20 August 2016

The Music Of The Spheres (Or The Wheel, Anyway)!

The Music Of The Spheres (Or The Wheel, Anyway!)

Now, I know most of you, my dear readers, are sensitive, socially-conscious people.  (Even if you aren't, nod in agreement!)  So, I'm going to share some "forbidden knowledge" with you that I know you never, never will use.  Right?  (Again, nod in agreement!) It's something I never, ever used myself and wouldn't, in a million years, ever use. Really!

OK, here goes:  If you really want to insult a musician (or, more precisely, someone who fancies him- or her-self as one) and be politically incorrect (Now why would you want to do that?), here is what you say:

"You're a real artist.  You have a Van Gogh's ear for music."

Now, I assure you, I love Van Gogh more than any Japanese banker who paid $100 million for one of his paintings.  (When you're poor, you console yourself by saying things like that!)  One of the high points of my second bike trip in Europe was stopping in Arles and sitting on the cafe terrace Vincent graced with his paintbrush.

So... what would it be like to have a Van Gogh's ear for music--at least, before he did that little bit of DIY surgery on himself?  Somehow I think he would have heard things most of us can't.  After all, isn't his painting about seeing what most of us don't?  (Perhaps the same could be said for any great artist.) Sometimes I think that in "Starry Night", he was hearing--and feeling, and perhaps even smelling and tasting, as well as seeing-- all of those lines and colors as he painted them.  

Likewise, I wonder what other artists heard in the music they listened to.  Many a writer has expressed his or her perceptions about Mozart, Marley and Monk, as well as musicians in every other part of the spectrum--and alphabet!   But we don't often hear what painters, sculptors and others who work in visual media feel when they listen to musical maestros.  If they were to turn to pianos instead of palettes, or using their voices instead of violet and vermillon (or cellos instead of celeste green)--or if they composed instead of chisled--what kind of music would they make?

(Let's hope that if they write, they won't over-use alliteration!)

I believe I may have stumbled onto what sounds Marcel Duchamp might have made had he turned at least one of his objets into a musical instrument:

Now tell me:  Whatever you think of him, who else but Frank Zappa could have done it?  

And who else but Steve Allen could have gotten away with bringing a then-unknown musician onto his show, and letting said musician do, basically, what ten-year-old boys (and, sometimes, girls) had been doing for decades with their bicycles?  Who else could have, in front of a national audience, treated such a musician as if he were, well, a musician?  

At the time of that broadcast--1963--most American audiences weren't ready for the Beatles or Bob Dylan, let alone Frank Zappa.  I'm not sure Steve Allen was, either.  At least he deserves credit for his willingness to expand his own horizons--which, of course, was the first step in helping to expand the horizons of his audience.

What would Marcel Duchamp have played on that bicycle wheel in his studio?  

Marcel DUCHAMP, Bicycle wheel


  1. Can you imagine anyone getting a spot that long now? What confidence frank had.

    Out of curiosity, and for this I beg forgiveness, I tried a pedal assist bicycle this week. The symphony of noises was not dissimilar to the video! Stupidly geared machine could not climb hills that any of my bikes can manage, even the one with the jammed on corn cob block!

  2. Coline--I will not judge your for riding a pedal assist machine. We all need to live and learn!

    It is indeed amazing that anybody got a spot that long on a TV show--especially someone unknown, as Frank was at that time.

    I have to admit, I was more shocked to see his haircut, suit and tie than with anything he did during that segment!