'And always there is a piercing sadness to it'

Clive James on Bix Beiderbecke:

I listened to most of Beiderbecke’s Jean Goldkette and Paul Whiteman sides before I left Sydney, but it wasn’t until I was down and out in London in the early 1960s that I first heard “I’m Coming, Virginia.” An Australian homosexual ballet buff persuaded me to sit down and listen to a piece of music that he held to be the most beautiful thing in his life: better even than Swan Lake.

For a while “I’m Coming, Virginia” became the most beautiful thing in my life too. The coherence of its long Bix solo still provides me with a measure of what popular art should be like: a generosity of effects on a simple frame. The melodic line is particularly ravishing at its points of transition: there are moments when even a silent pause is a perfect note, and always there is a piercing sadness to it, as if the natural tone of the cornet, the instrument of reveille, were the first sob before weeping.

Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts (2008)