Saturday, January 9, 2010

In the Light: Keith Jarrett

Many years ago, I read a review (perhaps in Rolling Stone) waxing nearly mystical about Keith Jarrett's double-album entitled, "In the Light" (1974). Yet, for some reason, I never purchased the recording or even heard it. Last week, however, I found the album at the premier music store of Denver--Twist and Shout--for only $2.99. At the time, Jarrett was playing in jazz trios and other smaller groups. But this recording is from another place. Jarrett composed for a sympathy orchestra, a brass quintet, and only performs on two of the pieces.

I have neither yet listened to, nor come close to digesting, this enigmatic and intriguing offering. Rather, I want to relate a comment made by Jarrett on the liner notes (as they used to be called). Realizing that many would not understand this piece of work, he gives a brief apologetic for artistic freedom. This paragraph gripped my attention:

Western Society is so hung up today on the great god "Opinion" that they [sic] are beginning to forget the there is such a thing as Truth. This is a direct parallel to the fact of their being also hung up on "Style" and forgetting that there is such a think as Music and, whereas something is either True or not, something is either Music or not.

Jarrett is presenting his work, this music, as something worth considering, worth listening to in its own right--apart from conventional senses of style and mere opinion. He is asking us to attend to objective qualities inherent in the art. In C.S. Lewis's categories, Jarrett is bidding us to "receive" the music instead of "using" it according to a predetermined purpose and sensibility. To receive a piece of art-whatever the art form: painting, photography, writing, or music--requires that we let it be what it is to us, that we not make it mere fodder for our own devices or desires. This requires discipline, a bridling of ego--in a work, humility.

Humility is a virtue and a gateway into reality. Art may (or may not) summon it forth.

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