Saturday, June 26, 2021

Fahrenheit 451 and "A Remark You Made"

In Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, a novel in which books are banned and burned, Fireman Montag's vacuous wife tries to commit suicide with pills provided to maintain the public's passivity. The ambulance service that detoxifies her acts as if she were carpet to be cleaned. The "family" to which she returns is not Montag, but strangers on a television screen. His wife's opposite is an oddly optimistic and forthright young girl name Clarisse who asks Montag if he's happy. Later, Montage witnesses an old woman who chooses to be burned alive than to give up her library of books. His metamorphoses as a reader has begun. By novel's end (spoiler), Montag joins a renegade community in which the participants memorize books so that they will always be with us, despite the government edict and the firemen.

I have always contemplated what my book would be: Gatsby or The Sun Also Rises; Steinbeck or Stranger in a Strange Land. But in music I have one constant, a song I go back to again and again, oddly a jazz instrumental by Weather Report titled "A Remark You Made." Despite its lack of lyrical content, it is the song in which I have over the years memorized every note and nuance, every muted nouveau harmonic trill from Jaco Pastorius, every ostinato of Joe Zawinul's electric piano. I can play each musician's part in my head.

Though it's Zawinul's tune, he has stated that it wasn't until Jaco arrived at the studio the next day that the song came alive, that all he'd done was to fill in the blanks left by Shorter and Pastorius.

Joni Mitchell's "California" is my life's theme song; The Cure's "Plainsong" that one song that invariably gives me chills. "Landslide" is what I hope will be the last song I ever hear (a long time from now), but it is "A Remark You Made" that is intrinsic as the incidental soundtrack that loops incessantly through my head.

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