Hotel Indigo, Atlanta. The burned bridge on 85 stacked up traffic (much of it unnecessarily, it seemed to me) so that the last five miles of my journey took fully a quarter of the time. But, here I got at last, and I discovered that chance (if chance there be) had delivered me into an old and joyful memory. Next door to the Indigo is the Georgian Terrace, where I stayed in 1981 during my erotic journey through the South. I pursued Davy Jax to New Orleans, and when that light went out, Greyhounded through Biloxi, Mobile, Pensacola, and finally Atlanta, vowing that in each place I would make erotic conquests. Atlanta was the last stop before I returned to Syracuse. It was high spring, as it is now, and I walked through slums and flowering trees from the bus station, and the Georgian Terrace was derelict then, so I could afford it. A giant basswood in front of it, now gone, was in glorious flower. They gave me a room high up, with a big window opening on a parking lot and Ponce de Leon in the distance. All the bars were in walking distance down Ponce, and night after night I went hunting and never came home alone, and often came home more than once. There is an apartment complex just a little down Ponce where you could stand on the lawn and men would beckon to you from porches and balconies, and you could choose which beckoning you would answer. Big palmetto bugs came through the screenless windows. I remember at least one name, Robin of the radiant white shirt, but I remember them all. It is possible that all this was EXACTLY thirty six years ago, the same few days. I sat on the terrace of the Terrace today drinking sparkling water and wondering if any of them remember me. How many are even yet living? But the memory was joyful, and beamed a light on me for a long time.
Took a taxi to the Druid Hills Baptist for dress rehearsal, which was a little more turbulent than I was ready for. The young singers are very good, and reminded me of the Kodaly youths in Budapest. Jon was brilliant in rehearsal. What an ear! What gentle directness! And yet I thought of Hic Sunt Dracones, as I thought with The Birth of Color, “why is this so difficult?” The principle is layer of sound over layer of sound, but that is a principle of will rather than aesthetics, for when he rehearsed one or two layers together, they generally sounded better then when all were stacked atop each other. Can an ear hear all that is provided for it, or does the mass of sound require a lecture, or at least a program note, to unpack it, the way conceptual art does? Jon would say “what I wanted was this effect or that effect” and I would be thinking “Ought you have wanted that?” Should intention in a creative artist be modified at some point by taste? By the willingness to meet an audience half way? Has “serious” music scorned the opportunity, at any time, even by accident, to entertain? The final effect of the piece is pleasing and smile-making, but the pleasure is like rest after arduous labor. Was the labor really necessary? Jon is the sort of person with whom differences of aesthetic can be discussed, and perhaps I should take the time. It could be that our differences are differences in genre, for words cannot be stacked like that and have any relevance or attraction. Words, which mean something however much we want to think of them as arbitrary sounds, cannot be bent to the will as, apparently, musical sounds can. As the librettist I might have reservations, for the inventiveness of the score does everything it can to conceal the words. I figure the principle is for the audience to dig around for the text in the rich layers of sound, but a poet doesn’t like that. O, give me Monteverdi, at the service of the word! But the music is brilliant even if not especially pleasant, and it is a joy to watch the children’s chorus (under the direction of magnificent, precise conductors) make their shining-eyed way.
Got into my my-god-how’m- I- going-to-get-home panic, and faced it the most absurd way of all, by leaving the rehearsal and walking from the church back to the hotel, cursing from my heart the whole way.