Dancing about Architecture

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” The quote is often attributed to Thelonious Monk, and though it may not have been original with him, it certainly has his koanesque humor.

Yes, writing about music is an absurd venture into a laughable incongruence—a fool’s errand. How does one capture the most immediate and slippery of the arts with these clumsy words, and what would be the point?

I get it, but fool that I am, I can’t entirely agree.

Smile

For someone as profoundly musical as Monk, the music says everything that needs to be said. He sometimes refused even to put his music in writing for sidemen at recording sessions, insisting that they learn his knotty new compositions by ear.

For the rest of us, however, writing is a useful, if awkward, way to share our experience in music, and that is what this blog is about.

To paraphrase Duke Ellington—my apologies, but I cannot find the exact quote just now—some people are born to play music, and some are born to listen to it. I fall into the latter group. I have to listen in much the same way that a musician has to play. I can’t help myself.

I’m equally compelled, through some genetic accident, to share the experience. To do that effectively requires that I listen with a more heightened attention and sensitivity than I might otherwise. That has the happy effect of deepening the experience for me—so the sharing is not entirely selfless—and hopefully for you as well.

This blog is a new venture for me, both technologically and conceptually, so please bear with me while I find my way. I hope to reward your patience with a lively conversation about our mutual obsession.

P.S. Thanks are due to

  • JB Bryan—poet, painter, designer, publisher—who, with preternatural patience, provided much-needed assistance in getting this site up, as well as the perfect masthead (that’s a Coltrane riff, by the way, in the composer’s hand).
  • Pianist and website designer Jim Ahrend, who pointed out that a small technical problem that had been plaguing me—namely, me—had a simple resolution.
  • All the people who believed in this project before I did, and encouraged me to pursue it.

P.P.S.

Speaking of dancing . . .

www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJYeCYO-hA

© 2013 Mel Minter. All rights reserved.

21 thoughts on “Dancing about Architecture

  1. Fred Herman

    Hey Mel. It’s so good to see you’ve found the perfect venue for your insightful, playfull approach to the art of listening to “all that jazz” and beyond. It will be my pleasure to be a faithfull reader. Even if talkin’ bout the music is just “pointing your finger at the moon”, the better pointin’ we get the deeper our direct experience. Brother Mel, keep on pointin’ the way.

    Reply
  2. Suzanne Ford

    SO pleased to be on this list and looking forward to a whole new world of intelligent, entertaining commentary from a master. Bravo, Mel!

    Reply
  3. Chris Williams

    To paraphrase the koan of one hand clapping, I could ask, “What information is contained in a Blog without an author?” Though the question is different I suspect the answer is similar – silence, emptiness, nothing.

    I am glad this Blog has found its second hand.

    Reply
  4. Frank Hoffman

    Rave on, rave on, rave on, Mel Minter, rave on!
    “The world is so cold, don’t know nothin’ ’bout your soul, that you share . . . .” You know the rest.

    Reply
  5. Scott Darsee

    Dear Mel,

    Words are music, too, and you dance that dance!

    Your reflection here reminds me of why we strive to create music: to give rise to that internal voice that moves us to move, and hopefully, to find a way to give it a body in time so as to move others.

    Best wishes on the great adventure!

    Reply
    1. Mel Post author

      Thanks, Scott, for the kind words.

      Your reference to that internal voice reminds me of a terrific article in the August 27
      issue of The New Yorker: ‘String Theorist,” Jeremy Eichler’s profile of violinist Christian
      Tetzlaff. The closing paragraphs come closest to articulating my thoughts about what music is and does. I highly recommend this article if you can find it.

      Reply
  6. Alicia Ultan

    If anyone can dance about architecture, it’s the one n’ only Mel Minter! Can’t wait for all the brilliant insights, twists, turns, leaps, etc etc etc! Yeah for you Mel and yeah for alla us! 🙂

    Reply
  7. Dudessa

    Excellente!

    I offer you my own words, unrefined though they may be, to say “At Last!”

    It has been far too long since we have been able to read your articulate and always insightful, skillfully written thoughts. Your writing is not so different from the music you love. You share your appreciation as well as your personal epiphanies. Even your criticisms awaken and astound us with unique perception. You alert us to musical depths and visceral statements that may have been overlooked in the intensity of the moment. You remind us why we celebrate the music and the musician by re-capturing and even spot-lighting musical moments that are most likely already consigned to memory or even forgotten. This is the reason so many musicians and fans and friends are hungry to read you once again and are so happy that we now have the opportunity to do so.
    You are musically conscious.
    This is going to be a wonderful venture on many levels, as you will see. Thank you for your talent and for your willingness to share your heart with all of us!
    Love,
    PattiL

    Reply
  8. Jimmy Abraham

    Mel, I’m pleased to see this new venture. Of course it’s not easy to discuss music in language, but you will be continuing important work that you are clearly good at. All the best, Jimmy Abraham

    Reply
  9. tim zannes

    Don’t stop dancing; we all need to know about what’s new and old in music and without the honest scribes like Mel we wouldn’t hear the music because we wouldn’t be directed to it. It is great to read Mel’s fluid lines once again. And anyway, since dancing is a way of communing with music, writing about music =dancing.

    Reply
  10. Katie Gill

    I’m proud to be one of the first to post on your brand new blog! Congrats on this–I think it’s gonna be a winner! You are such a talented and honest writer telling the tales of the troubadours and more! Best of luck to the best of people–YOU!

    Reply
  11. Kate Burgan

    Ahhhh, I have my Mel hit for the week.
    My heart and mind are now at peace, and I know my dreams will be filled with colorful words and music.
    Blessings to you with thanks . . . . . . Namaste!

    Reply

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