Strings to Reeds

I actually have things to do, but I wanna squeeze this entry in. I want to write it down while it’s fresh. I was reading Trouillot’s Silencing the Past and I went back to his preface. He says something along the lines of if he was naive he’d say his intellectual heritage was the cross of spaces between his father and his uncle’s takes on performances of history. Something like that. And I realized I too sometimes think “If I were so naive as to think…” and then go ahead and think it anyway.

In the middle of that thought, I remembered¬†(I was listening to Morphine) this day when I was in the park watching a symphony. I remember saying to my mom “I hope they don’t have a brass session because brass spoils everything.” In the language I was speaking, “brass session” is called “metal.” So I said “I hope they don’t have metal,” and my mom understood “I hope they don’t play heavy metal songs.” She was confused. But that’s just the anecdote. Her confused face was funny and said a lot of things that I could write about, But I want to write about the feeling I had that brass would spoil the feeling symphonies were supposed to make me feel.

When I was that age–probably 13 or 14, anything that didn’t sound like strings or drums was a mood killer. There is something about the way all strings in an orchestra blend together to form a solid body that seems to correspond with my general feeling of adolescence: the idea of wanting to be something and that thing being everything that you are. It’s beyond the age of cliches. It’s the idea of being without a doubt in one direction.

I think–naively or not…screw you, smarty pants Trouillot… that the reason adolescence calls for that is because we’re finding out places in the dinner table, metaphorically and literally. Imagine little Trouillot trying to interject in those discussions between his dad and his uncle. He’d have to lounge head first, solid-bodied, unison, string session into an opinion. Any thing out of tune would have to be out of tune within the solid wall of sound. Any dissonance would be accidental and hopefully it would collapse into the unity of the string session.

Same for me. Of course. When crazy gun uncle was monologuing at the top of his lungs at the dinner table, my reaction had to be string session. It was awkward, of course. But I think it’s a better alternative than the silent mime maestro option: the idea of critiquing and gesticulating in your mind trying to coordinate what crazy gun uncle said so that it would fit as part of some internal arrangement composed of other people’s performances inside my head. I was playing and that was something.

So now I’m a grown up. I realize crazy gun uncle was a brass session. Nowadays I think I’m even more than that. I’m reed.

Reed is the adjective of independence. Reediness is this strange assertion of soloing. Even when you’re in a pit. Screw these metaphors. I’m talking about the actual sound. When I started growing up, strings remained cool, but I need the metal now.

Also, Morphine is a heck of a band.

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