Thursday, September 11, 2008
This afternoon Cebah sprang a surprise on me. I came back from the store to find her working up a kettle of little peaches she'd picked from a wild tree in the fencerow - small ones, only a couple of inches long. The trees, which were loaded with deep pink blossoms in the spring, came up from tossed out peach pits - actually from the pits of trees that grew from tossed out pits. They've reverted to something wilder.
We've never used them for food before. The flavor out of hand is a little whangy, with a slight bitter edge, so I wondered about this plan to make them into jam - it seemed too good to be true. The jam making was handed over to me.
At first I wondered if chutney might be a better idea, and another use for the abundance of habenero chiles I have. That could make a slight bitterness the least of your worries. But I decided to try for jelly. To my amazement, the peaches cooked up, released their juice, and, once sweetened with an equal amount of sugar, clarified and jelled wonderfully. My last mistrust of the fencerow peaches was to wonder if they'd need some spice to mask less than scrumptious flavors, but surprise again, the jelly was delicious made with only peaches and sugar. So that was good. (or will be, for breakfast...)
The other good and unusual thing was that Jody and I listened to the completed Nimbus & are mutually delighted. Musical collaborations can be tricky, but this music, made as part of The Faun project, seems to merge our complimentary skills in a way that surprises and pleases us both. It is at once the most organic-sounding and electronic-sounding of anything I've worked on - and it reminds me of Debussy. Not so much the moonlight and mist aspect that made him popular, more in the radical ever-changing shifty harmonies and rhythms of Jeux, or La Mer. It makes me want to compose another opera, and I think I will. And it sounds like the soundtrack to a film - an animated film? - in any event a very strange film, that I'd also like to make. How inspiring! Both ideas seem wildly improbable... and thus very appealling.
The third surprising thing was that in the research for the new work concerning Pete & Charles & my grandparents, Daniel & Lucy, I ran on a character I'd never heard of, Gladys Bentley, a Drag King in Harlam Renaissance during the 20s. She was said to be "a 250-pound, masculine, dark-skinned lesbian who performed all night long in a white tuxedo and top hat. ...a talented pianist with a magnificent growling voice, was celebrated for inventing obscene lyrics to popular contemporary melodies." Here are some quotes:
"For many years I lived a personal hell. Like the great number of lost souls, I inhabited that half-shadow no-man's land which exists between the boundary of the two sexes. Throughout the world there have been thousands of us furtive humans who have created for ourselves a fantasy as old as civilization: a world which which enables us, if only temporarily, to turn our back on the hard realism of life."
"I have violated the accepted code of morals that our world observes but yet the world has tramped to the doors of the places where I have performed to applaud my piano playing and song styling. These people came to acclaim me as a performer and yet bitterly condemn my personal way of living. But even though they knew me as a male impersonator, they could still appreciate my artistry as a performer."
"Somewhere along the line after we discover that we are fascinated by a way of life different from that approved by society, we attempt to analyze ourselves. All about us we hear the condemnation of our kind... The censure which rages all about us has the effect of creating within us a brooding self-condemnation, a sense of not being as good as the next person, a feeling of inadequacy and impotence... Of course we all reach varying degrees of adjustment. Some of us, on the face of things, accept our predicament and defiantly try our best to live with it. Others, by guilt or grudgingly, but as if drawn by some magnetic force, give in to our way of life. But forever the majority of us are trying to find excuses, alibis, answers to the eternal why. Almost all of us live in a restless constant search for happiness."
(These quotes are from "Creations of Fantasies/Constructions of Identities: The Oppositional Lives of Gladys Bentley" by Carmen Mitchell.)