Art or Music?

If you had to choose only one to have, which would it be? Could you choose? Are they not both components of the essence that is life?

Letter from elementary school regarding music and art classes. Jilted grammar due to Google Translate as the letter comes initially in French.

For some years, whenever I have a kid approaching 6th grade, this is the letter I get from school. Due to what I can only assume is a lack of resources, kids have to choose if they’d prefer to have an art or a music class moving forward.

I have always felt, and continue to feel that this isn’t a choice kids should have to make.

Can you even separate art and music? Should we? What about language, storytelling, and culture – which are components of both – will kids at some point have to choose to leave behind some or all of those as well?

Analog to Analog

Back in 1988 when I was a junior in high school I’d been playing drums for several years, but was still pretty much a hack. I’d taken some private and group lessons, but my playing was mostly confined to putting headphones on and playing to my favorite records. I didn’t ‘practice’ in any way, shape or form.

One of my friends at school was Joe Reinsel. He was the real deal. He was in the school band, could read music and also played drums. I’d go over to his house sometimes and he’d show me licks and beats he was working on or figured out. I remember one time he was breaking down some Stewart Copeland stuff from Police records. Fantastic stuff that I either didn’t know about, or couldn’t get my head around. He had some Police albums on vinyl. So I borrowed them, went back to my buddy’s house and recorded them to cassette from his dad’s turntable.

Although a few years ago I sold all my CDs, I’ve kept all my cassettes in the garage. They’re what I listen to when working out there on bikes, or whatever. Radio reception is only so-so. The cassettes are great because they don’t really mind the cold, the dirt, or whatever. They just work. And the guaranteed trip in the Wayback machine each time I throw one in is great. I’ve got mix tapes, store bought tapes, album copies. Most of them I hand-made artwork/sleeves for. The best are the non- or ambiguously labelled ones without any track listing. Throw one in and go along for the ride. Because they were often copied from other people, there are many artists/albums that I didn’t get into that much or never acquired on CD that are fun to revisit all these years later.

I borrowed 4 albums from Joe – Regatta de Blanc, Zenyatta Mondatta, Ghost in the Machine and Singles – which I recorded on 2 cassettes back to back, one album each side. One of the cool parts of listening to these is there’s a ton of vinyl hiss and fuzz recorded right in – especially in the silence between the tracks. It just dawned on me the other day that these particular Police cassettes are now 31 years old.

John Butler, Ocean, 2012

John Butler has been playing this song his entire career from busking on streets to stadiums. Like his career it has morphed and changed over time, and like one of his shows is unique each time he plays it. Many artists have ‘signature tunes’ that become canon. This is his. So cool to see a) a piece of music that is essentially a part of who the man is that he never seems to tire of playing b) someone in such complete command of their instrument while simultaneously channelling something from somewhere else.

I remember years ago when a friend of mine played me a different version of this and it blew me away. This was/is like discovering it all over again.

From the YouTube description:

“OCEAN is a very interesting aspect of my life. It is part of my DNA. It conveys all things I can’t put into words. Life, loss, love, spirit. As I evolve so too does ‘Ocean’. The song was first recorded as part of my first album/cassette, “Searching For Heritage”, which I sold when I busked, then for my first self-titled studio album 12 years ago — “John Butler (1998)”. The song has been watched online incredibly over 25 million times in various formats, nearly always live, be it from MusicMax Sessions or from one of the many festivals I have had the pleasure to play. I’d like to thank you for your continued support over all these years; it means so much to me. I would like to thank you by offering this first studio recording of ‘Ocean’ in over a decade as a free download. I recorded it in my favourite studio, The Compound here in Fremantle Western Australia, a studio you helped me build. This marks just another fleeting moment in a career that is very much ongoing. I look forward to bringing you many new songs and albums into the future and continuing this amazing journey with you ALL. THANK YOU, J.B”

John Butler

Nick Cave Kicks Out The Jams While All the World’s AI Moshes in the Pit

In this great post over at Brain Pickings – Maria Popova shines a light on Nick Cave’s answer to a fan question about future artificial intelligence creating ‘perfect songs’ with no humans needed. The short answer is, yes they will, but the long answer is they still won’t be the same.

Nick fucking lays it down and single-handedly summarizes what I’ve been feeling but was unable to get out in any coherent way when I’ve been thinking about the future of music in an AI world. Get over there and witness his glory for yourself.

I don’t feel that when we listen to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” it is only the song that we are listening to. It feels to me, that what we are actually listening to is a withdrawn and alienated young man’s journey out of the small American town of Aberdeen — a young man who by any measure was a walking bundle of dysfunction and human limitation — a young man who had the temerity to howl his particular pain into a microphone and in doing so, by way of the heavens, reach into the hearts of a generation.

Nick Cave

Amen, Brother.

The Grudge

The Grudge

Saturn Comes Back Around

“Saturn ascends

Choose one or ten

Hang on or be

Humbled again”

In astrology, planets “ascending” means one of two things, either entering the “ascendant” (or “rising sign”), or coming close to another planet. In this case it would be Saturn coming back around to it’s original place in the birth chart.

Choose one or ten is a reference to the sephiroth of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. One is Kether, the first emanation and the “higher” path, while ten is Malkuth, the last sephiroth and considered the “lower” path.

Saturn is generally feared because it’s the most “misery” inducing planet due to it often bringing hardship and difficult trials into one’s life. However, what most people don’t realize is that Saturn is there to show you what your limits are, currently, but it’s also going to teach you how to work within as well as how to break free of them. In a sense, you have to learn to crawl before you can walk.

You can essentially choose to “hang on”, by taking the higher path and trying to find purpose and reason in the events of your life, or you can be humbled again because Saturn will keep pushing you down until you learn the lesson.

Much of what Saturn teaches during this period is about letting go of the illusions of our fractured psyche which is why we see this interplay of dragging down/lifting up so much throughout the song.

You can lose yourself in the emotional tidal waves of pain, anger and frustration (drags you down), or you can let it all go (and regain your child-like innocence).

By shattering our ego-fueled illusions (generally constructed in childhood), Saturn actually brings us to a place of maturation and peace through acceptance, release, and letting go of the pain and trauma of our early years of life.

-Via Genius Lyrics Commentors

Pumpkins Reunion

When you read things like “Smashing Pumpkins ‘Reunion’ Record”, after first making sure that it’s not just a clickbait headline, you’d be forgiven for finding yourself with a musical hard-on. Alas, the bizkit is a bit limp now. Granted, this is not a full reunion – there’s no D’Arcy – but the other 3 dudes are there, so there was promise. For me this record wasn’t what I wanted it to be. Until track 4. Solara kicks ass. But that was the peak, and then everything went downhill again, and that was after pretty much forcing myself through the first 3 tracks to get there. I’ll come right out and say this is all on me. Understand, I have a serious psycho-musicalogical history with the first two Pumpkins records. I believe they may have altered my brain chemistry. Frankly I don’t know what to do with a modern-day Billy Corgan. He’s matured and so have I so logic says I shouldn’t be expecting ‘Gish’ from these guys again. Honestly, I wasn’t. But that’s what I wanted. I wanted ‘Gish’ with better production. Which admittedly is unrealistic. And selfish. Arguably, this is a good record. The production is on point, Jimmy back behind the kit is in excellent form and the songs are well composed and delivered (though I think some of them have too much synth/keyboards in ‘em, but whatevs.) I believe critics will call this a solid reunion record, and that’s probably a fair statement. For me, after listening to ‘Solara’ 6 times in a row (ok, and a few spins of ‘Marchin On’), I turned it off and put on ‘Gish’, basking fully in my retrogrouch status. They say you can never go home again, and that may be true, but it would seem you can still visit that trashed group house with the beer-soaked carpets where you lived for awhile any time you want. Don’t take it personally, it’s not you, Billy, it’s me.

OLP Live

OLP Live

Buncha years ago, I gave @lilsistor my old iPod full of a bunch of tunes. I’d forgotten what was on there. This OLP live album was on there and she stumbled on it and, though she wasn’t really a fan prior, this album resonated with her. It’s become a connection we share even though we don’t often see each other in person.

She’s had a bit of a rough go the past few years – kidney issues, dialysis and in the past few months several strokes that have made it challenging for her to communicate in addition to struggling with cognitive issues. Throughout it all, she remains positive and upbeat. She’s by far one of the bravest people I know and inspires me every day.

As I type this she’s waiting to go in for a heart surgery that will fix an anomaly she has that doctors believe will stop the strokes in the future. I spoke to her last night and she let me know that she had the album with her and would be listening to it in the morning – so I am too.

Yesterday I posted about music between me and the band. Cool thing about music is the mojo can flow in lots of other directions too.