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THE SOURCE

1 Apr

I’m listening to this, reminds of someone who might be a friend.

I’ve got a little piece I made up, a sequence of melodies punctuated by a rhythm that’s not fully baked. I’m a white guy so the melody comes first then I add the rhythm. I played it this morning. It wasn’t bad. No fans, sometimes I get fans. Someone or other who’s been sitting quietly, listening. Sometimes there’s even applause. Fans are good, I like having fans.

But this morning no. And I didn’t deserve them. It wasn’t that I kept hitting the wrong note in the right key for evoking memories of mating cats. I didn’t, not too often anyway. It wasn’t that I forgot how to play it or anything, there was just something… missing. Something blocked. When I play well I forget myself, there’s no reflection. My mind is not on the task, it has surrendered to the task. There’s a flow that runs straight thru my heart out onto the keyboard and beyond. When I play that way, that’s when I get fans.

Does that make sense?

I don’t know how to play piano really. Haven’t done the work, not like with the guitar. I know hundreds of chords on the guitar, used to. I can transpose without much effort (not that transposition on the guitar requires much). But on the piano I’m proficient merely in the keys of Gm and C. And C’s, like, sooo hard on the piano, not. Still, composition’s a breeze on the piano. Select a melody. It’s not hard. Questions and answers. Dah-dah-dah; Dum. Dah-dah-dah; Dum. Dah-dah-dah; Dim. Dah-dah-dah; Dum. Dum-Dum-Dim; Dum. It’s stupid easy.

Turning it into something requires work tho’. Like coming up with a verse/chorus combo. Getting the lyrics right, striving for days to get the hook, the middle-8, the riff. Or maybe you start with the riff and it writes itself. I don’t know how it works. There’s a language but I don’t speak it like a native. I can’t just churn it out. I’ve only ever written one bit of music and it’s not arranged yet. I don’t have the gear.

But sometimes there’s a public piano where I play. Where I wrote it. There, some of the officials approve. It helps that Head of Security is a fan tho’ he keeps his distance. It hurts that my enemies are senior staff. What can I do? I don’t own a piano these days. And the time’s a little ways off when I’ll once again have a private place for music. It’s come as far as it can, it’s organized, memorized. Sometimes I play it.

And when I play it well I’m hooked unobstructed into the source. Something with a red-yellow glow. Something that’s not really there but actually very much is. Sounds like mystical hippie bullshit and it would be if I wanted to take it on a speaker’s tour: buy the book, buy the crystal pyramids, buy the magic dust and the moisturizer. Join the movement. No!

Fuck that! Anyone reading this, you have my permission to give me two twice in the back of the head I ever do something like that.

No. The source is my way of describing a feeling I hold to be important. And other musicians know what I’m talking about. When you’re in the groove. When you’re in the zone. Not just my music, anyone’s. In these moments you know the song you’re playing at the level of instinct. Like breathing.

This morning was not such a moment. Oh well, shit happens.

THIS IS NOT ABOUT ARABIC TECHNO

25 Mar


Cute isn’t it?. That was Lou Reed’s best moment and he didn’t know it. Listen for Bowie’s soaring vocals at the end.

Later on there were reports of the guy lurking in the corners of Max’s Kansas City throwing back whiskey doubles and being a jerk par excellence. Read John Cale’s memoirs viz the Velvet Underground’s ’90s reunion tour. What a sublime arsehole the dude seems. I remember New York coming out in the ’80s and I was thirsty for a tune that meant something. One that was recorded now. And tho’s I tried to like it I knew Sick Boy was right: in my heart I knew. It’s shite.

The song that defined my era, as it seemed to me then, was recorded when I was ten. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was eight years away. What a desert is crossed twixt the ages sixteen to twenty-four? Did Nirvana define my generation? Well yeah – for fans of Nirvana. For the hip-hop crew it was “It’s Like That” by Run-DMC. For the first wave of raver bunnies it’s probably DJ King Piddly-O’s remix of that track that goes Doof- boing-boing, Doof-boing-boing, buzzzz. You know the one. For me it’s nothing. How can a song or a movie or anything else define a generation. To do that you need a whole compilation.

By the time I was in the workforce I’d noticed the mundane (that is, the largest) slice of my contemporaries were already fixing into the 80s. Hipsters like me might go to raves and Ice Cube concerts but the rest were turning conservative. They knew what they liked and what they liked came out when they were sixteen. The best years of their lives. What a curse: to live your life’s highest moment in high school.

Right now I’m listening to Philip Glass’s Metamorphosis II I discovered this via a Falstaff-like mentor I had back in the day. Introduced me to stuff like Concrete Poetry. Next I’ll be booting up Hank Williams, no. Maybe I’ll search for ‘Arabic Techno’ instead. I’ll tell you when I get there.

Youth, Oscar tells us, is wasted on the young. Aye ’tis true. We waste our youth because we don’t know who we are and when we find out we wish we’d done things differently. But how would we know unless those mistakes’d been made? There’s the rub. There’s always a rub. It’s at the heart of the truth.

I don’t miss my youth which was awkward, neurotic and ugly. And I haven’t wasted my youth, much, because I wasn’t busy doing what the Herd was doing. I hadn’t figured out much when I bought Nevermind but I knew something: these monkeys are dickheads man. Not all of them. Individually most of ’em have a brain I’ve found. But get ’em going in a large enough group and it’s like crazed cattle. Ain’t nuthin’ for it cowboy, ride into the sunset and forget ’em.

Still, as the poet wrote, I wished I possessed a spirit that was calm . Yet, if I hadn’t the wilderness inside would I’ve ever thrown myself into the maelstrom and emerged pristine (but somewhat slightly dazed?) A little bit ruined sure, but would I now be experiencing such fascination with new forms of music? Would I have found the new depths inside, the deeper love of music? Is that normal?

Can you be found if you were never lost?