April 2010: Martin Heslop, Philippe Melanson and I played a couple nights at Upstairs – the jazz club in Montreal. It was the beginning of spring and the sun was starting to excite everyone. After this particular evening, we went bowling nearby until the early morning. You can hear it in the music – the beginning of long nights and the coup against winter.
The Queen of the Belgians
Commemorating Astrid’s death
The Belgians made a postage stamp
That my father prized, for her face
Like my mother’s, Thirties-beautiful,
Serene around its edges.
I’ve got it in my album now
A thing handed down, like advice,
For me to find in the face
Of a queen at Europe’s edge
What it was my father found.
Queen Astrid, that my father
Put in an album for her face,
Is puffed into my thoughts by love.
It stands there like the heart of all I know.
I am the age my father was.
From ‘New Selected Poems 1964-2000’,
Faber and Faber Limited, 2003, p. 12.
I like to think that Douglas Dunn worried easily away at this image of Queen Astrid’s face, bringing it up again and again in each verse, turning it this way and that until he landed unexpectedly on what he could never have imagined he was looking for – the realisation that he is turning into his father. Had he, of course, set out to reach that conclusion he may have never got there. This unmechanical repetition, newly thinking the thought each time it reoccurs, slowly heightens the meaning that emerges. When the poem finally takes an unexpected turn into the culminating image of the poet as his father, this image is amplified by a chorus of Queen’s faces.
-Jonathan Burrows, A Choreographer’s Handbook, Routledge, 2010, p. 11
To my friends who struggle with doubting their work: there’s a great passage on anxiety and art in Night Studio, A Memoir of Philip Guston, by Musa Mayer (the artist’s daughter).
“When my father [Philip Guston] returned from a week of tests at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore once, he wrote to Dore Ashton, ‘I thought my organs were rotting away, but no–all in fine shape. I’m supposed to lose weight, stop booze, stop smoking and have no anxieties about life and art. Imagine! I didn’t bother explaining to him that my whole life is based on anxiety–where else does art come from, I ask you?'”
Musa Mayer contextualizes this with a passage from art critic Harold Rosenberg’s The Anxious Object.
“‘The anxiety of art is a philosophical quality,’ Harold Rosenberg concludes, ‘perceived by artists to be inherent in acts of creation in our time. It manifests itself, first of all, in the questioning of art itself. It places in issue the greatness of the art of the past (How really great was it? How great is it for us?) and the capacity of the contemporary spirit to match that greatness. Anxiety is thus the form in which modern art raises itself to the level of human history.'”
“We think that we dance to music. But I’ve noticed more and more that that’s not what I do, and I don’t think that’s what I see other people do. I see them hanging and falling always around the music, but never grasping hold of it. We worked a lot on this piece trying to find a way to perform it where we’re not marching in step, not like an army going ‘crunch, crunch, crunch’, but rather that the counterpoint between us is somehow in all the spaces around the marching.”