In the Colibri quartet, there is a passage in the coda of the last movement where, as the
vocal part sinks to silence, engulfed in soft dissonance, the strings commence a twining
of themes - one being the main subject of that movement, another arising as a quotation
from an earlier movement, and a third recalling another work, the quintet,
Where Beauty
Begins to Crumble
- in such  a way that the strands of melodious meaning coalesce in
kaleidescopic chords, enriching the understanding with deep feeling.  

It's one of my better moments, so I've cut a page out from the score and taped it to the
door of my refrigerator: now, every time I enter the kitchen in search of twinkies and beer,
I am encouraged, by the sight of this little excerpt, to believe that the dedication of so
many years to the craft of composition has not  entirely been in vain.

But there is another refrigerator, out at the beach house in eastern Long Island, on which
another sheet of paper is attached, in similar fashion, to its door.  This time it's not music
but art, or at least a scribbling in colored pencil, executed by a young girl whose family
occupied the bungalow before we arrived, and it's signed

This wrinkled sheet has been on display for some time now, though it's only recently I've
bothered to pay it heed.  (You know how it is: things can lie right under your nose for
years until some change in your receptiveness makes them relevant.)  So the child who
created the drawing - and the delicate water color that's tacked to the bulletin board, both
of which remind me of Joan Mitchell's work  - is by now a woman, which means that, in all
probability, were I to discover, with the aid of our landlord, the whereabouts of her family,
make a special trip to meet the artist, and subject her to a comprehensive interrogation
on those matters of great interest to me - is her work abstract or representational? if the
latter, then what is it? if the former, was it planned or spontaneous? is it subjective,
expressing psychic turbulence, or is it gestural, experimental, random?  is the suggestion
of movement I detect forward or backward, into the future or the past, an evocation of
birth or an intimation of death? - were I to confront the artist with these and other queries,
I'd find she has neither a clear recollection of what she did, nor the ability to make such
drawings again.   

Unfortunate!  For that's just what I'd like to do: draw like a child, paint like a caveman,
confront each canvas with the innocence of the freshly landed, amnesiac soul, without
hope of improving or crystallizing a style, and I think a conversation with the child Bev  
might help.  

Beside this newfound enthusiasm for painting, making music suddenly seems
unimportant, and the accomplishments of a lifetime are to me as chaff.  (I'm not sure what
chaff is but it's what Thomas Aquinas said his
Summa Theologica amounted to from the
vantage of his death-bed, as he contemplated the prospect of his encounter with the
Darkness we came out of and to which we return, that place without shape or light or
time, from which God fashioned the world in an impossible and necessary act of courage,
of genius, of optimism, of desperation, that chaos of the womb and of the grave
temporarily lost to memory through the force of those daily habits that come to define our
"personality," that immense, latent mystery that frames our little lives.

But perhaps I should pause here and consider whether you've observed something
disingenuous in how, while giving the impression of dismissing my musical work, while
appearing to toss it away without a care, I have contrived to call attention to its
craftsmanship with the aim of inspiring your admiration, imagining you're struck by the
fecundity that enables me to glide from one kind of task to another (though while I'm
imagining this you may actually be wondering why, if my music is so great, you've never
heard of it, while my paintings, as you can see with your own eyes, are crap).  These
reflections reveal , as much to me as to you, the shamefulness of my self-love, while
inciting, at the same time, self-loathing: I'm confused, disturbed - but not overly, as I
recognize these flaws to  be endemic to human nature, perhaps, even, expressive of a
fundamental cosmic tension, in which case my egotism is the necessary foil to my
selflessness, the eros that balances agape, the Life Force, the Will to survive, that
complements Caritas, the noble spirit of Sacrifice.  I'm Zoroaster with the Kingdoms of
Light and Darkness enacting their eternal conflict in my soul, and all the impulses,
unconscious  and half-conscious, astir within me, are the mediating daimons, aligned in
concentric rings that separate, according to Gnostic lore, the Unknowable, Faceless God
from his creation, that form within me that unbridgeable, necessary gap between the
image I've formed of myself and the ultimate seat of my being.

If there is such a thing.  I've struggled with the opening of this story, re-working it half a
dozen times, and each attempt seems both inadequate and indispensable.  I could, in the
end, make of this work a series of alternative beginnings, presentable in any number of
orderings: such a plan might best express my uncertainty.  In any order, though, it seems
that, the less mere truth I employ, the more interesting the tale, which simply means that
fantasy lies (it lies!) at the heart of self and world.  As Slovoj Zizeck says, there's a
primordial fiction at the moment I choose myself - a fantasy that sustains what's real and
true in my experience.  

In any case this much is clear:  I'd rather spend months, even years, erecting elaborate
justifications for my actions than simply acknowledge I'm selfish or vain.  As, for example,
with my abandoning the field of music for painting.  Instead of all the existential
belly-aching, why don't I just admit that it boils down to this: I love surprises, which -
thanks to my ignorance and inexperience - art provides me with in abundance.  This  
helps explain why, despite so many failed paintings, so many wasted hours, I'm seldom
discouraged: the prospect of serendipitous beauty  always lurks around the corner.  It
also explains why I have no interest in repeating, even in variation, what I've done to my
satisfaction: to uncover the new, and to find it interesting, is true freedom and deep joy.

And to hell with what people think - but there I go again, feigning indifference to the
world's indifference, beating my critics to the punch, wearing my failure like a badge of
authenticity.  In fact I find the world inert and intractable: I've completely given up on
trying to salvage it with music.  I even  get sad working with plumber's tools: the blind
obedience of the screw to the screwdriver, its mindless, predictable acquiescence,  
imprisons me in a deterministic universe with time running short.  I prefer more malleable
material like words,  tones, colors, all of which, lacking in ego, are devoid of recalcitrance,
at the same time that they possess the charming capacity for combining in unexpected
felicities.    As I said, I love surprises, so you can see that strictly speaking, I'm not an
Abstract Expressionist, searching my psyche and forming images out of feelings.  I'm
more like Bev, delighting in what I imagine delighted her, learning about the world through
hand and eye and mind and color, and it's ironic that what might appear, in its lack of
referents, to be the apogee of subjectivity, Romanticism in the extreme, is in fact an
escape from self and  premeditation: when you get down to the depths of your soul you
find nobody's home, so you make yourself up.

But the ultimate surprise is death - not the fact of death, which is inevitable, but its nature,
which is inscrutable.  When we leave this world will we find ourselves in another, or  alive
in a different form, or born again, for the thousandth time, into the past to live this story
over?  We must have agreed, as a condition of birth, to forget the answer: for us there is
only a gradual emergence from darkness, and by the time we've mastered the words by
which to remember things, the recollection of our passage has dissolved.  

Can I invent myself from nothing?  Can I paint my own mythology into existence, create a
space, like a luminous cavern, to die into?  Can I dream my birth out from the womb?  In
this place that I would form, I could find myself, and in the finding of that place I could be