Wednesday, June 10, 2009

All Along The Injured Coast

I am a confirmed bibliophile, and I don’t mean just the Bible. I am a book lover. I watched an episode of Star Trek yesterday called “The Court-martial”. The long and the short of it was that Captain Kirk had been accused of something he didn’t do and was haul up before a panel of officers to determine if he should be dismissed from Star Fleet. Kirk’s attorney is Sam Cogley (played by Elisha Cook, Jr.), a man who despises the computer and depends solely on the written law as it is contained in printed books. I am not as far gone as Sam Cogley, but I have never read a book on the computer, even though I have access to many thousands. I have been tempted to buy a “Kindle” from Amazon, but even though the Kindle is shaped like a thin book, I cannot figure out how to turn the pages.

The bottom line of all of this is that Trillium and I have thousands of books piled up around our rather large house. I have put in large wall cabinets and have bought oak book shelves to put the books in and on, but no matter how much I double-stack them all, I can never seem to get enough room to get the books all off the floor. I decided this week that I needed to do something about it, so I started in the family room, figuring out the most efficient way of arranging them so that I could easily find any book in the library, even though a specific book might be located behind another on the shelf. All proceeded swimmingly until I became tired of the sound of shifting books and the incessant sneezing. I decided to double-dip my time by listening to music. I had recently brought the CDs up from the dungeon, so the possibilities were all in front of me. Wondrous things transpired!

The first CD that I listened to I had bought more than ten years ago. I have been an Art Garfunkel fan for a very long time and I bought the recording without any preconceptions, except that I knew that it would be good. There are thirteen cuts, all pleasant, but three just knocked me out while they were playing; I had been knocked out when I first listened to them twelve years ago. The title of the CD is “Songs from a Parent to a Child”. Some are old folk songs, others were written by modern composers like Cat Stevens and James Taylor. The sixth cut is a song by Marc Cohen, “The Things We’ve Handed Down”, a song that struck me in part because of my relationship with my father. The tenth cut is “Lasso the Moon”, a piece written by Billy Simon and Lowell Alexander. The chorus is angelic, especially because of Garfunkel’s ethereal voice. The instrumental work is magical, mainly because of the artistry of Jimmy Webb at the piano. The eleventh cut is “Dreamland”, written by Mary Chapin Carpenter, a singer/songwriter for whom I have some affinity. I had heard Mary sing this song before, but without the amazing guitar and mandolin work of Eric Weissberg. I was so taken by these three pieces that I cut two audio CDs for “The Forest for the Trees” to see if they would like to sing them in the future. If they don’t, I will.

Today I continued rearranging books and again the dust and the book shifting badgered me into pulling out another CD. It may have been some sub-conscious thing that made me chose “Paul Simon’s Concert in the Park”, but I certainly was not openly thinking of Simon and Garfunkel when I put the CDs in the changer. I just happen to like the drum riff at the beginning of “The Obvious Child” which was performed by about 20 percussionists pounding away on their drums, guys like Mingo Araujo. Cyro Baptista, Dom Chacal, Sidinho Moreira, and Grupo Cultural OLODUM. The crowd must have gone crazy when they started up; I about go crazy when I hear it on the stereo. The show-stopper for me, however, was the first cut on the second CD, “The Coast”. I include the words below, knowing that without the music they are not nearly as effective. I have edited the lyrics just a little, cutting down on the repetition a touch. The lines and images are for me, in conjunction with the music, pure Simon and worthy of any wordsmith anywhere.

The Coast

A family of musicians took shelter for the night
In the little harbor church of St. Cecilia
Two guitars, bata, bass drum and tambourine
Rose of Jericho and Bougainvillea


A trip to the market
A trip into the pearl gray morning sunlight
That settles over Washington
A trip to the market
A trip around the world
Where the evening meal
Is negotiable, if there is one.

We are standing in the sunlight
The early morning sunlight
In the harbor church of St. Cecilia
To praise a soul's returning to the earth
To the rose of Jericho and the Bougainvillea
If I have weaknesses
Don't let them blind me now
Summer skies, stars are falling
All along the injured coast

Don’t try to understand it as a whole. I don’t think it is possible. The phrasing and the music are interwoven in such a fashion that the words become little strobe lights, little flashes of intensity that almost blind the mind. I have the studio version of “The Coast” in my play list, but for my money it is not nearly as compelling as the performance in Central Park. By the way, I do not think that there is a better rhyme in the English language than that between “St. Cecilia” and “Bougainvillea”, but I can’t tell you why.


Trillium said...

Amazingly, as you were listening, the house was not vibrating (as in times past as you have enjoyed music in the family room). Think of it: music at a civilized volume! I am also now more likely to like it when I hear you sing it. :)

Anonymous said...

I liked the songs you picked out! I think they will be good.