tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > This Time We Are Both

This Time We Are Both by Clark Coolidge
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May 17, 11

bookshelves: poetry
Read in May, 2011

The Amazon bk blurb states that this was written in 1991. Clark Coolidge's introductory paragraph states:

"A result of my first visit to the Soviet Union, This Time We Are Both follows the itinerary of the Rova Saxophone Quartet tour of November, 1989: Leningrad, Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, Tartu, and Moscow. The title is borrowed from a painting by Ostap Dragomoschenko. A CD of Rova music from the tour, also titled This Time We Are Both, was released in 1991 by New Albion Records."

Whenever this was written, it wasn't published until 2010 & when I bought it at "Fleeting Pages" in Pittsburgh during its predetermined (but sadly) short-lived duration in occupation of a former Borders, I was delighted, 1st, to've found ANYTHING by Coolidge in Pittsburgh, & 2nd, to find something that I (initially) thought was much more recent than anything I'd previously read by him (but only turned out to be slightly so).

I 1st encountered Coolidge's work in his "Preface (1968 - excerpt)" on the excellent "10+2:12 American Text Sound Pieces" LP in 1976. Since it was a reworking of the disclaimer-esque Preface to the Everest LPs of John Cage's "Variations II", a piece of great importance to me, I was delighted - even though Coolidge's remix doesn't really amt to much.

& now there's the connection to Rova. I'm listening to Rova's 1979 "the removal of secrecy" LP as I write this review. It was published by "Metalanguage" & has a text on the back by Lyn Hejinian. One might say that Rova was the music group associated w/ W. Coast USA 'language writing' as one might say that John Zorn & fellow free improvisers were the musicians associated w/ NYC 'language writing' & Svexner Labs were the group associated w/ Baltimore 'language writing'. All had elements of improvising.

This is the 9th of Coolidge's bks that I've read & I probably still retain the strongest feelings for his "Space" (1970) & "The Maintains" (1974). When I 1st heard of Rova I was probably intrigued by their being a SAXOPHONE quartet - a somewhat unusual instrument restriction. Of course, in a sense, it's not really THAT unusual - it cd be likened to a STRING quartet, eg. Nonetheless, it struck me. Thinking about this in connection to the Coolidge work that impressed me early on, it occurred to me that I might've liked something like "Space" for its limited syllabic palette.

Of course, on the subject of "a somewhat unusual instrument restriction", one might more 'majestically' refer to the many recordings of "Urban Sax" (an entire sax orchestra), Henry Brant's (1979) "Orbits" (wch uses 80 trombones), Wendy Mae Chambers' "Ten Grand" (ie: 10 grand pianos), or symphonies of Glenn Branca's using multiple guitarists, etc.. & on the subject of "limited syllabic palette", my own 1976 "dadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadada"
&/or 2009 "Po", "Li", & "Ou" are more extreme examples.

Reading thru This Time We Are Both, brings me to my usual Coolidge-reader ruminations: is the window opaqued or it nite outside? & on p 74 Coolidge writes:

"if you are reading thinking this is a code, it is
but only to be read up into further codes"

Be that as it may, there are obvious jazz references here: Braxton on pp68&69, Threadgill on p69; & other music references such as to tone roads (Ives), mandolin, clarinet..

The cover is of Mandelbrot sets, an uncredited image. P74:

"Fractal field by fractal estuary, a totally
unfolded geometry, crystals on glass of glass
grown vastly arctic, sheets no rod applies
bestows of iron no stored overnights
then feeling weird and wanting to be liked
this snoring horse follower plugs his puts his dad
right in the mouth and well, goodnight"

It appears that Rova & Coolidge's tour was during a very cold, dark, & smoky time. A better informed discussion of this appears here:


I have to admit that I'm probably at a point in my life where I just don't give a shit anymore about Coolidge's work or that of many other people. Considering that Coolidge is widely published I expect more of substance than I actually find. Maybe if I had recordings of him as a drummer I'd have a wider vision of him.

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message 1: by Eddie (last edited May 18, 2011 06:45AM) (new)

Eddie Watkins I've had some trouble with this one as well. Seems to demand too much submission to Coolidge's inner indulgences, and the outer surface hasn't gripped me. Unrelieved murk lacking abstracted verbal spark. But one day I'll read it in a rush I'm sure. I did really like his most recent long work, The Act of Providence, right off though.

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