Cecil Taylor’s passing reminds me of my favorite passage from Craig Lucas, from scene 2 of Blue Window. It’s a good thing that I have a printed copy to refer to, because my recollection of the dialogue, from a production I saw 22 years ago, is faulty.
At a small gathering/party of friends, Tom has put a recording of Cecil Taylor on the sound system.
TOM. But I don’t know if you can hear it, but I mean, he’s literally rethinking what you can do with melody. He’s changing all the rules from the ground up.
* * *
TOM. Like a painter. He’s breaking it up, you know, and putting some parts of it in front of where they belong and he’s splitting up tonalities and colors, shapes —
ALICE. Splitting up did you say?
ALICE. No, I know, I was…
TOM. He’s literally challenging you to hear it, you know, rehear it. What is music?
GRIEVER. No, I know, but this isn’t like a famous melody? Or –?
TOM. Why not?
GRIEVER. I mean it isn’t like “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” backwards or something.
For some reason I always want to remember that as “‘Mairzy Doats’ upside down and backwards.”