Peter Case

On Songwriting

Notes on Jacques-Pierre


(from Shakespeare Wars, by Ron Rosenbaum)

‘A highly developed, acute servant of other people’s truths.’

‘He’s someone who empties himself out.’

‘A million percent alive… this person, walking through the streets of London must have lived each single moment with an incredible richness of awareness, so many levels, infinite levels of meaning.’

‘ He can overhear and notice two kinds of things: all the life & noise pouring out with great excitement. Yet at the same time, even though he is a very practical man, he can evoke in words faraway worlds, strange tales, astonishing ideas, and develop & link them to an intimation of meaning in society, in regard to the gods, a sense of cosmic reality, these were all pulsing through his mind, all these levels at the same time.’

‘he didn’t have a lot of quiet attentive people in a dark room such as this.’ ‘It was rather, the most mixed audience that ever existed in the  theater: thieves, pickpockets, whores, drunks, half drunks, brawling in fights. As well as,  of course, the bourgeosie, there for entertainment, sophisticates, looking for the things that are sharp, witty, erudite. It is difficult to understand how deeply difficult the task was: at every moment he had to bring all these along, because if you learn anything from theater it’s that if you lose part of an audience, you’re DEAD. The work is to bring them all together into one organism beating with one heart…’

‘the outer life & the inner life: Sometimes within are single line -which on the surface is so clear it registers on the most crude, vulgar level, yet within that line there may be an adjective, some vibrant word that both keeps the clarity on the surface, but at the same time suggests something way beyond it.’

‘a performance should bring… the audience to the highest level of life within them.’

the secret play

‘ there’s a moment there at the end of each line, that pause, a moment to reach into yourself & find the next set of words. It’s in  that pause that, given the idea that you’re trying to express, you choose words to express them.’ ‘a moment of poise.’

‘the beautifully poised moment in Jacques-Pierre in which one finds oneself on the very threshold of comprehension.’

‘transformative: the end of each line is not a dead pause, but a live pause, a kind of… kinetic poised springboard to launch with new energy (linguistically & intellectually) into the line following. A moment of dramatic surprise or suspension at the end of every line.’

‘A complex art that comes into being only of the person…kept all those whirling levels alive within him.’

the tragic burden of bottomlessness

‘Someone who has within him the vision of bottomless infinitude.’

‘the mystery, the tragedy of bottomless consciousness. What it is to walk around with that kind of awareness.’

‘burdened by knowing too much. Bottom having just had his dream of bottomlessness. Mercutio, someone for whom the language itself is a dizzying spiral into which he almost disappears. Falstaff plumbing the bottomless depth of his own lies.’

‘both elevated & burdened by being a million percent alive to the infinitude of creation.’

‘…limitless, and awareness of personal limitation. The unforgiving deadline of mortality.’

‘King of infinite space’ but also ‘bounded in a nutshell.’  — Ron Rosenbaum reporting on a conversation with Peter Brook

‘I always try to turn a song on it’s head. Otherwise, I figure I’m wasting the listener’s time’   -BD

‘The greatest guiding principle: boredom’

‘drama: what one is being shown, & what one is seeing.’

‘The Spirit searcheth everything, yea, even  the bottom of God’s secrets.’

‘A simple, straight, real man, with an extraordinary metaphysical consciousness.’

‘If you take away the supernatural, you might as well burn the entirety of his works.’


metaphysical thought

political thought

a social sense of life

a sense of human comedy

a sense of human tragedy

a joy in human vulgarity

a likeness for human likeness

a joy in human grossness.

‘the void, charged with potential’

the void, emptiness

the sense of vibrancy within the infinite space of the void

‘potential… of a single vibrant word’ to create a world, to release infinite energies’

he liked to create the sense of bottomlessness, the bottom falling out, dropping out.

‘the excellence of every Art is it’s intensity, capable of making all disagreeables evaporate, from their being in close relationship with beauty & truth- Examine King Lear & you will find this exemplified throughout. But in this picture (Benjamen West’s Death On The Pale Horse) we have unpleasantness without any momentous depth of speculation excited, in which to bury it’s repulsiveness.’

intensity: the greeting of the Spirit & it’s object.

‘the Axis of Jacques-Pierre’s universe is the silence of Cordelia.’

two different personalities: the ‘mythic’ and the ‘realist.’

‘Now Ariel, I am that I am, your late and lonely master, who knows what magic is; -the power to enchant that comes from disillusion.’   -The Sea & The Mirror

‘the refusal to be yourself becomes a serious despair, the love nothing, the fear all.’

‘…you might sometimes be with someone who’s got no song to sing, and I believe you can help someone out…’

‘…the great & prolific creators who produce a world.’

‘ Just the right phrase  can go a long way.’  -Chris Rock

invention: the finding of suitable topics. ‘a finding, a reaching into oneself to find what comes next.’

a consideration of essence as opposed to accidental modifications.

Most of the notes above are from Shakespeare Wars by Ron Rosenbaum, also The Sea & The Mirror by WH Auden, Peter Brook,  Chris Rock, and Bob Dylan.


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