..... poetry .....



"The Great Listening" Suite

III. When The Music Starts, We All Pay Up

When the music starts, we all pay up—
    the audience with their hard-earned dollars,
    the players with their hard-earned hours,
    the Spirits with their miracles.

What the audience brings is the most valuable commodity,
    more than a $ exchange
    more than gracious hospitality
    more than the right venue
    more than a competent sound crew.

Yes, they bring adoration,
    that fleeting brush of heat that surrounds
    the ego like warm egg-nog.
Yes, they bring witnessing,
    an act that can forever alter an artistic life.

Most importantly, they bring their Listening.
This is what every musician really craves,
    deep down, in their
    Heart of Hearts.

Forget about 'Heart of Hearts'!
Most musicians find an attentive audience
    terrifying at first.
Like hosting an Afro-Haitian dance class in one's chest,
Or seeing olympian gremlins out the cockpit window
    at one's first solo flight.

Gradually, panic surrenders to neutrality and
    all the years are
    finally paying off.
The players are speaking with authority
    and hearing their group, and individual, song.
Real listening begins.

At last, the audience enters and brings their
    Precious Gift.
Some eagerly, some reluctantly.
Most, sincerely believe they are having
    a private experience.
Quantum Theory has long since proved that observation
    changes the physical make-up of objects.
Waves become particles with a blink of an eye,
    and Waves make Waves in music.

Our audience, too, believes that they are observing,
    more like eavesdropping,
    on a series of private conversations among musicians.
If they only knew how much their presence
    amplified and catalyzed the musicians' listening,
    they would demand to be paid!

All the sparks of controlled chaos and spontaneous perfection
    loop and build as the audience becomes the
    sonic "Fourth Wall."
What else would explain the electricity found in live recordings?
The quieter the music becomes,
    the more that listening is drawn out,
    the more it becomes a seduction, and less a demand.

We've been told that "Less Is More" really is code for "K.I.S.S."
    (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
Let your mind wander back to your last fabulous meal that was
    truly elegant...
Recall its depth and simplicity, the way it still lingers in
    your sight,
    your smell,
    your sense of how close your partner felt by mid-meal.

When music is sumptuously played, it gives that same
    aroma of space,
    allowing the listener to create an elaborate fantasy of their
    own making.
So many things get elicited when the ear
    and mind ignite
From the most elusively erotic
    to the curiously forgotten
    to the fancies of our inner cinematographer
    as the soundtracks of our lives.

When Spirits asks us to pay up, we eventually find
    No Boundary
    between the performers and the audience.

For it is then that the Spirits cheer
    and place their bets.

November 2008




©2010, Michael Smolens