THE ROSE-COLORED GLASSES . . . [ click photo for next . . . ]
THE ROSE-COLORED GLASSES, UNNECESSARY DIFFICULTY &
WHY I HATE SCHOENBERG
Sometimes I wish changing our perception of the world
were as simple as putting on a different pair of glasses.
Ah:—Sudden clarity. More depth of field. A wider angle of view.
It would be nice if it were that easy.
I'm afraid I'm more of a philosopher with a camera than
a real photographer. Compared to all my experience in music,
I have to admit that I do not have much camera technique. But at
least I know enough to keep things simple. Like the great
alpinist and designer Yvon Chouinard says, "It's easy to
make things complicated. What's hard is to keep things
The central miniature below is about that problem of the
difference between complexity—which is always a part of
natural simplicity, which is always good and experienced
as diversity, richness—and mere complicatedness.
Complicatedness is, in this view, unnecessary difficulty,
difficulty which serves no purpose, which wastes vital
energy. This kind of complicatedness, it seems to me, has
become a key and salient feature of contemporary existence.
I learned more than I'd be willing to admit about
complicatedness or unnecessary difficulty as the leader and
conductor of a contemporary music ensemble. The more difficult
the music was the better.*
And then, after finishing a piece by a well-known American
composer at a concert in Amsterdam, I, as conductors do,
motioned to the orchestra members to stand, and turned to face
the audience. At that very moment—I can still see and hear the
scene in my mind's eye as if it were happening right here,
right now—I had something of an epiphany. I just thought:
This is all wrong. This is all fake. This isn't what doing
real music is all about. This isn't what I should be giving
energy to, doing with my life."
That's when I set out to the mountains and decided to stop
performing for the most part. To my mind, there's nothing
really that's gone wrong with musical culture in the West
that is specific to music itself. The problem space, it
seems to me, is a general one. Like the kind and quality of
glasses we have on as a culture. And I feel strongly that
one of the things we need to see more clearly is why we do not
yet understand this crucial difference between true, vibrantly
alive complexity, and just more stupid, boring and amazingly
wasteful an destructive:—complicatedness.
* It's really a kind of cult of collusion which, while it
is now losing its energy, still enjoys considerable prestige,
especially in Europe. Just this week, critics and performers
are trying to make something of Schönberg's Moses und Aron—
I would run away from the sound of this music now faster
than I would a rancher out on a 4-wheeler spraying thistles with
gallons of toxic Roundup—while in happy Amsterdam an entire festival
is devoted to the Russian composer, Galina Oustvolskaia, about
as interesting and refreshing for me as dealing with the fallout
from a certain reactor that blew up in the Ukranine in 1986.
It does not bother me if people are in some confused way
still interested in this music. What does bother me a great
deal, however, is when it is described to the young as being
important somehow, something which one must master, give
one's energy to, which I think is just utter rubbish. Why?
because in my view it corrupts perhaps irreversibly one's
sense of wholeness and natural, resonate, sound.
CODA: FASTING AS PRINCIPLE
Just as keeping chemical toxins OUT of water is easier
than cleaning them up, protecting the mind from
cultural toxins is easier than trying to erase them
from memory. Be as wise in your cultural consumption
as you are when you go to the organic farmers market.
Blow up you TV! Throw out all those modern music CD's.
Burn Gravity's Rainbow. Liberate thyself with silence!
Soon, you'll wonder what all the fuss was about.
In a cyclical world, where the relational resonance of
interdependence is the rule and not the exception,
a microgram of nothing is
frequently worth more than
an entire ton of harm.
On the road in the American Northwest.
The economy of Art?
You know that your composition has achieved
a certain integrity not just when there is nothing left to take away,
but when changing but a single part
means that you must go back and retune the whole.
FOUR MINIATURES ON FORM
(1) A melody, or a phrase in a poem, is not built up of parts like a wall
is built up of bricks. Fold into fold, the parts reflect and refer to the
whole, while the whole in turn gives structure and order to the parts.
It is the quality of the movement of the whole that is primary. Vitally
important is that this movement can only partially be seen or studied
on the printed score or page.
(2) Form—whether that of a musical composition, or a poem, a ribbon
of water, or of a flower—emerges out of movement; it is the outward
envelope of the rhythmic pulse of change.
(3) Complicatedness is difficulty which serves no purpose and is there-
fore without reason or meaning; it is difficulty which is unnecessary.
Nothing else defeats the mind more quickly than having to deal, on a
day-to-day basis, with unnecessary difficulty which goes unresolved.
In any traditionally hierarchical social structure, whether it be a school,
an army, a symphonic orchestra, or large corporation, this is the single
most important factor which frustrates the intelligence or creativity of
Remarkably, in this sense, complicatedness in Nature does not exist,
because it wastes energy, and therefore contradicts Nature’s economy of
the watercourse way.
(4) Just as water flows around all obstacles, intelligence naturally moves
to resolve all unnecessary difficulties.
Poor design imposes arbitrary blocks or limits to the freedom
of this flow.
All Photographs & texts by Cliff Crego © 1999-2011 picture-poems.com