Archive for September, 2013

Talent and Rage

September 15th, 2013

Blog 3

Well so what does that look like, a parallel universe of music that frees me from needing to really hear much of anything outside it at this point? That makes everything you play me seem kinda superfluous and trite, perfect, amazing but unnecessary? Offensive to the level of whatever commercial success it may be enjoying because I am moved more by things made by a luggage technician at the Cleveland airport? Boring because we may well have toyed with and abandoned this direction you are so excited about years ago?
Some of you may think my sister Kira and I have accomplished some things in music, participated in some history, even written or played on music that is in your I-thing.
But Kira and I would certainly agree without hesitation that we play with someone unknown to you whose talents and abilities dwarf us and have since we began in high school. In fact, in conversations we have agreed that he has more talent than both of us put together.
Yah, go ahead and object to the word “talent” use whatever word you want, but we musicians see these freaks who are born out of the gate spitting out precocious music they have no business making.
How does a 19 year old so grok the concept and culture of blues and it’s subsequent rape by rock’n’roll that they can write songs with titles like “Mama, I’m on your Rag” and “Done my Woman Dirty,” go out to the garage in the middle of the night fueled by coffee, dirtweed, stolen popcorn and Jack Daniels and record them? And it isn’t that they are authentic, though all the right cues are there, they are postmodern informed and simultaneously hilarious and… perfect? With open tuning on the acoustic guitar and a deep south accent and phrasing? And you laugh and cry and know you are in the presence of genius?
Sure he read every Keith Richards interview ever done, bought Son House albums etc etc, did a post graduate study and summed it up in a half dozen or 20 four-track gems. But man, that is ACCELERATED! And why? For a record deal? How? Thinking the riches were around the corner? No, pretty much pure unfettered inspiration, a channeling, a “click” that is then transformed from nothing but thought into nothing but soundwaves captured on an old cassette.
While he was doing this I was studying classical music and writing ornate prog rock. There was no chance whatsoever of me “getting” classical music the way he got blues. I was failing and fumbling about. I got in the Screamers and looked good. I even occasionally managed a gem.
But Glenn Brown was mining a vein and pulling out sophistication. He always did. He always still does.
And he can do it in a dozen styles. Rock, Funk, Reggae, peculiar instrumentals, noise (I mean the knob twiddling noise popular in 2013 back in 1978) country, etc…all done with a mature fucking OLD MAN humor that YA JUST DON’T KNOW WHERE THE FUCK IT COMES FROM.
So, to get back to the original point…when you play me Jack White…. I just don’t care. He’s just doing a Glenn Brown thing and not very well. I mean, it’s great. It’s perfect. It’s amazing.
But I’d rather listen to crappy recording my friend made 35 years ago, bouncing between two cassettes. Rich ol’ everything he touches turns to gold Jack White…why should I care? It goes by, I nod my head, if I’m feeling generous I will acknowledge your excellent taste.
But honestly, beneath it all, is a howling punk rock rage at the world; it’s stupidity and blindness an unfairness and general loathsome existence.
I don’t need your music. I have my own.

Pidgin Philosophy

September 2nd, 2013

I wanted to talk about music.

Maybe the one thing I’m qualified to talk about.  Maybe not even.
We kinda live in a culture where we’re supposed to value every one’s opinion and that’s valuable; novices and dilettantes come up with awesome accidents and out of the box approaches.
That leads us all into “there are no experts” land…especially about art and all things subjective.
My curious ego once figured out that I’ve spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 hours making music. So far.
Many of you have certainly spent that much time LISTENING to music.
Which in a sense, makes you experts in a way that I am not.
What I love most is MAKING music. Listening is often frustrating. It is very rare that I am touched by listening to music. Unless I am personally involved with it somehow.
I generally need someone or something to hold my hand and pull me into a song or piece of music and make it matter to me.
I have found that what makes me love music is usually falling in love with the artist. Then, suddenly I think I know them, and I care enough about them to listen to them in a deeper way. I follow them down into their life and thoughts and ways of expressing themselves and their work of art suddenly blossoms and becomes essential.
I believe that by nearly every measure of criticism, this is wrong, wrong, wrong.
But what can I do about it? I read “Lust for Life” and I fall in love with Van Gogh. I watch “Amadeus” and Mozart’s Requiem becomes something monstrous and perfect. I learn about Rothko and I look at his blobs closer. I’ve stopped fighting it.
Up to that point, I am often paying lip service, or nodding intelligently trying not to look dumb, assuming that the culture knows what it’s talking about and I just haven’t gotten it yet.
What I’m talking about is embracing the work of art so that it shakes you, so that it changes you. Not “appreciating” which I can do with anything, even total pop crap because I appreciate the elements of say, songwriting or production which are competent or expert, but which don’t move me particularly.
Which leads me to what I’ve been trying to get to here, in a roundabout way.
When you play something for me, thinking that I will like it, and I glaze over, or shrug, or even say “no, I don’t like that at all” don’t be sad or offended. The deck is hopelessly stacked against me being moved by almost anything you try to turn me on to. So my friends think I don’t like anything, or even that I don’t like listening to music.
Which is absurd. I listen to music all day every day, deep in the process of making it.
But aside from certain cultural mountaintops that we share, I live in a parallel universe of music, most of which you have never heard. And most of it is the music of my friends and my own. Us struggling and reaching to out-Bowie Bowie or out-Beatle the Beatles or out-Stone the Stones or out-Dylan Dylan or out-Connor Connor Oberst or even out-Beethoven Beethoven. Or really, to out everybody, by going where there are no comparisons.
We know in the eyes of all of you we can’t possibly succeed, because the deck has been stacked against us as well. We are going against the entire weight of history and commerce and criticism and peer pressure and advertisement and the dialectic.
But we care not an iota. We see where we succeed and where we fail and because we love each other we can walk with those icons; we give that to each other. And we obsessively pursue the PROCESS, without a choice in the matter.
I can’t really say we don’t care. Our purest best selves don’t care. Often we are crushed for decades in alleys of despair and demoralisation and obscurity and confusion. But the balance and payoff is being our own heroes and gods. Being each other’s gods. Oh, in the liberal ethical system, artists often replace gods as the sacred. Jonathan Haidt misses this in his otherwise excellent “The Righteous Mind.”
That’s enough on that, for now. Plenty. But I will write about these people now, I will tell you about them in later installments. Maybe I can even make you love them so you will hear them the way I hear them, although that is not the intention. It is more just to talk about beauty and what is beauty and how do I find beauty and to share it with you. I think everyone is made richer by beauty and it is maybe sometimes hard to come by.
Writing a blog is hard. I mean writing is easy, but to think someone might read this is daunting. I sound like a ponderous pretentious cow. I don’t have time or inclination to edit. I will read this later and think “oops.”
When I talk really fast and say these things I think I sound intelligent. reading it makes me think “ouch.”
Because this stuff isn’t actually thought out for a purpose or to argue a thesis. I’m just trying to figure it out. Maybe we get somewhere together.