I don’t know where I acquired it or who shared it with me, but I have a piece of music in my library with an album reference USSM10405195 that lasts 6.19 minutes and purports to be “I fall in love too easily” by Miles Davis. I say purports to be because, although the underlying metadata with this file suggests that it is from Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings 1963-1964, I’ve heard that album’s version of the track and the two are quite different.
The mystery version consists of no more than a dozen or so notes in Miles’ unmistakably reedy tone cutting sharply through a gentle and mellow piano accompaniment presumably by Bill Evans. How does that then last for over six minutes? The phrase loops a dozen times or so before the track ends.
Those few notes are exquisite and achingly capture the song’s title, but repeated over and over become irritating and predictable. A metaphor? I had questioned the artists’ judgement many times in taking such poignancy and destroying it through repeating it until it becomes commonplace, but had never researched whether there was a motive to that. Was it a comment on the relationships in Miles life? Did each burn brightly before being replaced by another? Was it a criticism of the emotion itself, with each episode a unique high experienced that lovers felt could only apply to them, yet around them was being endlessly repeated?
Only recently when a good friend used a similar phrase was I reminded of this piece and looked into it again, to discover that this was never the true recording. With careful listening it is possible to spot the point where the introduction from one version of the song (as with much of Miles’ work there are many recorded versions) has been edited and duplicated to create the file on my computer.
In trying to get to the bottom of the mystery I discovered that the music was written by Jule Styne, and with the addition of lyrics by Sammy Cahn became a jazz standard in the hands of Frank Sinatra, though interestingly the original lasts just a couple of minutes. Some of Miles’ live versions extend to twelve or thirteen which in a way reflects my experience with this mystery recording – something short and exquisite stretched beyond it’s original intention.
Sammy Cahn told the story of the original creation of the song saying:
This song was written one night in Palm Springs. When I sang the last line, Jule Styne looked over at me and said, ‘So. That’s it.’ I knew he felt we could have written on, but I felt I had said all there was to say, and if I had it to do over, I would stop right there again.
There is probably a metaphor in there for my photography too. The act of taking a picture can be time-consuming if you plan a shot and want to light it perfectly, tweaking elements and poses until you achieve the absolute moment of perfection. (I’m reminded of Rankin’s two programmes for the BBC where he recreated some classic fashion and Hollywood shots. For all of his effort none seemed to come close to the original in my opinion). Street photography by contrast is far more immediate, but I’m always tempted to go beyond that initial collection of digital information in photoshop and will often revisit those shots later to find them overworked.
It seems that I don’t fall in love too easily – at least as far as the image is concerned so when travelling this week I was hugely frustrated to be faced with a beautifully hazy sky coupled with interesting, rolling landscapes of stacked planes, peppered with trees still naked of foliage as I drove through County Durham. The trouble was that because I was on a motorway I couldn’t stop to grab those immediately gratifying shots. By the time I left the A1 the sun was setting, but still a possibility if I was lucky.
I caught a glimpse of a red disc through bushes just as I approached an opportunity to park. Swiftly I stopped, grabbed camera, changed lenses and made my way down a slope towards the field where I had spotted the scarlet circle. My way was blocked by hawthorns and I wasn’t dressed for the fight. Backtrack a little down the layby and I found my route, reached the field and… the circle had virtually gone.
Maybe I’m just one of those who is destined to have to work at love!