Critically invisible , modern revolt , like X-rays and radioactivity , is perceived only by its effects at more materialistic social levels , where it is called delinquency .
`` Disaffiliation '' , by the way , is the term used by the critic and poet , Lawrence Lipton , who has written several articles on this subject , the first of which , in The Nation , quoted as Epigraph : `` We disaffiliate .
'' -- John L. Lewis .
Like the pillars of Hercules , like two ruined Titans guarding the entrance to one of Dante's circles , stand two great dead juvenile delinquents -- the heroes of the post-war generation : the great saxophonist , Charlie Parker , and Dylan Thomas .
If the word deliberate means anything , both of them certainly deliberately destroyed themselves .
Both of them were overcome by the horror of the world in which they found themselves , because at last they could no longer overcome that world with the weapon of a purely lyrical art .
Both of them were my friends .
Living in San Francisco I saw them seldom enough to see them with a perspective which was not distorted by exasperation or fatigue .
So as the years passed , I saw them each time in the light of an accelerated personal conflagration .
The last time I saw Bird , at Jimbo's Bob City , he was so gone -- so blind to the world -- that he literally sat down on me before he realized I was there .
`` What happened , man '' ? ?
I said , referring to the pretentious `` Jazz Concert '' .
`` Evil , man , evil '' , he said , and that's all he said for the rest of the night .
About dawn he got up to blow .
The rowdy crowd chilled into stillness and the fluent melody spiraled through it .
The last time I saw Dylan , his self-destruction had not just passed the limits of rationality .
It had assumed the terrifying inertia of inanimate matter .
Being with him was like being swept away by a torrent of falling stones .
Now Dylan Thomas and Charlie Parker have a great deal more in common than the same disastrous end .
As artists , they were very similar .
They were both very fluent .
But this fluent , enchanting utterance had , compared with important artists of the past , relatively little content .
Neither of them got very far beyond a sort of entranced rapture at his own creativity .
The principal theme of Thomas's poetry was the ambivalence of birth and death -- the pain of blood-stained creation .
Music , of course , is not so explicit an art , but anybody who knew Charlie Parker knows that he felt much the same way about his own gift .
Both of them did communicate one central theme : Against the ruin of the world , there is only one defense -- the creative act .
This , of course , is the theme of much art -- perhaps most poetry .
It is the theme of Horace , who certainly otherwise bears little resemblance to Parker or Thomas .
The difference is that Horace accepted his theme with a kind of silken assurance .
To Dylan and Bird it was an agony and terror .
I do not believe that this is due to anything especially frightful about their relationship to their own creativity .
I believe rather that it is due to the catastrophic world in which that creativity seemed to be the sole value .
Horace's column of imperishable verse shines quietly enough in the lucid air of Augustan Rome .
Art may have been for him the most enduring , orderly , and noble activity of man .
But the other activities of his life partook of these values .
They did not actively negate them .
Dylan Thomas's verse had to find endurance in a world of burning cities and burning Jews .
He was able to find meaning in his art as long as it was the answer to air raids and gas ovens .
As the world began to take on the guise of an immense air raid or gas oven , I believe his art became meaningless to him .
I think all this could apply to Parker just as well , although , because of the nature of music , it is not demonstrable -- at least not conclusively .
Thomas and Parker have more in common than theme , attitude , life pattern .
In the practice of their art , there is an obvious technical resemblance .
Contrary to popular belief , they were not great technical innovators .
Their effects are only superficially startling .
Thomas is a regression from the technical originality and ingenuity of writers like Pierre Reverdy or Apollinaire .
Similarly , the innovations of bop , and of Parker particularly , have been vastly overrated by people unfamiliar with music , especially by that ignoramus , the intellectual jitterbug , the jazz aficionado .
The tonal novelties consist in the introduction of a few chords used in classical music for centuries .
And there is less rhythmic difference between progressive jazz , no matter how progressive , and Dixieland , than there is between two movements of many conventional symphonies .
What Parker and his contemporaries -- Gillespie , Davis , Monk , Roach ( Tristano is an anomaly ) , etc. -- did was to absorb the musical ornamentation of the older jazz into the basic structure , of which it then became an integral part , and with which it then developed .
This is true of the melodic line which could be put together from selected passages of almost anybody -- Benny Carter , Johnny Hodges .
It is true of the rhythmic pattern in which the beat shifts continuously , or at least is continuously sprung , so that it becomes ambiguous enough to allow the pattern to be dominated by the long pulsations of the phrase or strophe .
This is exactly what happened in the transition from baroque to rococo music .
It is the difference between Bach and Mozart .
It is not a farfetched analogy to say that this is what Thomas did to poetry .
The special syntactical effects of a Rimbaud or an Edith Sitwell -- actually ornaments -- become the main concern .
The metaphysical conceits , which fascinate the Reactionary Generation still dominant in backwater American colleges , were embroideries .
Thomas's ellipses and ambiguities are ends in themselves .
The immediate theme , if it exists , is incidental , and his main theme -- the terror of birth -- is simply reiterated .
This is one difference between Bird and Dylan which should be pointed out .
Again , contrary to popular belief , there is nothing crazy or frantic about Parker either musically or emotionally .
His sinuous melody is a sort of naive transcendence of all experience .
Emotionally it does not resemble Berlioz or Wagner ; ;
it resembles Mozart .
This is true also of a painter like Jackson Pollock .
He may have been eccentric in his behavior , but his paintings are as impassive as Persian tiles .
Partly this difference is due to the nature of verbal communication .
The insistent talk-aboutiveness of the general environment obtrudes into even the most idyllic poetry .
It is much more a personal difference .
Thomas certainly wanted to tell people about the ruin and disorder of the world .
Parker and Pollock wanted to substitute a work of art for the world .
Technique pure and simple , rendition , is not of major importance , but it is interesting that Parker , following Lester Young , was one of the leaders of the so-called saxophone revolution .
In modern jazz , the saxophone is treated as a woodwind and played with conventional embouchure .
Metrically , Thomas's verse was extremely conventional , as was , incidentally , the verse of that other tragic enrage , Hart Crane .
I want to make clear what I consider the one technical development in the first wave of significant post-war arts .
Ornament is confabulation in the interstices of structure .
A poem by Dylan Thomas , a saxophone solo by Charles Parker , a painting by Jackson Pollock -- these are pure confabulations as ends in themselves .
Confabulation has come to determine structure .
Uninhibited lyricism should be distinguished from its exact opposite -- the sterile , extraneous invention of the corn-belt metaphysicals , or present blight of poetic professors .
Just as Hart Crane had little influence on anyone except very reactionary writers -- like Allen Tate , for instance , to whom Valery was the last word in modern poetry and the felicities of an Apollinaire , let alone a Paul Eluard were nonsense -- so Dylan Thomas's influence has been slight indeed .
In fact , his only disciple -- the only person to imitate his style -- was W. S. Graham , who seems to have imitated him without much understanding , and who has since moved on to other methods .
Thomas's principal influence lay in the communication of an attitude -- that of the now extinct British romantic school of the New Apocalypse -- Henry Treece , J. F. Hendry , and others -- all of whom were quite conventional poets .
Parker certainly had much more of an influence .
At one time it was the ambition of every saxophone player in every high school band in America to blow like Bird .
Even before his death this influence had begun to ebb .
In fact , the whole generation of the founding fathers of bop -- Gillespie , Monk , Davis , Blakey , and the rest -- are just now at a considerable discount .
The main line of development today goes back to Lester Young and by-passes them .
The point is that many of the most impressive developments in the arts nowadays are aberrant , idiosyncratic .
There is no longer any sense of continuing development of the sort that can be traced from Baudelaire to Eluard , or for that matter , from Hawthorne through Henry James to Gertrude Stein .
The cubist generation before World War 1 , , and , on a lower level , the surrealists of the period between the wars , both assumed an accepted universe of discourse , in which , to quote Andre Breton , it was possible to make definite advances , exactly as in the sciences .
I doubt if anyone holds such ideas today .
Continuity exits , but like the neo-swing music developed from Lester Young , it is a continuity sustained by popular demand .
In the plastic arts , a very similar situation exists .
Surrealists like Hans Arp and Max Ernst might talk of creation by hazard -- of composing pictures by walking on them with painted soles , or by tossing bits of paper up in the air .
But it is obvious that they were self-deluded .
Nothing looks anything like an Ernst or an Arp but another Ernst or Arp .
Nothing looks less like their work than the happenings of random occasion .
Many of the post-World War 2 , abstract expressionists , apostles of the discipline of spontaneity and hazard , look alike , and do look like accidents .
The aesthetic appeal of pure paint laid on at random may exist , but it is a very impoverished appeal .
Once again what has happened is an all-consuming confabulation of the incidentals , the accidents of painting .
It is curious that at its best , the work of this school of painting -- Mark Rothko , Jackson Pollock , Clyfford Still , Robert Motherwell , Willem De-Kooning , and the rest -- resembles nothing so much as the passage painting of quite unimpressive painters : the mother-of-pearl shimmer in the background of a Henry McFee , itself a formula derived from Renoir ; ;
the splashes of light and black which fake drapery in the fashionable imitators of Hals and Sargent .
Often work of this sort is presented as calligraphy -- the pure utterance of the brush stroke seeking only absolute painteresque values .
You have only to compare such painting with the work of , say , Sesshu , to realize that someone is using words and brushes carelessly .
At its best the abstract expressionists achieve a simple rococo decorative surface .
Its poverty shows up immediately when compared with Tiepolo , where the rococo rises to painting of extraordinary profundity and power .
A Tiepolo painting , however confabulated , is a universe of tensions in vast depths .
A Pollock is an object of art -- bijouterie -- disguised only by its great size .
In fact , once the size is big enough to cover a whole wall , it turns into nothing more than extremely expensive wallpaper .
Now there is nothing wrong with complicated wallpaper .
There is just more to Tiepolo .
The great Ashikaga brush painters painted wallpapers , too -- at least portable ones , screens .
A process of elimination which leaves the artist with nothing but the play of his materials themselves cannot sustain interest in either artist or public for very long .
So , in the last couple of years , abstract expressionism has tended toward romantic suggestion -- indications of landscape or living figures .