Thursday

Aug. 29, 2013

Dog Music

by Paul Zimmer

Amongst dogs are listeners and singers.
My big dog sang with me so purely,
puckering her ruffled lips into an O,
beginning with small, swallowing sounds
like Coltrane musing, then rising to power
and resonance, gulping air to continue—
her passion and sense of flawless form—
singing with me, but mostly for the art of dogs.

We joined in many fine songs—"Stardust,"
"Naima," "The Trout," "Jeg elsker Dig," "Perdido."
She was a great master and died young,
leaving me with unrelieved grief,
her talents known only to a few.

Now I have a small dog who does not sing
but listens with discernment, requiring
skill and spirit in my falsetto voice.
When I sing her name and words of love,
Andante, con brio, vivace, adagio,
at times she is so moved she turns
to place her paw across her snout,
closing her eyes, sighing like a girl
I held and danced with years ago.

But I am a pretender to dog music.
Indeed, true strains rise only from
the rich, red chambers of a canine heart;
these melodies best when the moon is up,
listeners and singers together and apart,
beyond friendship and anger,
far from any human imposter—
songs of bones, turds, conquests,
hunts and scents, ballads of
long nights lifting to starlight.

"Dog Music" by Paul Zimmer, from Crossing to Sunlight Revisited. © The University of Georgia Press. 2007 Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of British philosopher John Locke (books by this author), born in Wrington, Somerset, England (1632). He believed in Natural Law and that people have Natural Rights, under which the right of property is most important. He wrote: "... every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself." He believed government exists to protect those rights and he argued in favor of revolt against tyranny. His ideas were a foundation for much of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

John Locke said, "The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts."

It's the birthday of jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, born in Kansas City, Kansas (1920). He is considered one of the half-dozen greatest jazz musicians, right up there with Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Early in his career, he received the nickname of "Yardbird," and then he became known as "Bird."

Before Parker's innovations, jazz meant swing, melodies played at dance tempos by musicians in big orchestras who never got to take solos for very long. Late at night, after their big-band jobs were over, Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and other black musicians kept on playing, improvising long lines at blazing speed. Parker used a lot of flatted fifths, and jazz players used the word "bebop" to sing a flatted fifth, but Parker didn't like to use the word for the way he played. "Let's not call it bebop," he said. "Let's just call it music."

As a teenager, Parker became addicted to morphine while hospitalized after a car accident. He later became addicted to heroin, which contributed to his death. The official cause was listed as pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer. On the death certificate, the coroner made a mistake in estimating Parker's age to be between 50 and 60. Parker was actually 34.

Parker said: "I realized by using the high notes of the chords as a melodic line, and by the right harmonic progression, I could play what I heard inside me. That's when I was born."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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