Economy of Expression – Pt. 2

It recently occurred to me that Conrad Black and Robert Fulford have something in common with Charlie Parker and Paul Desmond, respectively; namely, virtually polar opposite approaches to conserving energy when it comes to saying their piece. Black is all bluster and Byzantine artifice; Fulford goes about his business with a gentle tone and a lot less fuss.

Like some musicians who are always banging the audience over the head with their prodigious technique, Black never fails to apply the loftier (more obscure) adjective, the most circumlocution punctuation can support and a lingering air of superiority. Fulford, whether intentionally or not, seldom injects himself into his prose, avoids polemic posturing and writes in a (deceptively) easy manner that Mark Twain would applaud for its accessibility.

Charlie Parker’s technical dexterity and imagination arguably obscured a basically self-indulgent aspect to his playing; the song got ‘lost’ in flight; other than an aficionado of period jazz likely couldn’t identify what song Parker was playing after the first verse. Desmond never let the melody and the theme disappear from the listener’s consciousness. With Black, who never lets you forget that his is, after all, Conrad Black, the story is the supposed force of his wisdom, experience and insight. Fulford never loses sight of the story line; more importantly, that he’s not it.

Ultimately, the purpose of prose (and arguably music) is to communicate. Reading Black’s indisputably ingenious stylings mostly tires me out; by the time I get to the end of a piece, if I actually do, I no longer care what the point is. Mr. Fulford’s pieces end, almost inevitably, far too soon for my liking; a re-read is almost always in order, if only to savour the elegant, essentials-only language, tight sentences and non-dogmatic tone. I feel largely the same way about Parker and Desmond. I wonder how these gentlemen feel about them?

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