November 5th, 2005
The following is an email about music I sent to my good pal Erin last week or so. We were contemplating the role of music now, in the past, “top artists” list, and more.
When I showed this to Leah, she said she missed me writing this way.
It’s been edited just a little to make it a bit more sensible and palatable to a public audience:
I have known you since I was 18 years old and I hope I know you till I’m 81 (at least).
That’s apropos of nothing.
Funny we’re talking about music. I find myself connecting with my kids (yo! I have kids and actually feel paternal towards them!) through music. There’s something really amazing about playing They Might Be Giants to the boys and having them respond so positively. Something bout being able to have Dev bring up some artist, or some style, and I can immediately iTunes up something from my collections and he’ll go “how’d you do that so fast ?!?” … all incredulous.
The other day on a drive to Santa Barbara I played tapes from a million years ago. One of the mix tapes you made (for you, and a copy for me): Coffee House Ministry. The song Valley Vista was having all kinds of new meanings for me.
I’m not really answering your question. But I’m feeling philosophical for some reason. I’m probably embracing in a new way all these changes I’ve taken on. I enjoy them. They scare the sh*t out of me, but I really love them, and myself, and my family. And if I haven’t mentioned it, I love you E. I think about you, and you’ve had a big influence on me. I think besides my uncle, you’re the first person I met who made me really think it was cool to be way into music, to care about what matters. It’s something about living an aesthetic life. Something about looking for things that move you.
Right now Leah’s (and I suppose my) niece is staying with us. She’s 19 and nearly 20 and plays piano and guitar beautifully. she plays some standards or Fiona Apple or Joan Osbourne’s “What If God Was One Of Us” and it’s so moving. It’s a view and experience of music I never thought I’d have. Devon plays alto sax and piano and more. Tony, all of 11, plays tenor sax in the middle school band and digs it. Alex loves to sing along to bad R&B on the radio. Music has so changed for me. Last Christmas Leah’s family went to a hall (a Mormon church hall as it happens) and sang Christmas carols. And they/we sounded pretty good. Like I said, a view of music I never considered.
This is the kind of thing that I understand when I read Zappa quotes about how important music is… about how live music is so wonderful. It’s what I love about Stew, a music artist who I actually have met in person, who I think is a genius, and knows me well enough to ask me to make a blog and a powerpoint template for him. It’s demystified the “star” aspect of musical fandom, but it’s reinforced my admiration for those with talent, and for the ability of sound to move me.
The other night I saw an old Moz video. _Sing your life_. I played that song for Leah a long time ago – put it on a mix CD for her. She loves it. It says it all man. It makes me feel like crying. I’m pretty sure the first time I heard that song it was on a Mix tape that you sent me when I had moved away.
_”Make no mistake my friend your pointless life will end
So sing your life”_
I mean, seriously. That is what music is for me now. It’s some kind of affirmation. Not that I only like positive “up with people” stuff. I love dark Steely Dan stuff. The resonances of a song about a breakup, say “Black Cow” –
“I can’t cry anymore
While you run around
Just when it
Seems so clear
Drink your big black cow
And get out of here”
I mean, dang, I know what a breakup is now. I mean I _really_ do. And the music filters through that, amplifying it.
I suppose this is why my Mom loves Sinatra – she’s picking up on some kind of complexity of a singer singing from some place of life experience. A richness of performance comes from the depth of emotion running behind it.
To your question about keeping up with music today… I have no idea how to keep up with new music. I don’t and can’t. I mean, I could, but I don’t. I hear things on the radio and they sometimes interest me, but it’s really the exception.
The only band I have a strong following for now is Stew and The Negro Problem. I get everything I can of them. Everything else seems to be secondary. I listen to my existing stuff mostly.
And as for halls of fame, or most “whatever” lists, I think I just don’t buy it. Art is too important to be categorized. For some people, Rush is like this huge band for them, it’s not for me, tho maybe someday it will be. I nevery thought I’d be a completist Steely Dan fan, but I am now. I’m most interested in bands which have some kind of unique longevity, complex musicality, and great lyrics. Zappa qualifies, but so do TMBG and Steely Dan, and Randy Newman too. Many
others qualify, Moz, Prince, Ben Folds.
I still get excited about a good record store though. Amoeba gets me off. But that’s a special treat which does not happen often. Random trips to Tower don’t happen for me much.
Hmm. Now that was a rant, EW.
Fun to put this stuff on paper, as it were.
“Information is not knowledge.
Knowledge is not wisdom.
Wisdom is not truth.
Truth is not beauty.
Beauty is not love.
Love is not music.
Music is THE BEST.”
- Frank Zappa