Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Hub

Yesterday Freddie Hubbard died. Already today, both in writing and in conversation, I've tried to articulate just what it was that made Freddie so incredible, and the task has proved to be difficult. Certainly much of it has to do with the way language always seems to fail in accurately describing music (something I experienced firsthand as an excited, and then a disillusioned music reviewer), but some of it also involves the way language has been bastardized in modern times. It's an issue that I briefly touched upon in my ramblings after David Foster Wallace's death. He himself struggled with it for his entire writing career.

The problem is in invoking words which, by their standard definition, capture just what you'd like to describe, but by their standard application are relatively hollow and trite. Words like "inspire," or the aforesaid "incredible." If I say, "Freddie Hubbard was truly inspiring to me," there is no way to effectively communicate that what I intend is for the reader (or listener) to completely set aside everything about how the word "inspire" has been constructed for them throughout their lifetime of hearing it in less-than-sincere or not-entirely-appropriate contexts, to go back to the truest, most pure definition of the word, outside of history and all of its forces, and to then parse and consider my statement and its implications when "inspire" is understood to evoke the powerful and complex emotions it was originally intended to convey. Aside from such lengthy sentences, there is no way to guide how someone will handle my use of "inspire." And while some people may need no explanation, or may not even be cognizant of the issue at hand, the fact that I myself am aware of the potential cheapening of my words is enough to stop me in my tracks. And so I'm stuck.

It's frustrating. A loop, where language isn't enough to describe how language isn't enough. Ad infinitum ad absurdum. Today, I feel like maybe the only way to accurately capture what Freddie Hubbard means to me is in song. But what music could I ever devise that would set the right tone? Freddie was the man, man, and I'm whining about semantics. All I want is to aptly illustrate just how much of the man he was. And I want people to know I mean it.

Tonight I'm going to blast Ascension. It is the only tribute I deem fitting. To those spiritually inclined, the album has an apt title, but more importantly, it is the spirit of Freddie. One of the many, many instances of his spirit left for us to absorb, and one of the freest and most dangerous at that. He exists within the heart of its unbridled outpouring of life, and when we speak of the soul of Freddie Hubbard, it, glorious music, is the only soul there is to speak of.

Rest in peace, Freddie.

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