Monday, November 16, 2015

Currently Listening 11.16.15

Currently Listening......To Professor O'Farill

"Thought is more important than art. To revere art and have no understanding of the process that forces it into existence is finally not to even understand what art is."

Amiri Baraka       

I am currently listening to my music professor Arturo O'Farill.  He is a well known musician, but his job here as an educator at Brooklyn College is getting his students to not only hear but to listen, to interpret, to feel the music.  

"Afro Cuban Jazz Suite" is one of my favorite pieces that we have listened to this semester. It starts off with loud dissonant chords mixed with a saccharine sweet melody. The juxtaposition of these two elements creates a world connecting what seems to be disparate sounds. Listening to this song is like going on a road trip and instead of having a defined destination you keep turning on to different roads where each place is more beautiful than the last.  Let's give it up for Bird on those solo's.  What's that? You don't know who Charlie "Bird' Parker is? Well, allow me to introduce you to him.

Charlie Parker was a badass.

I remember reading my first short story by James Baldwin called Sonny's Blues and this story was my introduction to jazz music.  I lacked musical talent growing up so I was envious of  the talents of Coleman Hawkins on the sax (Body and Soul is breath taking by the way), madly jealous of Thelonious Monk's dramatics on the piano and the virtuoso piano playing of Art Tatum.  It may seem strange that literature gave birth to my love of music, but I believe that all art forms are related, so literature and music go hand in hand. Evidence of this relationship can be found in Fred Moten's  book In the Break which compares the existence of black people to the improvisational techniques applied in jazz music. Amiri Baraka (also known as Leroi Jones) published a book of poems entitled SOS: Poems 1961-2013 that incorporated the rhythms and melodies of jazz because he looked at his poetry as if they were scores of music (npr).  I read VIBE magazine religiously and every year they would do a countdown of the greatest songs of all time.  The list would span across different platforms and different genres  which allowed me to enter the realm of Bebop, Soul Music, Reggae and Classic R&B. In other words that magazine exposed me to songs I would have never listened to on my own. Charles Mingus taught me that you Got To Get Hit in Your Soul  by the rhythm,  Stevie Wonder showed me when it came to my mom that  I Was Made to Love Her,  to build my world all around her,  through Bob Marley I learned how to  Turn Your Lights Down Low  in order to set the mood, and finally Otis Redding showed me That's How Strong My Love Is.

"They came" is a favorite of mine, because I love rap music but this is a synthesis of a multitude of different genres ranging from rap to spoken word to jazz. It is the combination of both a music and a history lesson discussing the the interconnected and inextricable bond that exists at the point of contact between Europeans, enslaved Africans and the indigenous people (the Arawaks and the Tainos).  In other words it is absolute genius.

What I have learned from this class as an English major is that there are a plethora of similarities between music and literature.  Both are open to interpretation and when it comes to the reaction, the feeling, the envelopment that people experience when exposed to a musical selection (or a literary piece) something magical happens.  Something that can not be articulated through words, but through sounds, through concepts, through feeling the music, through feeling the musician, through feeling through each other.  This "feeling" is what links the individual to the diaspora.  Music is a spiritual experience even when it isn't connected to religion because it "is modernity's insurgent feel, it's inherited caress, its skin talk, tongue touch, breath speech, hand laugh. This is the feel that no individual can stand, and no state abide" (430, Moten and Harney The Undercommons).  Music is the sound of emotions, the sound of oppression, the sound of history, it is the personification of being physically touched (Or is the reaction we receive from music the act of touch itself? Music touches me physically. I know it, that's why certain songs give me goosebumps).

Where does this "touch" come from? How did this "feeling" emerge?  That is the importance of diaspora  which is referred to as "blood memory" by the great playwright August Wilson .  We reconnect to each other, through each other  inside the rhythm of music.  From being "thrown together touching each other we were denied all sentiment, denied all the things that were supposed to produce sentiment, family, nation, language, religion, place, home. Though forced to touch and be touched, to sense and be sensed in that space of no space, though refused sentiment, history and home, we feel (for) each other" (431, Moten and Harney The Undercommons).  Music is the amalgamation of our journey, our ancestors, our arrival in the "new" world and of our triumphs.  We have created beauty out of our struggles. I absolutely love this class, because it's clear that Professor O'Farill loves music and wants us to love it as well.  Thank you for teaching me not to hear but how to listen, how to feel thorough the music and how to let others feel me.  

My Vibes (Music That Moves Me)
Mingus is so influenced by gospel, when they started shouting I felt it.
Signifying is a major feature of black music throughout the diaspora.

Classic. This song connects contemporary struggles to the historical plight of slavery which is demonstrative of ramifications in modern times. #BobMarleyGivesMeLife 

The Queen Anita Baker.  The title of this is Body and Soul (sounds familiar hmm *cough* Coleman Hawkins *cough* scroll up *cough*) The jazz influences on R&B/Soul music are clearly evident from the instrumentation to her vocalizations.  And when she hits that final note #Amen.

This song needs no explanation because something in Otis Redding's voice speaks to my soul, to my entire being. From Try A Little Tenderness to Sittin' on The Dock of the Bay, I never grow tired of his music, of soul music.

Music is life because it reminds us that we are alive.

One Love,  

Lisa Del Sol

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