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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

No More Music

posted by on January 30 at 14:25 PM

The main of this post was composed sometime last year and I bring it back today because of the utterly enchanting and relevant passage from Ulysses that I rediscovered last night and included as entry #3:

1) At the end of “Don’t Stop The Dance,” the man whose dandyism and decadence inspired the black elegance movement of the 80s, Bryan Ferry, sings:

“Mama says love is stormy weather
Don’t know why there..s no sun in the sky
Footsteps in the dark come together
Gotta keep on moving or I’ll die

Don..t stop, don’t stop the dance
Don..t, more music, don’t stop the dance”


2) In his prologue to Chenjerai Hove’s excellent collection of short essays and sketches on life in Harare at the middle of the 90s (the deep dusk before the sun of the industrious Rhodesian economy completely sets on Zimbabwe in 2000), Shabeen Tales, Dutch publisher Jan Kees van de Werk gives this description of one night in a club in the capital of the country that was once known as the “breadbasket of Africa”:

One evening I go out with a couple of people to a township. The night club is a bare space with wooden tables, a bar and kitchen. The band plays non-stop from nine in the evening to four in the morning. Music gives time wings. Men dance with one another. Women dance with one another. Sometimes they mix. Dance, dance, dance. Alone with the music, Hardly any talk. One remark keeps coming back to mind: “..We are in shit, man. Deep shit. Come on, dance, man. Dance!..”


3) This is from one of the maddest sections of James Joyce’s Ulysses:

(FROM A CORNER THE MORNING HOURS RUN OUT, GOLDHAIRED, SLIMSANDALLED, IN GIRLISH BLUE, WASPWAISTED, WITH INNOCENT HANDS. NIMBLY THEY DANCE, TWIRLING THEIR SKIPPING ROPES. THE HOURS OF NOON FOLLOW IN AMBER GOLD. LAUGHING, LINKED, HIGH HAIRCOMBS FLASHING, THEY CATCH THE SUN IN MOCKING MIRRORS, LIFTING THEIR ARMS.)

HOURS: You may touch my.

CAVALIERS: May I touch your?

HOURS: O, but lightly!

CAVALIERS: O, so lightly!

The Pianola:

My little shy little lass has a waist.

(…THE TWILIGHT HOURS ADVANCE FROM LONG LANDSHADOWS, DISPERSED, LAGGING, LANGUIDEYED, THEIR CHEEKS DELICATE WITH CIPRIA AND FALSE FAINT BLOOM. THEY ARE IN GREY GAUZE WITH DARK BAT SLEEVES THAT FLUTTER IN THE LAND BREEZE.)

Maginni: Avant Huit! Traverse! Salut! Cours De Mains! Croise!

(THE NIGHT HOURS, ONE BY ONE, STEAL TO THE LAST PLACE. MORNING, NOON AND TWILIGHT HOURS RETREAT BEFORE THEM. THEY ARE MASKED, WITH DAGGERED HAIR AND BRACELETS OF DULL BELLS. WEARY THEY CURCHYCURCHY UNDER VEILS.)


4) To explain how to get out of the Cretan Labyrinth, the hero Theseus gave a dance on the island of Delos. The dance was called the Crane Dance, and it detailed the winding path out of danger, out of death, out of the labyrinth.

The thread is clear. Dance is to each of these situations what storytelling is to Scheherezade, who in the pages of A Thousand and One Nights must to keep telling fresh tales to keep her husband, King Shahryar, from killing her. Dance is the narrative shield, the narrative shelter from the “deep shit” of death. “Keep on moving/don’t stop like the hands of time.” Even when there’s “no more music,” even when out of the labyrinth, “don’t stop the dance,” the dance of what you will find at the end of all things great and small—life itself.

The idea is now close to completion.

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