First reading of Cecil Taylor's '#6.56' (2)

Jake Marmer

[LISTEN TO “#6.56”]

Harvesting in Cecil Taylor’s Chinampas

1. Fred Moten had it: “I’ve been preparing myself to improvise with Cecil Taylor.” Or something like that. I’m not looking it up. Have I been preparing, and with what? That, perhaps, is the quintessential question that comes up when one listens to Cecil Taylor, kids are climbing walls downstairs and I need the question, that comes up, is who you be, listening — not so much, as Baraka had it, “how you sound” but who you be, or more precisely, pass/assist how, listening, to INCARNATE THYSELF.  

2. Overdub is palimpsest in heat. My headphones are not blocking out the noise enough. I am having a good time. I am easy.  

3. There’re two voices in this poem, one is melancholy, musing, marveling, fingering some dictionary, the other is more demonic easy more detonated, more disintegrated. Are they talking to each other absolutely not but TO INTERSECT well then if that’s the case, it’s something to aspire to.

4. Who am I talking to/with? The spirit of doubt. Muse as derision. I mean, the other way around. I hope. I could ask for another. If you’re having a bad dream, turn to the other side. That’s my mother, the comforter. 

5. Another obvious observation is that the album’s name and concept, Chinampas, the Aztec floating garden, geometrical little patch, is an image that is so perfectly fitted for a CT project it’s scary, because he’s obsessed with little units, and construction, I mean I have not seen his charts but I imagine carefully numbered pieces to flow through, COLUMNS OF RAIN right so not exactly in sequential order but as COLUMNS OF RAIN, time is not links in a chain but that space between clouds and gardens, the continuum filling with COLUMNS. Cloud is the beginning of time and the end is when the weather clears up. We can get along which is the WORD FROM THE ANTHILL.

6. I thought of writing a diptych to illustrate this dialogue, COLUMNS I guess though I didn’t call it that but pathway, thank you, I forgot what I wanted to say about this.

7. Bridges. In an interview I vaguely remember CT says looking at bridges thrills him more than listening to music, and I don’t believe it except for a moment which may be the point but again, there’s that obsession with structures, connecting pieces — and, of course, there’s the water. If CT is building a bridge it is not for people to cross but obviously the others, you’re too easy, what if we say that’s the thing about the HORSES in the opening of the poem, they set not only a pace but the need. Wave at the PANTALOONS BELOW.      

8. Ok so about the ditched diptych. I guess I opted for slightly formalized Hannah Weiner dress I am the inner stitch and can’t get away from being simply the inside of the outside and here again we have the CT-state to aspire to, minimal but feasible interaction, but we like each other too much, we’re a community, bickering, not a response but responsa (sorry!) everyone is always so understanding about that, not dancers in the same — what? not cave— but something under the ground or inside and stifling, right: the track is stifling, CT does not care for open air. Name’s the asphyxiation, the fainting game. What you’re avoiding is not oxygen though — but what? Logic? Too easy. SHINING SPACE. Why talk of avoidance? The destination, where the PANTALOONS BELOW will take you to — and that’s the difference between the visionary and the listenary.

9. What’s the issue with ease? It’s not Olympics i.e. who jumps higher. The Russian proverb has it, to try and jump above and over one’s own head. Hello. Why is it that interpretation must reel, break off observance rituals. You’re a debit to your people. Clink. Lechaim.   

10.  Speaking of your people: I remember an interview (same one?) where CT says he’s part Native American, and has been exploring his heritage — so Chinampas perhaps is also an engagement with the ancestral form which now that I think about it this is as well.

11. How many people can you hold, in your mind, amused, in conversation? Is it like juggling, a skill one can develop? But like asphyxiation it’s borderline i.e. stop before you want to. The bigger the jump. Certainly running a risk of meltdown, anything dialectic is. Anytime she goes away.

12. Ain’t no sunshine penetrating through my headphones. Not anything dialectic, because in CT’s iteration, it’s not quite a dialogue, it’s a biologue, and so is bialectic, and I’m not jesting for the sake of itself, I mean to say, there of course are multiple forms of interacting with oneself, and there’re probably many good options for it all: a) trapping, b) getting somewhere, c) INTERSECT, d) COLUMNS OF RAIN, e) PANTALOON BELOW; f) ACCUMULATING DISTANCE.

13. As Kabbalists had it, every word, and every phrase, and every sentence, and every shard, is too, a Name. Every word in the poem is a title, a method.

14. I have a theory been looking for a home for it. Well, in short, easy, in CT’s work, and any work with that kind of sensibility, there must exist points of breakage — not breakage from sense — but breakage of the actual piece, it kind of must fail and redeem itself in the course of its duration and I don’t want to make it too formulaic like call and response and it is but more along the lines of following a pass/assist MOVABLE STAR.

15. What was that Jabès poem about closing the loop but not with one’s heart — rather, with one’s teeth — celestial bites, etc. I am saying I’m looking for the door, I’m ready, I’m about.

16. CT once said, and this is widely quoted I think, that improvisation is a conversation with oneself. If your business is to talk to yourself in front of others, then my theory is PANTALOONS BELOW because how can you ever fail? Nothing is a problem playing inside we’re here for a while, heaven is otherness-people inside mind plus the ancestral satellite, the orbiting/floating garden.

17. INCARNATE THYSELF echoes with carnal, sounds at different times like snake/frogs/dogs/disintegrated/demonic, it is a Name, a method, it is a structure which you, yes, INCARNATE if walking, hypothesize or get off the bus. I am a rock, I am chinampas. Had to throw that in there somewhere.

Note on method: caps are quotes from CT’s poem.

February 16, 2015
Stanford, CA

* * *

Chinampas (1987)

1. # 5'04
2. # 3'43
3. # 5'46
4. # 5'07
5. # 12'30
6. # 9'20
7. # 5'46
8. # 6'56
9. # 3'36

Cecil Taylor: poetry, voice, tympani, bells, small percussion. Recorded  November 16 and 17, 1987. CHINAMPA, an Aztec word meaning “floating garden.” Source: UbuWeb’s Cecil Taylor page.

Jake Marmer is a poet and performer. His first record, Hermeneutic Stomp (Blue Thread Music, 2013), has featured jazz-klez luminaries Frank London, Greg Wall, Eyal Maoz, and Uri Sharlin, and brought together diverse poetic traditions, jazz, klezmer, and new and ancient improvisation techniques. It was hailed as a “soulful narrative line in counterpoint to … language-drunk abstractions” (The Jewish Week), “experience of mystic pleasures … freshly contemporary” (Shofar), and a “thought provoking debut” (All About Jazz). His poetry collection Jazz Talmud was published by Sheep Meadow Press in 2012. Currently a doctoral candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, he lives in Palo Alto with his wife and two children. He frequently contributes to the Forward and Tablet magazine, and is a cofounder of North America’s first Jewish Poetry retreat at KlezKanada Festival. For more information, see