Tuesday, June 01, 2010

By chance and trembling

One must try to come up with new, unrecognizable techniques that won't resemble any previous ones, so as to avoid silly ridicule. One should build one's own world that would allow no comparisons and for which there would be no previous measures of judgment, which must be new, like the technique. No one must realize that the author is worthless, that he's an abnormal, inferior type that, like a worm, writhes and slithers to keep alive. No one must ever catch him being naive. Everything must appear perfect, based on rules that are unknown, and therefore, not judgeable. Like a crazy man, yes, like a crazy man. Glass on glass, because I'm unable to correct anything, and no one must realize this. A brush stroke on one pane corrects without spoiling the one painted before on another glass pane. But nobody must realize it is the expedience of an incapable, of an impotent. Not at all. It must seem like a firm decision, resolute, high, and almost domineering! No one must know that a stroke comes out well by chance, by chance and trembling. That as soon as a brush stroke comes out well, as if by miracle, it must be protected right away, and sheltered as in a shrine. But no one must notice that the artist is a poor, trembling idiot, a half-ass who lives by chance and risk, dishonored like a child, and has reduced his life to the silly melancholy of one who lives degraded by the impression of something lost forever.

So says Pietro during a crisis-induced painting spree in Pier Paolo Pasolini's Teorema.

Art is always a bit of a put-on, isn't it?

This is one of the things that always fascinated me about bootleg recordings: they offer a peek behind the curtain, and (often) a glimpse of a seemingly mighty creator as a "poor, trembling idiot."

Of course, one of the attractions of jazz (as far as I'm concerned) is that it manages, usually through improvisation, to integrate this behind-the-scenes roughness, this humble uncertainty about where a given piece is really going, into an overall artistic gesture that is actually more powerful as a result.

Or, as David St. Hubbins puts it:

The fact is that jazz is mistakes. You're playing a song, but you're playing it wrong. [...] Which is not to say we do not improvise. He'll take off, he will improvise like crazy, but it's all intentional. Jazz is an accident.

[photo credit: kwanz]


Anonymous said...

couldn't have said it better myself. I'm still struggling to convey in words what it is about certain music that resonates with my experience listening to jazz--roughness, edge, vibe, creativity, vulnerability... it's hard to pin down. I like how jazz has this current within it that "is mistakes", that rejects the domineering precept that underlies our conception of art.

cinderkeys said...

Very interesting.

Pietro would have had a nervous breakdown if the art world had expected him to blog.

Andrew Durkin... said...

@Susan: Ha!

@Alex: It's an eternal balancing act...