What Music Can Do
When I hear Sketches of Spain or Kind of Blue – Miles Davis masterpieces from his earlier career – I am always calmed, thrilled by the ways that music can take over every portion of a person from head to toe, from inside to outside, from innermost mind to outermost layer of skin. It is always hard to imagine that the person creating these soothing, haunting, calming ethereal sounds was so troubled, so violent (especially towards the women in his life). And toward himself in many ways. How does such a contradiction occur – the mix of creative musical genius that can silence a room by way of gorgeous notes that slither around a listener like a silk scarf or a thick velvet cape and inner angst that causes agonizing pain? Music soothes the savage beast it is said. So why did it not soothe Miles Davis? Or perhaps it did. Maybe Miles woke up every day, knew that the only way to calm his inner demons was to play trumpet from dawn to day’s end, long into a smoke-filled, drug-ringed night. Maybe this was the only way he could survive in his universe, filled with forces working against him. Playing in protective company with other greats like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Evans, Jimmy Cobb, Paul Chambers, John Coltrane. So many brilliant musicians who made our lives greater as they blew, drummed, as their fingers embraced keys, frets strings, as they whispered to us in darkened rooms about ecstasy and passion. They gave reason each day to dance, dream, devour life all day long instead of being devoured by it. A bird soaring across landscapes of troubled, yet unique, lives, feathers outstretched above storms.
- Mary K O'Melveny
Listen to Miles Davis play “Flamenco Sketches,” from the 1959 album Kind of Blue [Columbia/Legacy]:
What Music Can Do was published on the Jerry Jazz Musican site on July 6, 2022