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How to remember music

This is the beginning of a cultural-resistance: to remember music, and remember also the invention of those memories, the purposes of the memories — how they served us in our vacancy, or self-absence, our relentless pursuit of a place or a position in our precious timelines.

So much about the last 100 years is radically different from the human experience of the previous 10,000 years, that it’s difficult for us to remember or imagine what role music of any kind may once have played. Who were the musicians that the Carter family tried to represent? No one lived those precious revolutions, that we imagine turning so far in advance of our stories, no one sang those rhythms we believe we have forgotten. No one can dismantle the pillowed ruins that stand in place of something built on purpose. Jarry wrote “if we haven’t destroyed the ruins, we haven’t destroyed anything.”


How to remember music

That one — the one just past! — was the century of the Eifel Tower, 

And the tall buildings that followed it.

         An abundance of hot-air balloons, or images of them

         (The airplane was later, and less important.)


The first software: tires and axels upon

The first operating system: asphalt pavement. 

                Text by telegraph, followed irrationally by

                Lighter-weight make-up kits, finally available

More freely, to a robust middle class.


The hoot-like beeps on miniature tapes, and before them: a request,

And after which: the messages. “Were you there? I may have been late.”

Softer bread, and safer stairways.


That we should remember anything before

These things … is a joke so thrilling,

In its sheer implausibility,

Mixed somehow, with a myth

That we were ever, anything,

Anything at all but modern.


Now back again, to the ices and clod-diggers

And the sci-fi rainbows of the tudor crowns:

Are we expected to be able to remember a cart,

And a horse before it?

The cart that does not,

In some way, precede us?

Or a Prius?


Can we remember

A map of Africa, contorted and arbitrary,

Nearly useless in its shape, taken down

From sailors’ hopes and recollections?

Remember it as a kind of future, unfinished?

Remember what a year is, orbiting us awkwardly,

Without the built-up space containing an airplane

And a helicopter, even?


Such a mental accomplishment,

Sublime to the mind, as a pear

And a spoon, to the eye? 

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