Taylor Ho Bynum

*Photo by Peter Gannushkin

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Broken Bottle Brass Heroes

Thoughts on two brass heroes from Nathaniel Mackey’s Bass Cathedral. (This is the fourth installment of his ongoing epistolary novel From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate. In my opinion, the best book ever written about creative music, hands down.)

“…on Lester’s trademark lab coat, allowing one to see such attire in relation not only to Miles’s ‘We were like scientists of sound’ and his divergence from Satchmo, but also to Satchmo’s Elizabethan clownish license (as Ellison puts it). One would want to stop short of calling mad scientist or mad professor Lester the synthesis of Miles’s antithesis and Louis’s thesis, but the near rhyme of Lester’s coat with jester’s cap bespeaks a need to keep alive, if not sublate, the two contraries. Such attire, in concert, so to speak, with Lester’s decidely tongue-in-cheek instrumental tack, re-dresses both… …Ripped and retributive, Lester’s coat and jester’s cap’s near rhyme reveals a need or an appetite for (or the need or the appetite of) mad science, knowing’s need to laugh at itself or lose its head, know it doesn’t know. Coat and cap augur a no longer mystic (no longer only mystic), suddenly scientific (mad-scientific), post-Hiroshima mushroom need to clown, cloud one’s knowledge, a need steeped in parody, pastiche, mad profession.”

“Dizzy’s trademark cheeks comply with a principle of exertion and exaggeration, factoring inflation and elasticity in as well. Still, them being a visual trademark may well be their signal feature, trademark visuality itself the signal fact worth attending to. Trademark visuality, it seems to me, wants to domesticate or mask an acoustic risk the music otherwise runs, the risk of acousticality itself… …Does trademark visuality sugarcoat, for the public at least, the bitter pill of occult clamor? Does the public seize upon the consumable, commodified visuality, trademark purchase, as a hedge against acousticality’s furtherance of itself, risk of itself, a furtherance and risk the public wants but only on its (the public’s) own terms?… …Are his ballooning cheeks a bone he throws the public or a bone he picks with the public? Or are they, in some way we’ve yet to understand, both (bone-in-cheek)?… …In other words, a bone within a balloon picked by shaman and showman alike.”

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