Monday, June 16, 2008


A sad day.

I found myself quite by accident this afternoon watching Lee Siegel's fascinating talk about the internet and how it affects/has affected our lives and culture.
To take his comments slightly out of context (which of course he'd hate), what rang particularly true for me today was his description of the difference between 'commercial' culture and 'high' culture.
'Commercial culture is all about the gratification of self-interest and it involves the total engagement of your ego'.
Whereas with 'high' culture - 'At the heart of a successful work of Art, lies something fresh and other.' You are 'sprung from the daily pressures of self-interest and you lay yourself and your ego aside'.

I mention all this because I found out this morning that the Swedish pianist Esbjorn Svensson died on Saturday evening in a diving accident.
He was 44.
Quite apart from feeling the tragedy of someone dying so young and leaving behind a young family, I was surprised at how personally upset I felt. And I think the reason relates to Siegel's words.
I have been to hear the Esbjorn Svensson Trio perform maybe a dozen times, I met him a couple of times and I loved his music.
He was one of the rare performers I could go to hear where, no matter what was going on in my life, I could guarantee that I would be 'taken out of myself' and would literally 'lose' myself in his musical storytelling. A very welcome 'laying aside' of the ego. For whatever reason, this happens to me only occasionally these days - the odd amazing book and a small number of musical experiences. There is now one less and I feel that loss.

In a World where we are inundated with 'commercial' culture, his music reached out to touch a new younger audience for jazz, it was popular in the broadest sense, and yet retained the utmost artistic integrity.

He leaves us with an amazing collection of beautiful recorded work, but already I miss the anticipation of his next live performance, the promise of experiencing something 'other'.
Here is one of my favourite pieces - from gagarin's point of view.
RIP Esbjorn.


Blogger Big Buzzard said...

I had that 'personal' feeling when John Peel died. Really strongly. Though never had any direct contact with him.

I gather you're in town. Hope to catch up...

8:36 PM, September 30, 2008  
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