The metaphorical habit

March 1, 2012

Last night I attended an improvisational performance between legendary guitarist and composer Fred Frith and piano improviser extraordinaire Annie Lewandowski. The performance was sublime, and as I listened I “accompanied” it with some improvisations of my own, in the form of words (you can read them here). I noticed only after transcribing them just how often I turned to animals and natural imagery in order to describe what I was hearing, as if these very evocations were embedded in the ephemeral results of their tinkering. Is this purely a habit I have taken from literature? Am I really tapping into something essential about this music, about all music? Or do the metaphors remain only that, forever asymptotes to that being described? And why, by the same token, do we so often analogize the cries and calls of animals to the music we create with contrived instruments? This constant crisscrossing would seem to intersect at a juncture vital to life itself. I dare say it may be a juncture in which we all share, perhaps the genesis of life itself. Agamben calls it the “Open,” but it seems closed to anyone who tries to describe it. And I think this is the point. It is not an “it” at all. It simply is. We can write, sing, emote to no end about either end of an arbitrary divide, but until we listen to it we have heard nothing. -Tyran


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