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So long when sirens shriek.

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< ‘My baby just cares for me’, Charlie Parker >


How else can you name the very short, only human life of Charlie Parker[1] ?

He was just a few years old and he already felt better outside than at his home in Kansas City, Middle West without a father and Charlie, unfortunately, a man himself and black too : right a ‘Mama’s boy’, as a matter of fact. But he well applied to music lessons, since his first childhood.

He preferred music to school, notwithstanding music does ask you for mathematical rules otherwise you cannot get out not much from that : until , while he was wandering on the road with fellows, by chance he happened listening at special music from too much high windows for him, who was less than ten years… And then he tried to make again that special melody, just to feel better when coming back home : at fifteen he had already married his next-door neighbour Rebecca who was three years more than him, they lived together at Charlie’s mama home.

Suddenly, that disastrous accident - on the road again – and his two women caring of him better than they could, and he's suffering terrible pains : at emergency ward, they prescribed morphine at highest fixes, but – so able as it was to soften any noisy pain and the world itself – he wanted not to leave it never again.

In 1941 he was in New York where he’ll move definitely, as ‘his’ own music could incredibly sweep away that man and black ‘aura’ : he was underpaid – as any engagement prescribed for players  improvisations, and Charlie himself was his own improvisation, so perfect, so unassailable.

However, what did he think when, twenty years old, he could beat so crazy paces he imposed to every one in his band too, just to fly high with his alto saxophone, and brought in the unforgettable name of ‘Bird’, no one really knows…

He spoke very, very little but he declared himself as a toxic so avoiding to serve the army : he was been playing for almost ten years - both acclaimed and hated - with Dizzy Gillespie[2], undisputable partner in the rising ‘bebop’, sole enough to wriggle both of them out from that old entertainment jazz, which no more  could against the new rapid, rebel, in tune musical language[3].

The biography of Charlie Parker, rough and even uncorrupted about his frequent hospitalizations due to alcohol and drugs up to the terrible obliged experience of electro-shock, nothing says however about his music, which was since then described as a ‘Summer early morning’ : it is something which doesn’t correspond with the lazy, too lazy Charlie and with his melencholic smile as he’s still looking from vintage photos.

Freud named ‘Urges and their destinies’[4] his dense work on unconscious, he first named as distinct from conscience which tries and keeps on linking to unconscious. When no individual work there is, nothing can build again the hiatus between unconscious and conscience, when the split can deprive of one’s own authority someone not defending him or herself, keeping motionless towards his or her, own thought connections.

Not the sirens indeed – at first who ever pay attention to them ? – can be ascribed of that miserable distance to which ‘I’ does give in at last, because of an unexpected, and then uncheckable lack of power.


                                                     Marina Bilotta Membretti - Cernusco sul Naviglio January 6, 2022


[1]Thanks to Gabriele Comeglio, altosaxophonist I listened to in his excellent performances both at the ‘Associazione Amici del Loggione del Teatro alla Scala’ - accompanied by the electric guitar of Sara Collodel - and at ‘Blue note’ in Milan during a recent event dedicated to Charlie Parker, I could appreciate for the first time his wonderful music.

[2] Dizzy Gillespie (1917 - 1993), to which we owe – together with Charlie Parker (1920 – 1955) the newest musical language of ‘bebop’ – unlike Charlie was able to somewhat defend himself into their diffident community and notwithstanding the difficulties of their musical profession, which was badly honoured and paid. As a matter of fact, what distinguished the inexhaustible jazz ‘bebop’ – so distant from previous ‘swing’ and unfortunately not durable, as was demonstrated - is that it supplied with a lot of material a new literature – J. Kerouac and A. Ginsberg first of all – which will make USA a rising yard among readers fascinated by rebellion tout-court, that is absolutely not the reference which unconscious looks for.   

[4] ‘Pulsioni e loro destini’, S.Freud (1915) together with ‘La rimozione’, ‘L’inconscio’, ‘Supplemento metapsicologico alla teoria del sogno’, ‘Lutto e melanconia’ makes the essay ‘Metapsicologia’ – Biblioteca Bollati Boringhieri n°31 (2011).