Thoughts on Being and Action after not encountering Hermeto Pascoal

by Eliot Cardinaux

I’ve come to realize that everybody carries a form of responsibility over their music. This makes me think on Hermeto Pascoal’s visit to receive his honorary doctorate from NEC while I was working in the shop outside the hall. I saw nothing of him, except in photographs, during the course of that day. However, the overwhelming lightness of his presence, I felt, and felt still the next day and throughout the course of that week on the block by the Conservatory. It carried its own music to me, by way of those people around him who were willing enough to let it in. It was as if he allowed this to happen. However, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of justice in his presence there, too.

(Hermeto Pascoal with Ken Schaphorst)

It is difficult to consistently carry a spirit like that to others, that is creative. Under circumstances which on the surface deny it its right to exist, it seems doubly encouraging, when it does. However, it is honest for me to say, that it’s a right and responsibility to carry on the work of music so that, rightly, it speaks freely and truthfully, and that the caretaker is no longer caretaker, and so on, but an active exponent of the spirit of sound and humanity. That being said, the word ‘humanity’ has a certain ring these days that I’m not quite sure how to feel about.

I’m not just talking about what does it mean to be human, what is humanity, and all that. I’m also talking about the way language shifts throughout the course of an era, an age, a decade; a year, a day, and so on and so forth. I would guess that since I use words in my music, many people think that’s why I care so much about language; I’m not sure that’s the case. I think about language because it is the medium in which things express themselves (I’m paraphrasing Walter Benjamin, from an essay he wrote called “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man”). Gender biases aside, perhaps inherent in the title, in this essay, Benjamin works out a sort of root logistics for a phenomenology of language, in that it stems, in Western Society, from the bible and so forth, “in the beginning was the Word” and all that, for one, but also in that (and again, I’m paraphrasing) things express themselves, in language, not through language, as the case may be, as it is oftentimes expressed in colloquial terms.

This struck me as true, however, about how I felt when Hermeto Pascoal was in Boston. It didn’t seem to be the things that he was saying, (from what I heard, he made a delightful sound when given the mic) and that it was what he was expressing that came through so clearly I could feel it around me even though I hadn’t witnessed that in person.

This leads me to think about the realm of intersection between being and action, and that those two are interlinked, by example, in the realm of that which is felt, that which is felt, not feeling, and by which choices may be made; therefore underlining the frame under which being and action operate, that is by feeling: one can act, and therefore not react in the realm of that which is felt. Thanks Hermeto.

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