I first fell in love with Pat Metheny’s music when listening his seminal album “As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls.” I couldn’t agree more Carter B. Horsley in The City Review:
“As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls,” [is] perhaps the most important jazz recording of the past 15 years or so and on a par, in terms of historical importance, with John Coltrane’s, “My Favorite Things,” and some of the great Miles Davis and Charlie Parker classics, which is to say it is a masterpiece.
The title track of the album is a mysterious 20-minute-and-42-second excursion into sound effects that seems to turn a playground into a stadium and has riveting interruptions of great authority followed by digital narration, literally, interspersed with glorious crescendos and great anthemic sweeps of emotion. What is most extraordinary is that the incredible music is performed by just four individuals, one of whom was Nana Vasconceles, a Brazilian percussionist.
I used to listen to this CD on my way home from Cal Poly University as a graduate student, my mind still reeling from all I was reading, weaving together the poetry of Whitman, Wallace Stevens and Emily Dickinson with the transcendentalism of Emerson and deconstruction of Derrida, Lacan’s Mirror Stage and Bohm’s Implicate Order. Seeing how all these insights and ideas flow into and out of each other, creating a rich tapestry of potentiality. Each seemed to sing to the other, play and dance, tickle and tease. Somehow it was all related. At some deep level it all made sense.
Within that fertile mindframe as the sun melted into the sea and the ribbon of highway curled along the coast, I let myself be swept away by Metheny’s music. The title track starts off so softly you can barely hear it. Soon you make out distant voices, children’s laughter, like some dream you had of childhood long ago. This soft rambling mixture of ambient sounds and gentle waves eventually turns into something else, recreating itself into a rich exotic sound experience, what my granddaughter calls “China music” when I play it for her. This too breaks apart into something else as the music reinvents itself. Now we are zinging through interstellar space with weird pings and synthesized sounds carrying us along as the night darkens. Then the music mellows and rises, mellows and rises, moving slowly, steadily, over and over until it sweeps into a an ecstatic crescendo. This too mutates into something else, low slow rumbles, voices chanting code, a strain of conversation too low to make out, then laughter, children calling to one another, as if we’ve taken a journey through time and space and back again. To where it all began.
I wish I could find a video recording of this track to share here, but all that seems available is a live performance, which is substantially different from the CD recording I fell in love with and, for me, does not capture the richness and nuance of the original.
But I will share here another Metheny favorite which showcases the beautiful permutations of his music and especially his masterful handling of the listeners expectations as his music rises and falls, rises and falls, gathering momentum until you feel you are in the hands of a very experienced lover who is taking you slowly to new heights of pleasure, then backing away and building again, over and over, until finally it comes: What you’ve been waiting for, expecting, at long last. It washes over you and carries you away and afterwards you feel sublimely satisfied. I always turn the sound up in those final moments as it nears the climax to intensify the experience.
To feel that extraordinary effect there must be no distance between you and the music. You must allow yourself be carried away, give yourself over completely to it. As you must immerse yourself in any great work of art to truly experience all it has to offer.
This one is called “The Truth Will Always Be.” Enjoy.