Sonny's battle with Heroin

Faithful reader James Seaberry sent me a link to this great article in the Chicago reader about Sonny Rollins' battle with heroin.

In his six-decade career, legendary saxophonist Sonny Rollins has claimed many a triumph. But his greatest may have come during a quiet period in Chicago.- By Neil Tesser (Chicago Reader)

A decade ago, on September 9, 1998, the YMCA building at 3763 S. Wabash became an official Chicago landmark. Completed in 1913, it gained an annex in 1945, and today it remains a hub of neighborhood activity. Stately on its quiet and well-kept Bronzeville block, it bears a plaque describing it as “an important center of community life” that offered housing and job training for “new arrivals from the South during the ‘Great Migration’ of African-Americans in the first decades of the 20th century.” In a perfect world, there would be a second plaque below it: “Sonny Rollins slept here.”

Another such plaque might adorn the considerably less well-kept Central Arms Hotel at 520 E. 47th, just east of Vincennes. Still another could mark an empty lot on the 300 block of East Garfield, where the Rhumboogie Club once stood, but it wouldn’t say anything about sleeping: Rollins played at the Rhumboogie with the man who would become Sun Ra, and nobody slept with Sun Ra around.

In 1955 Rollins was already a veteran of studio groups led by Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, and he would soon be acclaimed as the outstanding tenor saxophone voice of his generation. But for most of that year he lived in obscurity on Chicago’s south side, working menial jobs and barely gigging.

He still considers Chicago his second home, in part because the casual congeniality of the Bronzeville scene made such a deep impression on him. He also met his wife, Lucille, in Chicago; they got married in ’65 and stayed that way till she died in 2004. And it was here that Rollins joined the band led by Clifford Brown and Max Roach, one of the greatest jazz quintets of the 50s; when they passed through in late ’55, he left with them, returning to his native New York City. But the most important thing Sonny Rollins did in Chicago in 1955 was to reclaim his life from addiction.

Rollins, who’s a few days from his 78th birthday and makes his home in a small town in upstate New York, is often called the greatest living saxophonist in jazz. He opens this year’s Jazz Fest in spectacular style on Thursday, with a free concert in Millennium Park. In the 50s, like many of his peers, he extended and expanded upon the innovations of Charlie Parker, but it was Rollins who most clearly showed how bebop, a product of the 40s,

could respond to a new decade without losing its original soul. Like James Dean, his music spoke of cool rebellion; like Mort Sahl, it did so with wry commentary and wit. In the late 50s, working with such towering figures as Monk, Roach, and Coltrane, Rollins emerged as perhaps the genre’s most innovative structuralist.

But then he withdrew. In 1959, at home in New York City, he took a couple years off to woodshed and rethink his music. He was getting very famous very quickly, he says, and felt he needed to brush upon certain aspects of his craft. Though he returned to great fanfare in 1962, by ’66 he was chafing at the demands of the music business and dropped out again. Eager to study Eastern religion, he traveled to Japan and then India, where he lived in a monastery until reentering the public arena in ’72 with Sonny Rollins’ Next Album.

Since then he’s released nearly two dozen records; in 2006 he started his own label, Doxy, to put out his latest, Sonny, Please. In the past decade he’s won two Grammys, and last year the Royal Swedish Academy of Music awarded him the Polar Music Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of music.

For all that, his greatest triumph may have come when he left the narcotics hospital at the federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky, and came to Chicago in the first weeks of 1955. “I’m not proud of many things in my life,” he says, “but I’m proud of that—of defeating the dragon.” The dragon, of course, was heroin; like many jazzmen of the 40s and 50s, Rollins had followed Charlie Parker’s example in more than music. Chicago was where Rollins proved—to his friends, to the authorities, but mostly to himself—that he could stay clean.

The feds had been experimenting since the 30s with treating addiction as a medical problem instead of simple villainy; by the 50s, Rollins says, the program in Lexington had become famous among musicians. “It was a big departure from the usual way drug addicts were treated at that time,” he says. “Different from the penitentiary. It was sort of like the Betty Ford clinic, a real hospital-like atmosphere.” He speaks in a sort of northern drawl, and its timbre comes as a shock if you’ve only heard his deep, dry tenor tone—his voice is thick and relatively high-pitched, with a touch of the “Fat Albert” character that Bill Cosby (a big Rollins fan) used to do in his routines. “I think the cure took four and a half months,” he continues. “You could leave before then, but most of the people wanted to get off drugs and stayed the whole time.”

Determined to make the cure stick, Rollins left Lexington and went not to his New York stomping grounds but directly to Chicago, which had appealed to him on previous visits. In fact he’d been here just before entering Lexington. “I was ‘carrying the stick,’” he says. “You know what that means? It means you’re homeless, like a hobo; I was sleeping in parked cars during the winter and all this stuff. I was doing very nefarious things.” But despite all that, Rollins says, “I loved Chicago. It was so earthy. There were a lot of musicians, a lot of music going on—24-hour jam-session clubs, all this kind of thing. I found a home there.”

Chicago, and Bronzeville in particular, had much to offer an African-American artist in the 50s, but what Rollins liked best was that it wasn’t New York. He sums up the reason with a story: “There was a place on 63rd and Cottage Grove, the Circle Inn, where you could just look in through the window and see the proceedings. One morning when it was just getting light, I walked by and Lester Young”—the influential saxist whose style presaged the cool-jazz school—“was on the bandstand, with a rhythm section, just jamming.

“You see, New York was more ‘sophisticated’; that was the difference. To have a club be open 24 hours, where you could look in and see people playing, that was not sophisticated enough for New York. But I gravitated toward that. It was so homey—it was terrific. And I wasn’t really ready to go back to New York. I had left a trail of destruction behind me there, in my personal relationships, in stealing—addict behavior. So I wanted to be clean from drugs and return victorious. I was clean when I left Lexington, but I had to sort of work my way back into society.”During his time here Rollins stayed first at the Central Arms, then for a spell with a fellow Lexington alum who lived at 69th and Marquette, trumpeter Robert Gay, nicknamed Little Diz—the brother of gospel star Geraldine Gay. Eventually the YMCA on South Wabash became his home and practice space. To pay the rent he took a series of blue-collar jobs. On the north side, most likely Ohio Street, he says, “I worked as a custodian at a typewriter repair shop. They had, you know, ten or fifteen people working there—it was more of a little factory than a repair shop. I don’t think they knew I was a musician. I worked at another place, on Madison west of Halsted, that was a restaurant-supply house. I worked on the trucks, delivering this stuff to Hammond, all over. And at that place I did get close enough to people to tell them I was a musician; in fact, when I came to Chicago to play some years later, a guy who had worked there came by to see me.”

Toward midsummer, Rollins says, “I finally thought, ‘I’m strong enough to go into the Bee Hive.’ And that’s where another vignette of my life was enacted.” No club’s name sparks more memories among Chicago musicians of the era than that of the Bee Hive. Located at Harper and 55th in Hyde Park, it was open from 1948 to ’56 and hosted not just locals—from traditionalists like Miff Mole to modernists like Ira Sullivan—but visiting stars like Charlie Parker, who played his last Chicago engagement there in February ’55.

“When I got there, I saw a lot of old friends, a lot of the guys: ‘Hey Sonny, let’s go get high,’” Rollins says. “I had to be strong enough to withstand that. And that’s where I faced my Goliath. It was hard, man, because some of these guys knew I was not that far from using drugs. It was one of these

biblical-like temptations. I resisted—my palms got sweaty and everything, but I resisted. I went back to my custodial job, but I thought, ‘I gotta get back into music.’ It was very difficult, because to tell the truth, I just escaped that first time; I just was able to resist all my friends offering these free drugs. But I thought, ‘I’m a musician and I have to be strong enough to be around drugs,’ because that was the scene.”

Rollins made his second trip to the Bee Hive in early September, when Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers were headlining—a risky move because addiction, according to pianist Horace Silver, was “prevalent” in the band. “Bassist Doug Watkins and I were the only ones that didn’t have a drug habit,” Silver writes in his autobiography.

“I just remember sitting in the car with Horace, and then I went inside to pal around with Art and everybody, and I was able to withstand the temptation again,” says Rollins. “And eventually, I was able to go back and be less tempted each time I went.”

Confident he could stay clean, Rollins started gigging again, accumulating memories of people and places that are still strong today. He remembers players who are faint ghosts to most of us, like tenor men Linwood Brown and Alec Johnson, as well as better-known figures like Harold Ousley and John Gilmore, who would become a superstar soloist in Sun Ra’s Arkestra—Rollins figures he met Gilmore when they both played with Ra at the Rhumboogie, back when the soon-to-be-cosmic keyboardist was still known as Sonny Blount. He talks about pianist Norman Simmons and bassist Victor Sproles, both of whom would soon establish themselves in New York. “Eddie Harris and I used to drive out to the Selmer factory in Indiana,” Rollins says, “and bug those guys about what they should be doing on the horns.”

In November 1955, the group led by veteran bebop drummer Max Roach and spectacular young trumpeter Clifford Brown—a band that rivaled the Jazz Messengers as the leading hard-bop quintet of the day—came to the Bee Hive. But once they arrived in Chicago, the quintet’s tenor player, Harold Land, continued on to Los Angeles to deal with a family emergency. Someone remembered that Rollins was in town; he sat in with the band and clicked immediately. Roach offered to hire him before the band headed back to New York. “I was pretty close to going back anyway,” Rollins says. “I had accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. I could have gone back to New York on my own, but it was great playing with Max and Clifford, and that was a great opportunity. So I thought, ‘Why not?’”

The next time Rollins came to Chicago, in the summer of 1956, it was as a member of the Brown-Roach quintet. Clifford Brown and the band’s pianist, Richie Powell, were driving in from Philadelphia with Powell’s wife, Nancy, but they never made it; Rollins, Roach, and bassist George Morrow had already arrived here when they learned that the car carrying the others had gone over an embankment in the rain, killing all three. Rollins briefly stayed on in Roach’s band, then left to lead his own groups.

In short order, the clubs Rollins had frequented in Chicago—the Rhumboogie, the Bee Hive, McKee’s Disc Jockey Lounge at 63rd and Cottage Grove—all disappeared. Over the years many of the musicians he’d known here moved away: Sun Ra to Philadelphia, Ira Sullivan to Miami, Eddie Harris to Los Angeles. Most of his friends from back then have died. Contemporaries like Joe Segal, proprietor of the venerable Jazz Showcase, remember that Rollins spent time in Chicago in the 50s, but unless they lived in Bronzeville their paths didn’t cross.

Of all the people, places, and things from that era that have gone, though, one inspires no mourning. In 1955, Sonny Rollins buried his addiction to heroin on the south side of Chicago, once and for all.

Sonny Rollins' Home Page


Yusef Lateef- Quest for the Exotic

We can sometimes forget that there are many other scales we can use for improvisation other than the usual scales of Western diatonic harmony. There are exotic scales from other cultures that have unique and distinctive sounds that can be applied to Jazz improvisation with great results. Many of these exotic scales use different tuning systems, but they can be shoe horned into our equal temperament system while still retaining most of their distinctive qualities.

Yusef Lateef was one of the first Jazz musicians to incorporate exotic scales and modes into the Jazz idiom, years before Trane became interested in them. Other notable Jazz musicians later utilized exotic tonalities in their own ways, like Charlie Mariano and John McLaughin. The exploration by Jazz musicians of the musical traditions of India, Arabia, Indonesia, Africa, Asia and even ancient Greece has yielded many interesting musical discoveries. These exotic musical gems have broadened the harmonic horizons of the Jazz tradition.

I would guess that Yusef Lateef probably became interested with Arabic and Pakistani music as a result of his involvement and subsequent conversion to Islam. During the 1940's a Pakistani by the name of Kahil Ahmed Nasir was responsible for introducing many New York City Jazz musicians the Islamic teachings of the Ahmadiyya movement. Many of these musicians were more interested in the social aspects of Islam rather than the spiritual teachings. Some scholars actually trace the roots of the Blues back to Muslim West African slaves who adapted the call to prayer to their new environment. Some of these musicians who initially converted (or reverted as Muslims call it) did not remain strict followers of the faith, but many did. In his autobiography Dizzy talks about the Muslim Jazz movement:
"Rudy Powell, from Edgar Hayes's band, became one of the first jazz musicians I knew to accept Islam; he became an Ahmidyah Muslim. Other musicians followed, it seemed to me, for social rather religious reasons, if you can separate the two.

"Man, if you join the Muslim faith, you ain't colored no more, you'll be white," they'd say, "You get a new name and you don't have to be a nigger no more." So everybody started joining because they considered it a big advantage not to be black during the time of segregation. I thought of joining, but it occurred to me that a lot of them spooks were simply trying to be anything other than a spook at that time. They had no idea of black consciousness; all they were trying to do was escape the stigma of being "colored." When these cats found out that Idrees Sulieman, who joined the Muslim faith about that time, could go into these white restaurants and bring out sandwiches to the other guys because he wasn't colored, and he looked like the inside of the chimney, they started enrolling in droves.

Musicians started having it printed on their police cards where it said "race," "W" for white. Kenny Clarke had one and he showed it to me. He said, "See, nigger, I ain't no spook; I'm white, 'W.'" He changed his name to Arabic, Liaquat Ali Salaam. Another cat who had been my roommate at Laurinburg, Loiver Mesheux, got involved in an altercation about race down in Delaware. He went into this restaurant, and they said they didn't serve colored in there. So he said, "I don't blame you. But I don't have to go under the rules of colored because my name is Mustafa Dalil."

Didn't ask him no more questions. "How do you do?" the guy said.

When I first applied for my police card, I knew what the guys were doing, but not being a Muslim. I wouldn't allow the police to type anything in that spot under race. I wouldn't reply to the race question on the application black. When the cop started to type something in there, I asked him "What are you gonna put down there, C for me?"
"You're colored, ain't you?"

"Colored? No."

"Well, what are you, white?"

"No, don't put nothing on there," I said. "Just give me the card." They left it open. I wouldn't let them type me in W for white nor C for colored; just made them leave it blank. WC is a toilet in Europe.

As time went on, I kept considering converting to Islam but mostly because of the social reasons. I didn't know very much about the religion, but I could dig the idea that Muhammad was a prophet. I believed that and there were very few Christians who believed that Muhammad had the word of God with him. The idea of polygamous marriage in Islam, I didn't care for too much. In our society, a man can only take care of one woman. If he does a good job of that, he'll be doing well. Polygamy had its place in the society for which it was intended, as a social custom, but social orders change and each age develops its own mores. Polygamy was acceptable during one part of our development, but most women wouldn't accept that today. People worry about all the women with no husbands, and I don't have any answer for that. Whatever happens, the question should be resolved legitimately and in the way necessary for the advancement of society.

The movement among jazz musicians toward Islam created quite a stir, especially with the surge of the Zionist movement for creation and establishment of the State of Israel. A lot of friction arose between Jews and Muslims, which took the form of a semi-boycott in New York of jazz musicians with Muslim names. Maybe a Jewish guy, in a booking agency that Muslim musicians worked from, would throw work another way instead of throwing to the Muslim. Also, many of the agents couldn't pull the same tricks on Muslims that they pulled on the rest of us. The Muslims received knowledge about themselves that we didn't have and that we had no access to; so therefore they tended to act differently toward the people running the entertainment business. Much of the entertainment business was run by Jews. Generally, the Muslims fared well in spite of that, because though we had some who were Muslim in name only, others really had knowledge and were taking care of business.

Near the end of the forties, the newspapers really got worried about whether I'd convert to Islam. In 1948 Life magazine, published a big picture story, supposedly about the music. They conned me into allowing them to photograph me down on my knees, arms outstretched, supposedly bowing to Mecca. It turned out to be a trick bag. It's of the few things in my whole career I'm ashamed of, because I wasn't a Muslim. They tricked me into committing a sacrilege. The newspapers figured that if the "king of bebop" converted, thousands of beboppers would follow suit, and reporters questioned me about whether I planned to quit and forsake Christianity. But that lesson from Life taught me to leave them hanging. I told them that on my trips through the South, the members of my band were denied the right of worshipping in churches of their own faith because colored folks couldn't pray with white folks down there. "Don't say I'm forsaking Christianity," I said, "because Christianity is forsaking me - or better, people who claim to be Christian just ain't. It says in the Bible to love they brother, but people don't practice what the Bible preaches. In Islam, there is no color line. Everybody is treated like equals."

With one reporter, since I didn't know much about the Muslim faith, I called on our saxophonist, formerly named Bill Evans, who'd recently accepted Islam to give this reporter some accurate information.

"What's your new name?" I asked him.

"Yusef Abdul Lateef," he replied. Yusef Lateef told us how a Muslim missionary, Kahil Ahmed Nasir, had converted many modern jazz musicians in New York to Islam and how he read the Quran daily and strictly observed the prayer and dietary regulations of the religion. I told the reporter that I'd been studying the Quran myself, and although I hadn't converted yet, I knew one couldn't drink alcohol or eat pork as a Muslim. Also I said I felt quite intrigued by the beautiful sound of the word "Quran" and found it "out of this world," "way out," as we used to say. The guy went back to his paper and reported that Dizzy Gillespie and his "beboppers" were "way out" on the subject of religion. He tried to ridicule me as being too strange, weird and exotic to merit serious attention. Most of the Muslim guys who were sincere in the beginning went on believing and practicing the faith".
  • (Note: Dizzy eventually became a devote follower of the Bahai' faith)

Yusef taught himself to speak and read Arabic and he also taught himself to play a whole range of instruments that had never before been associated with Jazz, like the sarwela, oboe, rahab, shanai, arghul, and koto. Yusef did years of extensive ethnomusicological research, including four years as a senior research fellow at the Center for Nigerian Cultural Studies at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria.

One of my favorite books to practice out of is Yusef's Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns. This book is basically a Jazz version of Slonimski's classic Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns book. There are so many strange scales and patterns, such as bi tonal, hybrid hexachords, hybrid scales, Dolphy's synthetic formations, Hexadic, exotic scales, tropes, tone rows, cyclic inversions, asymmetrically expanded scales, quadritonal patterns, plural arpeggios. The thing that make the book so interesting and useful is that Yusef writes short Jazz etudes for most of the scales/patterns. Lateef's application of exotic scales and modes to the Be-Bop idiom was widely heard during his stint with Cannonball Adderley. There are several pages devoted to exotic scales from all of the world. I find the exotic scales more interesting than synthetic scales because they evoke moods of specific cultures, where a lot of the synthetic scales just sound strange.

Here is a link to a PDF that contains some of Lateef's exotic scales from his Repository book:

Yusef Lateef's Exotic Scales

I have taken a few of these scales from Lateef's book and noted some chords that each scale will work with. A helpful way to learn how to apply exotic or synthetic scales is to do what I did in this chart. Look at every note in the chromatic scale and try to figure out every chord quality that will work from that root. Not every scale note needs to fit perfectly over a particular chord. In fact it can be more interesting if these exotic scales sound a bit dissonant over chords. If you listen to how Yusef plays exotic scales on Adderley's Hard-bop tunes you'll understand what I'm talking about. These exotic scales have strong personalities that they retain their essential flavor even when played over many different types of chords.

Many of the new generation of Jazz musicians have incorporated highly advanced harmonic/melodic ideas into their music in order to create their own unique and personal style. Let's face it, if everyone only used traditional western scales and modes then modern Jazz would be a lot less interesting. I'm sure traditionalists would argue this point, but the tide of change is unstoppable. The world is so small these days and young musicians have access to so much music from all over the world. 20th (and now 21st) century Classical music has also had a powerful influence Jazz more in recent years.

Another modern technique is the creation of synthetic scales. These synthetic scales are created with the idea of creating an unusual and unique sound. They can be have any number of notes in them. They are created on a whim! When I studied with Joe Viola we worked out of an etude book by Guy Lacour, who played tenor with Marcel Mule's sax quartet. Guy's book had etudes that were each based on a different synthetic scale. Some of these synthetics seemed like they were just major or minor scales with added notes, and some were a little more unusual. The etudes sounded very cool. I know that this book significantly influenced Donny McCaslin, who also studied with Joe V at the same time I did. I saw it on his music stand the last time I was at his apartment. Donny creates his own synthetic scale modes and then works out snaky intervalic lines based on them.

Matt Otto just sent me one of his compositions based entirely on a synthetic scale mode of his own creation. The composition doesn't use chords taken from the mode (remember: the stranger the synthetic scale the more problematic diatonic harmony becomes), only a melody line, a harmony line and a bass line. The result is an eerily moody tune that sounds like nothing you've ever heard before, which I think is kind of the point. Otto was gracious enough to let me post a PDF and MP3 of his composition entitled Storm Song. [Keep posted, a new Otto interview is coming soon!]

Storm Song PDF
Storm Song MP3

Yusef Lateef: All About Jazz
Yusef Lateef: Roots and Routes
Yusef Lateef's home page
Yusef Lateef Biography
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
An Africana View of Progressive American Islam
123 Jazz Duets for Treble Cleff instruments
Yusef YouTube interview


Fred Martin's Studio notes

Fred Martin taught at the San Francisco Art Institute when my father was there in the 60's. Below are some of his studio notes. I often find that painter's are better at expressing their personal philosophies about art than musicians are.

From my studio notes, June 22, 1985.
Oakland, early morning.

We are a tangle of vibrations searching for harmony. Beauty is harmony. A work of art can give beauty, harmony to its owner. That is, in a sense, the purpose of the collector, to find harmony in himself and in his world. That, too, is the purpose of the artist, to make the things that are the signs, the key signatures, the talismans, the crystals, the aeolian harps for harmony in the world.

I am an artist, my work is a gourd full of the seeds of harmonies of the world. My purpose is to serve my world with the gift of these harmonies.

Mid morning.
What about art, what about art? How does it work? Art touches our strings, it makes them to sound in harmonious chords. How does it do that, Fred, how does it do it?

Art does that by touching the strings of perception—the neurons—of sight, sound, touch (and taste and smell) in such a way as to harmonize them—key relations in the scale of notes, in the spectrum of all light, the certain colors in a scale of colors, in the universality of all space, the certain intervals (the “cuts”) in the spaces of up, down, left, right, front, back—art brings the strings of our physical bodies into harmony by stimulating them to vibrate in harmonious intervals.

But art stimulates more than only physical vibrations. It stimulates memory of harmonies past, and longing for harmonies which might come… thus art stimulates longing, which it may share with nostalgia. Art stimulates associational networks of images in the mind, and these, like the physical networks of sensation in the body, have their harmonic structures, their “intervals,” their patterns of associative energy… the “wholeness of the self,” in Jungian terms.

Thus art makes two separate systems, the perceptual and the associational, of possible vibrations in the human being resounding harmoniously within themselves and together…

…and that is why we hunger for art, because that resounding whole then resounds both inner and outer, the self and the world.

…some people call that state “understanding”
…some people call that state “beauty”
…some call it “prayer”
…alchemists called it “the work”
…artists call it “art”

What, then, can a little picture do, hanging on the wall, looked at seldom, becoming part of the furniture, the decoration of a room? It can remind of harmonies that once were, and in reminding keep open the opportunity for those harmonies to be again. In that sense, the little picture on the wall is nostalgic, and in that same sense it is prophetic… and in that same sense, because past and future are always present in us, the little picture on the wall is the key to the doorway of now.

What about museums, what about museums? Museums are storehouses of objects of art. Objects are the inert things of art; works of art are our experiences, our working with the vibrations those things can cause in us. Museums display their things so we can catch their vibrations. Museums can make great symphonies of those vibrations. Even museum buildings, to house those things and their symphonies of sounds, are objects which can become works of art… worlds of vibration, perceptual and associational… worlds of art in which we can enter.

What about dissonance, what about pain and horror? What about all the art that is ugly and painful in the world? And what about insipidity, and sweetness, and falseness in art? Men and women work together to make the art of their age; that art resounds with the vibration of that age as they know it. It has both that which they wish to escape (and their art shows those vibrations as repulsive), and that which they are and that which they wish to become (and their art shows those vibrations as desire). A period in human culture grows old and dies, much of its art vibrates only worn out, irrelevant, false or even by then dead and broken strings. Those strings have been kept because once they worked, and it is at this time that nostalgia becomes strong in the hope that those strings may work again. It is at this time also that ugliness and horror become strong, as new strings never before touched are stuck, new muscles used and old, weak, exhausted and dying flesh is torn away. Then ugliness and horror in art may become health; then, in the time of the muffled, flaccid, weak strings of the old order, then cacophony may become the secret of the harmony of the new, the vibrant, the alive. The true harmony always hurts just a little, always reaches into a few raw nerves never before touched, a few associations almost too painful to remember, to expect or to bear. That is the ugliness buried in every beauty (and the beauty, too, buried in every ugliness: that the vibrations are reaching toward harmony and it is our work to help them toward their goal.)

What about healing, can art heal? Art gives the vibrations of harmony: the well person and the well society are in states of harmonious vibration. Can art heal the person, can art heal the society? Art can contribute to health for person and community, but person and community must do other work in other modes as well. (Art is only one mode among the many modes of being in the world. Some art may guide some modes, but, finally, for righting the body you must also work in the body—medicine—and for righting the world you must also work in the world—politics.) Art may help to heal, may even sometimes guide—and always remind; but in the contest of this world in time, Death will always be at last stronger and will triumph, just as life is strongest and will triumph in the timeless world of eternity.

Art works, then, by touching in us, in our physical and mental bodies, touching in us the paths of energy and looping and joining them into harmonious patterns and vibrating those patterns until we resonate into the whole… resonating the whole or ourselves and ourselves as part of the whole resonance of the world. Because this pattern was in us from the beginning, because this vibration and wholeness is waiting always to be sounded, that is why Plato said, “All learning is remembering.”

What, then, can a little picture do, hanging on the wall, looked at seldom, becoming part of the furniture, the decoration of a room? It can remind of harmonies that once were, and in reminding keep open the opportunity for those harmonies to be again. In that sense, the little picture on the wall is nostalgic, and in that same sense it is prophetic… and in that same sense, because past and future are always present in us, the little picture on the wall is the key to the doorway of now.

June 10, 2003. Oakland, sunset.
Sun and shadows flicker and shift on the glass of the dining room window; the last light caught in the crystal fruit of the chandelier is steady, shining, clear, bright.

Art is a crystal shining in the sun.

Fred Martin's web site