SIDEKICK’S PHILOSOPHY 1
SIDEKICK’S PHILOSOPHY 1:
ON BEAUTY, COPROPHILIA, AND THE MIND-DEPENDENCE OF THE COUAC
I: So you approve of this style of music?
HE: Of course.
I: And you find beauty in these modern tunes?
HE: Do I find beauty? Good Lord, you bet I do! How well it is suited to the words! what realism! what expressiveness!
I: Every imitative art has its model in nature. What is the musician’s model when he writes a tune?
HE: Why not go back to the beginning? What is a tune?
Denis DIDEROT, Rameau’s Nephew, Penguin Classics, p. 97.
The year is 1958. The place is right in the middle of the reeds section of Edward Kennedy ELLINGTON’s Big Band, on some stage, in some ballroom or concert venue, somewhere in America or Europe. The protagonists are the tenor saxophonist Paul GONSALVES and the clarinetist and alto saxophonist Russell PROCOPE. By the end of the fifties, ELLINGTON’s orchestra is in its “revival” phase. The seminal features of its creativity fizzled away in the mid-forties with the gradual departure of its most talented musical elements. But the mythical Newport Jazz Festival of 1956 has set the Duke’s men, whoever they currently are, back on track. And all in all, the Duke ELLINGTON Orchestra will perpetuate itself for at least another quarter of century, playing everywhere in the Western World and Asia. Central figures of that “revival” phase, newcomers of the comeback era, if one may say, Paul GONSALVES is the guy who replaced Ben WEBSTER (Ah! Ben WEBSTER, of course!), and Russell PROCOPE is the guy who joined the band four years after the departure of Barney BIGARD (the great Barney BIGARD, yes, yes. I see!). That is what they are. So should it be and so be it. They play their parts in the gigs and they hold themselves together. Steady and firm. They beautifully shadow-horn for a maestro who brilliantly shadow-directs. GONSALVES is an elegant 38 year old, polite, well dressed, sensitive, and friendly gentleman. His boss will write of him years later: “In fact, his purity of mind suggests to me that he would have made a good priest”. PROCOPE, 50 years old, more relaxed, more casual, more former-hobo-always-with-his-hat-on-even-indoor, is the old self-taught wolf who howled everywhere during the Jazz Years: Chick WEBB’s Orchestra, Fletcher HENDERSON’s Orchestra, John KIRBY’s Orchestra, name it. Both of them work very well and “can be relied upon”, as one says in the jargon of semi-improvised musical performance. They are no Charlie PARKER or Sidney BECHET but hey, they are no losers either. A subtle cluster of long-term has-beens and perpetual wannabes: they are sidekicks. And, nobody knew that until now, but, they always sit together to shine their instruments long before the gig begins… the ideal conditions for a philosophical dialogue.
Russell PROCOPE: Give me the white flag, cat. It’s rag-time…
Paul GONSALVES (handing the rag he was shining his instrument with): Tonight, we are going to give them Beauty, man.
PROCOPE: Without even knowing what Beauty is. Yeah, (imitating Ellington). A-Flat! A-Flat!
GONSALVES: What do you mean not knowing what Beauty is. Are you all right, my friend?
PROCOPE: I’m perfectly fine. But you, my cutie one, just dare to tell me, in your own words, what Beauty is.
GONSALVES: I can’t define exactly what it actually is, but I know for sure that it objectively exists. I can feel it when it’s there.
PROCOPE: Like a cigar on your lips or a turd in your ass when it’s getting urgent, I suppose. The notion is as thick and tangible as that to you, I’m sure. I can see it on your face.
GONSALVES: All you see on my face for the moment is my absolute annoyance when you indulge in that type of vulgar language. It is… it is…
PROCOPE: I find it beautiful, personally.
GONSALVES: What? What are you talking about? What do you find beautiful, Russell? The word turd or the object itself.
PROCOPE (meditates a moment, staring at his instrument): The object, I suppose.
GONSALVES: What a silly idea! You are a disgusting tramp.
PROCOPE: Oh Paul, don’t be so stiff, buddy. There is fundamentally nothing wrong with finding a turd beautiful or attractive. There are precedents, you know. The renowned prophet EZEKIEL even ate some turds at a certain moment of his career. A Bible reader like you should be aware of such trivialities.
GONSALVES: The prophet EZEKIEL was ordered to “eat some”, as you say, by God himself. It creates some obligations to comply, you should admit.
PROCOPE: Well, I don’t know. ABRAHAM was ordered to kill his son by the same God of his, and we can feel his reluctance to do it on every single line of that fragment of your sacred text. Even the God eventually changed his supreme mind on the matter. But EZEKIEL? No my friend, they don’t tell us everything in that dammed story. I think the guy was a shit-lover.
GONSALVES: Shit-lover! God changed his mind in his case too, you should know. The human turds to be eaten by the prophet were eventually replaced by ox turds.
PROCOPE: Oh, is that so? I see that you are well informed on the matter! Correction acknowledged. I can understand the importance of such a decision shift. Specially for a shit-lover.
GONSALVES: A coprophiliac, if you don’t mind. I find that nicer to my ears. Coprophiliacs exist… and you are one of them, obviously, to force me to entertain that type of conversation when the gig is about to start. (To the back seat of the reeds section). Guess what! Russell is considering creating the Fan-Club of EZEKIEL!
UNKNOWN MUSICIAN ON THE BACK SEAT: Fine, fine. Count me in!
PROCOPE: Paul, the question is more important than it may seem at first sight. Think about it impartially. Consider the essence of things and tell me. Is there such a difference between a turd and, say, a piece of clay?
GONSALVES (obviously meditating the question): There are major similarities in color and texture. Both are shapeless and malleable. But there is a crucial element that makes the distinction totally and blatantly unambiguous.
PROCOPE: And what is that?
GONSALVES: The smell, my friend. Clay is odorless, whereas… well, you know what I mean.
PROCOPE: OK. You have a point here. However… (he pauses)
GONSALVES: What? However what? Say it!
PROCOPE: I don’t know. I hesitate. I’m reluctant to address such a delicate issue with a distinguished gentleman like you…
GONSALVES: A distinguished gentleman who plays in a world-renowned classy orchestra, namely the same orchestra you are playing in yourself. So, please, cut the shit…
PROCOPE: It is the word!
GONSALVES: And say what you have to say.
PROCOPE: OK, it’s a question.
PROCOPE: A question that requires an absolutely sincere answer.
GONSALVES: Absolutely sincere.
PROCOPE: Absolutely sincere?
GONSALVES: You have my word, cat. On my mother’s head.
PROCOPE: Paul, tell me… No wait a minute. I’ll make it simpler. I will formulate it in the form of an aphorism followed by the question. It will be easier.
GONSALVES: Whatever, my friend.
PROCOPE: The aphorism is: I love, I absolutely adore the odor of my own farts and hate, detest those of any other human being I ever met.
PROCOPE: And the question is: Paul, aren’t you in the exact same situation?
(There is a pause. They both stare at each other for a short while and start to laugh)
GONSALVES (laughing): I must admit (laughing) that you, sonofabitch (still laughing) got a point here. (Cooling down) Oh boy, what a night!
PROCOPE: So I take this as a yes.
GONSALVES (still smiling): I’m afraid so, yes.
PROCOPE: So we are back to our starting point, cat. What is Beauty exactly? My fart for me, yours for you. We got a problem…
GONSALVES: One minute. I like the smell of my farts but not the one of my turds. There is a crucial distinction here.
UNKNOWN MUSICIAN ON THE BACK SEAT: Hey, Paul! Is this another of your philosophical dialogues with Russell? Smells strange this time!
PROCOPE: Are you so sure that you don’t enjoy the smell of every single thing generated by these superb guts and asshole of yours.
GONSALVES (annoyed): What is that discussion anyway? Leave me alone, you perverse coprophiliac.
PROCOPE: This is no coprophilia, brother. It’s a purely esthetic matter. You claim that Beauty is stable, that it objectively exists. I answer that the Beauty of the sniff is in the nostril of the sniffer.
GONSALVES: There is one more element to be added to that reasoning of yours over that sordid example, I must say.
PROCOPE: And what is that?
GONSALVES: We enjoy sniffing exclusively what is generated from the inner foundations of our intimate little self. In a word, we love what we are.
PROCOPE: Excellent subsidiary observation. However you must not generalize that subjectivist dimension excessively. For example, I usually prefer your choruses to mine.
GONSALVES: Oh Russell, you…
PROCOPE: No, come on. Let’s not digress on that old argument again. I played in enough orchestras for more than thirty years to be able to recognize a good musician when I see or hear one. I’m OK. I play my part. But I’m also Johnny HODGES’ sidekick on the alto line-up, so gimme just a five minute break. Whereas you, man, there is something very hip and unique to your sound.
GONSALVES: That is very nice of you to say. Since you require it, I will stick to our initial discussion. You seem here, my dear Mister PROCOPE, to admit some objective existence to Beauty. My choruses, differently from my farts I presume…
GONSALVES: … make you experience stable esthetical sensations.
PROCOPE: Yes Paul. But the problem remains the same. Myself, and the Duke also, we love your playing, and we consider that you are one of the stars of our reeds section. But John BIRKS did not, You were not esthetic to him.
GONSALVES: John BIRKS!
PROCOPE: Yes, John BIRKS! Dizzy GILLESPIE!
GONSALVES: But Russell! Please don’t quote me in public on this. But.. but… What the Diz does is not music. It is ugly, man! That ‘s why I quit his band and joined the Duke. It is him who was not esthetic to me…
GONSALVES: Look, no. Don’t say well… We can agree on this at least. ARMSTRONG called his stuff Chinese music and he was damn right. This bebop thing is just a bundle of… of… of couac.
PROCOPE: Of what?
GONSALVES: Of couac! I learned that word when we were in Paris last month. Remember? Two phonies from the Hot Club of France came to see me after the gig. They were hyper, man. Two psychos. The first one said: “You made a terrible couac in the second chorus of Perdido“.
PROCOPE: A terrible what?
GONSALVES: A couac, man. That’s the way they call a false note over there.
PROCOPE: A couac!
GONSALVES: Right. And I did’nt have the time to whisper a word before the second phony jumps in, with an accent thicker than the first: “It was not a couac, my poor friend. It was a very exploratory blue note, but it was in complete conformity with the pace and the tonality of the chorus”.
PROCOPE: “exploratory blue note”…
GONSALVES: As I tell you. The couac-guy objected; “I’m a forty years aficionado, Mister. I know my Perdido by heart. Top to bottom. It was a blatant couac“. The exploratory-blue-note-guy answered back: “If that note was a couac, the complete works of Ben WEBSTER are an integral cacophony, little man. You are missing the whole point.”
PROCOPE: The ghost of WEBSTER again, hey…
GONSALVES: Mister Sax, himself. Yep. Story of my life. I’m a sidekick too, you know…
PROCOPE: And who finally won the argument?
GONSALVES: No one as far as I can say. The bouncer had to kick them out of the wing. They were starting a fight. They really meant business around that couac issue, let me just tell you that. Anyway, all that to say that GILLESPIE’s music is couac to me. I cant stand it. The cat is simply not in tune. Period. And he willingly refuses to ever be. What do you think of his work yourself? Sincerely. Off-record.
PROCOPE: I don’t know, man. There have been so many shifty changes over all these years in the way music is played. When I was a child, by the end of Wold War One, to play hot was often the same thing as to play out of tune. The fanfare leaders were constantly begging their boys: don’t play hot! Stay in tune! You will put me in trouble. This is a very demanding audience. Mind you, a bunch of hilbillies chewing tobacco on wooden benches. What did they know about the new music? About staying in tune, my violin teacher used to say…
GONSALVES: Russell, don’t change the subject. Answer straight to me. Mister out-of-tune GILLESPIE. Your judgement.
PROCOPE: As I say, I don’t know, man. I really don’t. Maybe these bopers are opening new horizons of Beauty. Who knows?
GONSALVES: Who knows! You gotta be talking abstractly here, cat. You don’t say that as a musician. It’s not possible!
PROCOPE: I admit that I’m speaking abstractly, yes. It’s an excellent way to formulate it, Paul. Look. Forget about the Dizzy-Man for a minute. Our problem here is fundamental and straightforward, if not simple. A reality is either in the world or in our mind.
GONSALVES: Or both.
PROCOPE: Well, both. Let’s say: in our mind alone, or in the world alone. Or in the world and reflected in our mind.
GONSALVES: I see that. In my mind alone: the superb hip chick I dreamed about the other day. She was just perfect. Nice, beautiful, everything. But I don’t know her. She corresponds to no actually existing person. If I ever meet her, I’ll marry her right there. But I’m afraid she exists only in my dreaming imagination.
UNKNOWN MUSICIAN ON THE BACK SEAT: You better believe it!
PROCOPE: Excellent example. Keep on.
GONSALVES: In the world and reflected in my mind: say, my saxophone. I see it. I feel it with my fingers and lips. I hear the sound of it. But if I put it in its case, and the case in the closet,, my then silenced saxophone continues to exist independently from my knowledge of it and the memory of it I still carry in my mind. I can even forget where it is and it is still there.
PROCOPE: Very good.
GONSALVES: In the world alone but in no mind: say, the hidden face of the moon, or the center of the earth. They exist, they are there, but nobody has ever had a look at them.
GONSALVES: Right on! (They slap each other’s hand).
PROCOPE: Now, where is Beauty?
GONSALVES: Where is Beauty?
PROCOPE: Yes, Paul. Where is that Beauty with a capital B, we are supposed to give them tonight. Look at them (He discretely shows with the mouthpiece of his saxophone the audience which is now slowly entering the room). They’re all here for “it”.
GONSALVES (staring at the room): They’re some beautiful cats, man!
PROCOPE: You really find them people beautiful, Paul. You say it constantly.
GONSALVES: Yes, actually I do find them people beautiful, as you say so inelegantly….
PROCOPE: So that Beauty you are so apt at noticing, that you see even when it is not completely there, where is it? In the world? In our mind? Their minds? The world and the minds at the same time? Where?
GONSALVES: OK OK. I see the problem you raise here. Hold on. This is kind of tricky. Let’s proceed by elimination. First, in the world alone: no. Because in order to be beautiful, it has to be perceived. Second, in the mind…
PROCOPE: Wow, wow! You open a book and you see a beautiful photograph of, say, the countryside. The sun shines. The little birds sing. There is a lake. All the shebang. It moves you to tears.
GONSALVES: I see it.
PROCOPE: You close the book. The picture is not beautiful anymore in the closed book?
GONSALVES (hitting lightly his forehead with the mouthpiece of his instrument): Oh, that is tough man! A hard decision to make! Let toss that one aside for a minute. What about: in the mind alone?
PROCOPE: This is my option. I want you to know it already.
GONSALVES: That is your option?
PROCOPE: Oh yes (closing his eyes and touching his forehead). How did he put that again? Let me quote it for you. I will premise that I do not attribute to nature either beauty or deformity, order or confusion. Only in relation to our imagination can things be called beautiful or deformed, ordered or confused.
GONSALVES: No way, man! Who said that? BEETHOVEN when he did not want to clean his room?
PROCOPE: The Dutch philosopher Benedict de SPINOZA.
PROCOPE: In a letter written around 1665 to a cat by the name of Henry OLDENBURG. One more?
PROCOPE: Listen to this (he lifts his head and closes his eyes). Just a second… Beauty, my dear Sir, is not so much a quality of the object beheld, as an effect in him who beholds it. If our sight were longer or shorter, or if our constitution were different, what now appears beautiful to us would seem misshapen, and what we now think misshapen we should regard as beautiful. The most beautiful hand seen through the microscope will appear horrible. Some things are beautiful at a distance but ugly near… I’m losing the rest. That is from a letter to Hugo BOXEL written in 1674.
GONSALVES: Gee man. How can you quote all that stuff by heart. You are a brain, man.
PROCOPE: I can’t take credit. It’s the photographic memory of the mediocre songster, my friend. To quote and to understand are two very different things. In philosophy as in music. Let me tell you that.
GONSALVES: Hmmm… There are times I would just love to have your photographic memory!
PROCOPE: Don’t wish too hard for it. It would alterate your improvisation capacities, my Paul. The worse musicians are the ones with a goddam photographic memory. They are senseless songsters with an old bag of tricks. They…
GONSALVES (holding one hand to interrupt him): Ho! Never mind! Cut it out! Enough about the whining songster, OK. So in the views of Milords SPINOZA & PROCOPE, Beauty is only in our imagination. (Monkeying PROCOPE) It is an effect in him who beholds it. Frankly you surprise me this time.
PROCOPE: How come? It’s nothing more than the fart effect, brother. The pleasure coming from smelling my own fart is my own personal subjective emotion. No other living soul shares it.
GONSALVES: What about you liking my music more than yours.
PROCOPE: No, Paul. I like your performance more than mine. But we are playing, you and me, the same antiquated music. We are in the same band, rolling the same gig forever. We are together, strapped in the same esthetical faded ribbon, as opposed to, say, GILLESPIE, or RACHMANINOV, or that new wig-wagging Elvis PRIESTLEY guy. We, PROCOPE and GONSALVES, modest and laid-back Ellintonian saxophonists, manufacture the same music. You simply perform it better than I do.
GONSALVES: We are two ass-holes generating collectively the same team-worked fart. Is that what you are telling me?
PROCOPE: You said it this time. (Louder) And we all proudly stand up together when the time comes to blow it out. Hey, boys!
UNKNOWN MUSICIAN ON THE BACK SEAT: By all means, Russell, cat, boy!
GONSALVES: No, but wait. How can Beauty be in the mind alone if what triggers it is always in the world. The sound of the reeds section, the colors and shapes of the photographs you were talking about.
PROCOPE: Well, in the mind alone is a very shitty formulation.
GONSALVES: I can see that. It is quite immoral, in a way. It makes our mind look like some travel satchel or something.
PROCOPE: Precisely. To argue my point I would rather say that Beauty is mind-dependent.
GONSALVES: Mind-dependent. Just that…
PROCOPE: Yes, cat, just that. For Beauty to be experienced you need minds, possibly strictly human minds, to interact with whatever these minds will judge beautiful.
GONSALVES: Hmm. I’m afraid there is a couac in your reasoning, big brother.
PROCOPE: Alright. What is it?
GONSALVES: My couac in the second chorus of Perdido in Paris.
PROCOPE: What about it?
GONSALVES: Well, it was obviously grasped by minds. But the mind of Parisian Phony Number One called it a couac, whereas the mind of Parisian Phony Number Two called it “exploratory”.
GONSALVES: Then your mind-dependence story falls apart if it gets scrambled like that and looses all consistency, even between two very careful fans who, after all, share identical musical tastes and heard the exact same chorus.
PROCOPE: Why so? Let suppose that Number One called it a couac because he found it ugly and Number two called it “exploratory” because he found it superbly beautiful.
GONSALVES: That is exactly my point.
PROCOPE: Well that is not an obvious point at all. If a couac is a false note. It could be argued that it is the manifestation of some sound disorder external to any esthetic judgement. The same way, for example, a false ball is a ball moving outside of the diamond, as we can all see, independently from any inter-subjective interpretative debate, in an objective disordered way. But I premise that that idea of disorder is something we imagine strictly because we did not grasp yet the more fundamental order of things.
GONSALVES: SPINOZA, hey!
GONSALVES: But you got a big problem here, man.
PROCOPE: What’s that?
GONSALVES: It’s a foul ball man.
PROCOPE: What is a foul ball?
GONSALVES: What you call a false ball, it’s a foul ball.
PROCOPE: What are you talking about? My violin teacher used to call that a false ball.
UNKNOWN MUSICIAN ON THE BACK SEAT: False! Foul-play, fool man!
GONSALVES: Well he was a violin teacher, obviously! Maybe SPINOZA would not accept to say that he deformed a word , or confused two words, but I think that’s what he did! And you with him.
PROCOPE: Its a foul ball? You sure? I’v always called that a false ball… since my childhood. False ball, Paul. Its… its nicer than foul ball…
GONSALVES: Perhaps it is nicer to you, friend. But, personnally, when I hear that type of English I call it broken, not nice. Obviously, as I said earlier, we love what we are and if we are wrong, we love wrong! Now this being said, I am about to commit my major act of generosity of the day, man. I will, for a very brief moment of my so short existence, imagine that a foul ball is called a false ball, in order to permit to my excellent friend Russell, who claims that he can explain to me the most subtle esthetic distinguos conceivable when he does not even speak his mother tongue properly, to casually end up his brilliant piece of reasonning. How is that?
PROCOPE: (relieved) Paul, you are a prince. Your magnanimous generosity is proverbial.
GONSALVES: So, what about that… false ball?
PROCOPE (still puzzled): Well… Where was I now?
GONSALVES: The idea of disorder is supposed to be a product of our imagination. You premise that that idea of disorder is something we imagine strictly because we did not grasp yet the more fundamental order of things. Its my turn to quote a genius, genius…
PROCOPE: Yes, yes…
GONSALVES: Then, what about the false ball? Aren’t you contradicting your good pal SPINOZA here? Since everybody in the stadium saw the so-called false ball fly aside, we don’t imagine its movement! You and your violin teacher call it false for a reason. The rest of humanity call it foul probably for quite the same reason: it’s not straight, it’s not satisfactory.
PROCOPE: Well, maybe we should all rename it! Let us simply call it a curved ball, a deviant ball or whatever descriptive name like that. You withdraw the notions of falsity or foulness from it, you describe its movement more accurately, you see more clearly its status in the broader order of the game, and SPINOZA is still right to say that to call it foul or false is a judgemental trick of our imagination.
GONSALVES: Hmm… Debatable… But let’s suppose I grant it. The idea of foul in foul ball is obviously of a judgemental nature. If, in my proverbial magnanimous generosity as you say, I admit some intellectual accuracy to the connection between the two words made by your violin teacher and yourself, I’m forced to open myself to the possibility that the idea of false could be… a false idea. Fine. Back to the couac versus “exploratory blue note” argument now?
PROCOPE: Well, to address it more precisely, I just have to adjust my initial aphorism. I should say: Beauty and Ugliness are mind-dependent. Since both are dependent on specific subjective minds, debates constantly occur between different subjective minds on the status of Beauty or Ugliness of a given object.
GONSALVES: Not bad, big cat! I can see that. They fought over opinions rather than over the understanding of a fact of the world.
PROCOPE: Beautifully said, if I may say. See, there is a point on what your two Parisian fans did not debate: the mere existence of that note, its presence in the chorus. Neither of them said I heard nothing, what was another possibility for another argument… No, both agreed on the presence of that controversial note. It is because the sound of that note is not mind-dependent. Its Beauty or Ugliness is.
GONSALVES: One minute. You are losing me here. Granted the dependence of the sound’s Beauty or Ugliness. But the sound itself has to be perceived by a listener with ears and a mind in order to exist. What if one of these Parisian phonies would have denied the mere existence of the controversial note, as you just said?
PROCOPE: Not an issue. The Duke would have told you after the gig if the note had been performed or not, in a snap! To support his already highly reliable perception, he could even have used the testimony of the other musicians. The existence or non existence of that note would have been clarified, because it was or was not. No fluctuation. No alternative.
GONSALVES: OK. Agreed. I can easily imagine the Duke and his men getting impartially to the bottom of that couac inquiry!. Nevertheless, I maintain that a sound has to be perceived by a listener with ears and a mind in order to exist. Yours, mine, the fans’, the Duke’s… anybody’s, but somebody’s!
PROCOPE: Where did you get that idea, Paul? Look, did you see these new portable tape recorders? Buster had one in his room the other day.
PROCOPE: Well, you take your sax and play Turkey in the Straw, and Buster records you on his portable tape recorder. Do you see that?
GONSALVES: I see that.
PROCOPE: Then bring the recorder to the recording studio and instead of sitting on the stool in front of the mike with your sax, put the recorder and start it.
PROCOPE: Then have the disc recording technician start his recording device, and both of you get your asses out of the studio before your ears and mind perceive a single note. What happens?
GONSALVES: Turkey in the Straw gets transferred directly from the portable recorder to the disc.
PROCOPE: Without the intervention of any perceiving mind during the process. These combinations of sounds are popping and cracking independently from any mind or consciousness. They are in the world, just like your sax, in its case, in the closet.
GONSALVES: But hey, these devices don’t know that this specific tune is titled Turkey in the Straw.
PROCOPE: No they don’t. Because this title is mind-dependent. The same way the words false and foul are mind-dependent, and can therefore be mixed up only by thinking minds, not by recording devices. The recording devices of the studio have also no clue at all of the fact that they are recording music either. Because the mere reality of music is mind-dependent.
GONSALVES: Oh man! This is getting too heavy for me, man!
PROCOPE: Why? Look. Bring Buster’s tape recorder in the wood. It has batteries, you know. Turn it on for the animals. What do they make of your Turkey in the Straw? What do they hear? Noise, my friend. Only noise. And they are scared shitless and escape. Hegel mentioned somwhere these animals which have listened to all the tones in some music, but to whose senses the unison, the harmony of their tones, has not penetrated, That’s exactly what it is. To a raccoon, your finest solos are no music, but strictly auditive annoyance, my brother.
GONSALVES: OK, Mister Hegel PROCOPE, Sir, what about the other so called arts: painting, drawing, sculpture?
GONSALVES: Wow! One minut! A statue of Russell PROCOPE playing his outstanding clarinet is erected in a square in Paris. Do you see it?
PROCOPE: Shit, man! I would love to!
GONSALVES: It would be a totally realistic project, man. They love clarinetists over there. You know it.
PROCOPE: If you say so.
GONSALVES: It is a superb statue of you. A bronze. Your exact replica. Same size, same expression when you play. Everything. A marvel of figurative art. It is like you being there, playing clarinet on a small pedestal in that small intimate square in Paris, with trees and so on. Do you see it?
PROCOPE: If you insist, yes.
GONSALVES: The pigeons see it too. It is exactly your shape and size. But they quickly recognize it as a statue despite its eloquent realism. So, they are not frightened by it. They go perch on it.
PROCOPE: They even shit on its head and face. So what? They do not recognize it as “a statue”, but rather as a non-human, safe, non-moving solid structure. They care a lot about safe solid structures of a certain height. They look for them. Such structures are part of their personal dharma, if one may say. On the other hand, they give jack-shit about the notion of a bronze imitation of a human being crafted for an artistic purpose. These ideas are totally foreign to them.
GONSALVES (scratching his head): You reproduce the mentality of a pigeon in a quite convincing manner, I must admit.
PROCOPE (throws the rag to him): Clean your instrument, Mister Funny Guy. The gig is about to begin.
(A short silence)
GONSALVES (shining his saxophone): If I may come back to coprophilia.
PROCOPE: Shit, man! You like it more than I do, obviously!
GONSALVES: No. Take it easy, man! If I follow your reasoning, coprophilia is the confirmation of the mind-dependence of the Beauty of the turd.
PROCOPE: Absolutely. That mind-dependence is constant for every subjective mind, but allowing the idea and the sensation of Beauty or Ugliness to fluctuate from mind to mind, or from group of minds to group of minds.
GONSALVES: And a couac is nothing but a musical turd…
PROCOPE: …susceptible to be energetically defended as incredibly beautiful by sincere and convinced couacophiliacs, some of them as renowned as the Dizzy-Man.
PROCOPE: Oh Yes, my Paul. And you, the performer, you stay a hit as long as the mind-dependence of their esthetic pulsions gives some focused collective consistency to their perverse orientation toward your music. Beauty…
(Duke ELLINGTON enters on stage. The audience applauds)
GONSALVES: Quick man. Here’s the Duke. (They both stand up, along with the rest of the reeds section)
Duke ELLINGTON: Ladies and gentlemen, we are all so pleased, so honored. so gratified to welcome you in that incredibly beautiful Grand Theatre. You are fantastic and we love you all!
PROCOPE (sliding the reed between his lips, whispering): The first couac of the evening…
GONSALVES (sliding the reed between his lips, whispering): What’s that theatre again?
Russell PROCOPE quotes SPINOZA in the 1883 Bohn edition, reprinted three years before his current gig. He does not remember that, but his two quotes on beauty are on page 290 and 382 respectively. Always reading these books instead of rehearsing. Strange cat…
Spinoza, B. de (1955), On the Improvement of the Understanding – The Ethics – Correspondence, New York, Dover Publications, 420p. – ISBN 0-486-20250-X – initially published in 1677, English edition of 1883.
He quotes HEGEL from the original London, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. edition of 1892, which was to be reprinted with no alteration five years after his gig. The remarks on the effects of music on animals is at the middle of the so-called prefatory note, on a page paginated xv.
Hegel, G.W.F. (1963), Lectures on the History of Philosophy, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul; New York, The Humanities Press, vol.1, 487p. – ISBN 0-8032-7271-5 – published in 1840, English edition of 1892.
The quote from Edward Kennedy ELLINGTON provided in the introductory epigram can be found under the title Paul GONSALVES in the so called Dramatis Felidae of the ACT FIVE of his autobiography. The portraits of GONSALVES and PROCOPE are respectively on pages 221 and 222 of the reprinted edition. That is actually particularly ironic because it makes them look like Mister Number Two Two number One, and Mister Number Two Two number Two.
Ellington, E. K. (1973), Music is my Mistress, New York, Da Capo Press, 523p. – ISBN 0-306-80033-0 – initially published in 1973, reprint.