The Jack Straw 50th–A place, an instrument, and time

The Jack Straw 50th
Seattle, June 15th, 2012
7:00 AM

A man turns a clarinet into a horn, a flute, a piccolo. He plays a Suite for Parts of the Clarinet.
It is unlike anything I’ve heard before. I ask him if he invented this. “No,” he says.
He takes no credit for expanding a marching band instrument into an orchestra.
For his performance, an audience of two.
A jazz pianist improvises. He plays his own music. He is both in and out of reality, head bowed, hands working, no matter that there’s an audience of three.

Matt Briggs reads three short stories—Expose No Button, A Happy Novel, The Score. They are exemplary stories in an exemplary style for a new world. No fear, no hesitation, the art boils out into the Twenty-first Century. The audience? Three plus the recording technician.

A lutenist sits on a chair playing Elizabethan tunes to an audience of four. The music, coming down from centuries links the Jack Straw Foundation to all art, all myth, all creation.

This is one hour in the twenty-four hour celebration of the Jack Straw Foundation’s Fiftieth Anniversary.

It is a quiet celebration—artists performing for fifteen minutes for a few listeners at seven o’clock in the morning in June 15th, 2012. But the artists, like all artists, give it all they’ve got—one listener, a roomful, a hundred thousand– it doesn’t matter. The artists lost in the work, the work is what matters, nothing matters but the high moment of recreation when the artists ride once again the mythic wave that gave them voice the first time.

This is a quiet celebration that teaches me that art needs an audience. Sure. Even two listeners are an audience. But it teaches me this more important lesson—Art needs only a place, an instrument, and time. Time. And Jack Straw has given all of these artists just want they need.

This celebration of the arts through fifty years and hundreds of novelists, musicians, poets tells us so much about the art and the craft and the role and, above all, the dedication of artist to the art.

For me, it was a unique moment. I like unique moments.