there is a series of strands, seeming random, anything but, that connects all art. a fine web that weaves the word to the note, the note to the color and the form and the movement. when viewed singly, these threads are insubstantial, snapped and easily stranded without context. floating. unanchored. but in stepping back, in widening the vision, broadening the scope, adding them altogether, there is an undeniable cohesion. the picture, in gaining complexity, becomes clearer. we are informed by each interstice and every nexus, and we are guided along the paths of creation, seeing how necessary one is to the next, how obvious the progression, how full the final composition. this is art. this is also me. and you.
this is us.
we are necessary to each other. not only in our connections, but also in the spaces between. our negative spaces rest alongside our midtones, and our highlights seem that much brighter in the panoply of surrounding hues. viewed from inside, the darkness can seem overwhelming. viewed singly, the void can overtake. but in reaching out, in encompassing those around you, adding their colors to your own, the saturation deepens, adds richness almost palpable in form.
i finally understood this concept after reading helen de witt’s “the last samurai.” a staggering novel of connections lost and sought, de witt uses her immense mastery of language to explore themes of separateness and the necessity of reaching beyond the surface of a thing to gain true understanding, true fusion. it finally coalesced, something that i had always obliquely felt: that a message is not restricted to the medium in which it’s conveyed. a musical note can be azure. a painting can whisper “hope.” and a word can be written in a minor key.
our lives are played out between fortissimo and caesura, with those around us adding their own lines until an orchestral movement is reached that swells, that ebbs, and that never ends.
i’ve run along the threads of art all my life. i’ve made sense of the web within by exploring the webs without, nimbly sliding from dance to writing to singing to design, investing myself in all my creations, letting what comes out of me feed my understanding of what goes on inside me. it’s always all been part of the same thing. i see little difference between crafting a sculpture or sculpting a sentence. but only rarely have i been able to combine them.
several years ago, i had roommates, brothers, who were musicians. they had a studio in our basement, and would often be recording themselves or our friends. i would sit and listen, glad to be around such raw creation. sometimes i’d be asked for input, sometimes i’d sing backing vocals. one night, when all of us were most likely inebriated, the idea of recording one of my poems came up. one of the brothers, vince, and i, collaborated on the project and ended up with a spoken-song. i’m not really sure how to define it. but it was one of the scariest, most wonderful things i’ve ever done with a piece of my art, a piece of me.
the poem, “the last pasture of the paziks,” is also about connections lost and sought. i won’t explain it to you. i’m not sure that i could. but it speaks of russian nomads, and vince wanted to tell the story musically in this theme. so there is tibetan throat singing. and a breathless walk through snow. and sleigh bells. and loons. it’s a strange creation. but it’s as it should be, i think. because it came from a strange creation.
i’ve shared many things here, with you. not everything, certainly. i’m as protective of my soul as the high steppes are of the nomad’s bones. but slowly i’m opening. and the support, and love, oh the love, that i’ve found by opening has been revelatory. in turn, i feel compelled to reveal.
so, here, a spoken-song. and the poem it came from. if you listen closely, you’ll hear my breath. and if you listen even closer, you’ll hear me inside it. i am azure, and i whisper “hope,” and i am written, inexplicably, but as it should be, i think, in the minor key.
vince burnard: the loop, vocals. peter dewitt: vocals. cara: words, breath. from “the magnificent bastards” self-titled album, recorded and produced by daku mata studios.
the last pasture of the paziks
it is said of this land
that it was the Pazik’s final stop
the Nomad’s last resting place
that their souls reside here
above the high Russian Steppes
and on that deep winter evening
as we lay on top of the snow
we talked of their hidden land beneath us
and their spirits watching us from above
everything was sacred
every word its own separate song
i kissed my own lips with your name
i gave you all my white-armed love
and every time you turned your wet body to mine
i could not say no
shaking from cold and your beauty
i thought that this would be a good night to die
and when i asked you for your love
when i asked you to promise and swear yourself away
it was not in you to say yes
you pointed to the sky and i saw my winter Orion
and as you explained that the Hero
would be gone before spring
i looked over at you and saw my winter of ruin
reflected plainly on your face
accusing me of wanting too much
i saw your eyes closing to me
and i knew that your heart was closing as well
that the Hero would outlast the man
you left me in this field
and here i have stayed
dancing with my midnight shadow
squeezing all the blackberries until they died
and biting the budding leaves from the trees
tonight i lay in this garden and dream of you
with my legs wide open and my eyes shut down
can’t you hear how my springtime is calling you?
i know you must hear my cries, but you do not come
throwing stones at god to pass the time
all i can hear are his cross-talking angels
all i can think is that this would be a good night to die