September 4th, 2009
I’m often accused by friend and foe alike of being inherently a pessimist, and often think that this must color my thinking and hence my writing on this website. I’ll always recall my father, somewhat depressed towards the end of his life, offering me the sage advice: “Son, you’ll often hear people say that things can’t get worse than they are. Well my experience is that not only can they get worse, they probably will.” Very upbeat.
And then there is the old Russian proverb (does it not seem that too many old anonymous proverbs are attributed to Russia?): “An optimist is only a pessimist who has not yet heard the bad news.”
In the midst of this gloom I discovered a very fine jazz musician named Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who recorded an album named Bright Moments which featured his very famous composition of that same name.
Mr. Kirk was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1935. He became blind at a young age “as a result of poor medical treatment,” according to his Wikipedia entry. Perhaps most extraordinary is that though blind he mastered a vast range of musical instruments.
As the Wikipedia entry continues: “The live album Bright Moments (1973) is an example of one of his shows. His main instrument was the tenor saxophone, supplemented by other saxes, and contrasted with the lighter sound of the flute. At times he would play a number of these horns at once, harmonising with himself, or hold a note endlessly by using circular breathing, or play the flute through his nose. All this, plus the fact that many of instruments were exotic or even home-made gave him a reputation as a vaudeville showman, but the music, even with two or three saxophones in his mouth at once, was intricate, powerful jazz with a strong feeling for the blues.”
Growing up in Toronto in the 1970s I was able to get into bars at a young age and my older friends took me one night to the great jazz bar The Colonial Tavern (now long-gone) to hear Rahsaan Roland Kirk. At first I thought it somewhat comic to see this hulk of a blind man on stage with a slew of instruments around his neck. I assumed we were in for vaudeville.
And then he began playing. I was astonished at his viruosity. Then he played Bright Moments, to me his masterpiece, a composition reflecting his great spirit to be alive and able to perform and share his ecstatic pleasure in doing so. I saw this man on stage singing and playing an ode to joy that changed my life forever. The lyrics are simple: to experience the song you must listen to the music (available of course for purchase on the better sites).
Today I was speaking with my dear elder sister Anne, and suggested to her that perhaps a weakness of the futureofpublishing.com was that people might perceive it as too bleak, too negative, too depressing.
And so I’ve gone back through the last several months of blog entries, created a category called “Bright Moments,” and added that classification to those entries which I feel are either light-hearted in the subject they cover or optimistic in some aspect of the story they report. I was surprised at how many I found.
So now if you go to http://thefutureofpublishing.com/blog/category/bright-moments/ you’ll find just those blog entries which I think can lighten a perhaps dark day of publishing, and allow you to share in the joy of Bright Moments.