Sonny Rollins on the phone yesterday: "I'm still learning. I'm still trying to find the way to express myself. I'm still a work in progress." 77 years old, a monumental figure, a nearly 60 year recording career, a resume that stretches from Harlem to the outer reaches of the galaxy. A work in progress.
Many other memorable quotes which will be distilled in a 550 word piece in the Santa Fe Reporter Wednesday, July 25. The entire interview (after some serious editing) on KSFR Thursday, July 26, 1:30 MT.
My own experience one of enormous stress, a state of fairly high anxiety. I only realized this after the interview was over. I'm such a noob at this, having only interviewed Jane Ira Bloom, Roscoe Mitchell and Sonny Rollins for the radio. (Print interviews with the somewhat less intimidating, for a variety of reasons, Peter Nero, Quincy Troupe and JA Deane). I imagine what it would be like to interview an artist and not know anything at all about him or her. Actually, it's not knowing about the career or the work or whatever, it's the personal hero factor. It came up also when meeting and spending a few hours with Cecil Taylor a couple of years ago in Albuquerque. The feeling for me is the surreal collision of a formerly exclusively private, personal universe with the outside world. It's an experience of meeting or conversing with an archetype. As if one of the major arcana from the tarot, or one of the planet gods, were to have a phone number. Significant figures who have not been introjected so thoroughly would not lead to such discomfort. Like who? Cormac McCarthy, Derek Walcott, Yo Yo Ma, for a few examples. Or the ease and "no big deal" experiences I had when I would meet celebrities who were parents of students when I worked at the swanky school in Los Angeles. Admittedly, it was still surreal when, for example, Bruce Willis would come to a parent-teacher conference, but just humorously or curiously so, not (for me) intimidating or paradigm shifting.
Where this collision is heightened says a lot about my spiritual values, about my experience of "art." About a belief system that ascribes great power to authorship, to the individual person "behind" the work itself. "Hero worship" in a variety of forms, lending great energy to the belief that certain artists are more than human, or have a mythical power of some kind. Interestingly, I think a part of this is the co-existing belief that I lack that power myself. Maybe waking up to some of these dynamics is just another in a huge tidal wave of opportunities lately to gain some perspective and proportion.