Joni Mitchell’s Sublime Artistry; Memorial for Newtown’s Victims

I’ve long admired Joni Mitchell and previously mentioned her collaboration with fellow Canadians, Neil Young and The Band.   A number of her songs serve as place markers for my memories in that special way that songs do when they touch deeply.   So I read with interest the finely crafted essay in this week’s The New Yorker (Dec. 17, 2012, pages 30-35) by Zadie Smith about Smith’s eventual appreciation of Mitchell’s beguiling singing.  The following observation by Smith stood out for me for its thoughtful insight into the straitjacket of expectations against which many artists struggle once they’ve achieved a measure of critical acclaim :

“We want our artists to remain as they were when we first loved them. But our artists want to move.  Sometimes the battle becomes so violent that a perversion in the artist can occur:  these days, Joni Mitchell thinks of herself more as a painter than a singer.  She is so allergic to her audience that she would rather be a perfectly nice painter than a singer touched by the sublime.  That kind of anxiety about audience is often read as contempt, but Mitchell’s restlessness is only the natural side effect of her artmaking, as it is with Dylan, as it was with Joyce and Picasso.  Joni Mitchell doesn’t want to live in my dream, stuck in an eternal 1971 — her life has its own time.  There is simply not enough time in her life for her to be the Joni of my memory forever.  The worst possible thing for an artist is to exist as a feature of somebody else’s epiphany.”

In Memory of Newtown’s Victims

Among Mitchell’s many songs that have meaning for me is “The Circle Game,” which resurfaces memories of my long ago routine of playing this piece as an accompaniment to rocking to sleep each of my boys when they were infants.   The video below of this poignant song of childhood innocence and the journey of life is shared here in memory of the many innocent souls tragically killed this week in Newtown, Connecticut:

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