Meditations On Music: Jazz Faculty Recital

Bill Carrothers performs with other members of the jazz faculty in Harper Hall.
Photo by Hikari Mine.

On Sept. 13, I experienced music as a journalist in a way I never had before. On Sept. 13, I was reminded why I do this. On Sept. 13, the doubts I had about being a music journalist and about the career itself—doubts I mostly keep to myself—dissipated into the Lawrence University jazz faculty’s interpretation of Monk’s “Ruby My Dear.”

Guitar percussion delicately rings out, a hand striking the wooden neck with precision while the other hand’s fingers sprawl across the fret board, creating conglomerations of frequencies that stimulate as much as they calm. The cello is running water through a creek—not a whole river, but not a slight trickle either—and it smooths rocks in its path. It flows independently of its ringing counterpart, but interaction is impossible to avoid.

At the recital, love and reassurance took the place of sound and sound took the place of words. Now, with this article, words attempt to replace all of it—but they cannot, really. They can echo on this page what once was, but that now exists purely in a realm we can no longer know. It is that mystery and intrigue—the fact that the music I heard on Sept. 13 was neither real nor fake, created neither from a corporeal source nor pneuma—that pulls us in and immerses us. I did not know it that night, I was merely shown it more intensely at that point in my timeline.

Bleeding can happen sans blood, and through time instead of space. This is a fact. Listen to how what was once a cello is now a saxophone, existing in the same location musically but different places chronologically. There is a co-dependence between the two and thoughtfulness that one can observe only through art.

When I took my notes, residue of what I felt seeped through my hand, fingers, the pen, ink and onto the page, but it is a residue of another dimension, and I cannot see it. When I blink my eyes or stare hard at the page, my ears and eyes remember and sing out, and I can be aware of what existed not only on Sept. 13 but also outside of time and space; I can be aware of what is still happening in Harper Hall, in my mind—both close and far away.

How do sensory experiences other than sound come to fruition through music? Can your physical brain sense touch? Can your mind? There is a fine line between tickling and massaging the brain. Brushed drums, guitar percussion and parts of piano tickle. Cello, bass and parts of piano massage. While listening to music, it is sometimes pleasant to be in tune with the physiology of the brain, even if it is just a fabrication of your mind.

There is another medium— beyond words, music, whatever you can think of. There is less art than there should be that uses this medium. It is still common, but not common enough. It was there. I’m sure nearly everyone in the audience felt it, but it does not always show itself to all of those experiencing it. It does not have to show itself the entire time, but sometimes it does.

Bring me back to this world, but not too suddenly. I want to feel the effects of the experience but in context of what I am more used to. An ambience with a low, slow pulse hugs Harper and everyone in it. I am in this moment and nowhere else. I know what I have to do.

My deepest gratitude to Lecturer of Music Bill Carrothers on piano, Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies José Encarnación on saxophone, Associate Professor of Music Mark Urness on bass, senior Koby Brown on drums, Instructor of Music Matt Turner on cello, Lecturer of Music Steve Peplin on guitar, Assistant Professor of Music Tim Albright on trombone and Associate Professor of Music John Daniel on trumpet.