I've been listening to the Bach Cello Suites a lot lately, with the intent of applying some of their spirit to the collection of Yes transcriptions I'm working on. For instance, my transcription of "Turn of the Century" was already more measured than the Yes performance on their 1977 album Going For The One, but inspired by the sarabandes of the Cello Suites I'm experimenting with slowing it even further.
Indeed, I'm starting to hear some deeper parallels here. All of the Cello Suites contain six movements, in the following order: a prelude, an allemande, a courante, a sarabande, a menuet or gavotte, and a gigue. My recording Fundamental Affirmation will also have six pieces, one from each of the albums in what Bill Martin calls the "main sequence" of Yes music (indeed it was Martin, in his book Music of Yes, who suggested the idea of Yes transcriptions for bass as a modern counterpart of the Cello Suites). And here is the order I'm planning:
My rendering of "To Be Over" is the most free and improvisatory of the six, and thus fits with the typical nature of a musical prelude. "South Side of the Sky" is serious in tone and heavily arpeggiated, as an allemande usually is, although more driving in its tempo. It might be a stretch to liken "Tales from Topographic Oceans" to a courante -- although a courante was usually grave, majestic, and serious, which Tales certainly is. As mentioned, "Turn of the Century", in the fourth spot, is already feeling more and more like a sarabande. And "A Venture" is a bit like a gavotte, with the characteristic phrase beginning in the middle of a bar. I'm not quite sure about "Close to the Edge" as a gigue (!), but I'll be exploring these analogies further as I complete my transcription of "Close to the Edge" and prepare all of these pieces for recording.
I have come to love short books. As evidence: both The Tao of Roark and Letters on Happiness are less than 60 pages long in the print-on-demand versions I recently produced.
But brevity is hard. It is what Yevgeny Zamyatin called "the art of writing with ninety-proof ink". In his essay Theme and Plot, he observed:
Crossing out is an art that is, perhaps, even more difficult than writing. It requires the sharpest eye to decide what is superfluous and must be removed. And it requires ruthlessness toward yourself -- the greatest ruthlessness and self-sacrifice. You must know how to sacrifice parts in the name of the whole.
In my own writing, I find it easier never to let the superfluous in than to allow text that I will need to remove anyway. This requires a kind of alcoholic fermentation and distillation, if you will: reading, absorbing, mashing ideas about in my subconscious, filtering the extraneous particles of thought, removing the more volatile molecules to find the essence of an idea. That's why it took me seventeen years to write The Tao of Roark and five years to write Letters on Happiness, each of which can be read in an hour or so.
The next book in this series of philosophers on happiness will be about Nietzsche (the working title is Songs of Zarathustra since I'm thinking about composing a series of philosophical poems). I'm currently re-reading all of his works in chronological order, and I must say I'm getting frustrated by his long-windedness in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Get to the point already, I keep thinking! But I must be patient so that I can absorb what wisdom he has provided and then distill it into a book that is brief and strong. I hope it won't take me five years, but I make no promises. As Blaise Pascal once said: "I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time."
Today I took the final steps toward publishing The Tao of Roark as an ebook and print-on-demand title, seventeen years to the day after I first posted a germ of the idea (although I didn't start composing it in earnest until 2008). Much as I like my Letters on Happiness, The Tao of Roark is the best thing I've written to date and it holds great personal meaning for me -- not least because it was the last rung on the ladder of my intellectual encounter with Ayn Rand.
Now that I've discovered for myself just how easy it is to publish these days (I used Amazon's CreateSpace service and found a wonderful cover image licensed under Creative Commons by a very helpful architecture student from Bulgaria who also happens to be a fan of The Fountainhead!), I expect that the floodgates have opened. So plan on seeing my other books in print soon: The Ism Book, Randian Reflections, Ancient Fire, and the aforementioned Letters on Epicurus. I'm not expecting to make any money off these publications and I have priced them accordingly (barely above Amazon's minimum prices), but it makes me happy that people will be able to add these books to their personal libraries if they so please.
It might take a few days for the book to appear on Amazon, but I will update this post when it's available. Naturally, it will always be online for free at tao-of-roark.com, too!
UPDATE 2013-05-25: The Kindle edition is now available at <http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D0BOVE2>.
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