Tuesday, November 03, 2009

High School Halloween, Music & Memory

"Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river

You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know, she's half crazy
It's why you want to be there..."

Leonard Cohen, from "Suzanne"

This year, Halloween triggered my memory of this yearbook photo from 11th grade which many of you viewed on Facebook (thanks to all for your insights, witticisms & ruminations)

I've always believed that we all hold inside of us, from an early age, the seeds of our eventual 'grown up' selves. Although I didn't intentionally set out to become a singer or songwriter, when I reflect on my past, there's the impression of a clear trajectory that led me to that career decision.

Many would argue that being an artist is something that is somehow programmed inside, that true artists do not choose their paths, that it is their fate or kismet that chooses them. But it can also be argued that, for some, there comes a time to decide, a crossroads. Andy Warhol began his career in magazine illustration and advertising. Robert Motherwell studied Philosophy before he changed direction and rigorously pursued Painting.

While I was at Vassar, I was declaring a major in Aesthetics until I transferred to Barnard/Columbia and declared a double major in Art History/Studio Art. It wasn't until my senior year when I studied Poetry with Kenneth Koch that I realized I had reached that crossroads.

I've always perceived of this monumental moment as metaphorically akin to the moment when Alice picks up the bottle and reads 'DRINK ME', and after confirming that it is not marked 'poison', swallows the otherwise unmarked liquid. Her decision, while not well-informed, is not precipitous. That decision to follow the untrammeled road and become an Artist is fundamentally based on that need to do as Alice did,
follow her inner need to open the door into the enchanting and mysterious adventure and explore the sometimes treacherous new terrain, come what may.

It was during this time in High School that I began discovering & devouring music that was tapping into me on all levels of Poetry, intellect & emotion: Leonard Cohen, The Ramones, Blondie, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian, Joan Armatrading, The Go Gos, The B-52s, Pink Floyd, The Police. Soon after, I would discover Francoise Hardy, Julie London, Juliette Greco, Nico & The Velvet Underground.

My good friend, pictured above in the photo, was as much of a music hound as I was. I haven't asked her yet if she remembers that particular night of Rock 'n Roll debauchery... Halloween & Rock 'n Roll share a similar ethos: to find trouble where you can & head into that place which is at once thrilling & frightening.
Everyone at some point in their lives plants the seed of who they are to become. For me, that moment is captured here, in this photo.

The Artist is all things: creator, witness, inventor, storyteller, gift giver, shaman, seducer, rule-breaker, Philosopher, thief, magician, myth-maker, bellwether With instinct as much your guide as intelligence, the Artist chooses to follow that unruly path of most resistance, hypnotized by that the ever-present temptation to metaphorically drink that mysterious, unknown & tantalizing essence.

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