Sunday, January 28, 2007

Of Cyclohexane and The Blues

For lack of material, I am putting up an old piece, to showcase perhaps my attempt at syncognesic joinings and my recidivistic romance with the blues. (Think Muddy Waters, B B King, SR Vaughan, Howlin' Wolf...and not anti-'Nam protest rock) On re-reading, I felt the metaphors have a certain mumb-jumbo-ness to them, but the piece is still fresh as ever. Enjoy!

To borrow from Bertrand Russel, classification, quantization, drawing an envelope around one and clustering his or her characteristics into countably finite entities, is if not especially offensive, a rather commonplace way to describe a person. For example, so and so is intelligent, pensive and wonderfully verbose(this could be anybody). There, you have it: like a sine wave is decomposed into its Fourier Series co-efficients, I am holding the entire individual in three words on my palm! Oh, and to break away, I suppose that's why a character sketch is called a character sketch is called a character sketch and not a character distribution function.

Well, anyway, I proceed here to represent metaphorically, essentially similar ideas, in the form of a genre of western music that has intrigued me infinitely - The Blues. So, in spite of myself, let me go ahead and "define" the blues, or at least lay down it’s, ah...(a grimace) characteristics. Before I begin, let me warn you (if you're expecting a logical unraveling of facts, or of the type that lets of a hiccup or two at anachronistic detail), I am going to be extremely random with the facts.

The blues originated in the Americas(correct me if I'm wrong) in the mid fifties (when the sampling theorem was not yet applied to music and copies came out largely as LP records or cassette tapes). The blues are about the many faceted nature of this species, about emotions and desire, about dreams and ideas and hope and faith and life and death and love and war. In fact, it is a complex, yet unknown black box(or should I say blue box), that maps the mere twelve (semi tone separated) notes into an amalgam of all the things that I could think of in the previous line.

If you're still reading (which means you can stand my style), you're probably wondering what cyclohexane is doing here, trying to lend an olfactory dose (quote: cyclohexane has cyclohexane-like smell) of its own to that amalgam we are all so much part of.

The blues, are, if not outright unsanctimonious and profane, are cynical in subtle ways that mere lyrics don't spell out. It keeps its distance from society and congregation and politics. In essence, the blues are free, they have infinite degrees of freedom.

And cyclohexane is all these things in a single molecule. It is NON PLANAR (perhaps the most distinguishing feature of blues licks). A lot of other genres of music are horribly planar and predictable. Besides, cyclohexane -- not cyclobutane or cyclopentane, but cyclohexane is devoid of ANGLE STRAIN - it is emancipated from its predecessors and successors; much like that embryonic golden age of the sixties - the youth and prime of blues, a dizzy period of transcendence and awareness (transcendence above obsolete value systems, awareness of the enormity and richness of inner reality). And lastly, (for although - All good things must come to and end is a fatalistic idea, I am as much at my wit's end to conjure up other lines of thought, cyclohexane is of course, CYCLIC, just like every blues lick is a set of non-planar notes that return to wherefrom they began, just like the inevitability of life's bittersweet route that charts its course through that amalgam we earlier, talked about.

Well, what do you know, here I am, holding this incomprehensible motley that The Blues are, in just three words in my other palm (one palm is already holding those three other words). And after all this, if I am unable to arrive at a less inharmonious conclusion than "An idle mind is a devil's workshop, but at least it’s free", it’s because its time to get back home and listen to some more!

June ’04.


amit khanna said...

man o man o man..
tip me hat to thee..

the ease with which this pieace (mine own word) flows
aah..its a pleasure.

happy hunting.

eyefry said...

you're off by more than half a decade, man. the blues was first documented and set to sheet music by w.c.handy way back in 1903. of course, it'd been sung and played in cotton fields and juke joints south of the mississippi much before even that. the blues, furthermore, goes far beyond and before the 12-bar blues you refer to. that's just a symptom, not the disease itself. and not to nitpick, but, to quote the late great son house: "there ain't but one kind of blues, and that consistses (sic) between male and female is in love."

for a great intro to the blues, i recommend you watch martin scorsese's brilliant documentary on the music's origins, feel like going home.

p.s. you're right. an idle mind is indeed the devil's workshop (or, in this case, some lesser minion's playpen)...

Pavan said...

thanks for the tip eyefry. i'll look it up. i wrote this in pre wikipedia days. the focus here is not on the facts.

Anonymous said...

Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so! really nice post.

Anonymous said...

hi all

I just wanted to introduce myself to everyone!

Can't wait to get to know you all better!


Thanks again!