Saturday, September 26, 2009

Truth plus music provides reality safety net

I actually hurried back to my room from lunch in order to post this blog follow up because I think these further thoughts will help all of you even further to understand what I am explaining, to better inspire rather than stunt your artistry, and to promote more reality based peace of mind, even in edgy and interesting art.

It's not just the lyrics, the words, that I am cautioning must be honest, and not dishonest, and truthful, in addition to "valid," but also the compositions, the music itself. Here is the perfect example, which will help you to not only better understand the history of popular music, but also the human psyche.

Looking again at the blues, ask yourself, what are "the blues?" They are songs that follow a certain lyrical and compositional format. The lyrics tend to be about the hardships of life. The music follows, for the most part, a very specific structure called the 12 bar shuffle. Now, why would an entre genre of music follow a pretty limited structure of composition? Because it is the ideal format. It is ideal not only for the particular song type, but also for the human psyche and well being.

The blues shuffle is irresistible. When one listens to the blues, whether you are a fan or not, you cannot usually resist bobbing your head to that sound, tapping your foot, and/or swaying forward (as the performers often do) in time to the beat. Like a perfect match, the blues shuffle stimulates an ideal response in the human heart, body and spirit. There is a positive interaction between the music itself (forget about the lyrics for a moment) and the human body. In other words, the blue shuffle is not a downer trip, a bum out session, or berserker or suicide stimulation! But it's also not cloying syrup and artificial happy faces. It is a fundamental truthful positive reality foundation, musically, upon which a variety of "hardship of life" and "sad" or "troubled" lyrical themes can be built.

So the blues shuffle is musically and psychically a truth based solid reality that is a safety net upon which people who have suffered a great deal can write their tunes of the hardships of life, without opening up a "valid" but dishonest black hole, in both themselves and their listening audience.

This is why virtually all of the early great rock bands produced music that was directly built upon the blues. Both the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, for example, have talked from the very beginning about the fundamental influence of the blues upon them. Without even realizing it they adopted and adapted the truth based "safety net" of the musicality of the blues, transforming and importing it into the new genre of rock and roll. That is one of the reasons why rock and roll as a genre is certainly not evil.

The trouble arises when genres such a heavy metal and later rap totally misunderstand the difference between composing and writing for a "valid effect" and being genuinely truth based and honest. Without a safety net of musicality that does not at all intend to make the writers, performers or listeners sink into a black hole of unreality and dishonest despair, much of the music of the 1980's marketed dishonesty, disguised as "validity," "authenticity," and "that's how the disenfranchised youth 'really' 'feels.'" But that is not at ALL honest or true. How do we know that? Let's look at some comparisons of songs and behavior.

Think of any heavy metal gloom and doom song. Regardless how "authentic" that song is supposed to be, do you think they felt that way as they actually recorded the song? As they perform the song to their audience? Far from it, since just as those musicians are performing for their fans, they are on the natural (or artificial, but I'm only nodding at that factor, not discussing it now) high of having fans participate in enjoying their music. People are singing about how awful and crap life is just as they are actually having the time of their lives with an admiring audience. How bogus is that?

Compare that to a sad song that pops into my head on occasion. The lyrics I am thinking of go, "In my room, way at the end of the hall, I sit and I stare at the wall, each day is just like the last, for I live in the past." Now that is both valid and truthful, good "sad" music. It, like the blues, describes a situation, one that can be both thought about and felt, with a truthful safety net, rather than spewing garbage about the artificial blackness of life. So please understand I use this example deliberately so that you know I am not trying to be thought police, but actually I am trying to show how many of you have enslaved your own thoughts to artificiality, just as you most think you are "keeping it real." Spewing is never real because no one actually lives in evil spew all of the time.

So, looking back to the blues, the blues can sing about addiction, death, despair, poverty, a destroyed love life, etc, and still keep it in context, in reality, using a musical safety net that does not promote total despair and the desire to blow one's brains out! This is why early rock and roll had fantastic protest songs and songs of social awareness, again without giving people the impression that we might as well all hang ourselves now since we only belong to evil alien matrix black universe of nothing but despair. That is, I guess, "valid" if someone actually thinks that, but it is the height of dishonesty.

There is the slippery slope of symbolism. We all love to wonder "who is that song about." The classic example is, of course, "Layla." All rock fans knew the story of Eric Clapton and George Harrison's wife. More to the point, though, it was and remains an incredibly valid and authentic great song not because we know who it was specifically in the background, but because the song is clear enough that we know it is about someone. What I am decrying in my previous blog post, about why I totally stopped listening in total to all popular music for twenty years or so, is that music lyrics became hidden agenda driven. They sound like they are about a person, but they are about hidden cult beliefs, or they sound like a song of despair about life, but they are actually about the sadness of a specific person. It is dishonest to craft songs like that; there is just no way to sugar coat that assessment. Hidden and symbol messages are mind altering arrogant affectations by those who have the power to do so but lack the wisdom and ethics to understand why that is both wrong for their public but also wrong for themselves, robbing them of their own artistic integrity and authenticity. If you are unhappy about a girl, write that you are unhappy about that girl... don't write a song bashing her religion, for example as a "stand in" for your actual topic. If you totally disguise your artistic intention in impenetrable symbolism you are being dishonest to yourself and to your public.

Read lyrics of blues writers from the classic era of that genre and you can rest assured that if they are complaining about addiction, they are actually talking about addiction, and not using the entire song as a lie, covering up that they are really unhappy with their salary. Or if they write about being lonely, or having a lost love, they are actually singing about being lonely, or having a lost love, and not using it as a "step in" substitute for writing that they no longer believe in God.

You know what it's like? Imagine you are a painter. You paint the picture you really want to produce on the back of a canvas, and cover it up with paper. Then on the front of the canvas you paint it all green with a few cubist symbols on it. You sell it to someone based on what they have seen on the front, or worse, you sell it to a museum who proudly display your work in their facility, with a sign next to it describing what the green and cubist symbol means, having no clue the real painting is on the back under paper. You made money and you got your rocks off, but was that authentic art? Was that artistic integrity? Was that honest? Of course not. Saying that "no one was hurt by it" is also wrong. You've made people who trusted in you look like fools. That is always wrong.

So that's another analogy that I hope helps to explain how music estranged from, separated from, and ultimately divorced me, not I it. Disguised sniggering is not honest artistry of music, no matter how creative the lyrics and the composition. Also, music that is intended to convey a dishonest world view so that people can feel brainwashed, for either worse (the usual case because there is no utopia other than the truth) or not is also not authentic art. If you are called to be an artist, then be an artist, but be a honest and truth based human being first and foremost of all.

I hope you have found this helpful. If you are a creative person, or just an interested young person (Hi!), listen to some of the traditional blues, or at least read the lyrics, as a great detox experience. It will really cleanse your palate for the truth.