Monday, May 05, 2008
(I Sometimes Leave) The Musical Kids' Table
I like to keep it light, most days. Life is not without its travails, and I don't go looking for trouble where it ain't, as they say. Anybody who's actually had a job on which they depended for their daily bread where someone was yelling at you will never again have a radio on with someone screaming at you in 4/4 time.
I don't tend towards the saccharine either, and so I am not allowed the refuge of the lightweight ditty like others of the no yelling persuasion. I like country music, but I haven't heard any for forty years. There's some "Journey Wearing Stetsons" on the radio dial where Country Music used to be found; I've never heard a country song on the radio I cared for since FM radios were installed in cars, and I don't know where to look for it.
I don't mind pop music as much as many of my friends because I don't pay much attention to it. If you think it's important, than you can get awful fussy about whether Def Leppard was better before or after the drummer lost one of his arms. I just worry if one arm alone can stand all the tattoo ink. And then turn the dial.
There are times when you desire to listen to music made by people who take what they're doing seriously. Respighi and Mozart and Vivaldi and Handel and Satie and Schumann and Beethoven are always handy to have around, and unlike Lindsay Lohan discs, they're cheap. I guess it costs a lot more to cover an acre of floozie freckles in pancake makeup for the cover photo and hire four rock musicians and a studio for an afternoon than to get forty or so all-world classical musicians and an opera house. And two microphones.
But Mozart and his brethren don't suit all moods. You need something that percolates with the bubbles of modern life, and breathes the sooty air of a downtown streetcorner. You need pleated naugahyde that squeaks when your date's leg scoots across it, gin in a real glass, bad lighting everywhere but the center of the stage, and that stage raised but six inches, a salesman in the corner by the cigarette machine opining on the pay phone, you need to hear a siren go by occasionally and faintly, and you need to see the back of a neon sign like an irridescent snake wending its way across a window. What you need, is to sit in an upholstered chair,conjure up that scene in your mind's eye, and listen to Blue Note records. Forget mind's eye gin, though, get Bombay and a real lime.
Blue Note records were for people who wanted to listen to artists searching for beauty, and truth, and meaning, and rhythm, and style, and immediacy; artists that had the temerity to search at the margins of musical possibility because they had mastered their instruments first, and so could try to master themselves, and the world, and the cosmos. Their journey would take various and wonderful turns, like a river that meanders, cutting switchback on itself, labrynthine, mildy disorienting, skirting the disquieting feeling of walking too close to a precipice to see the view, and then find the broad stream of the mighty melody again and drifting with the current home.
It would take effort on the listener's part, sometimes, to appreciate what was going on. This was the challenge dropped at your feet. "We're going out where the map says: "Here be Monsters." All the spices of the Orient and beautiful exotic girls and dervishes gyrating and spinning on magic carpets await us... if we make it to the other shore."