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Between The Notes

May 2, 2011

Word has it that Mozart was the one that first said the silence between the notes was as important as the notes themselves. Any musician, especially those who have made their chops on the improvisational side of the spectrum, would agree.

If, in his capacity for surprise, Trane knew the scope and holiness of sound, he also divined the plenum of silence. Pauses and silences are often the climaxes of his late works, the still centers of the prophetic storm, the nuclei of tension around which the whole movement is structured. The more one listens the more those silences seem to be among the first causes of the overall effect. This is, again, partly a technical consideration. From pieces as early as the Miles Davis/hard-bop works, Trane was leaving large rests within lines, delicately spacing bursts of triplets, in the effort to achieve rhythmic variation within given harmonic limits. When his playing became liberated from the centripetal force of tonality, time became his prisoner and silence a consequent choice against time–a choice that facilitated expansion within the ultimately temporal musical order. The authority of the silences is a direct consequence of the late pieces’ density of texture: each note and each rest is part of an integrated design of utmost economy and vigor. The mystical effect, to paraphrase Nathalie Sarraut’s account of the new, “nontonal” novel, is that of a time that is no longer the time of our intended life, but of a hugely amplified present.

But this dialectic of sound and silence betokens more than just a technical imperial expansion over wide, new territories. Trane’s is the silence of Orphic utterance momentarily stilled, of the voice that temporarily ceases singing in the face of mystery, only to embrace a new strain that will henceforward echo this silence, but in song. This silence presupposes the possibility of song and the relevance of expression to the life of the individual soul and the community. Trane, like his African forebears, was delving for the primal Sound that lends music its magical quality. The very possibility of such discovery, he intuited, begins in the silence of the quest, what Kenneth Burke termed the hunter’s “silence of purposiveness.”           “Late Coltrane: A Re-Membering of Orpheus,” Kimberley W. Benston

Two weeks into the season and the proportion of screen time to dialogue for three (I’d argue four) of our characters is pointedly skewed toward silence. Chief Lambreux didn’t utter a word last week, and barely spoke in this episode. Mrs. Brooks and Sofia are eloquent yet silent in Ep 2. Janette hasn’t been altogether quiet but then she’s in New York. One can’t wander around in a semi-catatonic state in NYC for very long without coming to harm. Relative to her environment, Janette’s behavior is closer to the previous three than any of the other characters. These are people who have retreated into their own interior landscapes. The reasons for the leavetakings clearly vary, as they also will for the homecomings. That is, if all of them come back to us.

I like that we don’t know the Chief’s real reaction to Delmond’s touching dedication. We see what he does physically but we don’t know if he’s unmoved or simply keeping his response private at work. Let’s sit with him for a minute, though: a tired man on a tall ladder, who by all rights should be at least approaching retirement age, working his ass off on some masonry geegaw that by itself is almost certainly worth more than the measly $495 insurance check in his pocket. He’s been unceremoniously kicked out of the bar that he cleaned up and kept safe, his own home unfit for habitation, working late on a rush job for people with a lot of money to spend on a lot of house (one assumes those outbuildings are equally grand).  I’m betting the Chief would probably rather go back to jail than to be here at this point in time. More than tired and not about to bow.

Wherever Lambreaux is existentially, we assume he’s likely better off than Mrs. Brooks, who seems so exhausted by her sadness and loss that she can barely walk.

And who knows what’s up with Sofia? Where’s the anger we saw last week? What happened? She’s a kid, it could be something tragically inconsequential in the larger scheme of things, something fixable that she sees as insurmountable. Or maybe not— I’m thinking for all of Toni’s misguided pains to protect her from the truth, Sofia knows what really happened to Creighton. Whatever it is, Toni’s lost her. Sofia’s affect, or lack thereof, certainly lends some credence to Ray’s heroin theory.

Last season I said Creighton was a ghost even before he died. Now we see he’s been survived by two others. By virtue of their almost complete lack of backstory, the Bernettes are set apart from the other characters we’ve gotten to know and I’d say that’s not an accident. There was one brief reference (in a Season 1 discussion about Mardi Gras krewes) to the fact that Toni is a native of the city and Creighton wasn’t, but that’s about it. They seem to have no friends. Ray mentions in comments that Toni should have planned better to avoid that solemn sad Thanksgiving, but where are the people who care about them, who would reach out to them, knowing the holidays would be tough this year?

As for Janette, I’m not so worried. Maybe I should anticipate some kind of Simonesque gutpunch but I don’t think she will stay a ‘fugee much longer. She’s obviously on thin ice at the moment and something else is guaranteed to slap her upside the head. Hopefully it will send her back South with a renewed sense of purpose.

And hope against hopefully, she’ll take roommate James Ransone back with her. Y’all got Crunch Berries in NOLA, right?

  1. May 2, 2011 2:55 pm

    Episode 2 was quite interesting in the unexpected curves it threw.

    Who’s to say what is really going on with Lambreaux (and what the story is behind the falling out of his girlfriend and her son)? I interpreted his ambivalence toward’s Delmond’s tribute to be one of sadness. Sad that Delmond is ‘returning’ to the city, knowing the city (in its bureaucratic state) won’t be returning the love (as shown with the housing projects, the bar owner, the insurance check, etc). All that talk about getting Delmond to be true to the culture may have been all for naught (in his mind).

    With regards to Janette, I don’t know how she can’t return to NOLA, but the sensitive attention paid to her by the head chef seemed to be out of respect to her pedigree (and not passive aggressive condesending tone taking with all the other chefs). Maybe I’m reading that wrong.

    Something has to give between Toni and Sofia. The teenage angst coupled with the traits of her father are going to be a workload Toni won’t be able to tackle alone, given that Toni looks to be taking on a host of critical issues (that have to be addressed) pertinent to the storyline.

  2. May 2, 2011 3:17 pm

    The Virgotex has written. Brava.

    Both Mrs. Brooks and The Chief have the backbone of age/experience, while Sofia has little to give her perspective. The opposite is also true: Sofia has her youth and its gift of rebound, while the elders are tired and have nothing much left to source from. Heartbreaking.

  3. May 2, 2011 4:29 pm

    Parents only think they can lie to their children. It never works. I had a therapist once who believed that children live out their parents’ secrets. Ouch.

  4. virgotex permalink*
    May 2, 2011 4:45 pm

    Love the parallel of Toni simultaneously working to get the truth for her client(s) about what happened to their family members, and hiding the truth about Creighton from their daughter.

    (and before somebody jumps on me for being mean to Toni: I’m not.
    1) She’s a fictional character
    2)her behavior is there to serve the story

  5. May 2, 2011 4:58 pm

    Yeah. Since I left that comment I’ve driven home from work, thinking about this. What we’re seeing between Toni & Sophia is what happens when any relationship gets infected by a Big Lie. *sigh*

  6. Dexter permalink
    May 2, 2011 5:06 pm

    We all saw how Janette loves New Orleans last night when GoggleFace handed her the review.
    She’ll be back…I hope. I just wish she’d get bankrolled and get back…

  7. Virgotex permalink
    May 2, 2011 6:47 pm

    I was seeing Sofia as the more vulnerable since we all too often see the story of that profound despair combined with lack of perspective in adolescents but I hadn’t thought about that dovetail, Maitri.

  8. rickngentily permalink
    May 2, 2011 9:16 pm

    one of the things that has me worried me about cheif albert in the first two episodes is that he has let his haircut get nappy.

    this may seem a strange observance to some.

    i work with a lot of cats from his (there is no right word , demograpic , hood, background, etc.. , you fill in the blank because i can’t) and one of the things these cats young and old talk about is your haircut.

    it is a source of pride and source of dogging if you missed a week at the barber.

    me being a big fat ass 50 year old whiteboy who wears his chefwear pants seven days a week and shaves his head with a pair of 18 $ walgreens electric sheers 5 -6 times a year , has allways been envious of that kind of pride in your look.

    i often brush it off as silly to keep my slovine head in check , but i also respect the generations of men who take it seriously.

    the other hit i took this week about albert was his plaster work , while the out of focus home owner is telling the out of focus contractor how much work the contractor is getting done , all within alberts earshot , he, albert is making an angel out of plaster .an almost lost art that he is getting paid for by the job and not for his skills.

    having worked in the 1/4 since 1980 i have had the pleasure to meet a lot of these cats.

    when me and my wife bought our 1932 built house in gentilly the friendships i had made with these men helped us figure out how to fix up our house in a proper way.

    i.e. the men who built the houses and knew how they were built.

    during work on our house, there were many conversations by the men helping us about how these houses were built by different craftsmen for each other . and stories about how they were almost amish barn raisings.

    albeit with beer and fish frys.

    these men helped me and my wife bring our house into modern times , while not going all home depot cheap on it’s ass.

    our house has a personality in me and my wifes conversation.

    we have named her and feel like we are just caretakers until we pass .

    we have a shrine to mr. emile luminas, the cat who helped us replaster instead of sheetrock.

    mr emile passed after katrina.

    the greatest thing mr. emile ever said to me was “rick i will do the work on your house , on the condition that you never refer me to somebody else. i am a retired craftsman and i pick and choose my jobs, if you ever give my number to some old uptown broad , you are dead to me”

    the other thing about these cats is they allways did work on my house with no contract.

    there was no down payment , or estimate of what it would cost , (it will be labor + plus materials , dont worry rick) and i never did.

    it allways came out solid and old school, and embarisingly cheap.

    i’ve never had these men do a job where i wasnt blown away and begging them to take extra money.

    thank you.

    Mr. Emile


    Mr. Eugene

    Mr. Vincent

    and all the men who helped us.

  9. May 2, 2011 9:41 pm

    Excellent post Virgo. A cool aside: the wildly colorful folk art hubcap was done for WWOZ by my friend Regis Scott whose work I carry in my shop.

  10. May 2, 2011 9:43 pm

    Toni and Sofia broke my heart on Thanksgiving.

    Toni is persistant in helping so many resolve their issues of missing family members. Where is her family? My curiosity about Toni’s backstory has become great.

    Big Chief’s Thanksgiving though, despite everything — he’s surrounded by family.

    Love, C.

  11. rickngentily permalink
    May 2, 2011 11:10 pm

    sorry i aint no writer.

    one of the things i meant for this post up top to address is why albert didnt hear his sons over the air love.

    i am a hell of a reader at least.

    much love to all who make this blog.

  12. May 2, 2011 11:57 pm

    Rick, this was beautiful.

    You too, VirgoTex.

  13. brueso permalink
    May 3, 2011 3:32 am

    The Chief’ is putting me in mind of a line from the Spoon River Anthology “The eternal silence of you spoke instead”.

  14. brueso permalink
    May 3, 2011 3:34 am

    “if you ever give my number to some old uptown broad , you are dead to me” is now a new favorite line! Thanks for sharing it all, Rick.

  15. Virgotex permalink
    May 3, 2011 6:32 am

    Rick, thank you for taking the time to post that remembrance. “craftsman” is a key word for us to keep in mind when we think about Albert. And the musicians and chefs too, in that what they do is so much more than just “a job.”

  16. doctorj2u permalink
    May 3, 2011 7:20 am

    What a beautiful post! I love New Orleans too.

  17. hyp permalink
    May 3, 2011 1:30 pm

    Do you remember how much you really didn’t care what your hair or your clothes looked like the first couple of years after Katrina. . . I certainly didn’t care much, I was glad to be alive, home fighting for the survival of my neighborhood. . . . and finding a barber wasn’t easy for a good while. . .

  18. doctorj2u permalink
    May 3, 2011 7:23 pm

    It is hard to care what your hair looks like after you gained 15 – 20 pounds eating and drinkings the stress away.

  19. Dan-o permalink
    May 3, 2011 7:51 pm

    Just stumbled across this blog in my attempts to find things NOLA. The family and I are headed there this fall (relocating for a job), and I’m busy reading everything I can get my hands on. Rick’s post about the folks who work on his house exemplifies the kind of community we hope still exists in Louisiana, despite all the other problems they have to deal with. Reading that post was a real shot to the soul and gives me hope that solid characters can be found and that my family and I will have the honor of meeting them. Thanks for puttin’ that out there.

    And thanks for the blog, too. I’m way behind on reading the posts, but will catch up!

  20. adrastosno permalink
    May 3, 2011 10:54 pm

    Some of us didn’t have enough hair to worry about in any event. Right, Mark?

  21. Dexter permalink
    May 4, 2011 12:38 am

    Rick, that was a real education for me…thanks so much. I love you folks; I live up near Toledo, Ohio, and when I hitched south for New Orleans, my ride stopped in Slidell where I went stone broke. That was 43 years ago and I missed my chance. All I knew was that my dad had eaten at Antoine’s and I read the O’Toole book , “Confederacy of Dunces” and Charles Kuralt’s “America” in which he describes the city through a newly retired journalist’s eye.
    I have been all over the USA…except your town. Goddam shame,eh?

  22. Anita permalink
    May 4, 2011 7:59 pm

    This just stopped me in my tracks. It’s a beautiful tribute to all the craftsmen who made New Orleans. I love what you said about naming your house. The scene of Albert high on the ladder sculpting the ceiling in that perfect uptown house and then climbing down and wearily walking off to go to his own house says so much; your observation about the haircut is perfect. The chief is definitely depressed.

    I remember how tired we were and how hard everything was that Thanksgiving. The previous year, we were still running on adrenaline and grateful to be alive and be back but in ’06, we were just plain hurting. Everybody seemed to be taking something for the stress. Reading the obituaries of people who had evacuated and returned (or didn’t) and, even though they died all that time afterwards, we thought some of those should be counted as Katrina deaths.

    There were many beautiful scenes in this episode. The most memorable for me is the lingering profile shot of the dj when beyond the window Davis and the station manager argue with their hands. We watch the conflict and then slowly return to the dj’s serene, almost beatific, profile as he ignores the conflict and loses himself in the music.

  23. rickngentily permalink
    May 5, 2011 9:21 pm

    i cant believe ive never seen that vidieo before.

    thank you dexter.

  24. doctorj2u permalink
    May 6, 2011 6:50 pm

    Hope you make it here on day, Dexter. Watch out , though. You may want to stay.

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