The Potential Number of Songs Is Infinite

I forgot who said it, but a long time ago someone said that we would run out of new music. That there was only a finite number of songs and that we were close to running out of new material. You can see a modern form of this argument here. And then shortly after that Mozart (or someone like that) came on the scene and proved him/her totally wrong.

Mozart

Well, it seems like an untestable hypothesis to me, something you can’t prove or disprove. So, instead of trying to figure this out logically, I’ll just say where my feelings lie…

…I feel that this assertion is baloney. The potential number of songs is infinite. As long as people are around, they will be writing more music. With an infinite number of notes to choose from, these songwriters will create an infinite number of songs. So, there will be more Mozarts, more Dylans and infinitely more songs to come.

What triggered this was, as usual, a road trip. As you know, I recently went down to South Carolina to check out the eclipse. Driving through the swamps, forests and cities of the South, I would tune into new station after new station. Rock, hip-hop, pop, college stations, top 40. Whatever, just tuning in and listening to it all. And some of the sounds coming out of the South, Georgia and North Carolina especially, are definitely new and different. I’ll be honest: I don’t like all of it or even most of it, but some of it is pretty good. And it sounds unlike what we’re listening to now. It’s fresh and different. Just when you thought the well was exhausted, up comes this pail brimming with new water. That’s how it goes.

Where does this touch fiction writing? It doesn’t directly. But, I guess, I’ve realized lately how I haven’t focused on a wide range of influences in literature. I have limited myself to a too-narrow spectrum of voices. I’ve narrowed down, too much, the infinite choices of literature that are on offer. I especially tend to read “classics” and older stuff and it’s time to mix that up. I’ve made that change in my musical diet and now I need to do it in my fiction reading diet.

So, that’s going to change. Starting now. I’ve written on this blog about Hemingway, Poe, Cervantes—but now it’s time to open up the horizons a bit wider. It’s been time…I’ll let you know who it goes.


That’s all for now. I will only add that I’m still writing and, importantly, still enjoy writing fiction. There’s still nothing like creating a world from scratch—with nothing more than an idea and PC with a Word processor. I’m keeping it up and will let you know about progress here when there is something to report.

See You Next Time,

Darius

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Totality Awesome

Hey Everybody, I’m back. Ran down to South Carolina (Greenville area) last month to experience the solar eclipse…Actually to experience totality which is a totally (sorry!) different thing. It was mind-blowing. It is one of the few times when I have felt words don’t really do an event justice. Just look at it:

A total solar eclipse is seen on Monday, August 21, 2017 above Madras, Oregon. A total solar eclipse swept across a narrow portion of the contiguous United States from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. A partial solar eclipse was visible across the entire North American continent along with parts of South America, Africa, and Europe.  Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

If you find yourself near an eclipse again, I recommend getting to the totality zone so you can fully experience it. I was very suspicious/cynical before driving eight hours and spending two nights in a (meh) hotel room for an event scheduled to last two minutes. But as totality (that moment when the moon completely blocks the sun) started I began clapping and cheering. I couldn’t help myself. It was that incredible.

There are many stages to reaching totality. First, you see the crescent of the sun get smaller and smaller (the start of the eclipse). Eventually, the temperature starts to drop (in Greenville it dropped about 10 degrees Farenheit), the night animals/insects start to make noise and the sky starts to acquire a strange twilight glow. Then, the light from the sliver of sun becomes white (not yellow or orange) and there is a strange diamond ring effect. And boom! The Sun is gone and only the aurora is left. It’s a fantastical scene. Everything appears monochrome above (see the picture) and the stars begin to appear in the night sky. There is a twilight or sunset around 360 degrees on the horizon and you can hear all the crickets/cicadas thundering along at this point. It lasts for only a couple of minutes—but is sublime. Then, there is a second diamond ring effect and the sun is back. Color starts to come back and the twilight comes back as the stars fade.

It’s one of nature’s great events and this post hardly does it justice. Like I said, it is one of those few times when I feel words truly fail me. You must simply experience it.

So, next time there’s an eclipse, see if there will also be a totality. Then, book a room and grab a car/train/ship and get there for the big moment. You won’t regret it.

See you next time,

Darius

Rothko, ‘Nothing to Lose and a Vision to Gain’

A man once said, “You must constantly fight against the illusion that you have something to lose” or something very similar. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. And I’ve been wondering if that man didn’t lift or modify that quote from an earlier artist (who also was speaking at a commencement ceremony).

What am I talking about? Last month, I was down in Texas. Houston to be exact. We decided to hit the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (a museum not to be missed, if you’re in the area). They had an retrospective on Mark Rothko. I have to say I have a very hard time appreciating modern art. And the more abstract it is, the harder time I have hooking into it. Rothko’s stuff is abstract in the extreme: There are no figures and few shapes. It’s just a few rough lines and color. But there was something about these works. And it came down to a tag on one of the paintings that explained his work and opened it up for me. The tag said that painting should be not about a representation of a scene or a person. It should be an experience. An experience in and of itself. And that was it. I understood. Instead of judging it by the standards of pictorial representation I could judge the bare image on the wall by its immediate presence, by what it made me feel and think in all immediacy without a critical mind weighing it and ruining it.

Untitled 1951 Rothko, National Gallery of Art 

This is interesting because it’s not unlike the concept of “pure experience” in Buddhism and other Eastern religions. I’m sure Rothko must have been aware of this connection. It seems too close for him to have overlooked. But I’m not sure.

But I digress. The thing that really struck me was a second placard at the exhibition. It had a quote from a speech Rothko gave a year before he died at Yale’s commencement ceremony. As an older, successful artist he looked back on his career.

“When I was a younger man, art was a lonely thing; no galleries, no collectors, no critics, no money. Yet it was a golden time, for then we had nothing to lose and a vision to gain. Today it is not quite the same. It is a time of tons of verbiage, activity, and consumption. Which condition is better for the world at large I will not venture to discuss. But I do know that many who are driven to this life are desperately searching for those pockets of silence where they can root and grow. We must all hope that they find them.”

And I thought: that first stage is fiction writing today, a “lonely thing” where—except for a few Rockstars of fiction—there are “no galleries, no collectors…no money.” Only the galleries are shuttered bookstores, the collectors are missing patrons, “no money” is a constant worry. 

But for all that—and there is a lot on that side—might there be an upside? Might it even be a “golden time”? I hear some of you laughing already. Fair enough. First, I’m all for writers being compensated fairly, excessively even. And I am concerned when I read headlines about writers making wages well below the poverty level ($8,000, come on!). But there’s an upside to having nothing to lose. It can give a you a chance to start over, to find your own vision free from the constraints and demands of commercialization, self-importance and inflated ego.  

That Rothko quote also got me thinking about myself. Wasn’t I in the same position as the younger Rothko? What did I have to lose? What if I just kept going like I have been for the last few years: Going to my 9-to-5 job, clocking in, clocking out. Writing stories on the weekend at the café, one of those “pockets of silence” where I can “root and grow.” What if I just write and write and write and never sell another one of those stories ever again? So what? No really, so what? I still have my 9-to-5 job. I still pay the rent, feed and clothe myself. What difference does it make? How would I be different from any other working stiff? But if I succeed, even modestly, mind you, what then? If I sell a few stories, maybe a novel someday, or a play? Even if they go nowhere—haven’t I gained something? A vision and more? The satisfaction that I did it, that I stayed the course? And didn’t fold? To me that has more worth than a thousand publishing contracts, a huge marketing budget and a bus for a book tour?

All times, golden or otherwise, are what you make of them. What will you make of yours?

Until next time,

Darius


That Rothko retrospective in Houston ends Jan. 24. So, you’ll have to hurry up if you want to catch it.

Time to (Re)Read A Moveable Feast?


Can’t let this pass without mentioning it.

I’ve had a lot of fun over the years making fun of Hemingway, I admit it. But A Moveable Feast is a great little novel. And obviously, the Paris attacks have been on everyone’s mind this past week. Today, I was very moved to see Hemingway’s memoirs of his younger days in 1920s Paris skyrocket to the top of the bestseller charts in France.

It’s interesting to see a book by an American author heralded as an exemplar of French culture. But you know what? It is. A book written by a Midwesterner is, for me, one of the greatest touchstones of French culture. It’s full of cafes, and writers and great art. What could be more French than that? HemingwayLoeb

And it’s full of great quotes like this one:

There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were nor how it was changed nor with what difficulties now what ease, it could be reached. It was always worth it and we received a return for whatever we brought to it.

Well put.

So, here’s a suggestion. Get a copy of the book: physical or digital, it doesn’t matter. And take it out to a café this weekend, order the most insane caffeinated drink you can imagine, tip well, sit down and read the book. And celebrate French culture along with Hemingway. Whether you’re in Paris, or anywhere else in the world. I can’t think of a better way to stick it to the dark forces which struck the City of Light last Friday. Hey, Hemingway would do it if he was still around. Don’t you think?

And believe me, I’ll be right there with you. Except, truth be told, I’ll probably be writing. All for now.

Until next time,

Darius

A Writer Marries

All,

Some tremendous news of a non-literary nature:

I’m getting married this Saturday! I’m about as happy as a man can be and can’t believe I’m going to marry the woman of my dreams…wedding-car-007

In recognition of this life-altering event, I’m going to be, alas, taking a bit of a blogging break. Look for more of my blog later this month  (October).

That’s about all for now. I have to run. In fact, right now I should be heading to the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding. I’ll be back later with a few more details on the wedding and more of “A Writer Begins.”

Stay tuned, things could get interesting.