June 11, 2016

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:

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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 … !

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