After hearing so much about this piece during the knock down-drag out fight over the NY Times minimalism record lists last month, I finally ordered a copy of Charlemagne Palestine's organ improvisation Schlongo!!!daLUVdrone. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I've never previously heard any of Palestine's music, especially given that I taught a course on minimalism last year. I can only plead ignorance and bad time management. I just plain ran out of research time and discovered a number of things far too late. Anyway, the disc arrived Tuesday, and I let it sit on my desk for a couple of days before putting it on for some late night listening.
There are no words that adequately cover it. But I'll try to manage a few.
Awesome. Shattering. Uncompromising. Humbling, certainly. It makes me feel small, which is the highest compliment I can pay it, and yet at the same time it feels like I'm big enough to contain the universe. I love writing long, resonant diatonic cluster chords, but Palestine takes the idea to its furthest extreme. This is the music I'd write if I had the guts, and if I didn't care if people thought I was crazy. I indulge myself in many conceits, one of them being the notion that I'm not confined stylistically, but the truth is that I'm extremely sensitive to the issue. I live in a country where modernism is still the ruling aesthetic, and even though my music is different, I draw on modernism as an influence, and willingly so, because it informs what I do as much as minimalism. As a therapeutic exercise, I'll hold a white-note palm cluster down on my Clavinova for minutes on end, but I'd never do it for an hour and call it a piece. (Palestine doesn't do that either, but the point remains.) My Western modernist training wouldn't allow it. I'd think I was a charlatan, too lazy to compose a real piece. And yet, here it is, the thing that, if I'm honest with myself, I've secretly been wanting to write my whole life, on my CD player.
Every so often, you come across a work of art that shakes you to your very foundation, that makes you question everything you hold dear as an artist, your very method of creating. This morning I woke up thinking of myself as, if not an iconoclast, then at least as having my moments of aesthetic courage. Tonight, I go to sleep in the happy realization that I know nothing of any value, especially about the meaning of courage.