May 26, 2009
It isn’t that comprehending the ever-growing complexities in life these days requires any additional multidisciplinary studies than are already on our plate but, sometimes, they just come knockin’ already paired up.
The other morning it was all about pulses and the spaces between. Out in the small corral, Ricky Quinn spoke of the rhythms required between horse and rider as he conducted another of his famous colt-starting clinics.
In town once again for another four-day session up at Mona and Tim’s property in the foothills outside Heber, Ricky waltzed through his demonstration with a head-mounted microphone and a 2-year-old colt who, up to this point, has never been ridden. At least not in the physical sense. Emotionally, that’s another story.
When time came to refill the coffee mug inside the nearby digs, it was all about Wynton Marsalis conducting a clinic of a quite different nature over satellite radio. Marsalis, also speaking of rhythms, enlisted the help of brother Branford, pianist Marcus Washington, and others to demonstrate how "a singular melody line often overlays a more complex rhythm section."
Fortunately, the program would be repeated throughout the day so there would be no need for time to be taken away from either in order to catch the other. The careful navigation back out to the corral with the brim-full mug featured the receding voice of Marsalis muttering something about "distinctive rhythmic approaches." We’d get back to that prior to burning up all the daylight.
With Quinn it’s about a healing process wherein troubled horses and troubled riders learn what is expected of them if their relationship is to be successful. And it’s in the morning colt-starting sessions where these distinctive behavior-modification techniques are first introduced to both participating species.
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What makes these morning gatherings take on such epiphany-like trappings lies in Quinn’s ongoing show-and-tell with the colt as he explains cause-and-effect within his methodology. At least that’s what boggles the mind of the seemingly lone non-horseman in attendance.
The portly gray dude in T-shirt, shorts and sandals hunkered down between a couple of pickup trucks appears to be all ears, however. In his own mind he totally understands the relationships between the actions of the trainer and the ensuing equine events as they unfold. Just don’t ask him to put it into words.
Out where boots with tall heels are just one more piece of communication equipment, an unridden colt has been introduced to Quinn and, truth be told, the young horse doesn’t appear to be quite sure what to make of it all. Ricky, in the age-old vaquero tradition of horsemanship, begins to create a partnership.
Slowly, as it becomes more and more apparent which one is the alpha male, compliance enters the equation and, before long, time being relative and all, Ricky saddles the adolescent steed. His clinic commentary, as he explains the process step by step to the attendees, is unending, and repetitive. Much needs to be assimilated prior to the afternoon horsemanship sessions.
Back at the bunkhouse, as it were, Wynton is alternating between the widely varied rhythmic approaches of drummers Max Roach and Art Blakey. Demonstrating through the playing of recorded music, Marsalis first shows how Roach embellishes his aural canvas with a cymbal array tastefully employed as a painter’s palette, of sorts. His subtle brush-stroked tones are colored all the way down the prism to the pastels.
Blakey, on the other hand, works snare and bass-drum riffs to drive his group wherever he wishes it to go. It’s not that this progenitor of "hard bop" seldom plays off another, it’s just that he’s always the one with the map and the steering wheel. Ensemble improvisation is encouraged but only along his relentlessly trodden and rhythmically-manicured path.
As is his wont, Marsalis, the multiple-Grammy-winning musician with a Pulitzer Prize for composition on his wall and a dog-eared copy of William Butler Yeats poetry in his back pocket, connects the dots between the arts in general and music in particular to a life well lived.
They’re similar, these two. Both see wisdom as being gained from experience and essential to be passed on to others no matter at what stage during life. They both also exude a humility that comes from a patience instilled through continual growing, listening, and learning.
There is also their art, truly singular to themselves, although both with past landscapes respectively littered with the mentoring of giants. One of Wynton Marsalis’ most profound axioms is that rules are indispensable because "freedom lives in structure." I’m sure Ricky Quinn would consider that expression nothing less than good horse sense.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.