Listening to Miles Davis Feels Like…
I don’t like Jazz but I fucking love the little of Miles Davis that I’ve spent time with. I don’t know if that’s an insult to Miles, to the genre or if it’s just making look plain dumb but it’s the truth.
I picked up Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew released in 1970 (but recorded in ‘69 so we’re good as far as the assigned time-frame, right?). I picked it for the cover. But I kept it for the music.
What I’m going to say here might be true for a lot of Jazz or might come off corny to most but like I said, Bitches Brew is one of the only two records of the genre that I’ve spent time with.
It sounds like a brain. That’s how I would put it. It sounds like being on the verge of an epiphany for the entire length of a seventeen minute song like Spanish Key (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibanLlREjTk). At first it’s fun but like with any form of a teasing, the promise of a blissful finishing point which, in the case of this musically induced epiphany, will never happen, it gets goddamn frustrating. So many commas in that last sentence. Miles would like commas. There are no periods in his music. No true interruptions. Commas they don’t trap thoughts, they just bring rhythm. Anyways. Sounds pop in from the right, then the left. Keys cover up the brass, the trumpet dies off for a few minutes then comes back with a vengeance. Synapses firing. That’s what I think of listening to Spanish Key. Back and forth, non-stop activity. And after a while I do want it to end. But it doesn’t. It can’t in fact. Because at this point, I’ve found comfort amidst the chaos. I’ve layered the seemingly random sounds that Miles materialized over my own falsely structured thought patterns. And they fit perfectly over one another. In fact it’s soothing. The music I usually listen to tends to compete with my thoughts and as good as some of these Kendrick songs are, I don’t always want to hear another man’s voice in my head. This is different. It’s as though the music is unshaped thought. As if Miles gave us the primordial element instead of the finished product. As though he trained for all these years only to break structure and expose the beauty of chaos. But now I’m left in a bit of a quandary. For the first time, something from the outside is delicately laying on top of my mind; the golden trumpet valves in perfect symmetry with the wrinkly patterns of this grey matter. What happens if I press pause? What happens if my phone dies? Fuck. These sounds are my thoughts, my thoughts are these sounds. Do I shut down when the song stops? Better keep it on then.
That pseudo stream of consciousness above was my first reaction to Miles and his Bitches Brew. I was hanging out somewhere then. Idle. Maybe in my room or in a park or something. Either way, another way of looking at it crashed on me when I stepped out into the city and down to the New York subway. Suddenly I didn’t feel comprehend Miles on a micro or an internal level. I saw it reflected on a macro scale, on society itself. By then Water Babies, which came out in ‘67 was mixed in with my Bitches Brew playlist so I couldn’t tell you exactly which song was from which album. I just know it felt like Miles composed this while watching New York City rush hour from above. On a song like Capricorn (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofeXTZEXkbY), off of Water Babies that much I know, it’s as if he assigned a note to each and every person hustling and bustling in and out of that metal snake riding through the city’s filthy bowels. And once again. With Miles in my ears and my eyes to the world, I found a little peace and balance amongst the chaos. The guy with the big backpack refusing to put it to his feet or the Wall Street woman hissing as she dug her elbow into my spine suddenly didn’t seem worth any apathy. They weren’t odd and ill-intentioned strangers doing everything they could to go about ruining my day but rather electrons bouncing around. Doing as they should. And I use this exclusive “they” pronoun here for a reason. With Miles in my ear I felt a bit like Neo. As though I had cracked the code and could see it all clearly. That Sega-named leather-wearing dude saw reality in green digits, I saw it on hues of orange and turquoise, in keys and brass.
It sounds like what Basquiat looks like, forgot to say that.