Mark Blickley grew up within walking distance of New York’s Bronx Zoo. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center. His latest book is the text-based art collaboration with fine arts photographer Amy Bassin, Dream Streams.
Francesca Schwartz is a widely exhibited New York-based artist and psychoanalyst. Schwartz’s work rests on her fascination with the contents and materials that make up the body. Her art-making addresses many of the same questions confronted in her practice, finding meaning through the articulation of the unconscious and the necessary, preoccupation with the body, its disappearance, life’s beginnings, and death. Francesca Schwartz is online at francescaschwartz.com.
Pumped Up For Next Gig
Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.Last words of music I-pod creator Steve Jobs.
I don’t remember any of my previous incarnations. This one just ended with the sound of my heartbeat replaced by booming defibrillator jolts. I can hear being zipped into thick plastic but I am not afraid. Aimless transmigration drifting will play no part in my future.
I don’t understand why I came back as a drummer, an impoverished, financially unsuccessful percussionist ridiculed for a passion that labels me a bum, a perpetual adolescent, irresponsible and selfish. But creating music by pounding on those stretched skins until they vibrate me into mysterious intervals of bliss is an addiction I never want to kick. I’ve never considered myself religious or spiritual at all but now that my gig has ended, I realize I spent my 47 years on earth as a priest. I cannot define this mystical bliss. When words and intellectual thought cannot describe a thing, it’s called a mystery. That’s why they created the word God. God is a musical term for irrational explanations of sacred truths.
We are all born musicians. At the time of my inception, Mom’s heartbeats were the first organized rhythmic sounds I heard. Four months inside her womb I joined her with my echoing heartbeats, and then I pulled away to create my own unique beats and rhythm.
Musica Humana. Bookended between the first beat I heard from my mother’s heart is the final beat I heard from the artificial rhythm of a defibrillator, tuning me up for my next incarnation. It’s a much slower, angrier beat. When it couldn’t tune up the instrument called my body, I am discarded. Defibrillator is electronic music—a no-no for true musicians who spurn the use of living drummers in favor of techno-drum machines. Defibrillators, not Schoenberg or Stravinsky, are responsible for the atonal music of the spheres.
Mom hated me becoming a musician. She said I would end up poor, drug addicted, a wasted life. Yet she loved music and streamed it so often it most certainly inspired me to take up drumming. I’ve never felt closer to her as when I replicate her heartbeat with my sticks. Every time I pounded or brushed those skins, I now see I was paying homage to my mother and the in- utero cadences she bestowed upon me.
As a drummer, I am the heart of a band’s rhythm section. Heart arrhythmia are irregular beats which I’ve done plenty of times on stage and while jamming with other players, though I called it musical experimentation. Strange how we never know during our life how often we are rehearsing our death. My heart arrhythmia is genetic. The same musical rhythm from Mom that gave me life also killed me.
All lives are musical compositions and decompositions. Does the tune end abruptly like a song at a live gig, or does it fade away through artificial manipulation, like a recorded song that doesn’t know how to end so it keeps getting fainter and fainter until it slowly disappears? Should one just keep going as long as mechanically possible or should one issue a DNR directive in order to cease and desist? Sound waves never truly disappear, they just keep getting weaker and weaker until they transform into thermal energy units, which are eternal. That is the true definition of human harmony we call soul music.
There is no single moment of death, but a series of mini-deaths. Hearts continue to beat after breathing stops. Skin cells remain alive several days after death so we can trade in our worn drum kit for a fresh set of skins. It’s a reverse audition where the drummer doesn’t try to get accepted into a group, but decides to join a new human group with which to ignite innovative and invigorating percussive riffs.
There is a white light at both ends of this tunnel, but they are simply stage lights that can really be a pain in the ass when performing. I pound my way through them even though it’s hard to see fellow band members and my audience. But this white light has dark shadows sprinkled within and these are musicians hoping I will jam with them in our next life. I am sandwiched between the white theatrical lights of past musical performances and future ones, as I inch closer to a new incarnation and my next gig.