Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What We Leave Behind

Don't worry, everybody, I'm not dying. I'm fine. I'm just in a reflective mood.

40 years ago, in an interview, James Caan was asked what he'd like to leave behind, and he said, "A warm glow." I think that's an excellent answer. In fact, I've been thinking about it for 40 years, and I can't think of a better answer. May people smile and feel good because you were around. (Animals, too, except they don't actually smile, they just look that way sometimes. Dogs don't pant because they're happy, they do it in situations where we would sweat, and for similar reasons. May people smile, cats purr and dogs wag their tails because you were around.)

Obviously, some people disagree. Some seem to believe that the way to go is to leave confusion, anger and significant amounts of missing cash behind, while others prefer to leave venereal disease and bastards behind. Some leave confusion, anger, large amounts of missing cash, venereal disease and bastards behind, while others see no real point in leaving confusion, anger, large amounts of missing cash, venereal disease and bastards behind if you don't also leave lots and lots of broken dishes, broken windows and shattered nerves as well.

It's also obvious that some people have much easier lives than others, and that it has been known to happen that one person will judge another for breaking a window in order to steal a pie in the attempt to keep his family from starving to death, while the judgmental person has many people committing all sorts of much worse violent acts every day for him in order to finance his privileged judgmental lifestyle. A lot of people are just doing what they gotta do. But what if you really have a certain amount of choice -- what will you do then? Rob and plunder every day via the financial markets, and squeeze poor people who just want to keep their families from starving? Force some of those poor people into working for you and doing contemptible things in the name of your net worth, although they're much more morally aware than you? Or will you maybe try to solve other people's problems? Not for the highest bidder -- for no charge? Will you maybe even try to change the world so that people are generally in less danger of starving, and less tempted to give in and take part in the dog-eat-dog madness?

Or maybe you'll try to create something beautiful. If so I'll try to get your back if I can. I think this recording is beautiful:

I love Stan Getz. "A warm glow" is a pretty good description of the effect a lot of his music has on me. Some people equate the lack of a constant concentrated effort to get rich and then richer and richer with being unambitious. I think it's more ambitious to try to change the world. I think the arts will last a lot longer than capitalism. I think they will be a large part of what gives people the strength and determination to evolve past capitalism. Capitalism is fear, basically. Large-scale, highly-organized fear: we've got to get them and crush them before they get us and crush us. It's effective, no doubt, but it's primitive, and it won't serve people's needs forever, because -- assuming we survive it -- we simply won't stay that primitive forever. Good works of art, like good music, like this recording, can inspire us to aim a little higher.

Getz and Gilberto made that recording in the mid-1970's. I first became interested in Getz's music in the late 80's when he recorded a track with Huey Lewis & the News, and then just a few years later he died. Maybe that's why I associate Getz with what people leave behind.

There is music which is crude but tries to sound complex, and music which is complex without trying to be flashy. This recording of "Águas de Março -- Waters of March" may seem quite simple at first to some, but it's gloriously complex. It's just that the complexity isn't there to impress crowds with cheap effects, but to make the music solider, more complete, rounded, polished. The complexity doesn't reach out and bash you in the head, it's just there, you can come to it if you so choose. You can, for instance, pay more careful attention to the drums and percussion and bass and piano snuggling underneath the vocals and guitar and sax for the most part, no flash at all, just solidity and the comfort of highly-skilled people working closely together. And those vocals, so sedately, subtly communicating a tremendous amount. If anybody here was planning to bash anybody else over the head and run away with their pie, they waited until the recording was over.

And that's probably much more than enough of me trying to describe a piece of music to you beyond saying, I like this, check it out.

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