Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Freedom... be the President of the United States." No, I'm not going to write a political blog. That line comes from Mike D's remix of Ween's "Freedom of '76"...Kind of a rarity, but seek it out, because the intro he tacks on it is really entertaining.

Freedom, freedom in music, in art, in expression...This is what everyone is looking for, at least those who are desiring to CREATE. Many listeners, and the culture at large, are NOT looking for this whatsoever. Society and many people within it are looking for things that can be put neatly into little boxes that they call "categories" or "styles" or (grrrr) "genres"...whereas the REALITY is that to many who CREATE, such words are...meaningless.

This is the kind of blog that is going to frustrate people (including some very close to me, although I will not single out who those people're welcome). However, I think that sometimes people are frustrated by the truth. Ultimately, music and art don't have any obligation or recourse to these things. The music that I make or that ANYONE else makes, for that matter, does not have any inherent responsibility to fit neatly into a box so that YOU can know what to call it. This is the biggest lie of the entire entertainment industry.

I have just finished jumping around to some different sites/blogs that I found the links to on Peter Breslin's blog (, most of which having to do with so-called "free jazz" or other types of improvised music. The reality is that there is all kinds of art and music out there that begs to be listened to, but in a posture that does not subject it to any sort of "boxing". It even demands a kind of attention that is purely about the experience of listening itself, and not about, "What do I do with this? What do I call it? Where do I file it away? How do I know what "it" is so that I never have to hear "it" again?" Some days I feel like that's why the term "free jazz" was invented; so that people knew what to call this thing that they were being told to avoid like the plague (or so that the detractors would have something more constructive to call it other than "noise". Whatever. I'm not a detractor and I call it wondrous).

Mind you, there ARE scenarios in which "style" is a concern (for instance...I played my first gig as a substitute guitarist for my father-in-law's bluegrass band last night, and, although I have yet to play a solo in a performance context with them, if I do, I will definitely make some effort to adhere to a bluegrass "style" in said improvisatory moment). Mostly, though, it's a concern in scenarios where, as a musician, I am not "in charge" of the aesthetic direction of the proceedings. In other words, as a side man (like the bluegrass band scenario), I am under the obligation to adhere to the prescribed "style" of the musical context. However, if I am the LEADER of the ensemble in question, and I want to go really "out" in my solo (like I do sometimes in the second solo on "Hey Abe Lincoln"...doesn't really sound so much like Tom Petty at that point, does it??), I can, and I will, and I SHOULD, as far as I'm concerned. If that one moment takes that song ("Hey Abe Lincoln") out of the box of "classic rock" or "singer/songwriter" or WHATEVER, then so damn be it. I really don't care. From my perspective, that's the way the song is SUPPOSED to be, and it's not about rebellion or some deep-seeded, reactionary non-conformity...It's not a reaction to ANYTHING. It's my pure action. My pure, authentic, artistic ACTION that I make out of my deepest being.

And THAT, my friends, is what we should all be pursuing...the purest, most authentic artistic moment that you can conjure up at any given time, regardless of genre. If you are interested in writing for electronic instruments, orchestral instruments, guitar, bass and drums, and you want each one of those contexts to sound different, then that's okay. Go for it (I say this as much to remind myself of this truth as anything else).

Go out there today and find at least one piece of music that you've never heard anything like before in your life. Start breaking down those boxes.

P.S. Please don't mistake "passion" for "militancy". I am not "militant" about this. I am "passionate". I welcome your comments, your arguments to the contrary...I will just say one more thing. It is not the FAULT of the art or artist that many people find it difficult to break out of "boxes"...therefore it is not the RESPONSIBILITY of the artist to cater to that reality.


Miss Scarlett said...

Bravo, obviously I can't completely relate as far as music goes, but I can with art in general. I completely agree that just because a piece, whether it be music, art, writing, etc. doesn't fit in a particular box, doesn't mean we shouldn't just go out and find new wrapping, or better yet, make our own (I personally prefer the funny papers). On top of that, I think the real jewel is being able do to something unique, that hasn't been seen, or done or heard before, and somehow, sometime, it will pay off to be different.

Mixtape Jones said...

Thanks, yo...By the way, I was finally able to add your blog to my "blogs I'm following". You should add mine, too.