More talking to myself…
Thinking more. Feeling more. Reminding myself why I choose certain ways of doing music in certain situations… Trying to build my music view into thoughts and words instead of just feelings. Perhaps so I can actually explain it competently when talking to others… Mostly because I get tired of not knowing.
Preface (in which the premise is very slowwwwly explained):
I feel like I grew up with many odd assumptions about music. I think it’s a natural thing for a young person growing up in this era, especially if they started with it before they were really even old enough to consider /anything/, let alone the ins and outs of this complicated form they are working with.
Born into this tunnel view of something really old and large and powerful.
Knew nothing about music history. Classical music = looney tunes. Primitive music = hippies on the beach. Never thought about the origins of song… what it was before planet radio or rap music existed. There was no internet for a good long while… at least not like it is now. No self education on that one. Just played and wrote whatever felt right based on what’d been absorbed so far. Alphabet learning songs and a crappy school play or two. The very fortunate instances of “teen world” absorption. Sneak shows at the shrine. Glimpses of an old beach dance floor i can barely remember. Sounds that bled out to the street. Early MTV. Jason Smith pretending he was some famous music icon… putting a finger in his mouth and letting the thumb-hammer fall. Blowing his cartoon brains on the dirty white wall. I didn’t even know who he was… that morbid pantomime days after his death. Oh he did bleach? The tape we took from Abby? Cool I like that one alright. He’s dead huh?
At some point it all felt wrong or constricting or limited. Certain movies and soundtracks from movies opened a wider world of music. Books and advancements of the internet. Napster existing… AudioGalaxy… Soulseek… pop culture education. Then the digging digging digging. Starting with crappy christian bands and accidentally chaining from their recommendations (and residual Abby influence) to further things. “Punk” so awesome. “Post punk” even cooler. Meeting bored suburban kids who listened to “underground rap”. Being introduced to “indie music” whatever that is. WTFGoth. That stuff is funny. Oh they were dead serious? Too bad, it sounded kinda fun. X-Files music. Spooky sounds and paper records from old cereal boxes.
So I burn through all that and start seeing these patterns. Oh this is kind of related to this… hey and this seems like maybe it came from this… Compulsion of weaving. This feels like this feels like this reminds me of this…
Things start to connect and they all point backwards.
Wait… what’s back there? How far does this go? When did we start keeping track of music and what it was? Why does the older stuff seem like it hits me harder? The further back I go the more mood it seems to have. The older the recording the more I respond. Why? Is it getting closer to a root? Is it because recording was more rare and those performers still lived in occurring moments rather than in captured moments? Was it just the inaccuracy of the equipment? Or maybe it re-created the spaces in a more familiar way? Am I just romanticizing the past? Then why is the reaction so consistently stronger? Is it the simplicity? Why do only certain and very specific new things create the same response?
This train led me to a conclusion that I still (as of now) feel is right but have no proof for… That the only way to truly do music with even close to the level of impact that much of the old stuff has is to chase everything back down to it’s roots or to be lucky enough to operate that way by nature. To understand (or feel by instinct) why those “originators” (even though they likely weren’t truly originators just the closest we can get) made what they made. What it meant to them and how to make a personal equivalent. Not to take anything from them in a superficial way. No scales, no chords/notes, no progressions, no structures, no technique, no voice, no persona, no looks, nothing. Only take the impulse. The intention. The impetus. Where did this come from? Why was it made? What are they saying with these sounds? How would I accomplish this same emotional outcome? How could I do what they did in a way that is “true” for me now, surrounded by all this future culture? How to speak from inside out.
So I started tracing but back then in my head.
The idea? to educate by exposure i suppose…
Now? Doin’ the whole paper sift deal. Showing my work again.
This first time starting with an attempt at figuring out the history so I could get a feel for the overall field as it stands now. To separate the parts and understand what they are before I go further into specific types of music. Specific creators. To imagine how it came together and moved to what it is now and all before my time.
Music field breakdown attempt – since we have no (even someone documented) music history before roughly 2000 B.C. this is just intuitive process
making sound in the air with anything… voice, feet, rocks, wood…
AKA performance. sometimes “entertainment” depending.
first form of music. most likely a functional origin. immediacy. signals or communication in some way. perhaps territorial. perhaps an accidental discovery. perhaps a simultaneous origin in dance or ritual alongside comm/turf. mostly likely existed since animal form. observed simian trait, drumming on logs.
in later more organized forms it probably occurred more in support of events or action. most likely theater.
live performance still has the most potency (of emotional impact in my opinion) of all the sub-forms… due to proximity to human energy fields? being able to feel how they feel while playing? increases feedback of sound on body. physical air moving, waves hitting you. your particles being moved in unison with those around you. sound travels through bodies. do not forget! so live music as a format comes from the pure joy of physical movement and sensual experience in space/time. living in a moment and stopping all thoughts. This form also includes ritualized music for function. Dance and meditation being two big uses. At least three further sub-divisions in this one sub-field of music. It only exists for a moment though and it’s gone which means it’s primarily about “being there” to catch it.
next step in development. completely different form. initially extremely limited and “inaccurate” to the sound of the live experience but still contained a large amount of “live-ish” emotional content due to what? similarity between electric current and the electricity pushed out when strong emotions are felt? perhaps simply the air moving against the ears but air made by irregular pushing rather than consistent digital type pushing… probably not… seems more likely it had to do with the performers themselves. In that time they were more concerned with live performance. With creating the songs over and over again in a moment. There was never a document of sound possible before so they never viewed it as a static thing right? It was always new each time. They had to play much more often to progress or learn. To hear what was going on. They also had to change on the fly as they played. Adjusting to emerging deficiencies in the songs. Making them better over time like stories told around fires… Or not… I dunno… regardless recording is and always has been approximation of live feeling or simulation of impossible sound field. Even back then in it’s own way. today? hyper real. modern digital recordings approach dream-like or fantasy qualities because of detachment from any form of sound that could ever be produced in the “real” world. the space created could never be built. that drum surround sound… impossible at a show in the same way. This shows me there are two large divisions (though possibly more equal or sub-divs) in the recording arts: “live” approximation/documentation, and “idealist” composition/conceptual work.
One style seeks to simply document an occurrence as close as possible to the “real” experience. To, perhaps, recreate in some way the feeling of seeing it performed as a living work. The other seeks to create something purely for the sake of itself. To take something as far as it can go and do as much with it as possible. To be an idealist because it can be done when moments are frozen in time. Unlike in “real-life” where many harsh realities exist. Room sound/shape, equipment, number of performers, space, time itself, the monies, the list goes on…
Then we march along to film. Movies. Cinema. They were silent at first and needed a pit band to provide some kind of sound. It just didn’t quite work watching them in complete silence. The music added something. A life. It did control the mood though. You could set the sound of one movie under the visuals of another and the music would win. It would dominate the mood regardless of how ill fitting the two things may have been. Presumably, someone noticed this and even when film began using sound they kept music in as a way to effect emotions… albeit with a heavy hand at times, yes? So now we have this entirely different field unrelated to the other two. It was built on the idea of music existing almost subliminally. To use it at certain emotional points and for certain cues. To enhance the visual experience. To aid the narrative. Eventually this was lost sight of (at least by the majority/industry) and music in movies “progressed” to where it is now. You can watch “Lincoln” and be told exactly when you should feel certain things even if the movie doesn’t naturally make you feel them, all thanks to some heavy handed composition. So the subtlety is gone in that example, but the idea of music being put with film still exists, even if many have forgotten that the music has to be handled carefully and subtly and tastefully lest the movie itself become overpowered by it’s overtness. This all extends to video games as well although that is a distinct sub-field all it’s own with a whole new set of rules. Interest coupled with mood despite existing as a series of interlinked and independently triggered looping sections. Very strange form that one… We’ll ignore for now.
So now we step back and take a look at these three primary divisions… each having many further subdivisions. What’d you think self? I dunno what’d you think, me? Shut up you two!
One world is based on moments. Temporal nature. Tears in the rain right, blade runner? The impact of collective emotions on a pool of bodies. Pure sensual experience.
One is based on permanence and ideal. The pinnacle of what could be done if anything were really possible. Pulling short is the only sin.
The last based on subtlety. How far can you push the subliminal functions before the barrier is broken and the conscious creeps in? A powerful form learning to serve rather than dictate. To react rather than lead.
And yet growing up today we are “told” (more shown by example really) that these are all the same thing.
The average band/performer writes some songs and starts playing them out. Through playing them out they cement them as static works, as things (products) that can be reproduced. They also gather an “audience” while doing this (an abstract idea for sure). They then go and record those products onto a physical (or these days digital) format to capture the now static work. This is done to sell for funds to keep the chain going… to increase their ability to make more product. To have something to sell that will allow for travel to support current wares and play in more places to increase exposure for some end. Travel itself or adventure or, if you are very lucky, to survive in the world in a more enjoyable way than a “9 to 5″. They then sell these products to advertisers (if lucky) and film makers to increase exposure further and to provide “cultural relevance” to films or to add a specific kind of overt feeling to a scene. Perhaps to make a product or film seem cooler (depending on who’s perspective you are looking at). This all to get more funds to continue making more entertainment. One person or band making one very general thing (often only slightly effective in one particular area) and then porting that thing over into all forms that music exists in. This all takes a tremendous amount of effort in the business side of things which does in fact take a huge amount of time away from the building and getting-better-at-building end of things. So it’s all understandable as a landscape currently. It is where it is because that’s how it grew.
Clarification of stance to self…
I don’t believe I’m trying to say these methods are “wrong”. They just serve commerce and industry over the form. The goal being: to allow people to make money off of the form. Which is a nice idea. Supporting yourself and loved ones with something you love deeply. I help friends that do these things. I wish them well and love what they do. I help them with their empires. I love watching them achieve things and grow in this realm… But do I think it’s the best way music could be done or could exist? Fuck no. None of it makes any sense when I look at it this way. None of it takes into account what the mediums are, how they work, how different each one is. Some people who work in that system described above manage to do all those things while still preserving the uniqueness of each sub-medium. Those people are champions for sure. Some people move into those realms to perhaps gently push new ways of doing things. To perhaps use the system to their own unique ends. We all decide our best path.
I’m not trying to impose boundaries with this thought game, I’m trying to break my own preconceptions down. Remove whatever weird view I grew up with due to this culture so that I can make something that hits me (though most likely only others) as hard as that “old stuff” does my own self. It’s not about a right way and a wrong way, No more binary or black and white. I’m trying to find my personal “best way” and then run that path to it’s end because that’s what I like doing. Absorbing as much as possible to get the biggest picture I can then choosing my favorite spot to live in. At least for a little while…
I ask myself what is this?
This is just an idea. Feel free to tear it down. You should if you are interested. It can only help things. I’ve done literally no research. It’s all really vague future thinking coming from somewhere inside… Perhaps the feeling that humans seem to be moving closer and closer to being able to meet their base survival needs with almost no effort. Thankyou science and technology. Once we do that all we could be after are little information points. Balls of individual experience trying to link up with all the other ones into a more connected view. Little whales eating algae. We’d swim around and scoop things up and take ‘em in and it’d all combine in our little cookpot bodies and brains and then we get to either hold it with us like a secret or push it back out into the world right through the blowhole to collide with all the other pushers ideas. Those ideas move on to shape things or create more ripples or bounce off the edges of the universe or get secreted into some little creature somewhere to be kept as a personal treasure. The metaphor coughs blood and expires.
So I guess that’s what this really is. Despite initial intentions…
Me sending ripples out as far as I can because I think they are beautiful and helpful ripples… at least for me… and perhaps those who resonate on a similar frequency. At best it’s an old way of looking at new music. What that ultimately yields I have no idea.
Or maybe I should have kept it all to myself as a personal treasure. Who knows… The outside is ever more resembling the inside these days.