Between The Notes
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?