“It is my experience that music is more like water than a rhinoceros. It doesn’t charge madly down one path. It runs away in every direction.”
What I like about that Elvis Costello line, published in The New Yorker recently, is how not spontaneous it is. Few people figure a rhinoceros mid-thought, I’d argue. Costello might be one. But no one imagines a madly running rhinoceros mid-thought — comparatively or otherwise.
Not outside a zoo or safari territory. Why do I like the image’s lack of spontaneity? Because if there’s no spontaneity, there’s premeditation. Whether the line is a repeated toss-off for interested scribblers, who knows. I would Google, but I don’t feel like it. My point is the quote is there because the image has stuck in the poor man’s brain. Whether he wants the comparison active with him or not, and a toss-off you’d want to keep in your pockets and not your head if possible, he must find himself at times wondering, mid-creation, “Water or rhinoceros?”