Month: December 2013

Moving across the continent – A recreated process of thought – Part II

Like so many cities, Madrid as well seems to be a victim of the financial crisis. Jobs are scarce and there are no euphoric openings of new galleries and bars at every other corner. Saying it more directly, I moved to a place where everybody is trying to move away from. Even before my arrival I was told about the amount of language schools and the demand for English as well as German teachers. Guess where everybody was heading? – Germany. Of course there are always people that want to go to England, and London especially, but somehow Germany is popular. Many don’t really mind whether it is Berlin, Cologne, Munich or a small town in between somewhere. It doesn’t matter as long as it is in good old Germany. My world started to crumble.

Germany is the country I grew up in – somewhere east and small. I often didn’t understand why people would move to Germany voluntarily. Had they forgotten about the strictness, bureaucracy and narrow-mindedness? That is not inspiring at all. Perhaps I was missing out on the economic point of the affair. Was it all a matter of desperation? Is the German economy so much better off that people would sacrifice their choice of where to live? I couldn’t believe it. However, that seems to be the case. It is not only that no one wants to move here or stay, but also on top of that people want to go to where I am from – Germany.

I have moved to different continents, countries and cities over the years. And normally I have a less blurred vision of what I am doing, but somehow it was different this time. Without thinking twice about moving to Madrid, I simply moved. Found a house, did all the usual things when one moves to another country and city – and that was it. Now I am here. It was an interesting experience. As much as my vision might have been blurred before, the less it is now. Moving to a place where everybody wants to move away from, my vision was cleared steadily. The streets are not filled with euphoric youngsters on their fixed-gear bikes, but with old people wearing sunglasses all day and night.

It isn’t all charming, enlightening and inspiring at every single corner as some might idealise Berlin or such. Madrid has its charms and can be inspiring, if one is in the mood for it. Inspiration does not appear like that and in most cases it does not really depend on the place either. Berlin is not an inspiring city all throughout – try to look for inspiration in Marzahn.

What have I learned? Sometimes the major decisions themselves seem irrational and vague to me. The process of getting there is more relevant, more inspiring and more telling than everything else. Going further away, you simply learn about the things that are closer. Moving from Amsterdam to Madrid is not the important step. It could have been the other way around or somewhere completely else. The important part lies in between Amsterdam and Madrid – the process of thoughts that got me here, and these thoughts I took with me.

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Moving across the continent – A recreated process of thought – Part I

Until this summer I was living in a beautiful apartment with two balconies in Amsterdam – now I live in Madrid. For many people that would seem to be a step back, but I am not sure.  

After four years in Amsterdam I have had it, I thought. I had gotten this feeling over the years a few times, but always fell back in love with the city. This time though, I was certain and determined to find a new country, a new city and a new home. I began to create scenarios for many different cities. Being honest though, I have to say that those scenarios were all idealised and romanticised, but that is not important. I actually was in a quite comfortable position. I had neither pressure nor a time limit to decide for whatever and wherever. I was even financially covered, as I had enough savings from my last job, and if I was to live like Ghandi or Jesus, I could easily survive a year on cheap red wine, coffee and bread.

Once you tell your friends about what you are planning, they will give advice no matter if you had asked for it or not. “It is crisis” – I heard it over and over. Amsterdam itself had become popular too, as I met an increasing amount of Greeks, Italians, Spanish, and even some Catalans. “There are no jobs.” “If you have one, you don’t get paid much.” Someone even told me that the only businesses flourishing in Athens are bike shops, because no one wants to pay for transportation anymore.

I had no intention of moving anywhere near to where I live now. However, I somehow do live in Madrid now. Once I told my friends that I was moving to Madrid, they didn’t really understand, and if I am honest I didn’t either. I had no obvious and rational reason to leave. Amsterdam had no crisis and it is one of the best functioning cities in Europe. So why move away? Well, I was ready to leave and put myself into something new. I wanted a deliberate change. I wanted my idealised and romanticised scenarios. I wanted to be inspired.

Many young people these days feel inspired to do something – something creative. There are places where this seems more possible than in others. There are places where inspiration seems to be available endlessly. But that’s not how inspiration works. Berlin is the perfect example.

Berlin is the hype and that is nothing new. Whether hipster or creative – the German capital is the place to be. Berlin has been moving forward ever since the wall fell. Rightly so! But what exactly is it that catches the attention and draws so many different people into the city, I asked myself. That is a complex question, but perhaps not so hard to answer. Many will say that the circumstances were ideal and that created a general feeling of euphoria within the entire city. Well, part of that might be true, but it seems more complex. Berlin has been very attractive for many years – culturally and even economically in some sense. A few of my friends have moved there, only some have moved away.

Berlin has been in the limelight of attention for quite some time now, just as London or Paris had been before. Many creative people – also many with a lot of money – have flooded Berlin. Surely that will have some consequences eventually.

However, in my search for a new home, I wasn’t looking for the ‘new’ Berlin, but I did think about what it might be. Where is the attention going to move? Surely it will move further east, I thought. Bucharest! That’s what I came up with. I somehow imagined that Bucharest would be the new up and coming focal point of the young and creative. Well, I thought again. Perhaps that is not going to happen that soon. There is a high chance that it will happen, but perhaps not as soon as I imagined. Maybe in ten years or so, when Berlin has been taken over completely by investment bankers and every free spot at the river Spree will be bought and occupied with an office building. I agree that this sounds very cynical, but it might be the truth.

Anyhow, I was leaving Amsterdam and not going to Berlin or to Bucharest.

Madrid – Spanish capital and once home to Franco, was going to become my home. There was no rationality behind my decision. There was no plan or even scenarios anymore, only vague romanticised ideals. 

You and I

You always reminded me of someone who I wanted to be. You seemed always far away, and I was not even close to myself. You always showed me my limitations, while you extended yourself. You always found the energy to what I not even dreamt of. You always showed me the way to go, although I rather would have sat and rested. You were always there to help, when I actually needed to learn things my way.

I remember the first time you entered my life; in a time when I was not even looking for someone like you. It was almost as if I was waiting for a bus and looking through the window of a shop, as the clouds would have moved away from a warm spring sun. Then suddenly I would have seen you appear as a reflection in the window next to me. As if time had been frozen, I had observed you, seized you up, and imprinted your image into my mind. Although this never happened, it would have been just like that. Getting to know you was just as exciting as growing up. I learned from you just as you were my teacher; I copied your behaviour, and didn’t even find it odd. You were just as I imagined you to be. I had never met someone who was so conscious of the world around, who knew what to get in life, and who knew when to get it. All your actions seemed as they were manufactured for your goals; your goal which soon became mine.

Soon we got close, I admired, you shinned, I believed, you knew, I wanted, and you had.

As time went on, I grew on your side. I felt that we almost became friends. Although none of us ever questioned our status, it was difficult to say what the relationship between us was. Nothing seemed to be able to disturb what we planned, to disturb what had started to grow more and more realistically. You gave me plenty of unthought-of confidence, so that I no longer doubted anything. For long we would remain side on side on the same track, but…

At the time when almost everything seemed unshakable for me, only then I started to see what remained invisible between us for a long time. Even now looking back, I still cannot pinpoint exactly what it was that started to shift. However, I realise that it had been there, accompanying us all along. Five years was a long time. Five years of decision made and followed. Five years of increasingly unsatisfying compromises. It was not always painful to be strict to ourselves; we often enjoyed becoming it together. I had thought that a small quantity of suffering was always needed to get anywhere, but it was like climbing a mountain – heading for one peak is never the one you actually want to get to. Our journey up our mountain would end soon that I knew by then. Half way up to the summit of our self-invented mountain we had lost track of where we actually were going. Looking at you now, this is maybe not entirely true. I believe it was me who had lost track or at least I was not sure whether I wanted to continue at all. Your journey might continue to the dream we drew in our minds together, we once set together. But concerning me, I could not go with you any longer.

Despite all the sudden doubts in me, I still knew I would find my way – a way that might not cross yours again. No more ideals, no more compromises, no more us. Only me.

Now that I see you again, I see that you have changed not a bit. You got there where you wanted to be, there where I wanted to be once as well. I decided that this would be the last time we see each other. Of course we could keep in tough, but I don’t want contact with you anymore. I am healthy now, you are still healthy, but you are unhealthy for me. We split ourselves, we are too similar and we will not stand each other anymore.

I really wanted to be like you. I almost was like you. I never want to be like you again. But it will be difficult, because you are simply me.

Jazz and Fiction

They are just like life itself. They are symbiotic and connect different parts of your life. They can connect you with everything. That’s what life does. That’s what jazz and fiction do too.

Life demands a state of mind. Everyone is praised with life, but understanding its qualities and knowing how to use them, is a totally different matter. Understanding life, living your life the way you want it to be lived, for that you have to be in a state of mind. Life – for life you have to be in a state of mind.

There are different ways to express a state of mind. Art is one of these expressions. Through art we live life and express ourselves creatively and find a release. We express forms of life, whether it is with colours, sounds, words, or anything else. Although there are many different ways to express creativity, they all have life in them as the driving force. Life is a state of mind and you can express it.

Jazz and fiction are different forms to express life. Although they seem very different, they bare many similarities within them. The one is made of sounds, and the other is made of words. The one is music and the other is writing – jazz and fiction. Both are undeniably creative expressions of life.

Fiction is more than a mere reflection of life. Without knowing life, without living life, there wouldn’t be any stories, nothing to write about. Life generates stories. But jazz too. Where does jazz come from? From black America? It comes from life. Jazz is an expression of life just like any other creative outlet. It simply uses sounds instead of paint or words. But jazz can tell its own story. The sound of Miles Davis’ trumpet can cry in our ears just like a Shakespearean sonnet we read in a book.

Both generate and express emotions within us. They tell stories simply by different means. But exactly that makes it interesting. The question though is: how do they relate to each other?

Jazz and fiction don’t seem to be combinable immediately. But there are some striking similarities between them. The combination is appealing, but not in the sense of adapting them from one format to another, but rather in the sense of creating a symbiosis, just like in life. Jazz can tell stories. Fiction can be musical.

Fiction is often constructed, well thought through, revisited, edited, and so on. That’s how the desired sound of words is created. Jazz on the other hand works differently. It is spontaneous and unreliable, just like a narrator can be unreliable. Just imagine a story can be unreliable, which is not too hard to imagine, is it?

Fiction can also incorporate jazz. Not only as a theme in the background, not just as a colouring of the text. But also during the writing process itself. 

A jazz novel – Toni Morrison’s Jazz comes to mind. She created a jazz composition in her writing, as instruments become characters and perform an improvised solo. The book itself becomes the musical composition that consists of individual and unreliable performances forming the whole piece.

But jazz can be more. 

Just imagine you want to describe a writer’s style and someone says “jazzy”. How can a writing style be jazzy? What does “jazzy” really mean? An unreliable quality? An improvisation of words? The dictionary would suggest adjectives like bright, colourful, eye-catching, strong, brilliant, striking, exciting and stimulating. Those are adjectives that one can attribute easier to authors. Have you never read a book that took you by surprise, a narrative that gripped you instantly with its vivid imagery, a story that stroke you as smart but also exhilarating? That’s jazzy.

I believe that jazz and fiction are combinable in many different aspects. A writer can incorporate jazz on the story level, as it simply could be a story about jazz itself. Perhaps it might be a story about a jazz singer, a musician or a jazz club. In that case jazz would be the colouring of the narrative. It would continuously linger on the background. But that is not the only way jazz can be become a substantial part in writing. Jazz can be also a theme in the narrative. Through various techniques and stylistic elements jazz can be melted into the writing. Jazz musicians often experiment with solos, mixing up different styles and express empathy. Notes can be translated into words, metaphorically speaking, and one might catch the jazz.

Jazz, just as writing, is all about practice. However, there is another option, another possibility of how jazz can be an integral part of the whole of the writing. Jazz more than writing is about the now; about being in the moment. Instead of a highly constructed text, an author could write an improvised text. Not really like in creative writing classes, in which one is assigned a topic to write about. It is rather the initiation of a fluid form of writing. Imagine one catches the jazz, just like flu. As for example, one is possessed by jazz, literally taken by the spirit of the music. That is another form of jazz writing, in which jazz stands at the beginning rather than in the end of the process.

The combination of jazz and writing might seem strange at first, but once contemplated, one can see the similarities between them. There are already a few existing examples in which jazz and fiction were combined. I already mentioned Toni Morrison’s Jazz, but there are others. Michael Ondaatje’s Coming through Slaughter is a fictionalisation of Buddy Bolden’s life. The novel uses the style of jazz in the writing, as the author combines often unrelated and unpredictable scene into the main narrative. Other novels simply connect jazz to the story itself, like Roddy Doyle’s Oh, Play that Thing, but they are nonetheless interesting explorations of jazz and fiction.

The combination of jazz and fiction really is an exploration. It opens up possibilities between different genres and provides the opportunity to combine different media into one. It is not a matter of adaptation, but rather a symbiosis between music and writing, between jazz and fiction.

Poem IV

I don’t know what made me fall in love

And then something happens

Serious but quiet, now

Not guilty.

 

Did you? Yes, but probably

It was a woman. She covered it

Up the street. It was possible though

The Material was enough to for whatever.

 

A mad man

Gone mad
and worse

Ever since.

 

That day was decisive

No more nonsense

Decisions

Made.

 

But you did, you met

You obeyed orders

Your love for

You don’t give a damn.

 

Lets have lunch in all this mess,

I tell you when we get here.

Tell you when I cannot make it.

 

All dressed in white

It was dark, as well as

The knife, all through

It went. All in all.

Poem III

It is not all, just Black and White

But the distinguished Grey,

Makes everything colourful.

Some feel the same way about

People too.

 

Bluer than Velvet were her eyes.

As lonely as a blue star,

She wore blue Velvet.

Love her tender all in all,

The colours manifold,

Slowly become not

Black and White

Remains.

 

If life, if only like this,

But we won’t have this

Discussion anymore, my head

Is not ready. It was my fault.

Black and White.

 

All is Black.

All is White.

Sometimes both.

Sometimes none.

Poem II

We are going to be here for a while.

Look at this, it is a nice night.

He could be anywhere by now.

You should get some sleep.

 

I should have never put you up in that position

She used to. I am sorry. It is over now.

You go get some rest. I will see you later.

Take this, it will make you sleep for a while.

 

This is not relevant. I will pay for lunch.

Just keep him in his regular routine.

It is down on the left, go right ahead.

I felt like, like if I was sleepwalking.

 

What about her, lets follow her.

Ok, so you are inadequate

Did you ever read this book?

Oh I am sorry. Are you ok?

 

All the shadows in the city.

What did you take so long.

Bored to Death, because

Mad and lonely.

 

Please don’t be dead.

I have been framed.

Good bye. Thank you.