Monday, November 29, 2010

Stepping Out on the Ledge

A close friend here in Gloucester lost her younger brother yesterday morning. He was shot outside his Detroit townhouse by one of his neighbors, who then went home and shot and killed his father before killing himself.

* * * * *

On my way to her house yesterday afternoon, I listened to “Judgment of the Moon and Stars (Ludwig’s Tune),” a song about Beethoven, by Joni Mitchell:
You've got to shake
your fists at
lightning now
You've got to roar
like a forest fire
You've got to spread your
light like blazes
All across the sky
They're going to aim
the hoses on you
Show them you won't expire
Not till you burn up every passion
Not even when you die

* * * * *
Late last night I watched a documentary about Bruce Springsteen and the making of the album Darkness on the Edge of Town. After a long legal battle with his manager following the success of Born to Run, Bruce and the band finally got back into the studio and spent a year working to make Bruce’s vision for the new album a reality.

They worked at it month after month, recording multiple versions of over 70 songs, trying different approaches, mixing the tracks in various ways, pushing the limits of the technologies, the musicians, and, no doubt, everyone’s patience. They spent three months just trying to get what Bruce felt were authentic drum sounds – instead of the polished and pristine sound of drumming in the studio, Bruce was looking for the raw essence of drumming, a sound he just had to find.

Some people would see this as obsession; others would call it genius. What I see is his clarity of vision and an unwavering belief in himself and what he was trying to do. The film shows his burning intensity, compelling and hard to watch in equal measure. As the exhausting and seemingly endless process of iteration continued, it’s remarkable that he didn’t get so tangled up in the doing that he lost sight of the getting there. But he recognized the endpoint when he reached it, and the album was done.

Talking about that period in his life, Bruce said, ““More than rich, more than famous, more than happy – I wanted to be great.” Watching his dogged insistence on realizing his creative vision--believing in it, absolutely convinced that it was great--I thought about how infrequently I have pursued my own dreams and vision with anything even vaguely resembling that level of clarity, commitment, and conviction. I haven’t walked that far out on the ledge. These past few days have made me think about what it would take for me to take the first step, and the second.

* * * * *

Our time here may be long or short or somewhere in between. What shall we make of the time we have left?


Kathleen Dames said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your friend's brother, but thank you for the thought provocation.

lucyfree said...

Edie, this writing is moving and heartfelt, and deserves wider circulation!
one love