~ Songs and sentences and the message between.
“There are some days that you just want to sing”, said my mother sometimes. Which was hard for her as she knew she had virtually no innate “musical talent”. This “lack of talent” of course didn’t mean that she couldn’t or didn’t appreciate and love music, she did. In fact she loved music all the more because she could not herself create or share in the creation of the music herself.
I received my musical education, my “music lessons” from her. These were the lessons about the sight and sound of music, the patterns, the cadence, the mood, and the movement (personally moving) nature of the words in songs (I don’t think she ever used the word “lyrics”). These were not the word terms much less the “terminology” of a formal instruction based on harmony, melody, discordance, treble clefs, and syncopation. But the lessons have served me well nonetheless. One goes with what the environment provides.
This is like a day of singing, a day of live music, a day of bands blaring and waltz music in the evening air. It might be (to me) because it is Nevada Day, a day that I long learned to appreciate as “band day” parades and evening events with LP discs played on spinning record player turntables and amplified through the aid of public address system cone horns mounted on poles in the park. Music is a visual thing, the excitement as the approaching music gets louder or as it gets louder as one approaches a musical pavilion in a park, or the makeshift stage of four-legged chairs and a banjo or two elevated at best by a platform of “two bys” and wood planks.
My great grandfather was a professional musician. He was also a vigilante, a camel driver, and a hero of the west, but that is a story for another day. He was a professional because he was paid to strum and sing. He played at dances and weddings and public days of celebration and at all the other times when it seems like the sound of song is worth a quarter or more. He played alone and with others; different towns, different venues, different stages – he played in a lot of cities that don’t exist anymore and there probably isn’t a building still standing that held the weight of his feet. Music moves on.
In his day music was not recorded. The industry was diffuse and diffused. There were bigger names and smaller names, stars and hits yes, but for a “replay” one would have to find a real musician and hire him or her with money or barter or the currency of friendship, need, or spontaneity. It was thus the airwaves, the valleys, and the hills were filled with… (OK, I won’t say it – but mentally reference a movie).
The collapse of music probably began with piano rolls and the Edison-o-graph. These devices began the trend of the marketability (and marketing) of music by persons with no musical talent themselves who might even have been (or be) totally tone-deaf. It also enabled the censoring of music, there were no “jamming session” improvs on piano rolls and no “music of the
With no disrespect to Gershwin, Glenn Miller, Buck Owens, Elvis (sightings), or even the Beatles it is fair to say that there was a lot of marketing and packaging involved in the creation of “the music industry” during the 20th Century. Most of the money went to musical “no talents” and not to the musicians themselves, so much for the value of the “middle man” effect.
I grew up in this era of marketed musical monochromism, music without the color of great diversity as the purveyors of payola and profits pried the purse of the American experience open with “Billboard® hits” and “Top Forty®” tempos timed to the patterns of paydays and weekly allowances. “We” (read the collective of applicable generations) were conned, cleverly and willingly conned though it may be. This of course brings up the issue of “old music”.
The notion of old music is brought about by the notion of “new music”, as in “let’s buy some new music”, the operative word being “buy”. The concept is based on the notion that the secret of musical money is based on the notion that if one changes the music machines often enough all the “old music” will not play and one will have to buy all new music (I-Tunes® anyone, buy your MP4® players while they’re hot).
My cousin Cecelia, enough older than me to know better, bought a large collection of 78 RPM (breakable records) during the period of popular transition (circa early to mid 50‘s) to 33 RPM (LP’s) (unbreakable records). She was a music major in college. Her intent (as I remember it) was two-fold, (1) make money on the collectiblity of soon to be rare 78’s; (2) preserve the music that will never be re-released on the new format. She was half right and half wrong. 78’s are now worth $500 a piece, but all the songs from the old 78’s are available on the web as pirate downloads (not). In reality 78’s in pristine condition still sell for less (even in inflation bucks, not real-time money) than she bought them for when the “music was dying”; second, virtually none of her collection or any of her songs ever made it to the web much less the I-Tune® (virtual music) shop. The music died, as in “kill the music before it corrupts the youth and multiplies or brings back memories that conflict with the world view of the “master-minds” of musical prophecy, profits, and taste.
Musical conformity was never my strong suit. Which brings up my Melanie record album and a few dozen more albums of the same or even more esoteric ilk. Let me explain.
I buy (virtually steal, but its all very legal) my music from my local library. They have a “library sale” once a month for a day or two. Record albums (unbreakable LP’s) are a quarter each (25 pence) which has been the going rate to just hear three songs (much less own twelve) ever since they put juke boxes in restaurants more than a “ka jeebers” number of years ago. The really cool thing is that I get the usual twelve, (12!, count em) song tracks for this quarter, less than 2½ cents each (including full color extra-large album covers, lyrics, real cardboard containers, and genuine recyclable baked vinyl from oil fields), “take a bite out of that apple, Steven Jobs”.
At the last sale I coughed up a two dollar bill (or offered two one dollar bills that came to two dollars) and went home with eight albums free and clear (virtually free music, mostly clear sound tracks). I had forgotten how good (and different) analog music really sounds. I had forgotten how important it was to have music that ages (with you, with one) as in grooves that are wearing down as the growing older body is wearing down. “Groovy” music is a prelude to the inevitable process of the progression of age. The “record wrinkles” that carry the music and the memories become wider and deeper, more apparent, there is dust and scratches, each songs sound changes and the change is good. There is no botox for old records, except for the illusion of MP3 players and the ubiquitous I-Pods which seem everywhere (a nation in denial, as if everyone were equipped with digital bodies that will never grow old and never die).
Don McLean wrote something about Chevy’s® (the GM® thing), levees (the post-Katrina thing?), and the “day the music died”. It (the song) has been embraced by a whole new generation that maybe is the one who it was written for (words of the prophets written on the subway walls thing) in the first place. Or maybe it’s just another old anthem of the Boomer past, music that died long ago but just hasn’t been buried yet or is (or should be) “broken” as in the breakable 78’s of Cecelia’s lost and missing music collection.
But before I get too maudlin or cryptic I should get back on track to Melanie and her roller skates in an after-oil metaphor world. The song I like and remember best is Baby Day on her Gather Me album. It wasn’t the White Album and it wasn’t the Stones, maybe that’s the whole point (there’s the Bush and friends (FOB) vision, there’s the rather different Melanie vision) there is a choice. One persons bad songs are another persons great songs. There is no such thing as “good music”, some music is “breakable” and some music is “unbreakable”, that’s all. It’s where the music takes one that matters. As my mother said, “Listen, see. Sing”.
[2007.10.31 / Wednesday – Melanie]