Thursday 22 December 2011

Caché (2005)

Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Bénichou
Music: None
Director: Michael Haneke
Screenplay: Michael Haneke
Director of Photography: Christian Berger

OK, so a quick run-down of What Happens In Caché. Auteuil and Binoche (he a TV intellectual; she a book publisher) start receiving surveillance footage of their own home, and creepy drawings, in childish hand, seemingly depicting some sort of nightmare incident from the past. The police refuse to help, as the video and drawings don’t constitute a direct threat, and Auteuil clams up, though it’s clear the un-wanted materials have something to do with some past incident in which he was involved. Turns out, then, that he can track down the source of the stalker material – said source, Majid, a now forty-something Algerian man, living in subsidized housing, was adopted by Auteuil’s family as a kid, after his parents were killed in the 1961 Paris Massacre, but kicked out and sent to an orphanage when a jealous Auteuil fabricated an incident involving the beheading of a chicken. Majid proceeds to commit suicide in front of Auteuil, who is subsequently confronted by M’s (un-named) son at work. After brushing him off, and returning home, our man tries to pretend that all’s back to normal, takes two sleeping pills and falls asleep in a darkened room. Oh, and it all ends with an ambiguous and contentious final shot, but we’ll get to that in due course.

The menacing stalker tactics employed by Majid are of course meant to seem creepy; the set-up being that we’re watching a thriller, the first shot maybe signalling an ‘enemy of the state’-style surveillance-paranoia movie: you're not safe even in your own home. But this, of course, is only a tactic to draw one in, so that one takes on the middle-class intellectual family's detachment (where everything is filtered through television, through radio, through newspapers, through books – nothing at first hand, nothing material), before the rug is well and truly pulled from under the feet of both characters and audience. Let’s take that moment when a news clip covering the Iraq war is seen in un-framed full-screen, before we pull out and see it safely boxed inside the television on which the characters watch (or don’t watch) it. (Haneke: "We fixed a neutral date and chose news items on television on that date. It had nothing to do with the content. But of course, you always see images of war, and that fit with the subject of the film.") Such a removal of the framing device prevents escape, prevents us from saying ‘it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie’ – I mean, for that moment, we are watching a news report, we aren’t watching a movie, we can’t just switch the tv off and go to bed. So now we see and hear the (socio-economic) realities that really underline a comfortable middle-class existence, with books and wine and dinner parties and Rimbaud. (The latter is here understood (in the brief snippet of Auteuil's TV show that we’re shown) not as the revolutionary poet that Kristin Ross shows him to have been, but as a flamboyant individualist, a gay colonial adventurer, his work discussed, not via the Paris Commune, say, or modernism, but family problems with his censoring sister (who, appropriate to the film’s overall theme and title, ‘hid’ (Cachéd away) the poems of his that shocked her). All very much ‘épater le bourgeois’ – and now Rimbaud’s work has been recuperated by precisely those bourgeois, subsumed into the ‘sophisticated’ wing of the culture industry.) The first time we see that Iraq news clip, our immediate reaction is no doubt: 'this isn't relevant to the plot; why is this still showing while the narrative conversation between Auteuil and Binoche carries on regardless?' Of course, though, the idea is that the clip is relevant, that the sort of activity it captures (imperialist, military exploitation under the guise of ‘humanitarian intervention’) does underlie everything we do, everything we allow our governments to do, by proxy, for us.

Take, too, the scene where Binoche takes a call from Auteuil at a book launch party and her conversation is heard simultaneously, and with equal prominence to that of the drunk intellectual next to her talking about Baudrillard, Wittgenstein, &c. These figures become just names, standing in for intellectual 'engagement' (Baudrillard as the classic example of someone who went from post-68 leftist engagement to post-modernist 1990s fatalism (for more on this, see Sadie Pant’s first book, ‘The Most Radical Gesture’)). Such names can be checked merrily, and harmlessly, while the plot, the repressed past, unfolds at the same time, via Binoche's phone-call. These people aren't necessarily right-wing – indeed, they’d probably consider themselves liberal or even leftist (the book Binoche is helping to publish is about globalisation, as we learn in the conversation between Auteil and his producer) – but underneath it all lie assumptions and reliances shared with the most bigoted and comfortable of the right.

And take the encounter with the black guy going the wrong way down a one way street on his bike – in the context of the narrative 'mystery' we're still trying to piece together, we suspect him as being part of a network of malignant kidnappers or schemers, an accomplice in a conspiracy of the ethnic 'other', the revenge of this repressed other against the white middle-classes (against the failed revolutionaries of 68 perhaps, that compromised generation who have become the new neo-liberal elite, standing for the very things they fought against - racism, imperialism, interventionism, sexism (take a look at Dominique Strauss-Khan….and take a look at Richard Seymour’s ‘The Liberal Defence of Murder’ while you’re at it.)). So, like Auteuil’s character, we’re drawn into that spooked mindset which doesn’t even realize its own (hidden) racism, where every black guy on the street is a potential mugger or rapist, every Muslim a potential terrorist. It’s an encounter with obvious symbolic levels which also fits in with the notion I started with: that the film draws us into a racist/paranoid mindset to reveal our own racism and denial of the guilty secrets that underline our system, our comfortable middle-class existence – not only the secrets of the past (the 1961 massacre), but, continuing into the present, Sarkozian racism, the banning of the hijab, fears of Islamic terrorism, demonisation of Arabs and blacks, &c. (All this can, of course, be seen in the reaction to the 2005 French riots and their 2011 British equivalent (in its most extreme form, with the hideous spectacle of David Starkey’s unconcealed racism on Newsnight, his invocation of all those hoary old clichés about the damaging effect of brutal, barbaric, ‘uncivilised’ black music (he’s talking about rap, they said it about jazz in the 1920s – “Playing that bloody jungle music all night” – yo, Adolf!).

Even in broad daylight – the shoulder check, the near-collision in the street – things are still not quite out in the open. Auteuil doesn’t call the guy a ‘nigger’. Doesn’t even think that word, perhaps. Caché. Everything is hidden – no more so than in the (in)famous final shot, in which an apparently crucial plot detail (the friendly meeting between Majid’s son and Auteuil’s kid, Pierrot) is smothered behind the credits and a seemingly innocuous diurnal scene – the school, which of course is already more than innocuous, contrasting as it does with the previous scene in which the Algerian kid is taken away. This school, then, is the kind of opportunity he was denied by Auteuil’s lie; it’s also a reversal of the first, extended shot of the film (the held frame with Auteuil’s house in the middle-distance), in which we look for narrative information, perhaps suspecting that this shot will contain the seeds for the mystery to come, that we may pick up clues which will come in handy later in solving it, only to realise as the film goes on that we won't find these; so, by the time of this final shot, we assume that this will be just another example of willful alienation and expectation-frustration, and switch off (oh, credits rolling, let's leave the cinema, maybe wait for the gag roll at the end), only to miss this potentially crucial detail. Pierrot hides from his parents (and from the audience) his reason for going AWOL, the night they (erroneously) thought that he’d been kidnapped by Majid; Auteuil, at the end, literally hides in the dark, under the bed-covers, narcotized by sleeping pills. In this film, things are hidden in plain sight. There is no ‘mystery’ in the detective-drama sense – indeed, viewed from that perspective, many things may seem too obvious, too immediately apparent – oh, yeah, Majid’s the stalker, of course – but then we're not so sure, and then it doesn't matter anywhere, because that plot was itself a MacGuffin, was itself hiding the metaphorical/ allegorical notions of colonial guilt. We miss the one-sentence discussion of the FLN massacre in our desire to catch what’s happening in the ‘main plot’. As Haneke says, how could you just forget a massacre like that? There’s how.

Such forgetting is, of course, a key part of the relation between generations, which is itself a key part of the film. Take the conversation between Auteuil and his mother, in which she tells him that she doesn't think about Majid any more. Auteuil's parents were non-racist enough to travel all the way to Paris in order to collect the boy and adopt him after his parents' death in the demonstration. (OK, maybe they thought of them perhaps in a slightly patronising way (“good people, good workers”), but still, they had enough of a sense of humanism to see that these others were not fundamentally evil or barbaric, that their progeny could even become one of their own.) Yet Auteuil himself is of the next generation who, perhaps as a sense of loss at the colonial empire gone, perhaps as a result of aggression and/ at failure channelled into immigration-related paranoia after the failure of ’68 and the institutionalisation (and recuperation) of socialist politics via Matterand, have become more racist than their parents, even as they flirt with post-modernism and liberalism/leftism, adopt that vocabulary.

Given this, I think we should take Majid's death as a moment of necessary abjection, in Kristeva’s sense of the word: that moment that brings us starkly up close to the real – a corpse, a woman's body (so often stigmatised as disgusting or ‘unnatural’, even as it is fetishised or adored), the repressed memory of the (literal) shit on which our entire culture is built, our foundational anal fixation (see Adorno’s ‘Negative Dialectics’) – and in this case, the real of colonial oppression, the dead Algerian before you on the floor, his blood and his body there on the floor before you. The Algerian man literally has to die in front of the French man, not in a 1960s film, now ‘historical’, portraying events that occurred at some temporal remove in a distant country (‘The Battle of Algiers’), but in a modern flat, in front of a pair of modern eyes. So when, before the deed, Majid says, “I wanted you to be here,” he’s not offering an explanation along the lines of “this is why I’m doing this” – that wouldn’t suffice – but forcing that internal shock of recognition, that internal jolt which forces one to look, to see: look up, face it, this is it, this is reality.

Coming back, then, to that closing shot, that possible 'revelation' (or MacGuffin): Robin Wood argues in his review that the film’s pessimism is “surely…qualified by that last shot, echoing the end of Benny's Video (in which the boy betrays his own father, an act that Haneke courageously sees as justified) and suggesting the possibility of collaboration, revolution, and renewal within the younger generation." This doesn't have to mean that Pierrot, the son (the clown-related name has to be significant here, but I’m not sure in what way, exactly) was in on the deal, for some reason deciding to torment his own parents; but rather, that he can establish friendly relations with the (un-named) Algerian son, instead of treating him with contempt or fear or threats or lies, as his father does, or with convenient forgetfulness, as his grandmother does. If a crucial strain of the film has to do with generational changes in race relations – from the patronising but well-meaning attitudes of the ‘50s to a contemporary paranoia masked with an apathy that cloaks the issues at stake with a veil (uh, not a hijab) of liberalism – then perhaps this ending suggests (as does ‘La Haine’s’ central grouping, its three musketeers of the banlieues – Arab, Black and Jew) the possibility of healthier interracial relations being established by the young. (This was, after all, the betrayed dream of ’68 – the young atoning for the sins of the old, making a new world free of stagnant prejudices, of repressed and repressive institutions and the damaged social relations these generated). It's a fragile moment, if that's so, and one which most will not even notice – but perhaps that's the point: Haneke's saying, look, look - the solutions, the possibilities, the glimpses are there, if you'd only get out of your paranoia and your fear and your racist shell & see them, 'hidden' right in front of your own face. That makes him sound far too manifesto-like, of course – I’ve followed Wood's conclusion too far, perhaps, expanded that point too much.

And an interview with Bright Lights Film Journal, Haneke has this to say:

"We all take sleeping pills as does Daniel Auteuil, although it may take many different forms: it may be alcohol, a drink before we go to bed, it may be sleeping pills, or we may donate money to children in the third world. But each of us pulls the blanket over our heads and hopes that the nightmares won't be too bad. For example, I am sure you oppose strict immigration laws that have been introduced in almost every European country. And yet what would you say if I were to suggest that you take into your home an African family? I think this is the case with all of us. All of us have knowledge that tends to lead to tolerance; at the same time we have selfish interests that are contradictory to this tolerant ideal."

If that’s nowhere near as hopeful as my suggestion of comradeship or, at least, of tentative inter-racial interaction not based on mutual hostility or suspicion, then it does at least act as a problematization, a jerking out of complacency, a foregrounding of the issues at hand, putting the political back into the idea of the domestic, making a political film not as explicit Pontecorvo-style engagement ('The Battle of Algiers' is, I believe, the only French film made about the whole Algerian crisis), but by showing complicity in every area of life, stripping away the layers of insulation into a single act of insistently present violence (tho' even this is viewed thru the video camera), and creating a nagging aura, an atmosphere of unease and uncertainty throughout which is far more than just cheap effect, far more than just some cheap scary thrill or frisson, a stimulus for its own sake. Chew on this:

"How do you behave when confronted with something that you should actually admit responsibility for? These are the sort of strategies that interest me, talking yourself out of guilt. It's like this: we all believe we're so fantastically liberal. None of us want to see immigration laws tightened. Yet when someone comes to me and asks if I could take in a foreign family, then I say, well, not really. Charity begins at home with the door firmly shut. Most people are as cowardly and comfortable as I am."

(And, yeah, check this cache also.)

Tuesday 20 December 2011

John Coltrane: Selflessness / Live in Seattle

Coltrane in 1965 is what I keep coming back to. Now that all this stuff is on the you tube (see above), I've been listening to it again, taking advantage of the potential to skip back and forward in a track, to listen and re-listen to particular second-long clips without having to juggle the fast-forward function on cassette or cd player – just with mouse clicks, to listen to a ten-minute or a ten-second section three times in a row...and all that jazz. McCoy Tyner's playing was so *thick* at this time, his chordal voicings approaching clusters in their density, and his rhythmic monotony a crucial part of the dialectic between stasis and continuance/momentum that gives his playing its peculiar quality. (This is similar, I suppose, to the trance states induced by particular kinds of tribal drumming, but you're not going to go into a trance here: the rhythm is too insistent and also too broken-up (thanks to elvin jones, “gretsch freak”) – it doesn't have that swirling endlessness that makes alice coltrane's playing on, say, ‘live in japan’, ultimately boring (much as I love her harp-like-swirl and the use of the entire range of the keyboard, from lowest thud to highest tinkle - and tho' of course the boring and monotony as such are in some sense a crucial part of both pianist’s playing styles, in a way i'm not sure i've yet quite grasped or come to terms with. (Tho’ this might provide a clue:

The venerable Curt Sachs may have put his finger on what is at issue here in Rhythm and Tempo (1953), when he discovered that "rhythm" itself, to misquote Freud, is a primeval word with antithetical senses. On the one hand, rhuthmos (Greek) denoted river or flow. On the other rhythmus (Latin) denoted blockage or dam. Sachs's point is not that Greeks and Romans had different cultural coordinates (to a large extent they did) but that coiled within rhythm itself was a certain undecidability - perhaps the very same undecidability that Derrida traced in the connotative oscillations of "tympan."

John Mowitt, 'Percussion: Drumming, Beating, Striking' (Duke University Press, 2002), p.24))))

So there's this thing called 'selflessness' that coltrane recorded in ’65 - it's from those studio sessions that were included on 'the major works of john coltrane', a 2cd box set impulse released in the 90s sometime, and which i remember listening to after borrowing it from my local library (who for some reason owned this (now probably out-of-print) thing alongside art blakey and stan getz and MJQ and courtney pine (they subsequently sold off all this stuff, no idea where it went: perhaps some old-people's home now possesses 'ascension', 'om', 'selflessness' and 'kulu se mama' on two shining discs and plays it as dinner music)). that was the first time i heard 'ascension', and 'selflessness' is a side-note compared to that…but ‘side-note’ is the wrong turn of phrase entirely, this is *vital* shit. i hate it when, say, allmusicguide does one of their fucking capsule reviews where they go, 'o, this is fine, but not the best place to start if this is your first time with player x', relegating most everything to some deferred future where you're an ‘expert’ and can therefore ‘take it.’ to that I’d say, *launch yourself in*, yeah? - of course you won't fucking understand it, I still don't, coltrane himself didn't, this is at the limits, it's hard to understand when you're up in that air... - but, ok, I heard 'expression' and 'ascension' early on, and i loved the passionate melodics of the opening heads (‘ogunde’ is based on a folk song, after all), and i didn't really *understand* pharoah sanders at all, and in fact i actively disliked him, but these things take time, go on with it, get on.

('selflessness' and 'live in seattle', which are the things i'm going to write about here, both feature donald rafael garrett on bass and clarinet, which is ostensibly the reason i'm considering them both together. garrett's not someone who was much heard from, or about, but val wilmer's 'as serious as your life' posits him as one of those crucial mentor figures during the mid-60s (giuseppi logan as another), whose contributions to the music and to the scene were certainly not proportional to their scant and inadequate documentation on record. ( has some further info.)

Donald Rafael Garrett in concert in Pisa, San Zeno abbey, 1983

// now let's get on, 'selflessness' opening with one of those melodies coltrane was writing around this time, ostensibly as serene or joyous up-cry, but which turn into a kind of desperate keening -as if one wished *too much* for that transcendent, solving/dissolving joy, for that synthesis, for the one final note that would provide the answer to the thousand fractured, cycling notes played through before: coltrane himself blowing the melody strong, sanders dipping and diving around him, with some wonderful watery, rattley flutter-tonguing.

& rafael garrett's arco bass insists on being taken as a third lead melody voice, blending with the horns, rather than partaking in the strummed and thrummed deep-end accompaniment that jimmy garrison, the coltrane quartet regular, would have provided. – to illustrate this, let’s take the first ten minutes or so of 'evolution', from the 'live in seattle' recording, where Coltrane, Sanders, and Garrett (this time on bass clarinet) soar in imitative, roaring and meshing blasts and honks, while Garrison provides a solid rhythmic underpinning which seems to be going on its own separate box or booth, tethering down the 'out of this world' massed vocalised ecstasies of breath and air and metal, and essentially playing the flamenco-inflected bass solo which he then proceeds to deliver once the horns have stopped playing (this solo being a regular occurrence on Coltrane's live recordings). the absence of a drummer highlights just how 'free' the horns were capable of be(com)ing, of moving outside established licks in a flowing and melting and melding way: formally, one could describe this as ‘rhapsodic’ (in the sense that the term 'rhapsody’ comes from the Greek 'rhapsōidos', which itself comes from the combination of 'rhaptein', to sew, stitch together, and 'aidein,' to sing). & jazz itself is, perhaps, ultimately a rhapsodic form, based on fragments, breaks, discontinuities, allusions and quotations – at the same time that, as in hip-hop, *‘flow’* is central: propulsion, momentum, ‘looking ahead’. nonetheless, garrison’s desire to provide an established 'jazz' element does contrast with what the horns are doing (tho' to start off with his picked harmonics sound suitably 'exotic'); their flow reaches an extent to which it becomes *overwhelming*, dispensing with clock-checking time, with finishing a tune in ten minutes so that people can go and buy drinks, so that time itself becomes a felt, controllable thing, slowed down and speeded up at the musicians’ will – for the ultimate example of that, you’d have to look at those mammoth extended pieces by the Cecil Taylor Unit, where time itself stretches so much it almost seems to break, to fracture, to become meaningless.

well, now we’re here, hell, let’s just *listen* to the *whole* of 'evolution' – garrett's thin-reed wail on clarinet, notes bent, metallic melted to malleable shape-shift, transitioning into sanders' shronking and then that unbearably beautiful way he ends his solos with a kind of desperate lyricism, keening up-slide to notes. again, that *thin-ness,* not the full-bodied-ness we think of when we think of free jazz – say, Brotzmann or Coltrane himself – not that *filling out* of the sound-space: yeah, Sanders can do that, does do that, but what I'm talking about here is his use of *fragility*, a sense of self un-stable and breaking under the pressure and force of riots and revolutions and that late 60s belief in cosmic transformation; yeah, fucking *eschatology*, if you like, material transformation – sound is material, isn't it, it could speak another reality into being and not simply be contained within the glass-cash-register chinking register of the night-club / the record-label / the hit-parade / the culture industry. Uh, yeah, if Sanders' multiphonic explosions of simultaneous multiple notes, overtones, difference tones intend to vibrate the space into the fullest potential possible, the most filled wholeness - "every kinda chord you can hear under the fucking sun” - his solos at this time end with, say, two successive notes, the stalled beginnings of a melody, as his saxophone moves into being a voice, trying to sing a song to itself but now having to flutter-tongue burble and cry in woundedness – and it's the *transition* here that gets me, in this say, thirty seconds of music which expands out beyond itself as a non-melodic ear-worm which encapsulates for me what Coltrane could have and was constantly trying and failing to do - that failure as *built into the condition of the music*, the condition of music itself, the condition of the world itself that would not change as was wished – a desire that cannot express itself in logic, barely even in illogic, gesturing towards the "possible world," yeah, a "community of risk," someone in some other context said that.

that transition i mean is when sanders' solo is ending and suddenly, without warning on the audio version at least, coltrane, i think it is, comes out to the microphone and starts shouting, comes in roaring, 'OOOMMM' 'OORRRRHM' / 'OOOOOM' – 'OM', the primal word, the primal vocalised sound that sets the universe into being ("and god *said*, let there be light" - light and sound as one simultaneous flash, an explosion into being as the origin of the universe, some collective pre-evolutionary memory of the big bang) (see simon weil's fine article 'circling om') - that roaring is *almost* a parody of some horror-movie ‘black-magic’ voodoo roar, but it transcends that, it's not transcendent, it's a bellow of roaring animal pain outside language, outside the formal language of music, outside song - is not speech, is not song – is both – those moments when coltrane would take the horn out of his mouth; as miles davis had advised, but not to stop playing, instead to give vent to that roar of exhilaration mixed anguish…

more transitions (‘transition’ the title of a record from this year, coltrane’s music itself in transition, in creative mentor-exchange with the new thing saxophonists – sanders, shepp, carlos ward, ayler, john Gilmore – for whom he was a talismanic figure, the leader and legitimiser of the movement – tho’ he was equally influenced by their own side-slant attack; the ‘classic quartet’ splintering apart, that tension, between tyner’s static rhythmix and the way his playing cannot *help* but ratchet up in intensity and depth and drive when placed in the same physical space as coltrane’s boiling over; jones perhaps the prime force driving coltrane out into polyrhythmic ambiguity (that means, simultaneity), (*energy music*), himself frustrated (exhilarated?) by the wall of sound above and beyond him (reportedly throwing his drum-sticks at the wall at the end of ‘ascension’); garrison the one hold-over, once the transition to that final quintet was accomplished – and yet, it’s precisely that tension, that push-pull, that gives this music its power, and its *objective social content* – this the year of the watts riots – rip it up, split it up, all felt as personal upheaval, split and shatter into collectivity, that transition into new forms is *of course* painful, as any transition is, who knows where and what horror or beauty it could turn into, treading on thin ice, on air, tight rope tightened or loosening.)
so, transition, when coltrane stops shouting and the horns go triple over garrison's jazz moves, when they're wailing da-naaaaaaahhhhh-nuh, da-naaaaaaaaaaah-nuh (I can't fucking 'transcribe this', as onomatopoeia or notation or whatever - it is un-fixable in that sense, less we develop the technology to contain it - and if we did that, then we'd be in some society where our understanding of what went beyond our current grain made life liveable, where wounded cry was not just some impoliteness to be ignored, ill-advised feeling-show)); when Tyner comes in under and it's like some floor locks into place beneath the horns, and then he solos, the relief of that, there's only so much reality or surreality or irreality you can endure... 7:08 into Tyner's solo, Garrison pluck-repeating single note, the music freezing into repeated locked-record-groove stasis, like stammer-stuckness, like Coltrane repeating the head to 'confirmation' twenty times in a row, seeing it from its different angles, its different permutations, trying to reach every possible harmonic implication, to see the whole thing from all fucking angles - but different to that, I suppose, in that repetition is used in Tyner as a particular dramatic effect, whether gravity pillar-thick chord or as harp-like arpeggiated swirl with thick deep-end muscle - a space he moved into at this time, 1965, which never before or since was quite the same, had a lightness to it that this gravity-insistence - well, it's that, but at the same time it suggests that moment when everything's gonna split open - it never quite does - well, the horns come back in and thick cluster bash, is pentecost tongues to "set fire and death on whitey's ass" (if you believe amiri baraka...ok, this is not hate music – or maybe it *is* - “what we need is hatred. from it our ideas are born” (genet) – maybe it is, and maybe the critics were right (the london evening standard’s jack massarik, & his infamous off-mic “torrents of hate” jibe when some coltrane was played on one of bbc radio 3’s afternoon jazz snoozefests) – but if they were right, they were right in a strictly narrow sense that made them see that hatred as mere perversity, misanthropy, nihilism;

any hatred that there is in the music would have to be inextricably linked to love, love and hate mingled, hate motivated by love - by which i mean that there has to be a sense of what *has to be done* (perhaps *hateful* things) if change is going to be more than just a willed-for moment of religious transcendence, reliant on the intervention of an on-high god we ceaselessly invoke with or without the hope that he will finally choose *now* to intervene - it is still an in invocation then, but an invocation to action, however direct or indirect, to change systems of oppression and exploitation, bigotry and misery. of course, coltrane has an odd relation to direct action, we see this in that awkward interview where frank kofsky tries desperately to make him into a post-malcolm marxist but only succeeds in getting him to talk about the need for universal peace...archie shepp, the disciple, no doubt encouraged him to raise the political ante, there were young black men in the clubs at which he played shouting 'black power! black power!', and maybe coltrane would have become more politicised if he'd lived until the 60s - but this is the same as the 'what would malcolm have done if he'd lived' argument that those on the left still engage in from time to time. (counter-facts, counter-histories are all very well, but they never happened, did they?)

oh, ok, back to 'selflessness' again, and finally: things move on out. i'm so used to thinking of sanders' playing as undergoing a trajectory, from wild yawping, coruscating, disturbing beauties with coltrane (and those couple of blue note dates, ‘symphony for improvisers’ and ‘where is brooklyn’ w/don cherry), and then, once coltrane dies and he becomes a leader in his own right, a more controlled use of the free playing as occasional effect, climax, or 'interlude', between burbling, mellow, melodic rambles over ethnicky grooves and repeating chords...but here sanders' playing is not just the squall or blast of sound i'd remembered it as; rather, he develops rather jauntily carnivalesque rhythms (in a very distant pre-echo of Sonny Rollins, circa 'Don't Stop the Carnival'), tho' this is done, it shd be noted, thru unusual and forceful tonguings or fingerings (or however it is he gets those effects).

dig too, on these recordings (on this and 'live in seattle'), how the two main horns, sanders and coltrane, sometimes seem to swap over, coltrane adopting sanders-esque howls, sanders sliding his own melodicisms alongside coltrane's prophet-like, authoritative pronouncements. i'm not using 'prophet' here as some un-thought-through metaphor: prophets (i'm thinking in the biblical sense here) use poeticised, metaphorical, fanciful language (i mean, 'revelations' is sci-fi before the category of sci-fi, right?) to call down the abuses and corruptions and degradations of current society; to predict the calamities that will befall the society if it does not change it ways (or have those ways *changed for it*); and to posit an alternative future in which that society is healed and mended and transformed. is coltrane not doing all three of those here, as far as the limits of his instrument and his epoch and his imagination will let him?

of this kind of *total engagement* there is still need.