The Bee's Knees

and The Tides of Manaunaun

In my view from the side of the couch: the beagle, B, lies contended on her cushion beside James, whose leg is outstretched with a frozen coldpack on his knee. I look at B, I look at the knee, the phrase bee's knees come to mind. Speaking of free association, the blue gel frozen pack has the words Cold Froid on it in large letters - to me it says "Cold Freud" - a rich homonym, n'est-ce pas?

The phrase "Bee's knees" reminds me of Flapper talk, and the Charleston dance move that involves crossing the hands back and forth in front of the knees while turning the head from side to side. Vo-doh-dee-oh: the hep and hopping jazz of the 1920s. And Freud? Did he ever see the Charleston? What would he have thought of it all?  Words in phrases with more rhythm than meaning. Sliced bread and the cat's pajamas! 

I think I could decode something from this, if I only had the right key, the right clue.  

There's a kind of thinking that involves patterns, rhythms, lateral inferences and sometimes numbers. This swirl of interconnnections of meanings brings about cluster-thoughts similar to the cluster chords (tone clusers) of the composer/pianist Henry Cowell. He influenced modern composition, based on these chords - and this all came to him. He was impressed by the Irish seer and folklorist, Ella Young, who heard the orchestration of nature. His chords showed the power of the sea and the beings of the oceans. The Tides of Manaunaun.

Sometimes I look at things around me as if they are such cluster chords waiting to be understood. If life is but a dream, as the old old song tells us, then what does the dream-life mean for us as we row the boat gently down the stream? 

Now, you see, because of dreams I'm calling old cold Freud.

Close, but no cigar. I'd rather check in with Jung, who seems to hold more ancient keys. His incredible Red Book, so transgressive for the day, was such a powerful outpouring, and yet somehow he was able to remain a respected psychologist! The Red Book and the cluster chords add a necessary dimension to my observations today. Looks like the clues come from the earlier part of the last century. 

As we know, the seeds of the future are always planted in the past, and may have been dormant for a long time before they suddenly show up on the scene, apparently right on time. So these ideas in the tone clusters and the Red Book were in play long long before they came into view.

So to the knee. Take a knee. Kneel before the king. The kneecap. Pay up or we'll break your knees. Kneel and pray. Wounded Knee. The wounded Fisher King. The bee's knees. Zelda dancing, Gatsby, the days of literature and the great novel. Oops, gone too far, pause and turn back. 

In that pause I get this clue: Ella Young's name is a homonym for Jung. Why didn't I hear that before? The cluster chords, the Red Book, Ella Young and Carl Jung. You know about him, but Ella was also a powerful force in culture; the Irish Rebellion, retrieving and spreading the Irish heritage of folklore as a living reality. Yeats, gun-running, freedom, the dunes, all that. 

Fan fiction: 

  • Mythology Lecture Tour - Ella Young and Carl Jung meet on the American lecture circuit. Shenanigans ensue. She’s raising money for Irish freedom, he’s showing Freud who’s boss.

  • The Invisible Bees - Ella Young and Carl Jung have come to heal the wounded king. Only the faithful dog, B, who lies by the king's side can see them. They conjure the forms of invisible bees, buzzing in the exquisite formations of ancient faery talismans finely wrought in Celtic gold. 

  • Young and Jung - a new Netflix series about a crack detective team, solving crimes by day, dancing to Jelly Roll's ragtime cluster chords by night. It's the bees knees!

The Tides of Manauanaun

"In Irish mythology, Manaunaun was the god of motion and of the waves of the sea. And according to the mythology, at the time when the universe was being built, Manaunaun swayed all of the materials out of which the universe was being built with fine particles which were distributed everywhere through cosmos. And he kept these moving in rhythmical tides so that they should remain fresh when the time came for their use in the building of the universe." - Henry Cowell

There are so many performances of this piece on YouTube: formal, grand, international, recording only (incl. Cowell himself). This version’s personal, anonymous.

Questions? Topic suggestions? Send them to me by Wednesday, I’ll answer it off the top of my head in an upcoming issue. Just reply by email to the last issue.

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