It is for
shaking your ass
in time with others
being your personal soundtrack
drowning out the offensive
making the intolerable tolerable
connecting with people
giving voice to aggression
making the sweet love
making the unsweet love
drowning out the sounds we make
transforming the moment
Imposing your tastes on others.
etc. etc. etc.
These are all pretty vague categories which can be applied to many of the situations in which music is commonly used. The instances in which music use has most recently impressed me were related to three situations.
I spoke to bass player who was amazed by the breadth of musical knowledge possessed by younger musicians. These teenagers, benefiting from an abundance of leisure hours and the vast resources of the internet, were naming off dozens of obscure bands from three and four decades ago. This made me think about past bands, and musical styles, I had dismissed before, and would likely not revisit now. My own tastes are somewhat figured out, and though I am open to many forms of music, but they are rooted in a sharing system based on mix-tapes. Inherently limited to people I would have some form of physical contact with. Here is a generation with unparalleled access to the history of music, and their dominant limitation hinges on their curiosity. What does all this access mean in the long term? Is there a potential for information overload? Does taste necessitate refinement? Asking the question of what kind of music one likes, will the answer forever be, “Everything”?
I saw the Glenn Branca Ensemble play last Friday and noticed a lot of older fans in the audience. Some, it seems, had come out for the first time in a long time, and some of their guests were not prepared for what they had been dragged to. Lately I have tried to constrain myself by not allowing nostalgia to drive my projects or my activities, but admittedly, I wanted to reconnect with the last time I saw them a few years ago. Then, the music had begun like a sloppy rehearsal, Branca restarting and adjusting musicians already in progress, with no clear beginning that transformed into a driving 45 minute assault. This time he conducted instead of playing his double-body guitar, and seemed merely drunk. His back turned to the audience and his gestures sporadic, pained and wild. I felt his movements were just one element in a giant trance-inducing spectacle. The stage became a focal point of my experience. I felt my role as witness/spectator was cemented by the presence of the raised stage and the lighting, and as a witness I felt myself less a participant.
Twice this week I noticed panhandlers shaking their change cups in a rhythmic sequence, I have observed this. I first assumed their behavior resulted in the highest revenue, compared with the annoyance many people feel at the request of charity. Then I thought that perhaps there was a law against panhandling, and this was a loophole in the law, since no verbal request for money was ever made. But as with many tasks people perform for extended periods of time, I thought their might be something more to this. Firstly, the panhandler is keeping time, and introducing that time signature to his environment. From that simple beat there might be a chance of a reciprocal bond between the panhandler and the listener. It is music in a highly basic form, and likely closer tied to music in its infancy.
From these experiences I wondered about the future of traditional forms of music. Over time, what does globalization mean for music throughout the world and are we witness to the last times in which recordings captured music that was not informed by all music.