". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, March 2, 2009

Music In The Snow

The predicted snowstorm arrived at the predicted time, about a half hour before LLO was scheduled to take the stage at le P. R. We walked the four blocks to the club under our umbrellas. This is how it used to be when we were young here. We, and the audience, were able to walk to hear our music, experience art, and to perform it. We knew each other. We knew what each other were working on. We interacted daily, with the work and socially. We had breakfast together in the cheap coffee shops in our neighborhood, and danced together at night via the guest lists at the clubs. Work and social life were the same.

All gigs matter, of course. But some have historic significance. This was one of those. For one thing several historians of the scene out of which both P. and Vaquero emerged have been here for the last few weeks interviewing and doing research for their books on the era. It was one of those serendipitous convergences that get some people written into the history while some, equally or even more important and influential, are left out. It's hard to express just how aware I am of the effect this kind of convergence of fortune has on how history gets written, now that for the last 10 years I've been living with so many people writing histories of the world I grew up in, as well as from the experience I've accumulated myself, as to how this is accomplished.

This is a fully mature and experienced assessment of what's going on right now, not exaggerated sense of self-importance. I'm not important at all. What I am is a witness, an observer and a memory.

However you analyze these decades in music though, P., who was here from the beginning and had to leave NYC, is among the 'most important' and the most influential. Yes, Vaquero is also important and influential, because Vaquero kept NYC as his living address through all this period. Even separated, sometimes, by continents, P. and Vaquero continued to work together. They remained friends and colleagues as they'd been since college. Long before Kit and Peter were a couple, K. had been part of that too, creating video art with music artists ranging from Ryuichi Sakamoto to Max Roach, as well this circle of musicians, including Vaquero and of course, her husband, and already too, now, with their son.

I saw some people who I was close to back in the day, but we'd drifted apart due to all the changes in the city, real estate, the music industry and the arts and funding for individual artists, as opposed to only official institutions such as the Metropolitan Opera and associated Lincoln Center ventures, etc. Somehow we've managed to survive -- too many of us just barely. An individual who was instrumental in the birth of that brilliantly creative time in NYC, and then, rippling outwards, everywhere else, was present. (Hook up via MySpace, natch!). He said somewhat sadly to me, "I'm poor now. It hasn't made a difference in how live. I never lived rich. The real difference is that I had to ask to be on the guest list when I used to own the guest list."

P. had been gone from NYC for a decade, partly because he detoured his life as a composer and musician to raise a child, and to be caretaker to aging, ill, incapacitated parents. (Women do that all the time -- interrupt their careers for the sake of their family, of which he's most aware.) After his parents died, he returned -- to teach in a small, struggling hbc -- with those extraordinary networking skills that were instrumental in the birthing of that marvelous time when we were all very young, very struggling and had no idea of what would be ahead. Now we're mature. You can hear it in the music. It is recognizably still P.'s unique sound and orchestration that have been there from the beginning. But it has a lot more rhythm and percussion now, due to the Afro-latin musicians that Vaquero brought into P.'s life -- and even more significantly into his son's life, who fell in love with the same music that Vaquero loves, and takes lessons in playing every week from a Cuban trumpet player to whom he was introduced by Vaquero.

K.'s accompanying video has acquired depth, with overt reference to world history, past and present -- there was a sequence of revolving cubes of 'crushed history' with hieroglyphs, and other ancient references that she'd never have cared about, except her son is a history enthusiast, so they spend hours together with books of ancient art. She reads with him in these areas of his interest. She began to employ 'narrative' a few years ago as part of her professional glossary.

Most of all though, it was real in the way so little is now. The musicians were playing together, on in the same space as the audience, with actual instruments in a room full of warm, breathing bodies, experiencing the sounds through ears and skin, hearing and dancing. Some of us in that room went back together at least for 30 years. And some of the people in that room were half that age -- and at least one was no more than six.

It all feels amazing -- probably because is it my / our life / lives. Thus not amazing at all to anyone else. Nevertheless we had another in a life's sequence of nights of music and magic. I feel blessed.

It's daytime, time to resume the struggle now. Though with the snow still falling, and the fog swirling and all so quiet outside and in, the sense of wonder, the sense of magic manages to sustain. That's what art and nature do for us.

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