Thursday, June 03, 2010

Louis Armstrong--"What Did I Do to be So Black and Blue"

"I'd like to hear five recordings of Louis Armstrong playing and singing "What Did I Do to Be so Black and Blue"--all at the same time. Sometimes now I listen to Louis while I have my favorite dessert of vanilla ice cream and sloe gin...Perhaps I like Louis Armstrong because he's made poetry out of being invisible. I think it must be because he's unaware that he is invisible...Invisibility, let me remind explain, gives one a slightly different sense of time, you're never quite on the beat. Sometimes you're ahead and sometimes behind. Instead of the swift and imperceptible flowing of time, you are aware of its nodes, those points where time stands still or from which it leaps ahead. And you slip into the breaks and look around. That's what you hear vaguely in Louis' music."-- from Invisible Man.

Well, this is a good song, isn't it? It's the blues, which I know I've said in the past I don't like, but there are exceptions to everything. Ideally art is still an elevation of the ordinary banalities of feeling, and most thought, to a form where the sensation gives pleasure to the mind, even where the subject is an unhappy one. This last point has I suppose always been a point of conflict among people who prefer truths to be delivered unvarnished and discomfiting, but most consumers of art will not, after a time, return to a production that offers to the mind no pleasure along with its difficult medicine. This music sounds like the state of mind in which an astute and unavoidable melancholic would most desire to endure life, because there are contained in it consolations of greater spirits, beauties, and hopes that ordinary experience generally shows him.

A lot of people I went to school with live in New Orleans, which is famously where Louis Armstrong came from of course, and apparently they love it, the food, the culture, the diversity, the street talk, the edginess. People who move to staider places like Minnesota lament the food and street culture they've left behind for years afterwards, and I have to say, there does seem to be a level of social comraderie among what I guess you would call my demographic that is for whatever reason non-existent almost everywhere else. Still, I can't imagine I would like it there. The weather first of all would be unbearable. I start to wilt around 78 degrees, and there the air is basically soup 8 months a year and disturbingly mild in winter. The place just looks seedy and weedy and underdeveloped in a disturbing rather than comforting way. I probably wouldn't actually like the food, certainly not enough to appreciably enhance my joy in living there. I would lack the personality and verbal agility to banter with all the colorful characters there, which would make me irritable and depressed. The place is increasingly a vortex attracting disasters both natural and manmade towards it. In short, it seems like kind of a hellhole, though obviously cultural and personal magic for people with the right temperament and receptivity to its dynamic. I don't think that would be me though.

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