Pidgin Philosophy

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.

One Response

  1. Chris Merritt says:

    Huge, huge topic! And such a personal one. What is it that makes a song resonate with one person and not another. I’m still always flummoxed when I play something for someone that I absolutely love, only to see them respond with, “meh.” A mysterious thing, that is…

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