INTERVALS: THE NEWSLETTER OF DAVID LIEBMAN-SPECIAL EDITION
As those of you familiar with Intervals know, I send it every three months
meaning at this time. But with the recent events which dwarf mine or anybody’s
private congratulatory profile, I am sending this in lieu of the normal
newsletter for now. My “feature article” was going to be about recently
turning 55 years old and some thoughts and reflections as I get nearer to
sixty-for the first time actually taking cognizant of the calendar creeping
by—and about the heavy book I read-Phillip Roth’s “American Pastorale” which
triggered a lot of emotions. But instead we have the tragedy.
Today as I write is September 16th. Though I won’t send this for another week or so I am writing today having just returned from a memorial service held at our local Roman Catholic Church here in Stroudsburg. I was very moved by this ceremony, overflowing with people from the area as well as most of the local religious leaders-Catholic and Protestant, Jewish and the local Islamic leader from the mosque. Each member of the clergy said something both general and even specific to their faith; the rabbi gave a wonderful explanation of the points made in the universally accepted 23rd Psalm-how we walk THROUGH the valley of darkness but with the knowledge that we have God on our side; the Muslim leader spoke in Arabic and the translation was as you expect about brotherhood, how the Koran emphasizes mercy and so on; the local police, firemen, emergency people were thanked and….so on. I was brought to tears when they played taps for the fallen-among whom is my niece’s brother in law-a fireman who was in the WTC. During the ceremony and especially when America The Beautiful was sung, I had many thoughts and reflections on these days. Like many of us, I have been walking around in a fog-thinking about those killed, concerned about what will happen, what it will be like to travel, will there be gigs anymore, what about my family and loved ones, etc, etc. The web is full of people saying some great things. So here’s my bit…. I thought that many of you who have been following me for years might be interested.
Recently in Italy I performed a suite of original music some of which I wrote years ago, some of it new called “For the Freedom Fighters”. It is my dedication to those in the world who are at any time fighting for justice and peace. One tune in particular is relative to what I want to say ---titled “Child Refugee”. I wrote this in the early 1980s after seeing a writer who I admire (he occasionally writes editorials now for Time Magazine) named Roger Rosenberg, on an interview show. He had just compiled a book profiling children who were victims of wars being fought at that time, which included Lebanon, Northern Ireland and I believe Afghanistan. I was not a father then, so the impression wasn’t as personal as I feel now with the fact of my daughter who is ten years old, but I do remember being overwhelmed with grief and sadness about the plight of these and other kids; not just war-induced, but from poverty, racism-you name it. It is so obvious, yet so compelling-children have nothing to do with the way the world is-they come in innocent and don’t get “it” meaning what people do to each other, till at least early teens or so. They are completely dependent upon us, the adults, and what does the collective “we” do but often cause them to suffer in the present and in many cases with scars for life. I don’t get it….what did they do to deserve this?
Certainly, a case can be made on either side of any disagreement-as we were memorializing in the church here in Stroudsburg, others somewhere else were celebrating for a victory over the “great Satan”, etc, etc. My latest solo record called “Time Immemorial” was inspired by thoughts of how things never change-that there are always two sides to a story –yin/yang and that duality is the rule of life. But for kids-these rules are suspended. They are not responsible for what we do and it is them whom I am thinking of as I see my daughter confused, tired of hearing about it and thrown off her game by what has happened. I asked her why God allows this to happen-and after a few days she said maybe bad things are supposed to happen as well as good. I am asking her for an answer!!
But there is one point of the many being made these days that I need to underscore. On my neck I have been wearing for years a pendant with the symbols of the Cross, the Star of David, the Yin-Yang emblem and the Crescent and star-symbolizing all the major religions (using the yin yang as representative of Hindu/Buddhism). I am Jewish and was brought up in a liberal home both religiously and politically-not uncommon for Jews from New York City in the 1950’sand 60’s. Through music and the people I met in jazz, I became familiar with Eastern thought ranging from Ramakhrishna to Vivekenanda to Buddha, etc. and became convinced of the obvious-that all the religions have at their core the same message, which outside of the “God” discussion (prophets, saints, etc) is in sum for me, the Golden Rule. But through my fairly decent knowledge of history, I was also aware that much or possibly more murder and pillage has been done in the name of religion than anything else from the Crusades to Belfast to the 100 Years War to Israel today, etc, etc. And that suicide/murder in the name of Allah or any God is where organized religion has taken us at least in relation to recent events, let alone historically. In the end, it is people wielding power for their own benefit and not following the Golden Rule—and all of this has gone on for “Time Immemorial”. This saddens me in these days more acutely than normally, since when I am living in my bubble, under ordinary circumstances I have no compelling reason to think about it.
A friend of mine writes:
“But something has happened in the past 2000 years that has really warped the essence of religious origin. If I had only one wish to be granted, I would wish that Jesus Christ, Lord Bhudda, Mohammed, Allah, Jehovah, the almighty God, Lord Krishna and all the other deities I've left out would come back to earth and hold a press conference where they could tell all these fat clerics, ‘you have no idea of what our teachings are all about.’
If there is a god, maybe this god is punishing us because we are all following the misinterpretations of madmen and idiots.”
Father Perry, who is one of the two local priests and a heavy intellectual with great knowledge said in answer to that universal question above which I posed to my daughter, Lydia, and to him a few years ago, that God created man with the capacity for good and evil…period…no more, no less! At least this is the way I heard Father. This brings me to the “play” or drama metaphor describing the relationship between God and man-is this just some big dance or carnival for God’s pleasure to watch how we deal-that it will always be the same and man’s spiritual consciousness will never evolve any higher than it has been since the beginning of humanity? In darker moments, I think that-in others, I think that the human species is going forward, that people are evolving, that tolerance is spreading…….and all that good stuff.
Anyway, these are my thoughts for this day when jazz seems so far away and so irrelevant. (Although on the lighter side, I can’t help but wonder if there was a similar make believe news conference for the jazz fathers:Duke, Louis, Trane, Bird, etc. What would they say to see how the music is marketed these days!!. Teaching jazz seems even more irrelevant than playing, but on the other hand, I have something to say to my colleagues who travel and play as I do. It is our job to spread truth and beauty as we have been touched with it through art and this music in particular. Not to compare in relative worth, but like the firemen who have to go into the building we have to stay out there, travel, take our chances and bring this version of the golden rule-peace, compassion, beauty, truth, tolerance, empathy, etc…to the people. We are lucky and in a sense chosen to fulfill this mission and that is our karmic duty in this lifetime at least.
With that I wish all of you good luck in the times coming up and for those who travel, safety and good health. These are times to try our collective and individual souls.
Note: My appreciation to those many calls and e-mails I received, especially from overseas about my personal situation and family. There is a lot of love and respect out there, for which I am grateful.
Concerning children and war, this is a letter from Israel which was sent to me:
My name is Shayna Rothman and I am eight and a half years old. I just
made aliya to Israel from Woodmere, NY at the beginning of the summer. A few
days ago something terrible happened, I went to my first funeral. Morah
Shoshana Heyman Greenbaum, my second grade teacher in Hebrew Academy of Long
Beach was killed by a bomb in Sbarro's pizza store. This all happened when
she was four months pregnant and got married about a year and a half ago. I
remember dancing at her wedding and seeing her looking so happy and beautiful.
I am sure you all heard about these things where your relatives or
friends have been killed in bombs because of the Arabs. Well, this is why
I'm writing this letter, because it needs to stop!
Morah Heyman-Greenbaum was a wonderful teacher and always taught me
torah. At her funeral on Friday I was saying tehillim to the tune that Morah
Heyman taught me from Hallel. This was sad but one of the ways I can
remember her is by saying this tehillim. This must be very hard for her
husband and her parents especially since she was an only child.
I will never forget her and I hope this never happens to anyone again!
And from an older, advanced student attending school, a question about how this all affects the music:
I know that you, Caris, and Lydia have surely been affected by what happened
last week as I have, and I wanted to extend my prayers to all of you, with
the hope that all of your friends and family are OK.
When this tragedy struck, I was sure that my playing would become a vehicle
to release all of the negative feelings in a positive way. In fact, I
expected the "Heart" part of my playing to be more solid and energetic.
What actually happened however was that it has all fallen flat since then.
Nothing I play seems to be right anymore, or even have the energy it used
to. I have noticed this in fact in most of the more advanced players (who
have moved past the working-out of the basic vocabulary, and are now trying
to learn to speak with their own voice on the instrument) around school. No
one is playing well around here right now!
So I was wondering if you had any wisdom you could pass down for me, my
students, and the others here at school on how to deal with this
situation musically. How do we get the energy for music back? Right now it
seems like everyone is sapped.
I know that you're very busy, but many of us have been wondering what you
have to say about this. Thank you, and again, all my best to Caris and
(My reply)--To the musicians:
We are all suffering now-it is like a mass catharsis-the last time (and
only time in my years) was JFK’s assassination. After that we got harder-and this will happen here to all of us also-so it being the first really threatening and scary
event to happen to all of you in your lifetime it is inevitable that it
shakes you up, even if you didn't have someone connected directly to the
tragedy. (If this was the case, then it is on another level from what I am
explaining here and something I have no legitimacy commenting on. Ladies and gentlemen, life has been thrust upon you-jazz and music seem insignificant!!
With any major sad and distressing event, the psyche needs time to heal-it
never will be what it was before but time DOES take care of all things-the
only event close to this is loss of love and some of you may have
already felt that or will.
It is natural that all the inspiration and energy is zapped at this
point-but the good effect of tragedy in relation to artistic growth far outweighs the negative. For those who feel the depth of what has happened and can personalize it in some way, trying to figure out where they stand in relation to it, this will be a major
growing experience-not something that you hear in the next solo you take
today or tomorrow but in the long run. This is what is meant by character
building and all the great past civilizations have addressed the issue of how to
build character in the young since that is what the future will depend
upon. In our country and increasingly in the developed world, this
training has been sadly neglected. Unfortunately in life, it usually takes a tragedy to
awaken or stir such deep feelings in many of us.
For those of you who are searching for meaning in this and how it will
affect you don't look at the music now-maybe later...I mean much
later!!!! Empathize with the suffering-think about what drives men to commit
suicide and murder at the same time-and why there is so much hatred of
something called a country, even beyond that directed towards an individual.
In my opinion this is a great opportunity for personal growth that will
build character, ethics, principles and the like, which in the end is what
one hears when they listen to a true artist play. It goes beyond the music to
the heart of who we are and why we are here.
Meanwhile cats, play the blues-SLOW and EASY!!!!!!!!
“ONLY DEATH AND LOVE CHANGE ALL THINGS”-Gibran
Below is my normal message if you wish to be removed from receiving Intervals:
HELLO TO ALL:
Just to mention that if you don’t wish to receive this newsletter you can unsubscribe through the web site (if that is how you subscribed in the first place) or directly to me if this came as an e-mail. Some people may be on both lists, so if you receive two copies PLEASE go to my web site and unsubscribe since that will be the easiest way. I am always adding people whom I think would be interested but that assumption may be erroneous and I apologize if this is the case. To all new readers, I welcome you to my newsletter which I have been issuing since 1993 four times a year. I encourage first time visitors to go to my web site which offers in-depth articles, a list of available publications and CDs with sound clips, private photos and recordings of historic interest, information about my annual Saxophone Master Class, the International Association of Schools of Jazz (IASJ) and more. The address is www.davidliebman.com/lieb