, the entire harmonic foundation of European music – which can be deduced as a logical corollary from diatonicity – is headed for the historical scrap heap.” (Black Nationalism, 133) Jazz theorist George Russell: “The major scale probably emerged as the predominating scale of Western music, because within its seven tones lies the most fundamental harmonic progression of the classical era…the tonic major chord on C…the sub-dominant major chord on F…the dominant seventh chord on G – thus, the major scale resolves to its tonic major chord.” (Lydian Concept, iii, iv)
E. Michael Jones contrasts “sexually disturbed musical systems [that] are dependent on the twelve-tones of the chromatic scale” with “matrimony and the diatonic scale. Just as matrimony, which was raised to the status of a sacrament by Christianity, is the natural ordering of sexual desire so that it can flow productively into offspring, the care of offspring, and the continuation of society, so the diatonic scale is an ordering of sound that is both reasonable and dynamic….The diatonic scale with its irregularly spaced half-intervals has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is intrinsically dramatic, which means it strikes a balance between human emotion, which it does not crush, and human reason, which orders that emotion, and thereby creates a cathartic effect in the listener. In the diatonic scale, emotion[s] gets aroused and resolved, as is evident in virtually every piece of tonal music. This ever- increasingly sophisticated development of tension and resolution lies at the heart of Western music as its crowning achievement….Diatonic morality is….a ‘natural’ order and, so, incapable of being destroyed. Since the human will is free, we can ignore that order and create others that ignore it, but to that extent we will stop doing music. The price one pays for ignoring nature is the abolition of all order and, as both the music and the politics of the twentieth century have shown, self-annihilation as well.” (Dionysus Rising, 127-128) Jones notes that composer Peter Jona “Korn claims a correlation between higher rates of illness among orchestra musicians and the amount of twelve-tone music they play.” (155)
While recognizing a hierarchy among genres Frank Zappa argues for their coexistence: “If you can’t have it in every degree, from the cheesiest to the most exalted, because they all need to exist together; without Louie Louie a symphony is not quite so grand.” However, Afro-American saxophonist Ornette Coleman is convinced that “‘if you analyze the music itself, just from music for music, from notes for notes, it is a superior music as far as individual expression is concerned, jazz is.’” (Four Jazz Lives, 142-3) Sufi philosopher and musician Inayat Khan offers a contrary view when stating that “jazz music is destroying people’s delicacy of sense….If that sense is spoiled, instead of going forward one goes backward, and if music, which is the central theme of the whole human culture, is not helping people to go forward, it is a great pity.” Paul Garon cites the view of psychoanalyst Dr. A. Esman (1951), who suggests “how the bourgeoisie defends itself against jazz in much the same manner as the individual defends himself against anxiety: by ‘reinforced repressions and denial. Many intellectuals rationalized their defenses by regarding jazz as an “inferior” form of music, a “popular diversion”, unworthy of consideration by those whose interest lay in the realm of the fine arts’. To Esman, jazz represents ‘the id drives that the super-ego of the bourgeois culture sought to repress’.” (Blues and the Poetic Spirit, 59) This intellectual rationalization may explain Marsalis’ observation: “Until the civil rights movement you could actually get expelled from some schools, even Afro-American ones, just for playing jazz in a practice room.” (Higher Ground, 91)
David Ake: “while we can applaud the efforts of Wynton Marsalis, Stanley Crouch, and others toward reminding the nation of jazz’s distinguished black American urban legacy, we should also recognize…the neoclassicists’ other agenda – to elevate jazz’s place on the cultural ladder to a level of equality with that of European classical music.” (Jazz Matters, 101) Scott Deveaux: “The goals of the neoclassicists will have been admirably fulfilled if and when busts of Armstrong and Parker stand alongside busts of Beethoven and Bach in practice rooms and music studios across America.” (Constructing the Jazz Tradition; from The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, 504) This goal seems an accomplished fact for Cornell West, who believes that “the subversive virtuosity of Charlie Parker constitute[s one] of the fundamental pillars of American musical composition and improvisation.” (Black Music and Youth, Prophetic Reflections, 25)
The musical term scale derives from the Latin ‘scala,’ meaning ladder. Berliner describes “blues scales mixing harmonically ambiguous chord tones and altered tones. Such theoretical abstractions for melodic patterns, inherited from the earliest days of jazz, utilize the tonic, third, fifth, and sixth degrees of the major scale in variable combinations, as well as such blue notes as the flatted-third, flatted-seventh, and flatted-fifth degrees. ‘Listening to different cats’ taught Wynton Marsalis that the ‘blues is the key to playing jazz.’” (Thinking in Jazz, 162) Berliner: “Marsalis rehearsed the blues for an hour each day when he was in school: ‘Sometimes, I’d skip lunch and I’d just be playing up and down that blues scale in the stairwell every day.’” (164)
CBC Winnipeg’s Michelle Palansky disagrees with all of the above. In her review of Padgett’s show 6 Guitars she states: “Padgett concludes by gathering his six distinct strings (genres, characters) together to form a harmonious whole. It’s kind of corny but sweet too. His message is simple – no music is better than other music….Go see this show.” If the six strings represent “genres” and “characters,” and if “no music is better than other music,” therefore it follows that no musician is better than another musician. Thus Palansky implicitly endorses what Vern Poythress and Wayne Grudem term radical egalitarianism: “Radical egalitarianism says that all human beings are equal….such a view would hold that those who stand out and excel should somehow be pulled down and made to fit in with the crowd, lest someone feel inferior.” (The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy, 139) This view characterizes Bolshevik ideology, noted by Louis Fischer: “the Bolsheviks regarded all races as equal though different.” (from The God That Failed, 202)
Eagleton: “Everyone believes in hierarchies, even the most fervent of egalitarians. In fact, almost everyone believes in absolute, unchanging hierarchies.” (Why Marx Was Right, 109) Jordan Peterson@3:18: “One of the things that’s really appalling about our modern world is that we’re rejecting the notion of qualitative distinctions. You say, ‘We don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings by saying that one thing is better than another….if you deny the possibility of qualitative distinction because you want to promote a radical egalitarianism then you remove the possibility of redemption, because there’s no movement towards the good.. it’s a catastrophe to sacrifice the good for the equal, because for us to be equal would mean that we would all be equally unredeemed and miserable.”
Afro-American author, feminist, and activist bell hooks ought to connect to CBC for she complains: “All whites (as well as everyone else within white supremacist culture) have learned to over-value ‘whiteness’ even as they simultaneously learn to devalue blackness.” (Black Looks, 12) James Davison Hunter: “The mass media…define reality in a society – by selecting which events ‘deserve attention’ and are, therefore, ‘important,’ and which events are ignored and, therefore, unimportant, by depicting individuals and communities in particular ways; and by presenting what is acceptable and unacceptable.” (Culture Wars, 174)
In 1996 Doug Collins stated: “More than any other single media outlet the CBC is responsible for smashing traditional values in this country. It has also been feminized, especially in Vancouver.
It has led the attack on things of which Canadians used to be proud….Less than ten per cent of us watch the CBC even though we have to pay for it whether we watch it or not.” (CBC Not Tuned in to Canada, from Here We Go Again, 38) In 2012 Brian Lilley perceived a bias in the CBC: “To the CBC, conservative minded Canadians and the Conservative Party are the enemy. Sometimes this has played out in subtle ways such as what CBC chooses to cover and what to ignore.” (CBC Exposed, 149) However, Howard Schneider describes the CBC as “an institution considered central to Canada’s identity and a reflection of the nation’s cultural mainstream.” (For Many Immigrants, Canada’s Racial ‘Mosaic’ Pales at Top; from Racism: A Global Reader, 332)
Deena Weinstein describes conservative American views concerning rock and jazz music: “The reaction to rock and roll by cultural conservatives was to a large extent a replication of the conservative response to jazz after World War 1….Jazz and its descendent at several removes, rock and roll, were denounced for their sound, which caused a relaxation of sexual control and a descent to the sexual primitivism attributed to blacks.” (Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology, 245; see Pack of Lies, 15:10-16:50) This conservative response contrasts with the liberal idea described by Andrew Wright Hurley: “This idea that jazz is a way of creatively surmounting racism was – and, to an extent, remains – a common trope within  the liberal jazz literature tradition. It was pushed in the United States by Leonard Feather and others.” (The Return of Jazz, 67-68)
Frank Kofsky is of the opinion that “the transcendent concern of Feather and [Ira] Gitler…is to safeguard the position of whites – as musicians, critics, and business figures – in jazz. To this end, they have repeatedly argued that jazz has never been, is not now, and never will be black music.” (Coltrane, note 23, 134) Kofsky: “Nearly a decade later [in 1971], Feather could be found still dispensing the same tired nostrums and dogmas.” (127) Kofsky: “Feather…has consistently distinguished himself by his zeal to campaign against any and all forms of black nationalism….’In the last year or two, as Gene Lees reported in a down beat editorial Oct. 13, 1960, there has been an alarming upsurge of anti-white prejudice. Much of this feeling has found its outlet in the conversion of Negro musicians to Islam, symbolically a repudiation of the white man’s culture and religion….’” (120) “’It saddens me,’ said Leonard Feather, the dean of jazz critics, who has been documenting the music since 1933, ‘to observe what Wynton Marsalis is doing to destroy the image of jazz as a truly democratic music.’” (Gene Lees, Cats of Any Color, 246) Kevin Fellezs writes “of jazz’s ‘color blind’ universalism as announced by jazz critics such as Leonard Feather, Martin Williams, and Gene Lees.” (Emergency! Race and Genre in Tony Williams’s Lifetime, 2) Iain Anderson: “Down Beat employed white editors and columnists almost exclusively, and their continued credibility and prestige within jazz depended upon the success of integration.” (This is Our Music, 79) Stanley Crouch: “Martin Williams, the late, great jazz critic and himself a white Southerner, told me once that there used to be a group of white jazz musicians who would say, when there were only white guys around, ‘Louis Armstrong and those people had a nice little primitive thing going, but we really didn’t have what we now call jazz until Jack Teagarden, Bix, Trumbauer and their gang gave it some sophistication. Bix is the one who introduced introspection to jazz. Without him you would have no Lester Young and no Miles Davis.’” (The Negro Aesthetic of Jazz)
Kofsky recalls: “Bob Thiele, who produced John Coltrane’s recordings for Impulse Records between 1961 and 1967 and whose career in music spans several decades, told me [“in 1968”]: ‘Through the years, as I’ve listened to music and collected records, I think it’s a very simple deduction that the music is Negro music to begin with; and for these guys [critics] to write about the music as though it’s an American music, that everybody plays equally, and that we all love one another and we’re all brothers – to me, really, that’s a lot of horseshit.’” (Coltrane, 84)
In his 1949 book, Inside Bebop, Feather wrote: “The more you listen to bebop, the more you will be impressed with the change that has been effected in the whole character and sound of jazz improvisation by the acceptance of this flatted fifth as a ‘right’ note instead of a wrong one….the flatted fifth has become practically synonymous with bebop. Today, flatted fifths as a concluding chord are the rule rather than the exception.” (70) “Because of the non-conformist nature of bebop and its exponents, you rarely find an ending on the tonic chord; this has become such a fetish that one may well visualize a reaction and find that a few years from now bop musicians will be ending on a flat, unadorned tonic just because it sounds so different!” (54) Feather’s hypothetical visualization contradicts his consequent acknowledgement that “boppers abhor a straight tonic as passionately as nature abhors a vacuum.” (65) Rock producer Bob Ezrin states: “There’s something very sexual about the sound of the tritone [the interval of a flatted fifth and its fundamental].”
I don’t mean to critique Padgett’s shows as much as his reviewers, who have not uncovered the underlying values of these shows. 6 Guitars won the inaugural BCTC Touring Award at the Vancouver Fringe and showcased at Pacific Contact 2014. The values and/or biases of BCTC may be evident in the genre list from their Arts on Tour webpage, shown below, with blues on the top and classical on the bottom of the music genres. Padgett begins this show with Crossroad Blues and ends with all six guitarists, representing six different styles, singing Lennon’s Imagine, written in a major key with traditional Western cadential harmony. Musical terms such as flat, minor, and diminished imply that tonal structures are not equal. Hence the Mozart effect. When the 2013 Winnipeg Fringe Festival (which featured 6 Guitars) adopted the theme Embrace the F Word I don’t think they had fantasy in mind (feminism?).
If the moral of 6 Guitars is that black and blue ain’t bad, the moral of a show Padgett performed in Calgary to raise funds after moving into a low rent neighborhood in Florida and getting broken into twice on the same weekend may be that black ain’t always good. Comedian Chris Rock contextualizes: “there’s two sides, there’s black people and there’s niggas. The niggas have got to go. You can’t have shit when you around niggas, you can’t have shit. You can’t have no big screen TV! You can have it, but you better move it in at 3 in the morning. Paint it white, hope niggas think it’s a bassinet. Can’t have shit in your house! Why?! Because niggas will break into your house. Niggas that live next door to you break into your house, come over the next day and go, “I heard you got robbed.” Nigga, you know you robbed me. You didn’t see shit ’cause you was doing shit!” Jim Goad: “white bigots have for years  insisted that they don’t hate all blacks – just the ones who act like niggers.” (The Redneck Manifesto, 21-22)
I don’t think that Palansky’s comment is applicable to Padgett’s newest show, Nashville Hurricane, which has only two songs, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, in a minor key, and Amazing Grace, in a major key. In a blurb called The Black Devil Went Down to Georgia, Zimbabwean writer Charles Mudede states: “It has always bothered me that the devil in the famous tune by The Charlie Daniels Band plays funk and Johnny plays that old-timey, square dance fiddling. The devil is clearly black and Johnny is white.” However, in Nashville Hurricane the song The Devil Went Down to Georgia is associated with an evil white manager/father figure, who is replaced by a benevolent black bluesman/stepfather in a happy ending.
This subversive ending exemplifies the following syndrome described by Ron Wellburn: “A black fathers/white sons syndrome is developing. A Chess label album cover pictures a black God giving the life-touch, a la Michaelangelo, to a white neo-Greek hippie in shades.” (The Black Aesthetic Imperative, 140) The back cover hearkens to Roi Ottley’s recollection in 1943: “There was talk some years ago by Negroes, when Saint Benedict, the Moor Roman Catholic Church, was being redecorated, to have the pink cherubs pictured on the ceiling painted black! The church being led by a white priest, this business never came to pass.” (Glamour Boy; from Speech and Power, 355)
White rap scholar Michael Knight states that “Eminem granted young white men access to a mythic image of black masculinity, a version of the abstract surrogate black father that had been sought by both John Walker Lindh and myself.” (Why, 86-87) Paul Garon quotes “the psychoanalyst Richard Sterba (1947): ‘The male Negro as he appeared in dreams of white people…often had to be recognized as representative of the dreamer’s father, particularly the father at night or in his nocturnal activities’ (416).” (Blues and the Poetic Spirit, 54) Garon notes “that the blues’ affinity for the night is retained also in the most revolutionary currents in jazz – as evidenced in the bebop of the ‘40s, when two of the leading works were Night in Tunisia and ‘Round Midnight, as well as in the more recent innovations associated with John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and others.” (note 7, 110)
In 6 Guitars the black bluesman, who is the main character and begins the show with Crossroad Blues (a song commonly associated with selling one’s soul to the devil), could be regarded as the creative father of the metal head who sings devilish lyrics. Weinstein: “Heavy metal is a lineal descendent of the blues, using that style’s musical and lyrical conventions….[Blues singers] celebrated the aspects of the life-style of their group that made them pariahs to polite society, black and white: free-and-easy hedonism, vagrancy, and sexual appetite. They sang freely of ‘devilish’ things, inverting, just as heavy metal does, the value signs of religious symbols….“[Blues] music, its artists, and its audience were denounced as devil worshippers by the black churches….[Heavy metal] might be usefully thought of as white-boy blues, a music appealing to the ethos of the marginalized group of male, white, blue-collar youth.” (Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology, 260, 271, 272) Robert Walser: “Heavy metal…owes its biggest debt to African-American blues.” (Running With the Devil, 57) Franklin Rosemont: “the blues is absolutely incompatible with puritanism.” (Poetic Spirit, 10)
Kristin Hunter Lattany confirms the black roots of metal: “White adaptations of black music have succumbed to the great white death urge, going from bland rock to suicidal punk and homicidal heavy metal in less than twenty years.” (Off-Timing: Stepping to the Different Drummer, 164; from Lure and Loathing: Essays on Race, Identity, and the Ambivalence of Assimilation) In his 2005 documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, Canadian director Sam Dunn states: “Since Black Sabbath the sound of evil has become a defining element of heavy metal. But what makes metal sound evil?” Alex Webster of the metal band Cannibal Corpse answers. “The blues scale has the flat fifth, the tritone. That’s the devil’s note.” The bass line following the phrase, “a band of demons joined in and it sounded something like this,” at 1:34 of Daniels’ The Devil Went Down to Georgia, features the blues scale with a flatted fifth. This lends irony to the following statement of Michael Bane: “The ultimate reason for the success of southern rock is that it represents the most recent fusion of black and white, and it shows once again how powerful that fusion can be.” (White Boy Singin’ the Blues, 217)
David Ake: “Musicologist Olivia Mather shows in her study of country rock how media coverage of the battles between civil rights advocates and segregationists ‘tainted country music’s reputation for many years to come, specifically through the connection of several country artists to George Wallace’s campaigns, but also through a kind of guilt by association, where the music of white, working class Southerners was equated with racist and reactionary politics.’” (Jazz Matters, 83)
When not performing his shows at Fringe Festivals Padgett performs hip hop music as a busker. The moral and metaphysical basis of hip hop, the ideas that black is good and white is evil and that the black man is god and the white man is the devil, may have influenced Padgett’s shows. Morris Berman reminds us: “Value systems hold us (all of us, not merely ‘intellectuals’) together, and when these systems start to crumble, so do the individuals who live by them.” (The Reenchantment of the World, 22) Huey Newton, in the context of a discussion concerning race and religion, refers to “the value system that black is bad, black is evil.” (551) LeRoi Jones describes “an attempt to reverse the social roles within the society by redefining the canons of value….White is then not ‘right,’ as the old blues had put it, but a liability, since the culture of white precludes the possession of the Negro ‘soul.’ Even the adjective funky, which once meant to many Negroes merely a stink (usually associated with sex), was used to qualify the music as meaningful.” (Blues People, 219) Therefore, what philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche described as a transvaluation of values can be traced in Padgett’s shows. Jacques Maritain: “All our values depend on the nature of our God.” (Art and Scholasticism, 75)
E. Michael Jones: “By identifying with the Negro, the cultural revolutionaries simply accomplished the transvaluation of all values….Jazz, and eventually rock ‘n roll, persuaded millions of whites that they could throw off Christian or Jewish morality in the name of racial solidarity.” (Dionysus Rising, 83) Jones: “The trend of portraying the Negro as a paradigm of sexual liberation continues up to this day. The primary vehicle for this transaction is, of course, Negro music, be it jazz or rock ‘n’ roll.” (94)
Multiculturalism has been Canadian federal policy since 1971. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act asserts that all Canadians are entitled to “preserve, enhance, and share their cultural heritage.” Central to this notion is the rejection of other common approaches to ethnic and cultural policies. On the one hand, this tenet rejects earlier Canadian policies of assimilation, where the goal was to encourage minorities to discard their cultural heritage and adopt mainstream Canadian values and practices. There has been recent debate over the benefits of multiculturalism.
From a National Post article: Salim Mansur is a political scientist at the University of Western Ontario. He has been described, including in the pages of this newspaper, as Canada’s “angriest moderate.” And what makes him so angry is that nobody, he says, not the media elite, politicians or even the academics, is willing to have a frank and open dialogue about multiculturalism in this country. “Numerous languages spoken inside a country is only a problem, and a lethal problem, when the core identity of that country comes to be increasingly disputed — as is happening in Canada,” Professor Mansur, an Indo-Canadian Muslim originally from Calcutta wrote in an email. “A multicultural country, and officially so designated, has basically indicated it is a country without a core culture, or the core culture that once gave it cohesion, identity, framework, anchor, has been jettisoned to embrace a multiplicity of identities — and thereby the unintended consequence is that there is a void in the centre.”
Wikipedia: In the Western English-speaking countries, multiculturalism as an official national policy started in Canada in 1971, followed by Australia, where it has since been displaced by assimilation, in 1973. It was quickly adopted as official policy by most member-states of the European Union. Recently, right-of-center governments in several European states—notably the Netherlands and Denmark— have reversed the national policy and returned to an official monoculturalism. A similar reversal is the subject of debate in the United Kingdom, among others, due to evidence of incipient segregation and anxieties over “home-grown” terrorism. Several heads-of-state have expressed doubts about the success of multicultural policies: The United Kingdom‘s Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australia‘s ex-prime minister John Howard, Spanish ex-prime minister Jose Maria Aznar and French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy have voiced concerns about the effectiveness of their multicultural policies for integrating immigrants.
Ishmael Reed: “I can’t think of any music form that’s more sophisticated and elegant than bebop.” (6:19) “I think what Black Arts did was inspire a whole lot of Black people to write. Moreover, there would be no multiculturalism movement without Black Arts. Latinos, Asian Americans, and others all say they began writing as a result of the example of the 1960s. Blacks gave the example that you don’t have to assimilate. You could do your own thing, get into your own background, your own history, your own tradition and your own culture. I think the challenge is for cultural sovereignty and Black Arts struck a blow for that.” The success of this black blow is evident in Tricia Rose’s description of “the contemporary popular music realm” as “a space all but overrun by Afrodiasporic sounds and multicultural hybrids of them.” (Black Noise (1994), 65) Kamau Daa’ood: “A lot of shackles that bound people were broken away from them. They began to discover their bodies. The whole beginning of this multiculturalism began in that period in terms of even being aware of other cultures, dibbing and dallying in other thoughts, a lot of that took place in the early  sixties.” (It’s Not About a Salary, 103-04) Ingrid Monson: “Krin Gabbard has recently argued, ‘It is more difficult to find white performers who do not imitate black people than it is to find those that do. To see and hear a young white pop singer today is to witness a nuanced channeling of blackness, from the husky-voiced melismas of Christina Aguilera to the forcefully articulated rap performers such as Eminem.’” (Black Magic, 19; from Freedom Sounds, 105) Jerome Harris cites Stanley Crouch: “’When the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung came to this [American] country he observed that white people walked, talked and laughed like Negroes’ (Crouch 1996:171).” (Jazz on the Global Stage, in The African Diaspora, note 30, 128)
A revelatory syllogism is coming to me: If the flatted fifth is a tonal symbol of blackness (as is suggested in the words and music of Mitchell, Breau, Greenwich, Davis, and heavy metal and hip hop artists), and if some of these artists portray their musical vision of the deity with melodic flatted fifths (as in Sonny Greenwich’s Black Beauty) or a harmonic flat five substitution (as in Breau’s Five O’Clock Bells), therefore…(this third proposition came to me later) for these artists God must be a boogie man!
Act I: Quixotic Quest – Prologue; 1 Cervantes (Albeniz, Godbout); 2 Malaguena (Lecuona); 3 Don Quixote (Lightfoot); 4 Leigh & Darion Medley: Man of La Mancha, [The Guitar is a Lady (Sanz)], Dulcinea, What Does He Want of Me, The Impossible Dream, To Each His Dulcinea.
Act II: Modulating Dulcinea – 1 Boyd’s Hiawatha: Solitary Singer (Traditional, Wordsworth), Spirit of the West Wind (Boyd); 2 Cohen Medley: God is Alive, Magic is Afoot, How I Got My Song, Who By Fire, Hallelujah; 3 Young Medley: Pocahontas, Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World; 4 Cockburn Medley: If I Had a Rocket Launcher, World of Wonders, Lovers in a Dangerous Time, Wondering Where the Lions Are; 5 Mitchell Medley: Twisted, God Must Be a Boogie Man, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, Dreamland; 6 Breau’s Oreo Queen: Red River Voyageur (Godbout, Whittier), Five O’Clock Bells (Breau), Love Supremacist (Godbout).
Act III: A New Leaf – 1 Leigh & Darion Reprise; 2 O World, O Life, O Time (Tarrega, Shelley); Epilogue.
Act 1: Quixotic Quest
Like Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote, the hero of the musical, Man of La Mancha, is “filled with indignation at man’s inhumanity to man.” He sets out on a quest to right all wrongs, exemplified by his transfiguration of an abused maid, Aldonza (a name of Arabic origin), into a virtuous lady, Dulcinea. The Spanish guitar has traditionally been likened to a lady. Canuck Quixote conjures quixotic musical portraits of Aboriginal and African people by seven Canadian guitarists who perpetuate or modulate negative racial stereotypes in music.
Lightfoot’s Quixote – The subject of Gordon Lightfoot’s song, Don Quixote, has “searched the whole world over,” casting a caring eye on the poor and oppressed, including “youth in ghetto black.” From “a battered book” he proclaims a message of social justice.
Act Two: Modulating Dulcinea
Boyd’s Hiawatha – Liona Boyd’s composition, Spirit of the West Wind, is the third movement of a suite, My Land of Hiawatha, written as a tribute to Canada. The main melody uses a minor pentatonic scale (1, b3, 4, 5, b7), common to much Aboriginal music. My lyrics are adapted from lines of Longfellow’s epic poem, Song of Hiawatha, which identify the legendary Mohawk leader’s father, Mudjekeewis, with the west wind.
Cohen’s Mohawk Saint – Leonard Cohen’s dance-prayer, God is Alive, Magic is Afoot, was inspired by the ‘Lily of the Mohawks,’ Kateri Tekakwitha, canonized in 2012. Cohen sought to “rescue [her] from the Jesuits” and “love [her] in [his] own way.”
Young’s Pocahontas – The daughter of an Indian chief, Pocahontas converted to Christianity and entered into the first recorded interracial marriage in American history. Neil Young portrays her with a major pentatonic scale (1, 2, 3, 5, 6) until the final notes, when he evokes pain by singing her name over a minor third (2, 3, 4, 2).
Cockburn’s Rocket Launcher – Bruce Cockburn portrays persons of color with minor pentatonic melodies when they are in a dangerous relation to the developed world. Two examples are If I Had a Rocket Launcher, written in a Guatemalan refugee camp, and World of Wonders, where the singer encounters “a saxophone” that “sounds like danger” in a dark setting. Cockburn performed this song with a local Muslim musician in a documentary about Mali, Africa. The lions of Wondering Where the Lions Are “weren’t half as frightening as they were before,” and the dreamy and sunny setting matches the major pentatonic melody.
Mitchell’s Boogie Man – Joni Mitchell’s lyrics to her song, God Must Be a Boogie Man, are based on a passage from the autobiography of Afro-American bassist Charles Mingus, who compares his tripersonal discord (“God,” observer, and “devil”) to his notion of God as a “boogie [black] man.” Ironically, Mitchell sets these words over a major chord (1, 3, 5), traditionally associated with the harmony of the tripersonal deity (Father, Spirit, and Son) of Christianity. Afro-American jazz theorist George Russell lists Mingus as one of the “people who in various ways were leading an assault on the chord.” One of the ways Mingus assaults the chord of nature is to replace the major third with a minor third and the perfect fifth with a flatted fifth in several of his melodies, including Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.
In her lyrical setting of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat Mitchell compares jazz saxophonist Lester Young, a “black musician,” and his “white” wife walking “arm and arm” to her Afro-American partner/drummer and herself “embracing out in the lunatic New York night.” Mitchell’s friends identified her partner with the black pimp persona portrayed on the cover of her album, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter. She sets the phrase “black musician” over a blues riff (b5, 4, b3, 1) outlining a diminished chord (1, b3, b5); the flatted fifth was traditionally called diabolus in musica. The song ends with a vision of “black babies dancing” to “the music midnight makes.” In the song, Dreamland, “black babies” reappear “covered in baking flour” as she and her partner prepare “to lay down some place shady.” The dreamy and sunny setting matches the melody, written with a major scale.
Breau’s Oreo Queen – Lenny Breau once “stayed up into the early morning hours reading and rereading his favorite novel, Don Quixote, until his eyes were spinning in his head,” his brother Denny recalls. Breau portrays his quixotic vision in his signature song, Five O’Clock Bells, written in the presence of his girlfriend, an Afro/Indo-Canadian jazz singer. Breau sings the song title over a melody of the Westminster chimes outlining a major chord, and reharmonizes this melody on his guitar with a flat five substitution (replacing the root note of a chord with its flatted fifth). Strumming this chord in the rhythm of the Afro-Cuban clave, he creates a polyrhythm with the strict meter of the chimes. Love Supremacist resolves flatted fifths in Afro-American saxophonist John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Afro-Canadian guitarist Sonny Greenwich’s Black Beauty by modulating from minor to major tonality. Breau used this process in his arrangements of McCoy Tyner’s Ebony Queen and Vision.
Act Three: A New Leaf
The Reprise from Man of La Mancha ends with the faltering of the hero, whose quest seems unattainable. In the Finale of Canuck Quixote the death of the hero is followed by a harmonic modulation from minor to major tonality in the final song, O World, O Life, O Time, signalling the transfiguration of Aldonza into Dulcinea.
The recorded voice of Dulcinea in Canuck Quixote is provided by Sara Dafoe, relative of legendary Manitoba Free Press editor John Dafoe.
Excerpts from Canuck Quixote:
Good day all, I am Colin Godbout / Bidding you welcome to Canuck Quixote / And conjuring a cast from sundry songs – / Lightfoot’s Quixote, Boyd’s Hiawatha, / Young’s Pocahontas, Cohen’s Mohawk saint, / Cockburn’s Guatemalan rocket launcher, / Breau’s oreo queen, and Mitchell’s boogie man – / All linked by a frame tale from La Mancha.
Boyd Excerpt: “After a six year hold on her career, due to musician’s focal dystonia, Liona was forced to reinvent her technique and is very excited to be playing again. ‘When you play billions of the same notes, the neuroreceptors just make funny – they don’t let you quite do… So I had to reinvent my whole technique. And I really wanted to be a kind of role model, to especially middle aged people like myself, to say, ‘hey, you can do your impossible dream and don’t give up, and just change, you know, if life throws you a curve ball and suddenly you can’t do what you thought you wanted to do, change. And I think it’s the best thing that ever happened to me now. I’m just thrilled. I think I should have been a singer-songwriter all along.’”
Cohen Excerpt: “One day in the early sixties, I was visiting my mother’s house in Montreal. Her house was beside a park and in the park was a tennis court where many people come to watch the beautiful young tennis players enjoy their sport. I wandered back to this park which I’d known since my childhood, and there was a young man playing a guitar. He was playing a flamenco guitar, and he was surrounded by two or three girls and boys who were listening to him. I loved the way he played. There was something about the way he played that captured me. It was the way that I wanted to play and knew that I would never be able to play. And, I sat there with the other listeners for a few moments and when there was a silence, an appropriate silence, I asked him if he would give me guitar lessons. He was a young man from Spain.
He said “Let me show you some chords.” And he took the guitar, and he produced a sound from that guitar I had never heard. And he played a sequence of chords with a tremolo, and he said, “Now you do it.” I said, “It’s out of the question. I can’t possibly do it.” He said, “Let me put your fingers on the frets,” and he put my fingers on the frets. And he said, “Now, now play.” It was a mess. He said, ” I’ll come back tomorrow.”
The next day, he didn’t come. He didn’t come. I had the number of his, of his boarding house in Montreal. I phoned to find out why he had missed the appointment, and they told me that he had taken his life. That he committed suicide. I knew nothing about the man. I did not know what part of Spain he came from. I did not know why he came to Montreal. I did not know why he played there. I did not know why he appeared there at that tennis court. I did not know why he took his life. I was deeply saddened, of course. But now I disclose something that I’ve never spoken in public. It was those six chords, it was that guitar pattern that has been the basis of all my songs and all my music.”
Breau Excerpt: The Red River Voyageur, by John Whittier, 1892
Out and in the river is winding
the links of its long, red chain,
Through belts of dusky pine-land and gusty miles of plain.
Now and then a smoke-wreath with a drifting cloud conjoins,
Smoke from hunting-lodges of the wild Assiniboines.
Drearily blows the north-wind
from the land of ice and snow;
Weary eyes behold the heavy hands that row.
With one foot on the water and one upon the shore,
The Angel of Shadow is warning that day will be no more.
Does the clang of wild-geese or a tribal yell
Lend to the north-wind notes of a distant bell?
The voyageur gladly listens to the sound that grows apace;
The familiar vesper ringing from the bells of St. Boniface.
Bells of the Christian Mission call from towers twain,
To the boatman on the river and the hunter on the plain.
As in our mortal journey the bitter north-winds blow,
So on life’s Red River our hearts, as oarsmen, row.
When the Angel of Shadow stands on wave and shore,
And eyes grow dim with watching and hearts faint at the oar,
Blessed are those who sense the sign of their release
In the bells of the Holy City, the chimes of endless peace!
O Lord our God be thou our guide
That by thy help no foot may slide.
Five O’Clock Bells, Lenny Breau, 1966
Westminster chimes are square as the 4/4 time conductors wave in the air – as the L7 hand sign. Be-boppers make the sign of the flatted fifth by folding the thumb of a high five into the palm, and my jazz hipster chimes reharmonize Westminster chimes with a flat five substitution.
Can’t sleep, it’s too late now, ’cause I hear five o’clock bells in the morning. How I love to hear five o’clock bells in the morning.
“I hear that and it inspires me. It makes me feel close to God. Like I don’t have to go to church and kneel down and say, ‘praise the Lord,’ because this is my way of praising.
This is a gift from God.”
You have to love music to the point
Where it means everything to you;
Like when John Coltrane blew tenor sax
On the bandstand ‘til his lips would bleed;
Then he’d go backstage and practice more
As drops of blood came running down his horn.
I hear angry waves when Coltrane strains
To reach the upper register of being,
Like Sonny searching for a scale supreme;
Blue notes bellow from Trane’s anti-jazz,
As Pollock‘s palette drained chromatic cans.
“I was hanging out with guys who were doing it and at first I did it for inspiration. I got the inspiration at first, but in the end it turned against me. It was a drag, it was a necessity, so after a while it worked against me. If you use it every day and you make a pig of yourself then it ain’t inspiring anymore. Then it’s nothing but a habit. It robs your soul. It’s like a seductress. It takes more and more and more and more, and after a while you’re spending so much money doing it that you really can’t enjoy yourself, and it takes all your money to do it, and you get to the gig and you don’t even enjoy it because you’re not getting off because you’re not getting enough. I used to spend a hundred dollars a day just to feel good.”
Is there no greater love than what I feel
When I free melodic inhibitions
And attain chromatic penetration
To envision racial integration;
Mix Tyner’s ebon queen with the Madonna;
Orfeo Negro with Corcovado;
Castro’s clave with Westminster quarters?
“Don’t worry about getting high and playing, because that ain’t going to help you. It’s just a big mess. That’s getting down to the philosophy of music. What I’ve been talking about, that’s how I feel about life, and music, and philosophy, and God. I feel I was put on this earth to play this guitar and I’m going to go down playing it. I don’t care if I become a millionaire or not, but I’ll probably die with this mother in my hands. You know what I’m saying? That’s the way it has to be because I love it so much.”
You may be a jazz cat scatting on a stage
Drugs in your pocket birds in a cage
You may be a preacher full of spiritual pride
Or a politician taking bribes on the side
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
You may play the devil’s interval or a major chord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
‘Every white’s a devil’ preaches Farrakhan
Every black’s chattel to the Ku Klux Klan
I see black and white in every mortal soul
So hate’s never right and love’s my only goal
I’m a love supremacist and I have a dream
Of an earthly paradise cultured by a stream
Flowing from the sacrifice of a love supreme
My guitar case is closed as I intend, not to dishonor the legacy of the records inside, but to fulfill it, for the ultimate Canuck Quixote in my sequence of seven, Lenny Breau, habitually kept a book in his case called The Mysticism of Sound, in which the author states: “I composed songs where I touched the music of the spheres. Then every soul became for me a musical note. Now I tune souls instead of instruments, and harmonize people instead of notes.” May the impossible dream be realized as our lives attune to the cosmic harmony, manifest in a cadence.
The ABC’s of CanGit
Who is the ultimate Canadian guitar hero – Adams, Anderson-Mitchell, Boyd, Breau, Cockburn, or Cohen? Find out as Godbout relates them to the four types of Atwood’s victim and of Frye’s hero. Godbout views Adam’s summer, Anderson-Mitchell’s clouds, Boyd’s west wind, Breau’s bells, Cockburn’s rocket, and Cohen’s bird through the lens of Atwoodian and Frygian literary theory. Find out how the four species of Margaret Atwood’s victim and the four mythoi of Northrop Frye’s hero relate to these Canadian guitarists.
“‘The motive for metaphor, shrinking from / The weight of primary noon, / The A B C of being, / The ruddy temper, the hammer / Of red and blue, the hard sound — / Steel against intimation — the sharp flash, / The vital, arrogant, fatal, dominant X.’ What [Wallace] Stevens calls the weight of primary noon, the A B C of being, and the dominant X is the objective world, the world set over against us. Outside literature, the main motive for writing is to describe this world. But literature itself uses language in a way which associates our minds with it.” (Northrop Frye, The Educated Imagination)
The ABC’s of CanGIt seeks to uncover the identity of the ultimate Canadian guitar hero. Ultimate means the final stage in a process or journey. Adams, Anderson-Mitchell, Boyd, Breau, and Cockburn may be heroic guitarists in a way, yet Cohen’s dance with divine Love seems the ultimate stage in the heroic journey. Perhaps the notion of heroism accomodates that of victimhood if the hero must pass through a stage of victimization, involving the dissolution of the ego-centric self, to attain true heroism. The last species of Atwood’s victims is the creative non-victim. The final stage of Frye’s meta-narrative is the rebirth of the hero.
In Frye’s literary system there are four mythoi corresponding to the four seasons. Therefore, Adams’ summer is but one stage in the hero’s journey; the hero must die in winter and be reborn in a second spring. The meta-narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and apocalypse hinges on the death and rebirth of the hero, as music hinges on the cadence from discord to concord. The ultimate guitar hero employs the cadence as a sign of the death of the separate self and attunement to the One.
Adams’ keynote is his imaginary lover in a rock and roll fantasy; he portrays her in major keys. Mitchell’s keynote is her artistic heroes, victims of an unjust Deity or of a conventional and hypocritical society; Mitchell’s setting of St. Paul’s hymn to love points in the direction of Cohen’s divine Lover. In Goodbye Pork Pie Hat she calls Lester Young “a bright star” yet portrays him with the flatted fifth; she represents Van Gogh with blues and Beethoven with parallel fifths. Boyd’s keynote is creative inspiration, expressed in Shadows of the Wind, dedicated to Breau, and in the aboriginal Spirit of the West Wind and Spirit of the Canadian Northlands. Boyd portrays Breau with major tonality, whereas the chorus to Randy Bachman’s tribute song is, “It’s always good news when Lenny plays the blues down at Breau’s place;” however, Breau identified himself with the flatted fifth, his demeaning leitmotif for colored people. Breau’s keynote is his vision of a jazz messiah, John Coltrane, and his Ebony Queen, perceived as a victim of white men, as was Quixote’s Dulcinea, perhaps; he brightens his minor key Vision and Ebony Queen with major tonality. Cockburn’s keynote are innocent non-white victims of the developed world; he portrays his Christ-like heroic victims with pentatonic scales. Cohen’s keynote is divine Love. God is Alive, Magic is Afoot is a dance-prayer from Cohen’s novel Beautiful Losers inspired by the recently canonized Kateri Tekakwitha and first set to music by Buffy Ste. Marie.
I’m beginning to see the outlines of a Canadian religion, perhaps a variation of Harold Bloom’s American Religion. Bloom writes: “A religion of the self is not likely to be a religion of peace, since the American self tends to define itself through its war against otherness.” As I understand them, Christian Gnostics regard God the Father as evil and Jesus the Son as good – almost a Promethean figure. Northrop Frye epitomizes this Gnostic stance; his former student Harold Bloom took it even further when stating of Yawheh: “He’s bad news, he has always been bad news.”
Membership in the Order of Canada is awarded to persons of merit who exemplify the order’s Latin motto, desiderantes meliorem patriam, meaning “they desire a better country,” a phrase taken from Hebrews 11:16 of the Bible. Members of the Order are, in theory, pilgrims on this earth. Margaret Atwood, Northrop Frye, Bryan Adams, Joni Mitchell, Liona Boyd, Bruce Cockburn, and Leonard Cohen were recipients of this award, as was Sonny Greenwich, whom Lenny Breau admired. Greenwich’s song Black Beauty is included in my Breauian medley. I think that this motto should be the theme of this performance. Hebrews 11 is called the Hall of Faith for it lists the heroes of faith. “They were foreigners and strangers on earth….They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Heb. 11:13, 16)
In the following chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews Jesus is represented as the archetypal hero of faith. “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” (12:1-2) My notion of guitar as cross; the vision of Jesus contrasts with Breau’s vision of an ebony queen. “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!” (Heb. 12:7-10)
In the iron law of history that welds order and sacrifice: Order leads to guilt (for who can keep the commandments!) Guilt needs redemption (For who would not be cleansed!) Redemption needs redeemer (Which is to say, a victim!) Order through guilt to victimage” Kenneth Burke, The Rhetoric of Religion (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970), pp. 4-5.
I combine the abstract structures of Frye’s Anatomy with the particular principles from his collection of essays on Canadian literature, Bush Garden. From Bush Garden: “every good lyrical poet has a certain structure of imagery as typical of him as his handwriting, held together by certain recurring metaphors, and sooner or later he will produce one or more poems that seem to be at the core of that structure. These poems are in the formal sense his mythical poems, and they are for the critic the imaginative keys to his work. The poet himself often recognizes such a poem by making it the title poem of a collection. They are not necessarily his best poems, but they often are, and in a Canadian poet they display those distinctive themes we have been looking for which reveal his reaction to his natural and social environment. Nobody but a genuine poet ever produces such a poem, and they cannot be faked or imitated or voluntarily constructed…Such poems enrich not only our poetic experience but our cultural knowledge as well.” (Bush Garden, 179) The same could be said for the songs of a Canadian musician.
How do these Canadian guitarists represent persons, places, or things with harmonic modes in verses and choruses to express their relation to their natural and social environment? How does this relate to their status as pilgrims? There may be a fundamental contradiction between the motto of the Order of Canada, designating recipients as pilgrims, and the Gnostic tendencies of several of the recipients, including Mitchell and Frye. Gnostics see themselves as victims of the parental deity, whereas the motto of the Order of Canada describes the heroes of faith. The Gnostic phase of victimhood may be analogous to humanity under the law of the Old Covenant, whereas the phase of heroism may be analogous to humanity under the grace of the New Covenant. Hebrews 12:18-24 describes this contrast. 24:18: “For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest.” 24:22, 24: “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels…And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”
Although Cohen comes closest to my notion of a Canadian guitar hero perhaps what I’m after is one who amalgamates all six guitarists. Adams, Mitchell, Breau, and Cockburn seem to be representatives of Atwood’s second position of the victim: “To acknowledge the fact that you are a victim (but attribute it to a powerful force beyond human control, i.e. fate, history, God…” Cohen transcends this Gnostic position and represents the fourth position: “To be a creative non-victim. A position for ‘ex-victims’ when creativity of all kinds is fully possible.” Cohen means priest in Hebrew, and “the Letter to the Hebrews presents the theme of the priesthood of Christ.”
Cockburn seeks to transcend what Frye called the garrison mentality. Danger is a key word in Cockburn’s songbook. The lions of Wondering Where the Lions Are “weren’t half as frightening as they were before.” The strangely autonomous saxophone in World of Wonders “sounds like danger.” He sings of “lovers in a dangerous time.” Cockburn is a child at heart, and so are his non-white heroes, whereas developed world oppressors are cruel adults. In “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” he sings, “How many kids they’ve murdered only God can say.” Since God is not stepping in Cockburn wants a rocket launcher. Cockburn’s vision is like that of Breau; Breau’s Christ is Coltrane with blood dripping from his lips and saxophone.
What is the ultimate object of love, or the ulitmate expression of love? Adams’ guitar expresses his sexual love for his fans. Mitchell’s guitar praises artists whose wills are in a discordant relation to the deity. She confesses in Both Sides Now, “It’s love’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know love at all,” and in Amelia, “I’ve never really loved.” Boyd’s guitar expresses admiration for Breau and dedication to an aboriginal spirit of Canadian nature. Breau’s guitar expresses his love for colored people and their music; his demeaning leitmotif for this love is the tritone. Cockburn’s guitar expresses love for non-white peasants and violence towards businessmen of the developed world. Cohen’s guitar expresses a desire to dance with divine Love, and he invites his audience to participate in this divine dance.
The meta-hero turns out to be none other than Jesus. Harold Bloom states: “Here in the United States, it seems to me that every professed Christian has her or his own Jesus.” The same could be said for my six ABC’s. Adams’ persona as a sacrificial sex god is a rock and roll variation on the theme of Jesus’ sacrifice. Anderson-Mitchell’s heroes are portrayed as tragic Christ-figures. Boyd’s hero is Breau, whom she calls a genius; she dedicated a song to him. Breau portrays himself as a sacrificial Christ-figure – a jazz version of Adams’ rock and roll religion. Adams’ goddess is concrete, his female fans, represented by a major chord. Breau’s goddess is an abstract ebony queen, represented by a polychord and polyrythms. Cockburn’s heroes are revolutionaries; the link to Jesus is suggested in his comment, “Every time I sing [Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life] I visualize the crucifixion scene at the end of the movie where Brian and all these other revolutionary types are up on crosses and dying in the sun…It made sense from the point of view of people who think that here’s this guy that only did this heavy, political stuff, and was only gonna get up and sing about people’s pain.” The hero of Buffy St. Marie’s musical setting of God is Alive, Magic is Afoot, adapted from Cohen’s novel, Beautiful Losers, is Jesus; substitute Jesus for magic and the lyric makes sense. In Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism “the ultimate…of the human [category] is Christ (or any other being that embodies the oneness of humanity in its spiritual culmination).” Which of these guitarists most closely conforms to Atwood’s creative non-victim, Frye’s hero, and the pilgrim of the Letter of the Hebrews?
The ABC’s of CanGit may be the culmination of a trilogy: The Last Gig of Lenny Breau, The Greatest Guitarist in the World, The ABC’s of CanGit. Perhaps the alphabet is analogous to the tonal system. There are twenty six letters in the English alphabet (24 in the Greek and 22 in the Hebrew) and twenty four major and minor keys in the harmonic cycle of fifths (the basis of Frye’s cycle of mythoi). George Herbert: “We say amiss. This or that is: Thy word is all, if we could spell.” The Flower
Adams’ Fall from Cloud 69 – Summer of ’69, Cloud Number Nine, Heaven, Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman, Everything I Do
Both Sides of Anderson-Mitchell – Going to California, Woodstock, Paved Paradise, Amelia, Black Crow; Twisted, God Must Be a Boogie Man, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, Turbulent Indigo, Sire of Sorrow, Judgement of the Moon and Stars, Shadows and Light, Both Sides Now
Boyd’s West Wind – Solitary Singer, The Girl with the Flaxen Hair, Spirit of the West Wind, Spirit of the Canadian Northlands, Shadows of the Wind, Canada my Canada
Breau’s Long Tune – On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine, Cattle Call, The First Jig, Little Brown Jug, If You’re a Viper, I’m Metis, The Bells of St. Boniface, Five O’Clock Bells, Love Supremacist
Cockburn’s Love for the Developing World and War with the Developed – If I Had a Rocket Launcher, Lovers in a Dangerous Time, World of Wonders, Wondering Where the Lions Are
Cohen’s Divine Dance – Bird on a Wire, Suzanne, The Guests, Aint No Cure, Hallelujah, If It Be Your Will, Love Itself, Dance Me to the End of Love, Who by Fire, Here It Is, God is Alive
Adams’ endless summer on cloud nine, with a tinge of guilt (“it may be wrong but baby it sure feels right”). Sex seems a religion in Adams’s musical world. “Please forgive me, I know not what I do” seems a secular variation of Jesus’ prayer, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” “You can’t tell me it’s not worth dyin’ for…Take me as I am, take my life I would give it all, I would sacrifice…There’s no love, like your love.” “Love is all that I need
And I found it there in your heart. It isn’t too hard to see we’re in heaven.” In that old time religion of sex, drugs, and rock and roll Adams plays the Christ figure to his lover and / or fans; it’s a repetition of the fall of Adam / Adams.
Both sides of Anderson-Mitchell – pastoral innocent and artist as tragic Christ-figure (Ludwig’s Tune: “If you’re tired of the silent night Jesus, well then you yell it;” Van Gogh: “No mercy sweet Jesus! No mercy from turbulent indigo”). The chorus of Woodstock, “we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden,” is unfulfilled in the present. The chorus of Circle Game is tragic: “We can’t return we can only look behind from where we came.” As in Breau’s vision, the mature Mitchell portrays artists as crucified victims awaiting rebirth, resurrection. Job’s Sad Song: “Do you have eyes? Can you see like mankind sees? Why have you soured and curdled me? Oh you tireless watcher! What have I done to you? That you make everything I dread and everything I fear come true?”
“Most of my heroes weren’t too cool. You couldn’t call Van Gogh cool; his painting was cool, but he was always roaring around alarming people. Beethoven was probably one of the most alarming of my heroes.” Beethoven was called the black Moor and the black Spaniard as his hair was black. As a young clergyman Van Gogh walked through the coal-mining village of Borinage, in Belgium. Soot covered the village—its houses and peasants, its gardens and donkeys. Soot covered the future, made it “mysterious and serious.” Van Gogh decided to make painting his work, to venture like the miners into the “bowels of the earth…to extract that mineral substance of which we know is great utility.”
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat is about jazz saxophonist Lester Young, who is portrayed as a sort of Christ figure with the death and resurrection of his music: “A bright star in a dark age when the bandstands had a thousand ways of refusing a black man admission. Black musician in those days they put him in an underdog position – cellars and chittlins’.”
The lyric ends with the singer climbing “up from the subway on the music midnight makes to Charlie’s bass and Lester’s saxophone in taxi horns and brakes. Now Charlie’s down in Mexico with the healers so the sidewalk leads us with music to two little dancers dancing outside a black bar. There’s a sign up on the awning. It says “Pork Pie Hat Bar,” and there’s black babies dancing tonight!” The midnight resurrection seems a parody of Jesus’ sunrise resurrection. “I had the past and the present, and the two boys represented the future, the next generation.”
My view of a divided Mitchell is supported by the last verse of Twisted, which Mitchell covered on her 1974 album Court and Spark: “My analyst told me that I was right out of my head, but I said, ‘Dear doctor, I think that it’s you instead, because I have got a thing that’s unique and new. To prove it I’ll have the last laugh on you, ’cause instead of one head I got two, and you know two heads are better than one.'” Is it the voice of her analyst that we hear in the final verse of her 1975 song Shadows and Light? “Critics of all expression, judges in black and white, saying it’s wrong, saying it’s right. Compelled by prescribed standards or some ideals we fight for wrong, wrong and right. Threatened by all things, man of cruelty -mark of Cain. Drawn to all things, man of delight – born again.” In Woodstock in 1969: “We are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” On a heijira in 1976: “I’m like a black crow flying in a blue blue sky.” As Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter in 1976: “The eagle and the serpent are at war in me: the serpent fighting for blind desire, the eagle for clarity.” Love in 1982: “Where as a child I saw it face to face now I only know it in part: fractions in me of faith and hope and love.”
Both Breau and Mitchell seem to identify black musicians with the flatted fifth, the so-called devil’s interval. Breau identified himself with both the flat fifth and black musicians, whereas Mitchell seems to view the subjects of her portraits of black musicians with a curious and ironic detachment. They are not her heroes, as are Van Gogh and Van Beethoven. Mitchell: “I wasn’t a huge fan of Mingus.” Mitchell calls Mingus a mischievous devil, whereas Breau sees Coltrane as a saint. Mitchell dressed as a black man on the cover of Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter. Her publishing company is Crazy Crow Music.
The phrases “swinging music man (:40; :55)” and “black musician (1:05; 1:18),” from the first verse of Mitchell’s lyrical setting of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat1 & 2, are sung over a diminished melody (a flatted fifth and a minor third). This strikes me as a form of negative racial stereotypying in music. Another example is Mitchell’s Furry Sings the Blues, which infuriated the subject, Furry Lewis. “Mitchell‘s song, “Furry Sings the Blues”, (on her Hejira album) is about Lewis and the Memphis music she experienced in the early 1970s. Lewis despised the Mitchell song and demanded she pay him royalties.” He told Rolling Stone in February 1977: “She shouldn’t have used my name in no way, shape, form or faction without consultin’ me ’bout it first. The woman came over here and I treated her right, just like I does everybody that comes over. She wanted to hear ’bout the old days, said it was for her own personal self, and I told it to her like it was, gave her straight oil from the can.”
Old Furry sings the blues, propped up in his bed with his dentures and his leg removed…You bring him smoke and drink and he’ll play for you. lt’s mostly muttering now and sideshow spiel…He points a bony finger at you and [says,] “I don’t like you.” Everybody laughs as if it’s the old man’s standard joke, but it’s true. We’re only welcome for our drink and smoke…Why should I expect that old guy to give it to me true, fallen to hard luck and time and other thieves? While our limo is shining on his shanty street old Furry sings the blues.
Mitchell has a video called Painting with Words and Music. She describes Lester Young in terms of light, yet portrays him with musical motifs of darkness. This recalls another musical painter, Breau, who lightened his portraits, Ebony Queen and Visions, with major tonality. “There’s a certain direction I’m going in; one of my goals…wouldn’t be classified as just jazz guitar. When I’m alone and all the conditions are right, I try to be like an Impressionist. Instead of just playing, it’s almost like I’m painting tonal colors.”
Boyd’s romantic heroine and pastoral plucking.
Breau’s tragic quest to redeem his ebony queen.
Cockburn’s ironic victims. I sense a weird relation between Breau and Cockburn. Both seem to want to identify with black people, perhaps a consequence of white liberal guilt, as self-hating whites. The lions in Wondering Where the Lions Are (lions are predatory animals), like the saxophone in World of Wonders, are dangerous but desirable. The latter lyric seems perverse, with its phallic sax and its rainbow and the bed of black hills. The sax ties in to Breau’s vision of Coltrane with bleeding lips.
Marc A. Weiner, Urwaldmusk and the Borders of German Identity: Jazz in Literature of the Weimar Republic (German Quarterly, v. 64 n. 4 [Autumn] 19) “For Adorno the saxophone, as the quintessential jazz instrument, is sexually ambivalent, expressing through its own hybrid nature as a metal instrument played like a woodwind an ill-defined, bisexual (‘zwischengeschlechtlicher’) eroticism. Such notions as these attend the appearance of the saxophone in Der Steppenwolf whenever Haller admits his homoerotic attraction to Pablo and to the androgynous Hermine.” (484)
Stand on a bridge before the cavern of night
Darkness alive with possibility
Nose to this wind full of twinkling lights
Trying to catch the scent of what’s coming to be (in this…)
World of wonders…
Somewhere a saxophone slides through changes
Like a wet pipe dripping down my neck
Gives me a chill — sounds like danger
But I can’t stop moving till I cross this sector (of this…)
World of wonders…
There’s a rainbow shining in a bead of spittle
Falling diamonds in rattling rain
Light flexed on moving muscle
I stand here dazzled with my heart in flames (at this…)
World of wonders…
Moment of peace like brief arctic bloom
Red/gold ripple of the sun going down
Line of black hills makes my bed
Sky full of love pulled over my head
World of wonders…
“White guilt is quite literally the same thing as Black power.” Shelby Steele, a black political writer George F. Will, an American political columnist: “[White guilt is] a form of self-congratulation, where whites initiate “compassionate policies” toward people of color, to showcase their innocence to racism.”
This musical journey is beginning to reveal the outline of an annual cycle, from the summer romance on Adams’ cloud nine, to both sides of Anderson-Mitchell: the summer of innocence and the autumn of experience. Boyd’s autumnal west wind modulates to the ironic quests of Breau and Cockburn. Cohen brings the meta-narrative full circle to a spring of sorts with his atonement with divine Love.
Boyd’s composition My Land of Hiawatha is a tribute to Canada.
Joni Mitchell’s Circle Game derives from the title of a book of poems by Margaret Atwood, a former student of Northrop Frye at the U of T. Frye introduced her to the poetry of William Blake. Atwood was called small fry because her book of literary criticism, Survival, was seen as a minor version of Frye’s monumental Anatomy of Criticism. Mitchell’s Both Sides Now seems a variation on Blake’s states of Innocence and Experience.
In the decade or so before he died, Frye had the satisfaction of seeing CanLit grow from a field occupied by aesthetically minded amateurs to one filled with professional writers, most notably his former student Atwood.
Two of the most prominent theories on Canadianness are those of Northrop Frye and Margaret Atwood. Both tried to define the Canadian identity based on specific Canadian phenomena. In Frye it is the ‘garrison mentality,’ in Atwood it is ‘survival.’ In his book The Bush Garden. Essays on Canadian Imagination Frye says:
- 6 Northrop FRYE,op. cit., 227-228.
Small and isolated communities surrounded with a physical or psychological ‘frontier’, separated from one another and from their American and British cultural sources: communities that provide all that their members have in the way of distinctively human values, and that are compelled to feel a great respect for the law and order that holds them together, yet confronted with a huge, unthinking, menacing, and formidable physical setting―such communities are bound to develop what we may provisionally call a garrison mentality. In the earliest maps of the country the only inhabited centres are forts, and that remains true of the cultural maps for a much later time. […] A garrison is a closely knit and beleaguered society, and its moral and social values are unquestionable.
- To Atwood, the central image of Canadian literature, equivalent to the image of the island in British literature and the frontier in US-American literature, is the notion of survival and its central character the victim. Atwood claims that both English and French novels, short stories, plays and poems participate in creating this theme as the central distinguishing feature of the nation’s literature. See also garrison mentality.
The central image of the victim is not static; according to Atwood four “Victim Positions” are possible (and visible in Canadian literature). These positions are outlined below. Position One: To deny the fact that you are a victim. This is a position in which members of the “victim-group” will deny their identity as victims, accusing those members of the group who are less fortunate of being responsible for their own victimhood. Position Two: To acknowledge the fact that you are a victim (but attribute it to a powerful force beyond human control, i.e. fate, history, God, biology, etc.) In this position, victims are likely to resign themselves to their fate. Position Three: To acknowledge the fact that you are a victim but to refuse to accept the assumption that the role is inevitable. This is a dynamic position in which the victim differentiates between the role of victim and the experience of victim. Position Four: To be a creative non-victim A position for “ex-victims” when creativity of all kinds is fully possible. 1, 2, 3, 4 analogous to Frye’s ironic, tragic, comic, and romantic modes.
Fictions may be classified by the hero’s power of action, which may be greater than ours, less, or roughly the same. Thus:
1. If superior in kind both to other men and to the environment of other men, the hero is a divine being, and the story about him will be a myth in the common sense of a story about a god. Such stories have an important place in literature, but are as a rule found outside the normal literary categories.
2. If superior in degree to other men and to his environment, the hero is the typical hero of romance, whose actions are marvellous but who is himself identified as a human being. The hero of romance moves in a world in which the ordinary laws of nature are slightly suspended: prodigies of courage and endurance, unnatural to us, are natural to him, and enchanted weapons, talking animals, terrifying ogres and witches, and talismans of miraculous power violate no rule of probability once the postulates of romance have been established. Here we have moved from myth, properly so called, into legend, folk tale, marchen, and their literary affiliates and derivatives.
3. If superior in degree to other men but not to his natural environment, the hero is a leader. He has authority, passions, and powers of expression far greater than ours, but what he does is subject both to social criticism and to the order of nature. This is the hero of the high mimetic mode, of most epic and tragedy.
4. If superior neither to other men nor to his environment, the hero is one of us: we respond to a sense of his common humanity, and demand from the poet the same canons of probability that we find in our own experience. This gives us the hero of the low mimetic mode, of most comedy and of realistic fiction. “High” and “low” have no connotations of comparative value, but are purely diagrammatic, as they are when they refer to Biblical critics or Anglicans. On this level the difficulty in retaining the word “hero,” which has a more limited meaning among the preceding modes, occasionally strikes an author. Thackeray thus feels obliged to call Vanity Fair a novel without a hero.
5. If inferior in power or intelligence to ourselves, so that we have the sense of looking down on a scene of bondage, frustration, or absurdity, the hero belongs to the ironic mode. This is still true when the reader feels that he is or might be in the same situation, as the situation is being judged by the norms of a greater freedom.
Looking over this table, we can see that European fiction, during the last fifteen centuries, has steadily moved its center of gravity down the list. In the pre-medieval period literature is closely attached to Christian, late Classical, Celtic, or Teutonic myths. If Christianity had not been both an imported myth and a devourer of rival ones, this phase of Western literature would be easier to isolate. In the form in which we possess it, most of it has already moved into the category of romance. Romance divides into two main forms: a secular form dealing with chivalry and knight-errantry, and a religious form devoted to legends of saints. Both lean heavily on miraculous violations of natural law for their interest as stories. Fictions of romance dominate literature until the cult of the prince and the courtier in the Renaissance brings the high mimetic mode into the foreground. The characteristics of this mode are most clearly seen in the genres of drama, particularly tragedy, and national epic. Then a new kind of middle-class culture introduces the low mimetic, which predominates in English literature from Defoe’s time to the end of the nineteenth century. In French literature it begins and ends about fifty years earlier. During the last hundred years, most serious fiction has tended increasingly to be ironic in mode.”
“The third essay is the culmination of Frye’s theory in that it unites the elements of characterization and each of the five symbolic phases presented in the first two essays into an organic whole. This whole is organized around a metaphor of human desire and frustration as manifested in the Great Chain of Being (divine, human, animal, vegetable, mineral) by analogy to the four seasons.
At one pole we have apocalyptic imagery which typifies the revelation of heaven and ultimate fulfillment of human desire. In this state, the literary structure points toward unification of all things in a single anagogical symbol. The ultimate of the divine is the deity, of the human is Christ (or any other being that embodies the oneness of humanity in its spiritual culmination), of the animal is the lamb, of the vegetable is the Tree of Life or vine, and of the mineral is the heavenly Jerusalem or city of God.
At the opposite pole lies demonic imagery which typifies the unfulfillment, perversion, or opposition of human desire. In this state, things tend toward anarchy or tyranny. The divine is an angry, inscrutable God demanding sacrifice, the human is the tyrannical anti-christ, the animal is a predator such as a lion, the vegetable is the evil wood as found at the beginning of Dante’s Inferno or Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown“, and the city is the dystopia embodied by Orwell‘s 1984 or Kafka‘s The Castle.
Finally we have the analogical imagery, or more simply, depictions of states that are similar to paradise or hell, but not identical. There is a great deal of variety in the imagery of these structures, but tame animals and wise rulers are common in structures analogical to the apocalyptic (analogy of innocence), while predatory aristocrats and masses living in squalor characterize analogy to the demonic (analogy of experience).
Frye then identifies the mythical mode with the apocalyptic, the ironic with the demonic, and the romantic and low mimetic with their respective analogies. The high mimetic, then, occupies the center of all four. This ordering allows Frye to place the modes in a circular structure and point to the cyclical nature of myth and archetypes. In this setting, literature represents the natural cycle of birth, growth, maturity, decline, death, resurrection, rebirth, and the repetition of the cycle. The remainder of the chapter deals with the cycle of the four seasons as embodied by four mythoi: comedy, romance, tragedy, and irony or satire.”
I conclude that the heroic journey involves participation with all four mythoi, as life passes through all four seasons. The heroic journey is not elitist, but is a way for every person.
The Judgement of the Moon and Stars
“People thought he was really radical and crazy and you couldn’t do parallel fifths – it just wasn’t music. Plus he was kind of an immalleable person and kind of coarse by the standards of the courts in those days. Though he had an eye for all the women in the courts they really didn’t have much of an eye for him. So there was another frustration in his life, coupled with the idea that he couldn’t even hear some of his final music.” Mitchell, BBC, 1972 Parallel fifths and counterpoint; Beethoven and God; Mitchell and God in Sire of Sorrow. Beethoven’s physical ailments and Mitchell’s.
Justification of replacing Mitchell with Anderson, or of Anderson-Mitchell. I see two Jonis, analogous to the two perspectives of Both Sides Now. Many Mitchell lyrics are concerned with the perspective of a child. Mitchell wanted to keep her maiden name but her first hubby wouldn’t let her. Circle Game was inspired by Neil Young’s Sugar Mountain.
As a child i spoke as a child–I thought and i understood as a child–But when i became a woman–I put away childish things And began to see through a glass darkly Where, as a child, i saw it face to face Now, i only know it in part Fractions in me Of faith and hope and love
If I Had a Rocket Launcher
“Visited two of the Guatemalan refugee camps in southern Mexico. The refugees were the survivors of terrible atrocities perpetrated by a vicious military government in their homeland. In the fragile shelter of the camps, they were starved, denied medical care, and were still subjected to attacks by the Guatemalan army. The notes for this song were written over tears and a bottle of Bell’s in a tiny hotel room in San Cristobal de las Casas, the nearest town to these camps.”
— from “Rumours of Glory 1980-1990” (songbook), edited by Arthur McGregor, OFC Publications, Ottawa, 1990.
Lovers in a Dangerous Time
- “I was thinking of kids in a schoolyard. I was thinking of my daughter. Sitting there wanting to hold hands with some little boy and looking at a future, looking at the world around them. How different that was when I was a kid when, even though we had air-raid drills, nobody took that seriously that the world would end. You could have hope when I was a kid. And now I think that’s very difficult. I think a lot of that is evident from the actions and the ethos of a lot of kids. It was kind of an attempt to offer a hopeful message to them. You still have to live and you have to give it your best shot.”– from “Closer to the Light with Bruce Cockburn” by Paul Zollo, SongTalk, vol.4, issue 2, 1994. Submitted by Rob Caldwell. What is the meaning behind “got to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight”? Bruce Cockburn: What I meant was that we can’t settle for things as they are…just throw up our hands, there’s another song called The Trouble With Normal that says things in a different way — if you don’t tackle the problems they’re gonna get worse.- from Canoe Online Chat with Bruce Cockburn, 15 January 2002.
Wondering Where the Lions Are
“I have a relative who is involved in one of those kinds of government jobs where they can’t say what they do. The part you can say involves monitoring other people’s radio transmissions and breaking codes. At that time China and the Soviet Union were almost at war on their mutual border. And both of them had nuclear capabilities. I had dinner with this relative of mine and he said, “We could wake up tomorrow to a nuclear war.” Coming from him, it was a serious statement. So I woke up the next morning and it wasn’t a nuclear war. [Laughs] It was a real nice day and there was all this good stuff going on and I had a dream that night which is the dream that is referred to in the first verse of the song, where there were lions at the door, but they weren’t threatening, it was kind of a peaceful thing. And it reflected a previous dream that was a real nightmare where the lions were threatening.”
— from “Closer to the Light with Bruce Cockburn” by Paul Zollo, SongTalk, vol. 4, issue 2, 1994.
Known comments by Bruce Cockburn about this song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, by date: Editor’s Note: Original song from the Monty Python film “Life of Brian”. 1990: “It seemed like a good time to do a silly song. I love that song, and I love the movie it comes from, ‘The Life Of Brian’, and actually all the Monty Python movies have great songs in them, and I don’t know, maybe this is the start of something. I might have to learn some other one for the next tour, I don’t know. It was so much fun doing that, being able to pull that song out and people would whistle along with the whistling parts as you can hear on the record actually. It was great. I wish I could write a song like that. I guess if I’d written a song like that I wouldn’t have probably got around to doing the Monty Python one but, in the meantime that one was there and it was great fun. I mean every time I sing it I visualize the scene in the movie in which it occours, which is the crucifixion scene at the end of the movie where Brian and all these other revolutionary types are up on crosses and dying in the sun, and one of the other characters comes up, ‘Man, you know what they say’ and then he goes into the song ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’.” – From: Bruce Cockburn Live Plus Radio Interview & Segments CD, 1990. Submitted by: Mark Barnes. Spring 1990: “I’ve always liked that song and their [the Monty Python team’s] stuff in general, and it just seemed like a good thing to do. It was fun and it made sense from the point of view of some people who think that here’s this guy that only did this heavy, political stuff, and was only gonna get up and sing about people’s pain.” – From: “Bruce Cockburn: 20 Years of Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws” by Mark T. Davis in the Spring 1990 issue of Dirty Linen (#28).
The Genesis of The ABC’s of CanGit
I was literally out to lunch when I came up with the idea for this performance theme. A Winnipeg college professor was driving me out to a lunch spot on the fourth day of the 2012 Winnipeg Fringe Festival while sharing his enthusiasm for my show, The Greatest Guitarist in the World, and how he felt it represented a new genre mixing music, history, comedy, and philosophy. He then suggested that I try a similar approach with folk singers, such as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. I told him that those singers didn’t resonate with me, and suggested a title, The Great Canadian Guitarists. Over the next few days this title modulated to The ABC’s of Canadian Guitarists and then to the present title.
It is the penultimate day of the Winnipeg Fringe and I awoke with the idea of combining the literary theory of Northrop Frye with this ABC’s of CanGit. In other webpages on my site I have already analysed the music of Eric Clapton and Lenny Breau in the context of Frygian theory. I am thinking of Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism, where he bases his literary cycle of narrative modes – comedy, romance, tragedy, irony – on the musical cycle of fifths and his literary scale of imagery – mythic, romantic, high mimetic, low mimetic, demonic – on the musical scale of seven notes. I regard Frye’s generic categories of comedy, romance, tragedy, and irony as analogous to the harmonic key types of major, augmented (three notes a major third apart), minor, and diminished (four notes a minor third apart; blues and flamenco forms such as soleares would fit here), respectively. The idealized world of romance is the literary norm for Frye, as the major chord is the harmonic norm.
Canadian Guitarists Trivia
Joni Anderson: “I married Chuck Mitchell. I wanted to keep my maiden name — I had a bit of a following as Joni Anderson — but he wouldn’t let me.” Before she was Joni Mitchell she was Joni Anderson of Saskatoon, the fair young maid of Canadian folk music.
Lenny Breau played jazz guitar behind Leonard Cohen’s poetry recitations during Cohen’s tour in the early 1960’s. Cohen introduced Breau to LSD at this time, perhaps. Cohen: “I worked with a great jazz guitarist from Winnipeg by the name of Lenny Breau. So, I was doing that in those years, I guess it was ’57, ’58.” “He was a mess; he was a mess.”
Mitchell called Cohen her favorite poet. “I think I’m rather Cohen influenced. I wrote “Marcie” and afterwards thought that it wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for “Suzanne.” My lyrics are influenced by Leonard. After we met at Newport last year (1967) we saw a lot of each other. Some of Leonard’s religious imagery, which comes from being a Jew in a predominantly Catholic part of Canada, seems to have rubbed off on me too. Leonard didn’t really explore music. He’s a word man first. Leonard’s economical, he never wastes a word. I can go through Leonard’s work and it’s like silk.” I agree; Cohen’s melodies and chord progressions are not nearly as interesting as are his lyrics.
When he was living with Joni Mitchell in the late ’60’s Leonard Cohen was asked, “How do you like living with Beethoven?”
Mitchell: I like to be dumb and ordinary because that’s where fun takes place. Leonard doesn’t have a lot of fun; he’s been studying all his life to try. I still like to and I have blessed friends who are capable of it. It’s the spirit of child-play that Picasso was trying to get back. I admire him for his effort, but he said all children are genius painters and he spent his whole life trying to undo the precocious education his father gave him.”
Glenn Gould: “Beethoven was very like Napoleon, really; he is that great hero-general who commanded all the Mannheim leitmotifs and held it all together.”
Liona Boyd on Lenny Breau: “He was really an inspiration to me. It was just a week after I heard that Lenny had died that I wrote that piece, Shadows of the Wind, and every time I play it I always think of Lenny. I wish he were still here with us.” “He knew the guitar so well. He had a great knowledge of the harmonies and he could play classical and jazz and many different styles – a real genius.”
Breau admired the modal music of Canadian jazz guitarist Sonny Greenwhich. Michael Bloomfield listed Sonny Greenwich as one of his favorite jazz guitarists in the August 1971 issue of Guitar Player magazine stating, “There’s a guy named Sonny Greenwich, from Canada; he’s a phenomenon. They talk about John McLaughlin, but dig this Sonny cat; he’s the Coltrane of guitar players.” A reviewer refers to “Greenwich’s vision of a guitar-based version of the John Coltrane Quartet.”
Eric Clapton was reputably asked, “How does it feel to be the greatest guitarist in the world?” and he replied, “I don’t know. Ask Bruce Cockburn.”
Here’s another variation: “When Stevie Ray Vaughn died, Eddie Van Halen got this question from a Rolling Stone interviewer. Interviewer: “How does it feel to be the greatest guitarist in the world?” Eddie Van Halen: “I don’t know, why don’t you ask Bruce Cockburn.”
Lenny Breau played jazz guitar behind Leonard Cohen’s poetry recitations during Cohen’s tour in the early 1960’s. Cohen introduced Breau to LSD at this time, perhaps. Cohen: “I worked with a great jazz guitarist from Winnipeg by the name of Lenny Breau. So, I was doing that in those years, I guess it was ’57, ’58.” “He was a mess; he was a mess.” Cohen was moved to comment about Breau: “His flamenco playing is stunning. You don’t know that it’s not a Spaniard. In fact it is a Spaniard. It’s all Spaniards playing that flamenco guitar.” Cohen’s first guitar teacher was a Montreal flamenco guitarist who commited suicide in one of the city’s parks.