I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
August 16, 2015 - 11:59 a.m.
This is annoying; I just wasted a load of time trying to fix the archiving of older entries on Diaryland. They only give you 100 archives, they clearly didn't expect someone to write every day for 15 years and archive once a month. You don't have access to most of the old entries the way it is now. I maxed out its capacity I decided to add several years to the last monthly archive so at least you could see them all. I spent forever doing this then it didn't work. Ugh. I need a new host for my blog. If need a place that's free, that will link to the old entries, and will give me total control of the template. Jory thinks this looks old-fashioned but when you see it you know it's Wise Madness.
I didn’t leave the house yesterday. Can that be the entire entry? I don’t think so. So here's the challenge, can I write even when I have no external stimulus. I didn't talk to anyone yesterday. The only words out of my mouth were to my landlady complaining that she took the chicken I had defrosting in the sink and put it in a bowl that was soaking in dirty soapy water. Good thing I had the chicken double wrapped in plastic, saran wrap and a zip lock bag. I have no idea why she did that? That does not really count as significant human contact. I am going to fight the urge to write about being lonely. When I run this through my head I every scenario leads to me being lonelier.
So of course I made my favorite dinner with the aforementioned chicken because even when I can't get myself out of the house I can make sweet garlic chicken and Shai-Hulud potato.
Now I could rant about how people think, not what they think but how. That has real content and could do some good but I shouldn't write that when I'm feeling down. I have to be charming if I want to change the way your mind works and it's harder to be charming when you're not at your best. I could rely on my looks but you can't actually see me when you read this. There is also the minor matter that my looks are not something to be relied on.
I'm listening to John Platt on WFUV as I write. Eilen Jewel is his guest. She's so good that she's living my mood and pushing me to write about music. So here's the thing. I usually plan things out and know what I'm going to write. I didn't do that today. I know the topic but I don't know what I'm going to write. I don't know that I'll even have that much to say. But let's give it a shot.
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I have always loved that quote but I don't agree with it. And what does it have to do with music? This idea started with me thinking about the different ways a musician can be bad but the thing is there are even more ways a band can be good. So that's today's topic, a very personal breakdown of the types of ways music can appeal to me or well not appeal to me.
I heard a set of music and didn't recognize the artists, even though I should have. The bright side of that was that what I thought of the songs I didn't like totally fit what I thought about the artists who performed them. That let me know it's not prejudice, it has nothing to do with the people, it's about the music.
The first song suffers from the most common reason I won't like a song, especially one that is popular. It was totally bland. It didn't excite, it didn't get me thinking, and it had nothing to say. It was pleasant and sounded pretty and would be fine as background music if I were reading. It wasn't that there was something wrong with it, it's just that there was nothing special about it. Artists like that can often be quite popular, they can even be stars. That's when I think I'm from another planet. I didn't recognize that guy because he's totally generic.
The other one did not have the smooth pleasing voice. He was gruffer, the kind of voice that I associate with meaningful deep singer songwriters. But then I listened and found myself thinking, this is the most boring music I ever heard. There was no rhythm, no swing, and the lyrics are very earnest but don't go anywhere. I was actually happy to find out that was by the artist I call the world's most boring singer. I didn't recognize the voice because my brain shuts down whenever I hear him.
So it looks like I'm starting with the ways artists can be bad. That can be more amusing to write about so perhaps it should come second. No I want to leave you upbeat. I want to leave myself upbeat.
There are some artists that are so good at some aspect of performing that they don't work on the rest of their game. They are like pitchers with 98 mph fastballs that never learn how to mix up their pitches or how to pinpoint location. Sometimes it's a great voice, sometimes a great harmonies, sometimes it's musicianship, they can really play their instruments. But they don't use these skills to deliver the goods.
Then there are the overly earnest. They feel very strongly about something and think that if they say it often enough and with great feeling you'll do something about it. They hit you over the head and hope you'll submit. There's one song that advocates something, Let's say limiting development in a town, that makes me want to build a shopping mall, and I hate shopping malls.
What all these types of artists have in common is lack of content. If you have nothing to say a great handwriting doesn't make a missive worth reading.
Of course some performers are just bad. They can't sing or play well. Some write like high school students. But those people rarely get far and I'm not often subjected to them.
But there are so many ways to be good. There I've turned the corner and now I can use names. Now I just have to try and use as examples musicians that people outside my circle will know about, not my usual suspects.
I could use Dylan, especially early folk Dylan as an example of someone that succeeds almost entirely on the quality of his lyrics, but it's not true. His first album was primarily covers and traditional songs. It was based on that, that Woody Guthrie said, "He's a folk singer, other people just sing folk songs." His voice wasn't pretty or particularly musical but there was an utter sincerity to his delivery. Don Maclean was right, Dylan has a voice that comes from you and me.
For succeeding purely on lyrics I think I have to go to Allen Ginsberg. He never made it big as a singer/songwriter but I loved what I heard. He had so much to say and he said it so well. He used exactly the right word.
Then there is Annie Haslam, the lead singer of Renaissance. The first title track of their first album with her on lead is Prologue. It is a 5'42" vocal with no lyrics. Annie has the most beautiful voice I have ever heard, Sandy Denny is her only competition. But there is more to Annie and Sandy than the sound of their voices. There's musicianship, and there's genius. Even without lyrics Annie is saying something just as virtuoso violinist does.
In a similar vein yesterday I listened to John Coltrane's version of My Favorite Things. He takes that simple though beautiful song and stretches it not thin but deep. You listen to that and are transformed. That's what great music can do.
Then there's Bach. I often speak of a musician that appeals to the Bach side of my mind. The music is so complex yet so integrated. Every single piece is in exactly the right place. Your brain has to work to see it all at once but you are rewarded for the effort.
You can't get much more different than that than the Who singing My Generation but that's great it a totally different way. A rock anthem goes write to the emotional centers of your brain. They make you happy and excited without apparent thought process. That's not an insult. It's another way of achieving the same thing. It doesn't have to be rock. Great Big Sea can do that with folk music.
What does Joni Mitchell do? She lets you into her mind and it's a beautiful mind. There are thoughts that start small but grow to encompass vast spaces; a map of Canada with her soul sketched on it twice.
Then there are the funny and clever songwriters. They often don't get the respect they deserve. What Tom Lehrer did is just as important as Tom Waits. He can make you laugh and that's a great gift.
I can't give well known examples of the next kind of songwriter, the quirky weird ones where I go, "I'm glad that somebody else sees that." They don't become well known because they are quirky and weird. But they go straight to my sweet spot
And then there's Beethoven. He combines the intellectualism of Bach with the pure passion of The Who. There's the reason that he will always top every poll picking the greatest musicians. Plenty of people might disagree, you might disagree, but you are fooling yourself if don't realize that he's the consensus winner through time and space.
Know something, there are more ways to be good than bad. And that's a good thing. I can listen to live music three times a week and get something great but different each time.
See that made me feel better. I hope you enjoyed it too. Want to hear some good music that I love. Till a week from Tuesday you can still hear me DJ gig on the WFDU archives, Me on the Radio. Ignore the title, it's me, not sports. Thanks again Brian for the opportunity.
Today's goal is simply to get out of the house the weather looks nice. Wish me luck.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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