7 02 2011

It’s weird to think about, really, how are lives are broken down into minutes and seconds. Planning has been taken to a microscopic level, schedules must be abided, targets must be reached. It’s all good to an extent, because the way or world is set up we must accomplish things to get ahead, put food on the table for ourselves or our families, plan for our retirement. There must be a debt for our mastery/defiance of time and space. The benefits of a global community come at a price.

Waiting to board the plane this morning, I had a conversation with a man regarding the virtues and dilemmas of window, middle and aisle seats. Because I travel often for work, and bring expensive equipment on board with me, I will sometimes prefer a middle seat to an aisle or window if it mean I will be in a better boarding group, thus ensuring bin space for my stuff. With exuberant eyes, he told me how he just loved window seats, how to him they represented mankind’s greatest achievement. By this he meant our ability to go anywhere on the planet in a matter of hours, when long-distance travel use to be considered in days, weeks, or months. Of course, for those who cannot afford or access air travel, this still remains the case.

It made me wonder how being up so high, 34,000 feet to be specific, and looking out of the window for miles and miles, so far that you can see the earth curve away, affects our perspective of life when we are on the ground. How do we relate to distance? To mountains or clouds? To walking? To planes flying overhead? How has our psychology changed since we began to view the earth from such great heights?

One of my favorite professors in college, N. Scott Momaday, was a Pulitzer Prize winning author and a Native American of the Kiowa tribe. With his deep, booming voice, he used to tell us the creation myth of his people, of how his ancestors crawled from the underworld to this world through a log, how they originally dwelled in the mountains, their view of the world inhibited by tree and shade. Some brave leaders ultimately led the tribe out of the mountains to the Great Plains, and there they were introduced to the single most powerful and catalyzing element their society would ever encounter: the horse.

On the back of a horse, a Kiowa could see for miles. They could see herds of buffalo or enemy raids while still miles away. It gave them time to react, but more importantly, it changed their psychology, their world view (on account of actually being able to see the world). It gave them the opportunity to plan, and they became wise to the advantages therein, from making the most of precious few minutes to avoid or prepare for an attack or laying the groundwork for generations to come. Their culture became enriched not only by the deeds of past ancestors but by the promise of the future as well.

There can be no doubt of the benefits of technological advances for both the Kiowa and our culture today, and they parallel each other with the enhancement of long range vision in the literal sense, but in a metaphorical way as well. And while this ability was and is used for the good of the tribe/society, it’s not without its bitter end. The horse brought the Kiowa into its own as a brave tribe, the became masters of the Great Plains and of war, which brought great glory and a heritage as well as the tragedies that go along with it. While, the thousands of flights every day around the world make possible incredible achievements in every profession and help enrich our global community, yet they also pour tons of carbon into the atmosphere, warming the planet, making our future a little less certain, even as we plan for it.


Ghost Consciousness

1 02 2011

It lurks without you knowing it is there, until you feel it; in the aisles at the record store, while flipping through channels on the radio, when staying up way past bedtime sampling music online for that sound that you know in your marrow must be out there but haven’t found yet. I call it the ghost consciousness, because you can’t quite put your finger on it. It’s probably different for everyone; we all have different tastes. (Although, there are times I believe when we share the feeling. Like 9/11, where, separate from the tragedy and the horror, a sense of foundation was ripped out from underneath us and a feeling beyond loss took its place, an enigmatic shadow gathering here, dissipating there, only to rush in again, shaking constitutions; an wretched, aching cavity.)

The ghost consciousness is rampant in music (and the arts in general) because of all the artists who seem to take their bow before they reach their fullest potential. Rock and roll has been notorious for this since its inception (Buddy Holly, Richie Valens) and reached a critical mass in the late 60s and early 70s with drugs and alcohol playing a key role. But we shall never forget the classical genius of Mozart, succumbing at an early age, and the spontaneous wizardry of Charlie Parker, who gave his life away to heroin.

In light of more recent times, Kurt Cobain cannot be left out of the discussion. Whether you liked Nirvana or despised them, Kurt’s exit left an undeniable and ever-present hole, and I am not talking about the band that released a record that same week. That Nirvana changed the world is irrefutable; they didn’t just happen to be in the right place at the right time, they WERE the right place at the right time. And as fans scrambled to ease the pain with something as visceral and indicting and bone jarring and beautiful (they never would), a dark misty gloom settled over all of rock and roll. The entire notion of alternative music would forever be haunted by Kurt’s absence and by the decay of the wonder of what delights he would have served our ears.

All the tragedy aside, I do believe we are fortunate to have been left with what gifts these artists did give us. And there are many who will say that there is nothing else: this is what they made, and that’s it. But for fans, it’s not that easy. We love to watch our favorite acts evolve, and thus evolve with them. They enrich our lives, and when they are gone, not only are we robbed of hearing their next masterpiece, there is a part of us that never gets to be realized, a voice that will forever be silent. And that is the ghost that hangs over our heads when we desperately search but never find.

The True King

27 01 2011

The fact that I am about to write these words makes me want to vomit: A new kingdom will arise out of the mire of the many.

So ancient and itchy, I know, but as the core idea pertains to the status music today, I’m all for it. Don’t get me wrong, I think the proliferation of creativity and independent music is wonderful, for all the creative people taking part, for the gestalt, and for our culture as a whole. Affordable technology has placed production in the hands of the creative, myself included, and the results have been massive. There is some real evolution going on (creatively speaking), and the excitement level is so high, no body seems to care about where it’s going. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, because we’ll get there one way or another, right?

That’s fine. But, at risk of sounding old fashioned and impatient, I want to worship one new bad-ass band that redefines what a rock song is supposed to sound like! The beauty and problem with the state of things in 2011 is that we have too many bands doing this, each one a soma to its minor masses, each one contributing to the cosmic spiral of creative chaos, but none uniting millions of human animals and inviting them to leave their belief (and Blackberries) at the door and join them for two hours of face-melting magic.

I listened to the newest (not-so-independent) Kings of Leon record this morning, and I liked it. It really SOUNDS good. The production team behind it has a proven track record, and has helped make the band lots of money. But as good and as popular as the Kings are, what they are not is revolutionary: innovative enough so that you can hear a whole gaggle of bands after them and say, “Well, I know who they’re trying to sound like.” Please don’t confuse my discourse as sympathy for wannabes, because those bands are merely one of the side effects when a single band conquers all others and captures the hearts, minds and genitals of a generation, whose influence ultimately spans generations and lasts decade after decade! Who else out there is challenging the throne once held by bands as mighty as Led Zeppelin or Tool? Jack White clearly has the gravitas to command such worship, but his efforts are so spread out, there is no singular movement to get behind other than the man himself. And while there may be White Stripes reunions here and there, they already are a band of the past, though in terms of relevance and influence they certainly fit the pedigree.

I am not here to lambast the Kings, or any other band for that matter. They worked so hard, and they deserve the success that they have earned. I am just ready for the next band that just blows the doors of the establishment, strips the paint from the siding, blasts the glass into infinite particles that reflect the light from millions of smartphone screens and sculpt it into a mean and lustrous crown. Yet, given how personal music is and how many choices there are today, this discovery may very well rest with me, not our culture, and that’s what being independent is all about.