The Dark and The Light – The Brakhage Lectures

Each sea-shell and each shell-of-ear contains the outside musical possibilities inherent from birth—the former, the sea creature, a chamber of, say, calcium carbonate which receives a world of vibrations . . . . vibrations being The World that the bit-of-meat! creature expands and recoils within: whereas Man’s ear is meat-pushed-out—the latter a flesh sound- catcher . . . . the bone within this flesh, the drum of expansion and contraction of Man’s hearing—in space rather than shape—which exists as sound, rather than World lived with- in, and which, therewith its vibrations, electrifies the brain.

Think of a man with a hollow sea-shell cupped around his ear. Think of him hearing what he calls “the music of the spheres.” It is his flesh ear—thus his face, his hair, his color- ing all over—which he equates with a dead sea-shell or dried-out leaf: but the thoughts prompted by his ear-bones prompting brain do seem to him the thing comparable to cre- atively living Nature in any, as he would say, “manifestation.”

He would not honor the shape of his ear as anything creatively his: and this disownment of physiology . . . . this shunning of his living surface . . . . creates the net where Darkness has him/Man in a catch-of-thought that’s often locked before his birth.

Yet, grounded as each man is by pre-ordained-thought, this shunning of his surface-life prompts the need in each and every man, to create a field of surfaces beyond himself. When these are made through the human process called “Art,” these surfaces come into being as naturally as any living surface: and they can, by any man, be recognized as such—for they are either fashioned as shields or, if Art, as illuminations . . . . either as the heraldic banner of The Light or the guiding Light itself, against all of The Dark in him—as such as his skin . . . . and as such as is of him, whomever made it: and these surfaces, separate from Man— yet of him—move naturally against thought . . . . as naturally as vegetation thrusts against gravity: and The Darkness—whatever that is (and we’ll come to it again later)—finds itself defeated a little on its own undergrounds by a fielding of all surface tension . . . . and defeat- ed a lot by this field-in-time which historically we call Aesthetics is a collection of dead sea shells. It is a leaf press-dried between the leaves of a book. It is a marker on the grave of thought.


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