“To Beat or Not to Beat” (The Horace Silver Quintet)

It’s difficult to see the relation between the Arthur episode (season 4, episode 7b) of the same name and the trax, what with the cartoon’s focus on the dangers of performative versatility and the general busybody-ness of friends. Same with Hamlet, in which the division or break between states is considered, contextually, inevitable. In both texts, an awareness of the law–of gravity in the former or of law’s tardiness in the latter–leads one down these analogous paths. Silver’s treatment isn’t enamored of subjection, and we’re asked to focus on the force of the beat. Spatially located and loosely arranged, this is a formal hard bop tune. (Unlike his “Song for My Father“–whose bassline was wisely lifted by Steely Dan for “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number“–this trax eschews boogie and avoids romantic notions of place.) Unfaithful to the citation, too, is the piano solo; ascending and falling twice, it meanders at high and low registers, ending further down the scale than where it began. Be(at): one is never and always emplaced, (actively) occupying and occupied.


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