Once there was and once there was not a devout, God-fearing man who lived his entire life according to stoic principles. He died on his fortieth birthday and woke up floating in nothing. Now, mind you, floating in nothing was comforting, light-less, airless, like a mother’s womb. This man was grateful.But then he decided he would love to have sturdy ground beneath his feet, so he would feel more solid himself. Lo and behold, he was standing on earth. He knew it to be earth, for he knew the feel of it.Yet he wanted to see. I desire light, he thought and light appeared. I want sunlight, not any light and at night it shall be moonlight. His desires were granted. Let there be grass. I love the feel of grass beneath my feet. And so it was. I no longer wish to be naked. Only robes of the finest silk must touch my skin. And shelter, I need a grand palace whose entrance has double-sided stairs and the floors must be marble and the carpets Persian. And food, the finest of food. His breakfast was English; his midmorning snack French. His lunch was Chinese. His afternoon tea was Indian. His supper was Italian and his late-night snack was Lebanese. Libation? He had the best of wines, of course and champagne. And company, the finest of company. He demanded poets and writers, thinkers and philosophers, hakawatis and musicians, fools and clowns.And then he desired sex.He asked for light-skinned women and dark-skinned, blondes and brunettes, Chinese, South Asian, African, Scandinavian. He asked for them singly and two at a time and in the evenings he had orgies. He asked for younger girls, after which he asked for older women, just to try. The he tried men, muscular men, skinny men. Then boys. Then boys and girls together.Then he got bored. He tried sex with food. Boys with Chinese, girls with Indian. Redheads with ice cream. Then he tried sex with company. He fucked the poet. Everybody fucked the poet.But again he got bored. The days were endless. Coming up with new ideas became tiring and tiresome. Every desire he could ever think of was satisfied.He had had enough. He walked out of his house, looked up at the glorious sky and said, Dear God. I thank You for Your abundance, but I cannot stand it here anymore. I would rather be anywhere else. I would rather be in hell.And the booming voice from above replied, And where do you think you are?
Rabih Alameddine
Jazz presumes that it would be nice if the four of us--simpatico dudes that we are--while playing this complicated song together, might somehow be free and autonomous as well. Tragically, this never quite works out. At best, we can only be free one or two at a time--while the other dudes hold onto the wire. Which is not to say that no one has tried to dispense with wires. Many have and sometimes it works--but it doesn't feel like jazz when it does. The music simply drifts away into the stratosphere of formal dialectic, beyond our social concerns.Rock-and-roll, on the other hand, presumes that the four of us--as damaged and anti-social as we are--might possibly get it to-fucking-gether, man and play this simple song. And play it right, okay? Just this once, in tune and on the beat. But we can't. The song's too simple and we're too complicated and too excited. We try like hell, but the guitars distort, the intonation bends and the beat just moves, imperceptibly, against our formal expectations, whetehr we want it to or not. Just because we're breathing, man. Thus, in the process of trying to play this very simple song together, we create this hurricane of noise, this infinitely complicated, fractal filigree of delicate distinctions.And you can thank the wanking eighties, if you wish and digital sequencers, too, for proving to everyone that technologically perfect rock--like free jazz--sucks rockets. Because order sucks. I mean, look at the Stones. Keith Richards is always on top of the beat and Bill Wyman, until he quit, was always behind it, because Richards is leading the band and Charlie Watts is listening to him and Wyman is listening to Watts. So the beat is sliding on those tiny neural lapses, not so you can tell, of course, but so you can feel it in your stomach. And the intonation is wavering, too, with the pulse in the finger on the amplified string. This is the delicacy of rock-and-roll, the bodily rhetoric of tiny increments, necessary imperfections and contingent community. And it has its virtues, because jazz only works if we're trying to be free and are, in fact, together. Rock-and-roll works because we're all a bunch of flakes. That's something you can depend on and a good thing too, because in the twentieth century, that's all there is: jazz and rock-and-roll. The rest is term papers and advertising.
Dave Hickey