April 5, 2014
Jean-Honoré Fragonard painted an image called “The Swing” in 1767 that has a life-time effect on me. It’s a painting of a girl on a swing in some idealistic version of nature, with a man down below watching her from the ground up. I imagine myself as the ‘man’ with respect to seeing something extremely important to him, but only for seconds at a time. She’s unreachable, but the enjoyment of the distance of her crotch to his eyes, makes it more appealing for me. Fragonard was famous in his time for painting hedonistic imagery, and of course came to be a problem during the French Revolution due that his most of his patrons were either guillotined or compelled to go into exile. Life, for only a short time, was pleasing for M. Fragonard.
I often think of artists, both visually and musically, who brought such great joy to the world, yet, the world seemed to turn against them. Joe Meek produced and gave birth to a new sound that to be honest had mixed results, but nevertheless when he hit on the spot, it was pure bliss. London life in a sense helped kill him, due to the laws regarding homosexual practices at the time, which was put in place still in the 1960s. If Meek lived now, would he still be significant if he was making music in the early 21st century. Perhaps not, due to the inner-tension in his life and world at the time. Knowing that somehow makes his music and records more profound and even beautiful. “Have I The Right” by The Honeycombs is one of the greatest pieces of recorded music in my lifetime - and I don’t think one could remove the era or the incidents that was happening in Meek’s life at the time.
Lord Buckley also appears to me to be a genius for his period of time and place. He’s sort of the bridge between American black street culture and the Beats, with a side dish of jazz and the high cultural aspects of Shakespeare. He even had his own nightclub in Chicago called “Chez Buckley, supposedly funded by the gangster Al Capone. Nevertheless on the surface an entertainer, but he was much more than that. He had an understanding of language and other cultures, and in juxtaposition it becomes something different and even daring. When I hear his recordings, one marvel at his approach to a narrative by Shakespeare, but it also about how language can work, and it is also about the nature of the translation and its translator. I’m always struck by entertainers that can use language as a medium in itself. Frank Gorshin’s The Riddler in the TV show “Batman” was another example of using language almost as a weapon of sorts. The truth is words do hurt, but only by skilled participants.
When one looks at culture, say like Peter Greenaway, it is like a camera pulling back from a scene that has a great deal going on. I often think what it would be like if Greenaway filmed Fragonard’s painting, which I mentioned above, as sort of a narrative. Because what we have is a narrative in place, but we don’t have the full story yet. For instance the painting exposes a specific time, but what happened before the scene or what happens afterwards? Peter Grant, the brutal manager of Led Zeppelin, I think gave a narrative to the band’s history. That sense of framing, or putting his signature on the band made them important. I think the music itself is not as significant in itself, because it needed to be part of a bigger picture. Meek and Grant came from a time and place that helped define their artwork or what they presented to the world.
When I’m writing I feel all of this on my shoulders, and I just want to express myself in a rather difficult world.