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Togo of Grand Smials
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November 2013
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Togo of Grand Smials [userpic]
Dear Senator Banks

As a young man working at CBC I was more than pleased to be asked to do sound for Charlie Austin's ensemble during the Edmonton Jazz Festival.

Had I not been on duty at CFS Gander during the time we over-threw Salvadore Allende's democratically elected government in Chile I'm sure I would have pursued more opportunities like the one Charlie gave me. Had I not been in CommRsch at Gander (I'm sure you know that our "Communications Research" is essentially the same as SigInt.) I would likely have stayed with CBC. (Only after I quite, to go study philosophy at UofA, did I learn that I was slated to become the tech for the new radio drama group.)

But had I not been where I was when the industrialized nations of the north and west betrayed our democratic ideals I would not have gotten as much out of my short experience with jazz. The matter is quite clear, quite precise, and quite specific. Allow me to explicate.

When the jazz gig came my way I nearly hesitated. I knew festival logistics from my previous role with the then very young Folk Festival; that wasn't a problem. And I was certainly confident in my ability with sound, and with music. But the thought of them going "far out" made me hesitate. I couldn't be sure that I would give them the sound they deserved when that happened, because I didn't get it. But I overcame my doubts with something like reasonable optimism.

So I did sound for the ensemble. And at some point I felt my grasp slipping. Would they say that they were "far out"? I don't know. I really can't say. Probably not. But at some point ... it's as though I was listening to a language entirely foreign to me.
Fortunately it wasn't a one night stand, so I had the chance, the following evening, to follow their flow more diligently. Not too tight, not too loose, but moment by moment. And again, more slowly, they escaped my understanding. But I noticed something that disabused me of any thought that they were just "faking it": if they seemed inchoate, they regained their coherence with a grace that could not be accidental. That loose unity couldn't be mere chance. And so I came to understand how it was that I could not follow them: they were ahead of me. In some sense above me.

Had I not been traumatized in September, 1973, by the betrayal of all I could think of as fine and noble, then that's as far as it would have gone. But I had been betrayed. We did overthrow a democratically elected government. I was in uniform, involved, and I did play a part, however small. And I had been traumatized. Deeply. So coming to terms with the conundrum of jazz I realized something far more important: when what confronts us existentially escapes our understanding our instinct is to condemn it. More than dismiss: to deprecate, to devalue, to discard. Just as I had been tempted to do with jazz music when it became "far out".

We create meaning in the world. By itself it's nothing more than heaps of facts, mountains of facts, oceans of facts, entire universes of facts. From our subjective experience, we create meaning.

I certainly know I cannot trust any conventional entities, neither institutions nor individuals. But I know I can trust jazz. And I know I can trust its performers. And I know I can trust my belief that we can come to understand.