John March - email@example.com
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|In the past I have written a number of articles exploring the humane,
more philosophical, side of the music business. I am interested in the
study of these issues, in what elements and strategies go into the making
and producing of music, elements and strategies that seem to go against
the grain of the common consensual culture, because I, like many others,
find the rules of the game pretty random and somewhat confusing. To me,
this inquisitive exploration, is a constant search for the soul of music,
the depth behind the surface agendas.
There is an obvious universal appeal in music, that I believe goes way beyond the economic agendas of the major labels and production industries. While I recognize that the need to generate money by producing media is not going to go away, I also know that there exists a plethora of art and music that is being created because it simply has to exist. How many of you reading this can think of at least 5 artists/musicians who are unbelievably gifted and yet totally unknown? This is a common theme in every city, and in every culture around the globe. Music is not a quantifiable phenomenon, it is not an object that can be reduced to sales and units sold. It is an invocation of the mystery of unknowing that surrounds us and pervades every aspect of life as we know it.
I have been thinking a great deal about what makes us interested and impassioned by different kinds of music and styles, why certain things attract us and others repel. The ideas that saturate purist thinking, of idealizing certain states and philosophies, certain styles and rituals. These ideas of attracting and repelling forces in art and religion, and other intangible forms of expression and soulfullness, pervade our mythic sensibilities. Imagistically, as an artist and craftsman, I have a deep appreciation for both sides of the attraction. In Jungian terms it is a soul level recognition of both the archetypal and the shadow sides of people and events and objects, and from an eastern philosophical perspective there is also a non-dualistic view that sees that things are as they are, neither this nor that, but rather both simultaneously. In my mind that non-dualistic perspective actually begins to blur the edges between current quantum physics theories, and spiritualism.
What I am seeing is based on an idea I have been developing called "The theory of resonance". My understanding of one of the current quantum physics models of our universe, in very simplistic terms, is that the smallest observable phenomena/objects, seem to be particles that appear to be states of vibration, in a state of either "This" or "That". "This" or "That" being variable positions within a wave state. Imagine if you will a sine wave in oscilation and then visualize one side of the wave, or the other. (This is an approximate visual metaphor.) That all of reality, as we understand it, is a series of ever increasing and complex harmonic overtones built upon some vast underlying vibrational state. As complexity and interrelationships at the subatomic level increase in complexity, the very building blocks of reality are formed. That all we perceive and experience, are these interwoven vibrations that modulate and re-form and intermingle on many levels of perception, creates a fairly wide view of the physical and perceptual universe. With regards to music in particular, we could assume that our ability to perceive, interpret and perform music, is also based on our ability to attune ourselves to those underlying vibratory states, and express them in a range and performance medium that we can not only cognitively and emotively interpret, but also assign cultural and imagistic aesthetic values towards. Music crosses wide boundaries of culture, of sacred ritual, high art, motivational underscore, pop music and entertainment, background and sonic filler, and yet all these states cross-pollinate and relate to each other as we as a global people have assigned a high value and place to the poetic and transformative nature of being in tune to these vibrations, either as a player, composer, or listener.
That is a pretty darn amazing thing !
That music reflects the environment it arises from is no real surprise. The sultry weather and spiritual climate of the rural south in America 150 years ago gave birth to the music of the blues. The rhythmic and percussive musics of Africa and latin america arising out of the relationship between the richly textured and untamed environment, and a human culture so connected to primordial aspects of nature and magic, and man's inherent connection to the rhythms of the world. The resonance between the human culture and the mirroring environment, and the attunement to the underlying properties surrounding the artistic culture in those areas, gave rise to expressions of music and spiritualism that accurately reflected, and resonated with not only the surrounding environment, but the soul of the people living there.
It is no wonder that the raw and aggressive percussive poetry of Rap music is arising out of the urban jungles and desolate cultural landscapes of our inner cities, because in each of these musics, in each of these origins, is both the seed of resonance and also the seed of transformation. That element of transformation is what draws us to music. The timelessness of Mozart and the driving swing of Oscar Peterson, or the edge and pathos of Stevie Ray Vaughn. All humane artists with a connection to the vast unknown, that they mirror in their playing, and we recognize on a soul level.
The question then becomes; how is this possible ?
It seems so simple to realize that we are all a part of these multiple resonances. That in fact we are subject to their forces on so many levels that we cannot even know the full depth to which we are effected. We talk of "good vibes" and "getting the willies" and other intangible vibratory states, and yet no real explanation places these thoughts or feelings in context. Intangible resonant forces that occur in every day life, expressions of the mystery of unknowing that surrounds us and pervades us at the subatomic level, resonant states that we ascribe to astrological phenomena like phases of the moon, or Mercury being in retrograde to explain breakdowns in communications or technology, or on a relevant topic, like musicians acknowledgement of the magic that can occur on nights of playing, where the music flows through the players as if they were merely conduits to a greater source. These are all incidents of attunement to primordial resonant forces. (Fluxes within the cultural paradigms could be seen as a heterodyne effect where the underlying resonance is being tuned to by the cultural undercurrent and the misalignment, the beating of the heterodyne effect, is seen in cultural disfunctionalism and malaise.) So while the culture may assault us with images and fantasies about what things are supposed to be, in truth we all actually know what really is supposed to be, but once again on a soul level of recognition.
The Music "industry" is in a definite global crisis. A common lament heard amongst the industry is the economic downturn and slowing of the overall industry. On the other hand not a lot of discussion is given over to topics like; oversaturation, quick artist turnover, stylistic purism as a means of dividing and splintering the market, also things like low level access to fairly high production technologies, and of course the internet as a new means of distribution and dissemination. These changes and fluxes in the paradigm are results of the economically driven agenda that has so deeply pervaded the music industry, and the realistic conflicting human need to attune ourselves, to resonate, with something larger than what we are being told is important.
I would say that the one true missing element is imagination. A call to re-awaken imagination, to invite discussion and open doors to the global music culture, and realize that economics only goes so far. It is a necessary factor and function, but in so totally focussing on that aspect we lose sight of the soul of music, and thereby lose touch with that which resonates so profoundly in all of us. Access to that primordial place where all frequencies resonate and we are somehow in touch with a part of that, that connection unites us all in our humanity. Missing or avoiding that, in pursuit of the almighty dollar, reduces that mystery and magic to the mundane, and so it is no wonder people lose interest and become apathetic.
I believe that it is within our grasp to create situations and opportunities that transform and re-write the cultural status quo. We are a fluid and ever changing global culture and we can change things at any moment, simply by choosing to do so. I believe that they key to change in our culture and within the music and artistic community is a call to re-awaken imagination and seek out depth and soul in all aspects of life. I think that the great Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi said things very clearly in his book Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, when he said, "All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something."
I think that is something we all can aspire to.