Mother’s milk, jazz and running out of resources

There’s something about an accountant, our accountant, a lovely man, but one whose lens is squarely focussed on money and how to use it wisely. He hates debt unless it’s something you can use as a tax concession and introduces a way of thinking into my mind that I want to dismiss.

I don’t want to get bogged down with fears for the future. 

Mrs Milanova talked about the fear of running out of resources as a universal fear, which she likened to a baby’s fear that the milk might dry up and there’d be nothing left to sustain her. 

I have a tendency to treat all resources as mother’s milk and to operate on the same principle as lactation.

Supply and demand. As long as the baby feeds from the breast, the breast will produce more milk. 

I like this model for life. As long as you make use of what’s available in a thoughtful, ethical way, the world, or people or whatever else creates these resources will go on producing. 

It’s probably the basis of capitalism with all its problems.

 What about those who cannot feed from the breast and need to be provided for in some other way? And what of those breasts that cannot provide?

Last week, I was listening to the pianist and composer Paul Grabovsky talk about Miles Davis’s jazz number, Kind of Blue. He used the metaphor of a cat.

Grabovsky described watching as his cat perched high on a ledge. It paused to size up the distance, then with everything balanced, it leaped and landed effortlessly on its feet. 

Grabovsky likened this cat’s estimation to what he imagined were Miles Davis’s calculations before he launched into his improvisations. 

Isn’t it more the case that Miles Davis had a hunch which he then tried out?

A well-informed hunch based on all the years he had studied and practised and composed music.

Miles Davis had a hunch, maybe similar to the cat’s calculations about that leap, but he did not know where he was going or how his music would land. 

Any more than I knew this morning as I sat down to write that I would be going on about resources and cats and jazz and hunches.

In other words, about creativity.

Isn’t this what makes something new? A series of happy coincidences, a bit of luck and someone using their intuition to time things in such a way as they come together in a new and pleasing composition which makes sense to other people.

It can feel both new and exciting and also uncannily familiar. Not too new as to jar but not so familiar as to be boring. 

Earlier, when I was in that horrible state faced with the blank page and nothing to offer, lacking in resources, I noticed the golden lucky cat that sits on my desk.

It used to sit in my husband’s office years ago, a gift from a client or colleague and found its way here after he left. 

When I tidied up my writing room during the holidays, the cat appeared out of nowhere in my clean up and my daughter urged me to set the cat beside me.

I rested the cat there in the hope it might bring me luck.

And then I feared for cultural assimilation as I know little about these gorgeous, gaudy gold cats who wave a paw at you and grin broadly. 

This reminds me of a time when my husband and I were in a Chinese supermarket in Victoria Street.

Years ago, in the days when one of my daughters was into playing with cash registers and we saw all this fake currency on one of the shelves.

We decided to buy some. 

At the checkout, the woman looked at us suspiciously. I was quick to explain.

‘We’re buying it for our daughter, pretend money for her toy cash register.’

‘You must not. This money is for the ancestors,’ she said. ‘They will be angry if you use it this way.’

She implied a curse would fall upon us if we used the money thus.

We had already paid for our items before the woman spoke, and we thanked her for her warning and went on our way.

I did not give our daughter the money but tucked it away in a drawer.

It’s a resource of sorts but in my hands, it’s of no use, only I will not destroy it for fear of the ancestors. 

I tell myself not to be suspicious.

Still, I’d prefer that someone in the know remove it. Or someone ignorant who will not be spooked into thinking bad fortune will befall them if they disrespect the fake money.

Money that costs almost nothing to buy but like the Farex tasting hosts the priests used at Communion when I was a child, white bits of nothing, the significance we ascribe to them means we cannot use them for anything other than their religious purpose.

Otherwise, we will fall foul of god, and he will take away all our resources. 

The milk will dry up and we’ll all be in trouble.

2 thoughts on “Mother’s milk, jazz and running out of resources”

  1. I have mixed feeling about jazz. With classical music I can enjoy pretty much everything from Gregorian Chant to serialism but my tastes are not so expansive when it comes to jazz. My first experiences were with some early Duke Ellington although no doubt there’d been jazz tracks in films but I hadn’t really taken any notice of them. It was when I got a ticket to the record library that I started to find that there was a world out there I knew nothing of. The jazz I probably appreciate the most is still its simpler incarnations, Dixieland jazz and what I think of as “Snoopy music” (I’m thinking here of the Vince Guarali Trio). I like Bill Evans quite a bit (he co-wrote half the tracks on ‘Kind of Blue’) and who doesn’t enjoy Dave Brubeck’s work? So tracks like ‘So What?’ and ‘Dixie Freeloader’ are perfect for me. Probably my favourite jazz album is one I found in the record library all those years ago: Duke Ellington’s ‘New Orleans Suite’; I still own a copy. Free jazz is lost on me.

    I could never write jazz. Oh, yes, I could stick a few exotic chords in here and there but I was never a good enough keyboard player—still am not—to play what was in my head. So much gets lost in the translation. I can improvise but not with a capital i. I used to look at the music scores and marvel, simply marvel, at the chord sequences. Who would’ve thought to arrange chords in that order? And how come they work? They shouldn’t work.

    Luck I’ve no time for. I don’t believe in it. I know writers and artists often get thought of as superstitious—Dickens carried a compass with him at all times and always faced north while he slept as he believed this improved his creativity—but I’m having none of it. What worked once worked once and I’m grateful it worked at all; it rarely works a second time and never a third. I do believe in probability; makes total sense to me. The creative process, to this day, puzzles the hell out of me though. I look at old poems and have no idea how I wrote them. I’m just glad I did. And, of course, I get irritated when I can’t sit down and produce a masterpiece or even a decent piece whenever the mood takes me but what keeps me going it knowing I have it in me.

    I’ll leave you with ‘Blues for New Orleans’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktW7-RHYt8g

  2. Lovely music, Jim. Thanks and for all your thoughts on jazz and music, much more erudite than I could ever manage. As for luck, I’m inclined to agree with you. It’s a lucky thing to have luck, not one we can control through superstituos means or otherwise.

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