What aspects of jazz Blues, Jazz, Bop, Language, Improvisation in general or Bebop in particular seem to interest Kerouac?
Bebop, Beats, Jack Kerouac
+ Hearing Kerouac
Gerald Nicosia, Kerouac as Musician- “Kerouac’s only album without actual musical accompaniment … [is] perhaps the best demonstration of the musicality of Kerouac’s art. To appreciate the genius that has gone into these readings, one should have Kerouac’s texts in fron tof him. Kerouac uses the actual printed text the way Charlie Parker would use the score of some old jazz classic, merely as a guide form which to improvise his own variations of tempo and mood and, at times, brand-new melodic flights. In Kerouac’s work, the difference between what eye records and ear hears givesa measure of how Kerouac was creating each piece afresh simply in the act of reading it aloud.”
+ Kerouac as Improviser – Even in Prose
Jack Kerouac wrote some twenty books, including novels, poetry, and memoir – not all published during his lifetime. He is most widely known as a novelist, and noted for One the Road. Though like many writers of the 1950s, he chafed at the restrictive notions of genre and form, he did lay out some aesthetic principles.
from “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose”:
“PROCEDURE. Time being of the essence in the purity of speech, sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of personal secret idea-words, blowing (as per jazz musician) on the subject of image.
METHOD. NO periods separating sentence-structures already arbitrarily riddled by false colons and timid usually needless commas – but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases) – ‘measured pauses which are the essentials of our speech’ – ‘divisions of the sounds we hear’ – ‘time and how to note it down.’ (William Carlos Williams)
. . . .
CENTER OF INTEREST. Begin not from preconceive idea of what to say about image but from jewel center of interest in subject of image at moment of writing, and write outwards swimming in sea of language to peripheral release and exhaustion . . . .
MENTAL STATE. If possible write ‘without consciousness’ in semi-trance (as Yeats’ later ‘trance writin
g) allowing subconscious to admit in own uninhibited interesting necessary and so ‘modern’ language what conscious art would censor, and write excitedly, swiftly,
with writing-or-typing-cramps, in accordance (as from center to periphery) with laws of orgasm, Reich’s ‘beclouding of consciousness,’Come from within, out – to relaxed and said.”
+ Introduction to Book of Blues, Robert Creeley
Discussing Kerouac reading
What kind of voice do you hear in your head? How would did you imagine them to be spoken aloud? How do you respond to hearing Kerouac’s own performing of them? In what ways does it seem appropriate to call these texts “jazz poems”? What are the jazz elements reflected, imitated, or evoked by these poems?
Listening to Kerouac reading alone or with Zoot Simms and Al Cohn, what can you say about his vocal style and the interaction with the saxophones. How does this collaboration come across in terms of the balance between music and language (music with poetry added, poetry with music added, poetry and music side-by-side, a marriage of poetry and music)
+ Bebop and the 1950s Writer
++ Other “Beat” writers include:
Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, Ted Joans, Bob Kaufman, Anne Waldman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McLure, Diane DiPrima, and Robert Creeley.
Robert Creeley – “line-wise, the most complementary sense I have found is that of musicians like Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis. I am interested in how that is done, how “time” there is held to a measure peculiarly an evidence (a hand) of the emotion which prompts (drives) the poem in the first place.”
Ted Joans – “. . . . the time has come to deal with the Beat generation and its indebtedness to Bird. The young people who became what Time-Life pronounced “the beat generation” grew up with contemporary jazz. Of course there was schmaltzy pop corn music nightly and daily being dished out for white America’s consumption, but wise ofays fished around in the deep dark waters of jazz. At the beginning there was only a small minority interested in poetry, jazz, and contemporary painting. But the hipsters spread the contagious words about what was really happening that had positive values.
Some of the poets often “preached” their poems, or attempted to “blow” the poem as they were playing a sax or trumpet. All these poets were on Bird or Prez. The latter was the bridge that many poets crossed into Bird’s land, thus arriving hip.. . . . San Francisco was the first place that the Beat generation started doing great poetry readings in clubs and coffee shops. It was in Frisco that Allen Ginsberg first exploded his masterpiece Howl on the world….. Back in the good/ole-bad/old days we often read our poems with jazz recordings. It wasn’t rare to see a poet walking to his coffee shop reading gig carrying a portable phonograph and an attaché case full of poetry and a few records. Bird was our main man of music, and many of us used his recordings to fly on. Jack Kerouac was the first white poet that I met that was hip to bird, ” – Ted Joans, Bird and the Beats
Beat “attitude” – Weary and Incensed?
Allen Ginsberg – Howl
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,
. . . .
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford’s floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi’s, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,
a lost batallion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
. . . .
who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus
to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head,
the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after death,
and rose incarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the suffering of America’s naked mind for love into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio
with the absolute heart of the poem butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.”
Bob Kaufman, Crootey Songo –
DERRAT SLEGELATIONS, FLO GOOF BABER,
SCRASH SHO DUBIES, WAGO WAILO WAILO.
GEED BOP NAVA GLIED, NAVA GLIED NAVA,
SPLEERIEDER, HUYEDIST, HEDACAZ, AX–, O,O.
DEEREDITION, BOOMEDITION, SQUOM, SQUOM, SQUOM.
DEE BEETSTRAWIST, WAPAGO, LOCOEST, LOCORO, LO.
VOOMETEYEREEPETIOP, BOP, BOP, BOP, WHIPOLAT.
DFEGET, SKLOKO, KURRITIF, PLOG, MANGI, PLOG MANGI,
CLOPO JAGO BREE, BREE, ASLOOP ERED, AKINGO LABY.
ENGPOP, ENGPOP, BOP, PLOLO, PLOLO, BOP, BOP.