Thursday, May 30, 2013

his long sleep in black wells of ink

(for my father)

particular performance
limbo of flowered time
purple and white wounded morning

long past the hour when all good ends pass into dusk
severed conduits of the fruit of life, blind passage
into cool, long nights, long since skipping required roads
this stack this smoke of knowledge kindled into gross
habitation stone solidity flesh and blurred sinew, a fact
of ravens, simple digression into horror's shame and brute surmise
where each stem thorns and blooms burst night-wild
and winsome into quilted garden rows bedecked with solace

you've long since ghosted past into perfected end
where shape means so much less than sorrow

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

To all medical personnel

Dragon to all medical personnel:

Yes, it's true, I am a difficult patient.

There are reasons for that, however. Let's begin with the truth that my medical situation is unusual, even exceptional, with a lot of very atypical factors involved, making me an exceptional patient. Therefore my treatment requires customized knowledge of my situation, rather than the answers you keep suggesting that work for ninety percent of patients, but not for me.

Yes, I'm a difficult patient. But that's because I never feel like you actually listen to what I tell you, so we spend all of our visits together with me reminding you why what you've just ordered has already been tried and didn't work. If I seem frustrated at my lack of progress, that's largely why.

Yes, I'm a difficult patient. That's because my father was a doctor and I've been around medicine my entire life. I'm a lot more informed than your average patient, I know how to go do my own medical research, I speak the jargon pretty well for a layman, and I know enough Greek and Latin to be able to translate the jargon back into English when I encounter an unfamiliar phrase. Also, I was trained in science, and I'm probably just as smart as you are, intellectually. So when you talk down to me, you're wasting time for both of us. If I get frustrated at my lack of progress, it's partly because you waste most of our visits together going over what I already know, rather than helping me figure out how to move forward.

So, here's a little bit of advice when dealing with an atypical, difficult patient, like me: Listen to your patient. He knows what is going on, and he can report his symptoms to you very clinically and accurately, if you let him. Fucking take the time necessary to educate yourself about your client's unusual constellation of problems, so that together you can figure out what to do next, instead of constantly going over the same ground. Your patient is under a tremendous burden of stress surrounding his situation, and if you're not actually going to be helpful you are in fact making things worse. And finally, don't blame the patient. He really has tried everything that's been suggested to him, and really, truly, most of it really did do more harm than good.

Your difficult patient does want to work with you to move forward. He has in fact explained all of this to you before, has in truth been asking for your help all along. You just haven't been listening.

Is it any wonder, therefore, that your patient appears to be acting like a difficult patient? Is it any wonder that he is frustrated and impatient and annoyed with you? If you will just kindly fucking catch up to him, all is forgiven, and can we please get on with it.

That is all.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

elegy for George (remix)

In 1984, I was the featured performing artist on the radio program Studio Live on WCBN-FM Ann Arbor. (Disclosure: I was a longtime volunteer programmer on CBN, and had a couple of regular shows. This was a special event, a live performance show that I was invited to be on.) I just found the cassette master recording of that broadcast, which also includes the tape music piece I made from part of that broadcast in the WCBN Production studio later.

It was during the live broadcast, when we were playing a tape piece of mine, that a phone call came in informing me of the death of my George Cacioppo: good friend, mentor in music composition, founding member of the ONCE Group of experimental music composers in Ann Arbor in the 1960s, and philosophical gadfly. I then made the rest of the live show into a memorial elegy for George.

The piece I made from that evening, "elegy for George," was later broadcast on WCBN, and also played as a tape piece at a memorial concert in George's memory, at the Unitarian church in Ann Arbor. William Albright, my advisor as a composition student, and one of the most important mentors in my life, organized the event, and when he heard I had a piece, he had it included. So my music was performed alongside the music of some of my heroes in modern, experimental, avant-garde music: Robert Ashley, Gordon Mumma, George's own music, and other members of the ONCE Group and Fluxus.

Last night I digitized the cassette without difficulty into my studio computer. Tonight I spent an hour cleaning up the digital version, then making a new piece of music out of it, a remix. Consider the musical category to be trance, drone, ambient, meditation. But the piece itself is a very emotional piece of music, and it can get under your skin.

This version is digitally edited and remixed. It is stretched to three time its original length, then heavily processed in Sony Vegas using heavy-duty reverbs and processors like Lexicon Pantheon and Waves Enigma. Essentially this is an extended, blurred remix. I can also hear maybe adding Tibetan bell sounds to this piece, in another version. Fodder for another ambient/meditation album, an idea I've been working on for a few months.

elegy for George (enigma blur remix)    

George Cacioppo

"Cassiopeia," by George Cacioppo
A marvelously sensual and beautiful piece of aleatoric music that I have performed a number of times.

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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Writing: Gathering Stems and Branches

There's a writing project I want to start in on. I spent the first part of the morning going through and marking entries in my handwritten journal going back around six years. Marking things I'd written out, but never turned into anything. Some of those pages can be the partial seed of what I want to write now. Formally, zuihitsu, a compilation of things written following the brush. "Twenty-Four Views of Mt. Fuji by Hokusai." Modular. Fragmentary. Linked by mood, topic, tone. Memory books. Pillow Books.

Went into my library to pull out and re-read, or at least skim, some touchstones for what I want to do. Saikaku. The Great Mirror of Male Love. Kenko. Essays In Idleness. Other more modern examples of the form, which after all is an infinitely malleable form. Basho. Oku no hosomichi.

Writing this project will be partially rewriting bits and pieces scattered here and there, bringing them together, making a larger work out of them. Maybe chapbook sized. I'm a good prose writer, although I don't have much ear for fiction. Creative nonfiction is also storytelling, though. I can invent and write if I allow myself to fiction as storytelling, and not wedded to that boring No-Style Style that dominates so much fiction nowadays, the so-called "plain" style.

In reading a literary biography of Roger Zelazny, which I acquired recently, I realize how much he influenced me as a writer of prose. As the book points out, spending a whole chapter on the topic, Zelazny's prose style was always poetic, laced with poetry, frequently requiring a bit of work to get into, but one it revealed itself, sublime. His short "experimental" novel Creatures of Light and Darkness is astounding. It should be taught alongside Wallace Stevens.

That's the only kind of prose fiction I can see myself actually writing: prose fiction that doesn't read like prose fiction. And his short stories, always poetic and sometimes heartbreakingly powerful. Poetic prose that is often oblique, rarely plain.

After reading through old journals this morning, I wrote some notes for what I want to do. Not an outline, never that, just the rule-set for this particular game. Once you write the melody, you improvise around it. Writing prose, for me, to be interesting at all has to be more like jazz, knowing sort of where I'm going but it's 32 bars ahead so take your time and explore the path meanwhile.

This writing project does fall in the category of being prompted, which I know is how I work best. I do well when someone asks me for a piece. Otherwise, I can be lazy, and never get around to it. I love having a deadline, and a goal, and a completion date. I actually work well under deadline pressure.

I also work well when I'm not trying to do anything. When I'm out on a roadtrip, for example, where on those long drives across the land, I do some of my best thinking, and write in my handwritten journal at night, and sometimes in the morning, about whatever I'm experiencing, or thinking about. That's how the elements of the longer haibun sequences of Basin and Range were written, compiled later at home. I scatter a lot of short bits off the back of the wagon, when I roam, and sometimes they add up later.

I'm still gathering. After weeks of thinking about it, at least there's a goal. Awareness of approaching deadlines is my goad. Meanwhile, just keep gathering these loose stems and branches, to build them, and fire them. Ashes and raku to emerge.

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