…there is a song that I am thinking of. I can’t get it out of my head. but i can’t quite remember what song it is. it is a niggling feeling. like an itch at the back of your throat. irritating, unignorable, but also — impossible to alleviate. the fire in unquenchable.
for the composer, this is the most dangerous place to be. is it a song I’ve heard somewhere out in the world? something from the radio or from behind a conversation at a concert? something of that ilk that now, when I am finally more rested than I am exhausted, has warped to the weft of my distressed mind? and become some ghostly strain? some exotic particle shot off of a stable song and now fissioning in my brain til there is naught but its haunted quasi-presence left within me?
or (more delightful, but somehow perhaps even more dangerous) is it a song which i have only heard in my mind. in the yawning empty cauldrons between thought where grow my illicit dreams? dreams, which for me, have almost never been dreams these last ten years. not dreams, but music. to die, to sleep — no more. and to sleep, perchance to sing. and, in so doing, translate the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to each day. translate them in to something ineffable. inchoate. and yet, fleeting (and thus, beautiful — for beauty is sometimes simply the absence of a thing that is at once there and not there and for which one longs) and finished.
the wine-dark sea; the smoke-thin sky
so we came, then, back to St. Barths. our 5th time. though the band (Aabaraki) is a motley assemblage of itself down here sometimes. the first year, it was without Brian — but for the five or six days he came down on his own. the second year, we were whole. the third, estranged. the fourth, attis was new to the band and the adventure. and now, Luke Notary is down here with us. so, really, the only full-term veterans are Ari and myself. but I think the band has a united consciousness. and thus, whoever is down here or up there or away or present — we all share in the event of our fifth time down here.
so, the dramatis personnae are just that: Brian, Ari, Luke, and Me. and with us, a host of minor players (if we consider the band a collective protagonist): the Baz Bar staff (waitresses, chefs [cheves!], managers), patrons of the bar (island regulars, solo visitors, couples on holiday, local musicians), the french language, and the island itself. some are folks were know from before; some folks are new to us — and some seem even new to themselves.
as always, it is a kind of paradise. mostly warm and sunny days.
and our collective protagonist is possessed our four humors. and i am, i think, the holder of things dour, intentional, plodding. ponderous, i guess.
our evenings are for work. we get to the club at 630, eat dinner, then set up the stage and make our set lists. sometimes we play at 830. sometimes we wait til 9. and we play til anywhere from midnight to 1am.
the rest of the day is ours to use as we see fit. there is overlap but there is much that is solitary. for my single self, i keep to the dark fervently.
wednesday night: 400am (technically thursday)
three gigs in. stood on the roof with all the lights off. circled by bats hunting. the Big Dipper looms large in the sky. large enough to be intimidating. like it could, at any moment, swing down and scoop a portion of the earth away. (or its possible i need to lay off the fantasy novels, because I am picturing Warlord Caladan Brood and his D’riss Hammer — look that one up.)
one feels very tiny. it is the thing about nature. here, unlike the city, there is little pollution. but also, unlike north NY, few trees. you are at the summit. the sky is just a looking glass.
one can love this. and the unnaturalness of the city.
one can exist in both places at once. longing for each. belonging to each.
stretched across a divide. between the primitive and the civilized. if there is meaning to life — then this bridge is part of it.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday — in rained bitterly. on and off. there were sunny reprieves, but never enough for things to dry out. strange to say it, but I prefer this weather to the unending daytime sun. at night, let it be clear and wide and still. but during the day, the gusting wind, the muted (basically monochromatic) sky, and the hiss and roar of millions of rain drops — they are a comfort.
strangely, the rain did very little to keep folks away from the restaurant. the first few days were clear and the place was spottily attended. something in the inclement weather brought folks out in droves, however. lots of wild and crazy times at the Baz Bar.
each time we come here, i get duped into going out to the club at least once. Thursday night, i took that leap.
thursday night: 229am.
just got in from things. gig went well. met some NYers. then, despite my apprehension, i let myself be dragged yet again to Le Yacht Club. only this time to the very *elite* “First Floor” lounge. it was loud, smokey, and — indeed — elite.
there is an art to that kind of hang. even as a wordless American. one which i can achieve in short bursts. thus, for the sake of those gathered, i did burst.
then i hung for a brief while and then came home. i’m not partier, alas. c’est la guerre.
what remains is then is my time spent to myself. and there is much of it. for beaches never offered me much in the way of joy. i love the ocean but, like Socrates with Alcibaides, I prefer to observe its beauty from afar. it calls to me, but not in a literal sense. i send my mind floating out over the surface — way off of shore and then, suddenly — down into the depths. while the rest of the band make regular pilgrimages beach-ward, i am content to be in the house with its wonky upright piano and working through harmony problems in the Alien Love Songs. i suppose that when i am old and i look back on my life, it may be that i regret all that sun and swim and boyish joy.
but it may be, also, that i think only of how much MORE time I could have spent working on music. since it starves me of sleep — even here! — i must bow to its inescapable pull.
thus, i have spent nearly every night up til the cusp of dawn. it is truthfully my time. and i thrive in it. my thoughts spiral out in every direction like wild wind. i grasp and think and understand and misunderstand. i hope for things I cannot control and wait for things that may not come. it is a vivid place the mind and the mind’s dark.
sunday was special. here on the island, it is the only day off. nearly all the shops are closed and thus the tourists keep to their yachts and hotels. and the staff of all the various restaurants and stores all get together and eat and drink and are merry — for they work cruel hours for young people during the week (cruel because it is the evening time, when such souls want to cavort. playfully, coyly, nastily).
the band was little different. a full dayOff, and so the fellas rented a car and drove about the island. hiking, swimming, even surfing, i hear. and they were gone from mid-morning to late evening. during that time, the house was mind.
so i set up in the living room. notebooks, manuscript papers, voice memos from the iPhone, recordings of old versions of songs. and i went to constant work on the shit. i made a pot of coffee which i drank throughout the day.
twice, i paused to eat a yogurt. but before i’d even completed the little cup, i was back at the piano re-trying some voicing or chord movement, or rhythmic interpolation of something. it was, in short, a GRAND SUNDAY. such as I have not enjoyed in many, many months. dedicated, almost wholly to music.
around 10ish, some of the folks from Baz Bar dropped by and invited us out to dessert just down the road. i went for the cappuccino, stayed for the churros, and left full of sickly sweet vanilla rum.
the band went on to a bar in St. Jean with the staff. i climbed back up the hill to knot up a few more loose ends in the scheme of things. i think i shall spend next Sunday much the same. tethered to music.
THIS is the life.
it is monday again. the second week of our two-week stay. so, for the next six days. gigs every night and reading throughout the day. i have purchased a nice collection of Cuban cigars and i intend to smoke at least one a day through the week. damn, but it is pleasant to do so.
in a week, i’ll be back in Brooklyn. back in my cluttered apartment, with its cats and it ghosts and it creaking atmosphere. and i’ll be cramming every available moment for musicking back into my days.
for this respite is a relief from the toil, but also it is a devastation from the satisfaction of the work of bringing music to people in every way possible. from the respite, i renew my faith in the art, in the world, and my own fortitude to slug on through the consistent, unmitigated ignominy which is part and parcel of the whole scheme. and it will serve me well, as i rejoin the fray for an indefinite time. i may have to hold for years before another break like this.
drink deep, then, Akie. drink deep. and sing in both sleep and waking. for there will come a time for every song — be it in reality, myth, or dreams.