Improvisation and revision aren't the same thing. Maybe not. And I'm not sure which I'm doing, but I'm going to call it the latter.
Ulysses may remain a mystery a bit longer. Reading Joyce is confronting a master. I've known that since "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" and "Dubliners." Ulysses is stunning. But I'm not feeling it. It's an exercise in discipline only at present, without soul. And one thing about my reading and self-directed studies, since college really, is that they are soul-driven. There is so much out there to read, if I'm not feeling it, what's the point?
So my resolution to have finished Ulysses by 40 (Apr. 8) has been tabled. Now, I'm all about the one-to-one correspondence when it comes to personal betterment. So what to replace it with? Something reading, something soul-driven, something delving into a/the masters.
The answer has been presenting itself all of 2012, but especially yesterday morning. Monday. Driving to work. Listening for the first time, in full, to Duke Ellington's "Money Jungle," where the Duke composed for and played with Charles Mingus and Max Roach. I can't recall be so moved by an entire album on first listen as I was on the road yesterday. My soul was lifted up.
And I looked at what I was reading, instead of Ulysses, and it was Nat Hentoff's "The Jazz Life," and Ted Gioia's, "The History of Jazz," and amped for Geoff Dyer's "But Beautiful," and I'm not well-read, or read at all about jazz, which by virtue of listening to and thinking about has profoundly changed my life over the last decade. I count Mingus, Miles and Monk in the same aesthetic company as Mark Twain and Robert Hass and Whitman and William Carlos Williams.
So my revised, my improvised goal for 2012, is to get read on jazz. Well read. To better know what I'm listening to. Not for the sake of analyzing really, but for the sake of context and curiosity. It feels like what I should be doing. It's what I am doing, where I'm led.
And while I'm at it, I'll add an experiential component: to attend a jazz show or festival to see a musician I really want to see. I have not attended a jazz concert, proper. A lot of jazz inspired, a lot of improvisation, but to find an Ambrose Akinmusire, a Robert Glasper, a Jason Moran, etc. show.
So that's my revision. Revision by gut method. Also known as improvisation.