Here’s the fourth and last quote from the short story “Sonny’s Blues.”
“Sonny’s fingers filled the air with life, his life. But that life contained so many others…Then he began to make it his. It was very beautiful because it wasn’t hurried and it was no longer a lament. I seemed to hear with what burning he had made it his, with what burning we had yet to make it ours, how we could cease lamenting. Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen, that he would never be free until we did…And I was yet aware that this was only a moment, that the world waited outside, as hungry as a tiger, and that trouble stretched above us, longer than the sky.”
Sometimes it seems as if the world’s always trying to strangle you, to push you, to test your strength. The world’s always rumbling on, waiting to swallow you whole. But if you allow yourself to close your eyes and really listen, everything else can truly melt away. Even if only for a moment.
This is the 3rd installment (out of 4) of quotes from James Baldwin’s short story, “Sonny’s Blues.”
“He hit something in all of them, he hit something in me, myself, and the music tightened and deepened, apprehension began to beat the air. Creole began to tell us what the blues were all about. They were not about anything very new. He and his boys up there were keeping it new, at the risk of ruin, destruction, madness, and death, in order to find new ways to make us listen. For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.”
Everyone suffers; everyone is happy at some point or another; everyone goes through periods of light and darkness. These are all inevitable conditions to humans. Regardless of how many times you go through ups and downs, or know someone who does, it’s a tale that must always be heard. Sometimes a person, a song, a moment or a band can give you new ways to open your mind, open your heart, and truly listen, truly understand.
This week’s quote is also from “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin:
“All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours.“
Even though summertime is over and festivals are fewer, I still want to add a slice of music into blog posts as much as I can. So welcome to the first real supplement of “Quote of the Week.” Usually the quote will have something to do with music. Please feel free to comment on the quotes, add your own quotes, or just start up a conversation.
In one of my English classes we just read, “Sonny’s Blues” the beautiful short story written by James Baldwin in 1957. It was a very powerful read, which I highly recommend. Although I want to splurge and include all of my favorite quotes from the story, I’ll spread them throughout to keep the weeks interesting. Here’s the first one:
“As the singing filled the air the watching, listening faces underwent a change, the eyes focusing on something within; the music seemed to soothe a poison out of them; and time seemed, nearly, to fall away from the sullen, belligerent, battered faces, as though they were fleeing back to their first condition, while dreaming of their last.”
Regardless of how broken we are, music can soothe us and bring us to another place. Even if it is for a moment, that moment helps us breathe and live through the suffering. I love that line about music soothing a poison out of us.
At festivals, I have moments like these all the time:
“At that elusive moment when we transcend our ordinary performance and feel in harmony with something else—whether it’s a glorious sunset, inspiring music or another human being—our studies have shown that what we are really coming in sync with is ourselves. Not only do we feel more relaxed and at peace, but this entrained state increases our ability to perform well and offers numerous health benefits.”
–Doc Childre and Howard Martin