Maxim: There’s a considerable difference between being an artist and being a creative artist. The latter constantly strives to move beyond (and sometimes abandon) themselves, their technique and style, critical acclaim, and a public following, in order to secure something that is genuinely innovative, progressive, and ground-breakingly qualitative.
8.30 am. I made preparations for a magna-trip to town, armed with a list, a box to deposit, and a deadline. (There would be many tasks to complete back at home before the family returned, ensemble.):
The Post Office has one of the most desultory interiors in town. There’s not enough light of the world; insufficient windows. I treasure the views from my studio and study at home, and my office at the School (the prospect accented by the distant, twice daily toot of the ‘little choo’ (as my children would have it, when they were young)):
Back at homebase, other lists of ‘things to do’ (Hamlet) were composed and executed.
To energise my body and resolve, I played Miles Davis’ Rated X (1970-4) and his ‘Prelude’ from Agharta (1975). (This was in anticipation of seeing Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead film on Tuesday.) The later album, recorded at a matinee performance on 1 February 1975, and Pangaea, recorded at the evening performance on the same day, were his final releases before a self-imposed retirement that year. After having reinvented jazz three times already, he’d become spiritually, physically, and creatively exhausted:
Both albums are exceptional. (Not a bad day’s work.) They’re the most deeply ‘African’ of all the works that he’d produced up until that time and, arguably, the apotheosis of jazz-fusion during that period, and since. The performances have a remarkable energy and sense of determination. Yet, at the time of concert, Davis was at his lowest ebb, physically, suffering from a combination of sickle cell anaemia, osteoporosis, and painful ankles. This was a man burning out in a blaze of glory.
It took me some time to realise the merit of these albums. They were that far ahead. The music sounded under-composed, without harmony or melodic structure, and as though it had no over-arching direction. But I was listening to it in the wrong way. (Great art forces us to adjust our perceptions.) Rated X, for me, served as a cipher to the code; the track was the encapsulation of a principle of operation that these albums would extend and elaborate on a gargantuan scale.
Afternoon. Further domestics: recycling, bin evacuations, tidying and putting away, and bed making. The family returned at 4.00 pm. I was on dinner duty.
6.30 pm. An evening with my family. All together now …!