“What we are really saying is that music, once considered an important science, is now merely a form of entertainment, classified by elite snobs as “cultured” or “uncultured.” If it could be packaged in little plastic containers and eaten with a spoon, they would do it. In fact, they are probably working on it right now.” – EUGENE CHADBOURNE
I’m reading a fantastic book speaking to many many qualms about the music biz – called I Hate the Man Who Runs This Bar by Eugene Chadbourne. This book is hilariously busting through a lot of my despair and cynicism about trying to “make it” in the music business. He said music used to be part of the quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy – “preparatory work for the serious study of philosophy,” – a curriculum outlined by Plato’s The Republic. Music was a valuable tool of measurement, specifically to look at “the classical subject of harmonics, in particular the study of the proportions between the music intervals created by the division of a monochord” according to wikipedia. 😉
[Here’s a soundtrack by Sasha to listen to while reading. The line “Mathmatics is the language of nature” fits perfectly with this theme and has been running through my head since my early raver days in 1995].
So, all of this is a little over my head. My study music theory went as far as my fourth year of piano lessons in 8th grade and then I headed off on my own. My mathmatics consist of meditative breath counting, counting stars, and the beats of a metronome. My brother is an electrical engineer at NASA, so he got the math gene. (Happy birthday, Brian, BTW!!!)
What this point drills in for me though, is the majesty of music, and its ancient, scientific, natural origins. The sounds of nature around us creating rhythms. Wind through leaves, trees swaying and crackling, trickling of water, bird song. Janna Levin said the universe has a soundtrack in her Ted Talk, that “black holes bang on spacetime like a drum” giving thanks to Einstein for being the first to point this out.
I have had often had jaded thoughts about popular music. What’s popular locally, what’s popular on TV, who’s famous and why. It seems like a “who you know” popularity contest, and the audience cheers-ing, their plastic cup beers spilling over, half listening to [insert your most annoying form of popular music here] cuz their friends are there … Am I jaded because I make a more obscure form of music? Do I feel superior or something? Not so, just baffled. But there is freedom in obscurity too, to make whatever I want, to brush away thoughts of trying to make that next “hit” or trying to get the throngs to love me.
I want the majesty, making sounds for the universe, singing to plants, singing to cats, singing to you and your mammalian instincts. I want to be a musical channel for the cosmic booms and the bacteria that I host, all the way down to the mites on my eyelashes. For am an not just one being, but possibly a collection of thousands (“The human body contains about 100 trillion cells, but only maybe one in 10 of those cells is actually — human. The rest are from bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms.” – Rob Stein, NPR). If I can bypass that desire to please and get down to the work of saying exactly what I have to say exactly how I want it to sound, then I’m doing my creative work justice. And same to you – don’t quibble and pander to the masses – it is your duty to, as Marie Forleo says “Stay on your game and keep going for your dreams. The world needs that special gift that only you have.”