The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger
The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger
The GOASTT is two people, Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl. It is, in itself, a chimera; a fabulous creature made with parts of two distinctly different creatures. It is also an acronym, as you might guess from its being capitalized like that. By virtue of being a friend to, and fan of, both the zygotes in this organism, I know what its letters stand for, but it’s not mine to reveal. I expect they will do so at some future point.
Having driven my Ducati to Sean and Kemp’s house through the darkened October streets of 4 am New York to type these words, I realize the absurdity of my task. If I wrote a novel and gave its protagonists stories of origin like the ones from which the two parts of GOASTT arose, people would say I was a fabulist in need of a hyperboectomy. Or an artless sophomore. But life is allowed a liberty with plotlines that novelists are not. Take these two:
Sean Lennon is a man of many hats. Like an alien who fell to earth and had to quickly assimilate humanity, he is a vast rolodex of accents, facts, farce, a myriad of motor skills (from archery to sketching) and can play any musical instrument (as if all undertakings are merely transposable keys to a song he knows by heart). Hyper-aware, there’s almost nothing he isn’t good at… This may be the result of his legendary genetic endowment, or simply the enormous pressure of his parentage; his father was perhaps the most accessible and experimental songwriter of his century. But, just as he reached the age of 5 when his father might have reared him with the milk and honey of nurture rather than the iron fist of nature, Sean’s father was assassinated. As a consequence of this huge event and other shadows, Sean’s life has been strangely both circumscribed and exaggerated. To the insouciant improvisational “Art is a Verb!” nature of his parents was added a welter of natural anxieties that would have made Woody Allen feel at home.
When I briefly encountered Sean’s mother as an avant garde artist at Wesleyan University in January of 1966, I thought she had the most original mind I’d ever met. Later as she was dragged across the yawning screen of American hypercelebrity, I didn’t know what to think, save that she, and all around her, seemed improbable.
And improbable was the first word that came to mind when I met Kemp Muhl almost exactly 40 years later.
Though her background was as unlikely as Sean’s, hers was as private in its peculiarities as his was public. And her origins as the Georgian daughter of a military lieutenant colonel who had been nipped off to be a supermodel in New York, at about the tender age improbably beautiful girls are usually abducted – which is, chronologically at least, almost criminally young – did not in any way explain the fact that she has the other most original mind I had ever encountered.
After meeting Kemp, I followed her around- to the extent that I could move quickly enough- not, like most others, for the scenery, but because I found her casual triple-entendres, her “Kempisms,” to be so improbably delicious in my mind…
She is such a free-running spring of cool creativity, that it didn’t surprise me much when, shortly after she paired off with Sean and began to experience the musical ecosystem that is his unique mind, she revealed herself to have an utterly original sense of melody and lyrical realization as well. Her lines are like Borges short stories. I might have known.
As a symbol of her transformation for Sean, she now goes by Charlotte (her first name), much like a Native American who gets a new name upon having killed their first buffalo. Erstwhile Sean, (since his past chapters of turmoil and Shakespearean tragedy,) has shed the dark scales of his brooding artist skin for that of a newfound composer and puckish poet of an invincible fiber.
My great fortune lies in being an audience very close at hand to the gestation, birth, and early being of The GOASST. It is beautiful and strange and new. Let us watch it grow together.
- John Perry Barlow
|Thu 01/06/11||Allston, MA||Great Scott|
|Fri 01/07/11||Philadelphia, PA||Johnny Brenda’s|
|Sat 01/08/11||New York, NY||Rockwood Music Hall|
|Tue 01/11/11||Arlington, VA||IOTA Club & Cafe|
|Wed 01/12/11||Chapel Hill, NC||Local 506|
|Thu 01/13/11||Charlotte, NC||Evening Muse|