The Unnameable

Sometimes music is made that is too beautiful to absorb. It borders on being a painful experience to try to take it in, as the expansion necessary to encompass it challenges the far edges of personal awareness.

Music such as this lives in the gossamer world between the hard and fast of mountain and skyscraper and luminous timeless light. It greets you with openness, honesty, humanness and simplicity, yet its depth is a magnet, drawing you down into it and yourself simultaneously. It’s rare to be in the presence of such music being made live and in front of you, but it does happen. I suppose, based on no research, that few people get to hear performances like this since there is little live music of that calibre anywhere in the world. This is  sad to contemplate.

Last night, at the Jazz Standard here in NYC, Fred Hersch was at the piano and Kate McGarry was at the microphone. The duo fed each other throughout their second gig of the evening and as the music expanded horizontally or lengthened out into a silver tube, as it receded into small tiny globes or exploded into a shower of rainbows, the aura of it all floated out over the silent packed house bathing us all in – what? In that which cannot be captured in written words. Fred’s piano playing seems too big to come from this man of slight stature. His body is quiet while ripples of sound percolate out of the hammers and strings making more of the whole than the sum of its parts by quite a bit. McGarry stands waiting, coaxing, cajoling, hiding in herself to emerge in some phrase later with a pixie expression – “Here I am again!” and we are so glad. The voice goes from light and sweet to direct and clear, from breathy and high to smokey and low and flirts with everything else in between. It searches and discovers at the same time.

When I die, as I cross from this world to that other one, the luminous bridge that will carry me will be built of music that I’ve heard in my life on this earth and some of the slats will surely be from this magical night. How lucky to have been present in the room and have the opportunity to inhale the art of these two great, humble, gifted and skilled musicians. What is life for, if not for that?

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4 thoughts on “The Unnameable”

  1. Jeanie – thank you for these touching words, and for the years and worlds of knowledge, skill, and loving care you’ve poured into all of us…the best we can do is pay it forward, right?

  2. How absolutely beautiful, Jeanie! Your words & images transported me to that gossamer world in a way I’ve never before heard articulated, but have felt burning in my chest numerous times. One such experience whose memory welled up in my body upon reading this was the first time I ever heard Theo Bleckmann, performing his sublime “Hello Earth”. A resonance so deep it almost hurt. Similarly, the first time I heard Kate I was struck with a profound sense of recognition, both musical & personal, & I do so wish I’d been there to bask in Kate’s searching, discovering & sharing, with all of you.

    1. Suzan, it is so that all of us who feel music deeply in this way “hear” these performances when we are ourselves in other realms. I believe that our dream state, free of linear time, allows us to go visit such performances. Knowing your open heart and keen sensitivity, I’m sure you “attended” this performance while you slept (especially since it was three hours earlier there and had not yet caught up to you). Thanks for the sweet comments.

  3. How lovely, Jeanie, thank you. I was in fact I was performing on the same night, & felt Kate’s resonance quite vividly. And you, of course, are always with me when I sing.

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