Monday, November 30, 2009

Heavy Handed Metaphor

Man, these blog posts are getting less and less frequent.


Here is a metaphor that I try to live by (the key word being try):

A human being is like a tree. A tree takes in large amounts of nutrients from other sources. Stuff like air, water, soil and sunlight. In turn, the tree provides oxygen for species around it as well as a habitat, shade or food.

Similarly, human beings are always taking in intellectual nutrients. We experience art in the form of literature, music, movies, visual art etc. We also gain knowledge and entertainment through an infinite amount of sources. Like the tree, we must provide as well. It is our responsibility to provide others with what we have received and are passionate about. Why do you think it is that the highest degree we offer in the educational system (doctorate) is given to those to aim to be professors?

What does this have to do with music? If one takes music seriously, he/she should always be giving as much as he/she is getting. This is part of the reason I write this blog. Every day, I listen to music for hours. I read random music-related Wikipedia articles, get private instruction in two musical mediums, and oh yeah, take several music classes. But because of this, there need to be many ways to give back. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not worried about a one to one ratio. In other words, I don’t believe that for every hour spent learning about music, I should spend an hour writing it/about it. College is the fledgling stage of intellectual growth. The whole point is to be learning as much as possible.

But...I believe the tree metaphor is true for just about anyone. If you have great knowledge and passion for law, you should become a lawyer and give back what was given to you in years past by protecting people from injustice. This is all quite idealistic but in the words of Wilco, “What would we be without wishful thinking?” Or in the words of Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam, “If I make a mark in time, who’s to say the mark is mine? I am just the underline on the word.”

The purpose of this post is twofold. First, I’d like to share my philosophy. Second, I’m hoping it can motivate me to write here more and also write more music. I don’t know how many people read this but in the words of a Blue Scholars sample whose source I’m not familiar with (last quote, I promise), “‘Hey Pete, why do we even write songs like this, man? People ain’t gonna change.’
‘I don’t know Bill, you know, uh, there might be somebody out there, you never can tell.”’

*Last month's heading was from T. Rex's "The Slider"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Music Criticism…Today!

I haven’t written here in quite a while. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, I’ve had nothing particularly important to say that I haven’t already said. Secondly, I’m in school and there’s lots of other stuff to think about. And thirdly, I’ve fallen into a rut of procrastination and laziness. Just doing enough to get by. Well, dammit, I’m going to update this bloody blog. It’s a Saturday and I’m at home. What else do I have to do?

A couple months ago, I subscribed to a magazine called Uncut. I’d bought one two summers ago and was intrigued by their coverage of old and new (mostly) rock music. Well, I bought another one this summer, saw an exciting offer for a subscription in the back pages, and bit the bullet and bought a year-long supply.

So far, so good. I got my first new issue earlier this month. It featured Jack White as well as “The 150 Greatest albums of the 21st Century…so far!” This was awesome as I could instantly gather their slant as a magazine, which seems to be toward more retro sounding stuff, as two Bob Dylan albums were in the top ten, along with Brian Wilson and Robert Plant/Alison Krauss. The only album in common between our respective top tens was Fleet Foxes.

To me, this viewpoint is sort of the opposite of indie juggernaut, Over on that golden beacon of independent music guidance, the newer and more radical sounding, the better the reaction. I personally really like Pitchfork, even if some of their reviews seem to be more about the reviewer’s imagination than the actual music. My friend Nate wrote about Pitchfork recently and you can check that out. I’m not going to divulge into the endless quirks of this site. Just say that I join the fraternity of hipsters taking mental notes of every album on their “Best New Music” list.

I read a book this summer about music criticism in the 19th century and all the dialogue that went on between critics and the influence of all of this on audiences and artists. While reading it, I thought, “Too bad that doesn’t happen very much anymore.” Well, it kind of does. After reading these different sources of musical criticism and other various top albums of the decade lists, I have come to realize how exciting the world of non-mainstream popular music is. In the past, I’d thought of myself as a historian of sorts, reading up on music of a bygone era. I still do that of course, but reading about Embryonic by the Flaming Lips or Merriweather Post Pavillion in current sources of criticism makes it thrilling to live here and now in 2009. New sounding stuff is happening now and always will be. That may be blatantly obvious but is also cause for rejoice!