Monday, September 17, 2007

solumn 24 augustine and jazz

Since 1959 it has been possible for someone to simultaneously read Augustine's 'Confessions' while listening to 'Mingus Ah Um'. But I'm unsure if anyone has ever done it before me.

Charlie Mingus' classic album is definitely worth a listen, just as Augustine is worth a read. Combining them leads to an odd experience, however. Augustine's work is the first autobiography, and was written in the late 300's A.D. Mingus helped define modern jazz in the 50's and 60's. Both are two-hit wonders, Augustine also wrote 'The City of God' which is an important theological treatise, and Mingus also put out 'The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady', voted by Some people Some where as The Best Jazz Album Ever Period(.) I wonder if Mingus ever read Augustine.

But if you ever wish to combine religious autobiography with modern jazz listening they're a great combo. Yet I can never fully endorse reading and music listening at the same time, for one will inevitably distract from the fullness of appreciation of the other. But as my mom used to say: 'Do as I say, not as I do'. If we all followed our own common sense then the world would be, if not a much prettier place, a much more reasonable, and ergo peaceful, one.

I was once sitting in what I thought was the set for 'Blade Runner' but turned out to be the Port Authority bus station in New York City. Enclosed in the white tile walls and red neon numbers I sat reading Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason'. The tome was the focus of an entire class, and I needed to get some reading done before I got on my bus. While sitting there an old man, Southern, came up to me and began talking to me about it. He had, apparently, gone to the college I'd wanted to go to, St. Johns, where they read the Great Books for four years.

"You and me are probably the only two people in this place that have read that book," he quipped.


He then gave me his business card, with his name and number, stapled to a page of an index of an anthology of music. He gave me lots of advice which I've not followed, and information which I've forgotten, such as his name and the reason for the index sheet.

Did Mingus ever read Kant? I'm almost certain he didn't. But he could have. Well, maybe with help. There are few mortals who can tackle Kant without help, goodness knows how the first readers coped to be able to help their pupils. But as time passes culture accumulates. That is the stuff of culture does, the books, the architecture, the music and art. That's also what makes us think that that we persist as time passes, for our memories seemingly accumulate. (They don't, but that's a debate for another column.)

Meanwhile, in the world of current affairs, the seven world wonders were chosen. I've been plugging them for a while and now feel cheated and defeated. The final seven winners are:

Chichen Itza, Christ the Redeemer, Machu Pichu, The Colosseum, The Great Wall, Petra, and the Taj Mahal.

I'm pleased only with the final two. The first two aren't interesting: There are taller pyramids and the Redeemer statue is very modern. Machu Pichu is cool, but just a ruined city. There are many ruined cities. The Colosseum is cool, as I'm sure the Great Wall is, but they're already on the old list. So now the site is doing Natural Wonders. Will you see me participating? Doubtful.

WWMD? World Weapons of Mass Destruction or What Would Mingus Do? Your pick.

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