How many artists strive for excellence and transcendence?
Recently I heard Bruce Hornsby, one of the best, if not the best rock/jazz/pop/blues pianists in the country, in concert at the Kent Stage. I knew him from his days with his band “The Range” from the 1980’s and love his mega hits “The Way It Is” and “Mandolin Rain.”
At this stage in his career he is exploring different musical languages and creating new sounds and effects. For his latest cd “Solo Concerts” and during the live concert he mixed the modern classical music of Schoenberg and Elliott Carter with New Orleans blues, modal folk, hymnal, and boogie. A few times he began a familiar piano riff from one of his radio hits, but then segued into atonal bars and never returned (as far as I could tell) to the familiar.
The liner notes from “Solo Concerts” says that he is searching for “inspiration, challenges, and new vistas…a search for inspiration and transcendent moments; moments that give you chills, make you cry, laugh, or make your head move.”
Emily Dickinson talked about the power of art (in her case, writing) to take the top of your head off. I admire Bruce’s quest for excellence, for inspiration and big moments. I think sometimes we are so focused on producing clean copy for an editor or an “aha!” for our audience that we don’t recognize the “aha’s” that are there for us as well.
If the artist doesn’t touch transcendence, how will the audience?
In future posts I’ll be discussing what “touching transcendence” means.
You’re probably noticing about now the lengthening daylight hours. I know I am. But we have several more weeks of winter in northwest Pennsylvania. I love winter, but after the particularly brutal one of 2013-14 I admit I look forward to driving to work on I-79 without my hands gripping the steering wheel, flashers on at 45 mph, finding my way through blowing snow.
But along with the increased daylight, I also notice its different quality. The light from its lower position in the sky builds in quality from low intensity to a higher position and higher intensity. The process quickens my blood more than the momentary glimpse of a robin, as welcome as that is.
Emily Dickinson’s line There’s a certain slant of light comes to mind often because she was writing about the winter afternoon sun. But the rest of that poem does not look forward but inward. The sun doesn’t signal a new season in nature, but rather unexpectedly (a common occurrence in Dickinson) brings “heavenly hurt” that drives us to reexamine our priorities and attitudes
We can find no scar,/But internal difference/ Where the meanings are.
Has the sun become something to be feared? Only if we don’t want to look within. Some “heavenly hurt” can cause us to look for and find, changes in our internal meanings. Hopefully we can welcome “that certain slant of light” for what God purposes through it, both externally and internally.