Tuesday
May042004

« Music »

As some of you know, my relationship with music has been sort of iffy for a while. At this time, I can only say I have been in the studio three times to do anything resembling making music. I have just been too busy to go in there, and while some days I go in all charged up and ready to make recording and compositional history, somehow, I lose track of the spark and it slips away into the ether. Some days, I have to sit and stare at the recording rig to remind myself how it is all set up. My mind has not been obsessing over technical details, so I sort of shy away from recording.

I also have been on a trend to shut music off. It isn't so much that I don't want to be a listener, but really, I want to have the option of hearing it when I want to hear it. You know, you go to the grocery, the bank, the office, the traffic intersection, and you get to hear music that you didn't choose to hear. And the stuff that comes out of those outlets is all too often nothing you would ever choose to hear if you have your pride. I never ever listen to commercial radio by choice. All I listen to is public radio, and that is pretty much only in the trucks—one for work, and one for commute. I have nearly all my music on the computer, excluding tapes, minidiscs and certain other CDRs that just haven't been ripped yet. I have a few favorites, but some of what I found to be stunning music for me before has sort of faded. I find myself moving backwards in time in my listening tastes. I have been into Erik Satie for a while, and following that school of compositional thought in France, I have dabbled in Debussy, Milhaud, and now Poulenc. I may as well get all the Les Six stuff.

Some of this stuff is so amazing. Even a hundred years on, it just sounds unlike anything I anticipated, and compared to the drivel that fills the air now, it all sounds fresh and alive. And I daresay, beautiful. Sometimes, I think popular music has given up on beauty in favor of a few angry poses and a rather short list of cliches. A lot of what passes for popular music now is utter crap. Recycled utter crap. Punk is more popular than ever. Maybe thats why it has no balls anymore. Metal is boring to no end. Rap was empty from the start. All these things are so canned and recycled now. I wish I could have seen Black Sabbath. That was revolutionary. Their imitators, two or three generations removed, are not. Tool was one of the few metal-like bands that I ever liked, and even they are done. Lateralus was boring. King Crimson they are not, unless they change lineups, instrumentation, and compositional mindset. A good rock band they are, but they are now repeating themselves. Blink 182 has no choice but to do that—the musical well from which they drink was dry in the early 80s at the latest. Lemme see... a rock trio carrying on about what it is to be a teenager? The Who did that, didn't they? (Yes, I know, they had a singer too.)

I guess I am trying to erase things from my head. I would like to let a lot of stuff slip away before I take another serious stab at making music. Too many cliches out there cluttering things up so that the good ideas don't come through. Even my erstwhile hero, Mike Keneally, seems to be in a rut. It is sad. He is squandering his talent on some attempt to gain some pop credentials. He is on the verge of repeating himself now. If a talent like Keneally can get to that point, I don't really trust myself to make any significant waves. My creativity in music is gone. Even I am repeating myself, even as I consider it refining myself. I used to actively avoid playing by numbers, but when I got bored with that, I had to do something else, and even that has been a no go. I stopped relying on my crutches—the effects, the goofy editing, the other things I did to mask my unskilled playing. Sometimes I pulled off some neat stuff, or as my guitarist and buddy Todd said: "got lucky." My approach to music after foreswearing that method was to try my hand at forming a band. That was work, and I got enough payoffs to know the potential was good, but it never worked out for the usual reasons. And now I am just not sure music is the right way to channel my creativity. I need to find a new way to relate to it. Sometimes you just need to let all you have learned just settle in.

Part of what drove me to musical madness was the fact I knew too much. Not that I knew it and observed it to the letter. No, but with my addiction to music related news groups, I spent all my time learning how you can't make good music without the latest and greatest gear. Bullshit. Bull. Shit. The stuff that I did that still brings me unerring joy, was way underproduced, played badly, and not scripted. There is a ditty called "Everything is Better Wrapped in Bacon." It really is a hachet job. But every goddamned time I hear it, I am transported to a time when I just didn't care. When I broke rules. Or there were the times when I did rulebreaking stuff without even knowing. I just made the sounds I made, and worked it out to a finished piece. And I didn't tell myself that it was shit because some other recording hacks on the internet thought it was too compressed or too bright or too in tune or out of tune. I made stuff with the expectation that I would please myself, and anyone else was free to get on my bus. Now, I feel there is some level to match or exceed, after releasing my CD. It did raise the bar, but even 3-4 years after the fact, I didn't expect to be musically crippled in the wake of it, still not sure how to do that sort of work again.

I wake up to Debussy's La Mer every morning, but almost as quickly turn it off. Not because I don't want to hear it, but because I want it to matter to me later.

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