Wednesday, November 21, 2007

the shipping forecast

I'm being very excited about music lately, but I find myself wanting to do No Music Day anyway. I am cheating. I didn't read about it til it was gone midnight, and there's only so much you can do when you've just discovered DJ Shadow, so I'm drawing the line now, at 1.22 21/11/07.

Drummond wrote this about No Music Day last year. I don't share his jadedness at all - there's things I love that I'm only just starting to swim in; swirling pools on the ambient end of hip-hop; relics of mid-20th century jazz; folk-rock secrets that get passed from hand to hand on Soulseek. I heart Soulseek. Yesterday, I was sharing with someone who had a vast collection of different recordings of 'Summertime' - which is part of why the 'year zero' idea caught my eye.

I even have fantasies about waking up to find that all music has disappeared from the world. We can't even remember what it sounded like. We knew we had music, we knew it was important to us. In my fantasy we would have to start making music again from a year zero situation, with nothing but our voices. As I said, just a fantasy.

I'm not fond of generational generalisations, but I'm attracted to the image of Generation Y (a meaningless descriptor that suggests I, for the rest of my life, will have properties in common with people if they were born between 1981 and 1995 - astrology is not yet dead!) - a generation abruptly swept up in a weightless culture, lifted on the upthrust of words and sounds, a shoal scattering as each finds her own current, descending til she she can no longer bear the pressure. Walking in the real world, we carry our words and music with us, bound on our backs as if it were oxygen - portable atmospheres.

(I've written, a little, about the one who drowned. S/he's vaguely why I don't use portable music myself, except when called to by these amazing people).

No Music Day isn't too hard for me - a No Written Words day would be more unsettling. I'm not sure I've ever passed a day without reading something, writing something or both. Funny thing is, I used to think that might be a Gen Y thing, a product of text-based everything and all the dreadful free papers on the Tube - part of that shared silence. That was very metropolitan. My brother, not nearly so wordy, has lately been imploring me to join Facebook. I tell him I'd rather die (exaggeration, that) and ask why the heck he wants me to. 'So you can see all my pictures!' Why do I need to see his pictures? Can't I see them at Christmas? Can't you get a Livejournal like a civilised Y-izen? Nono, he says, because what on earth would he want to write about? Or read about?

He's clearly part of some image/movie/connection wave, and I'm lost in words and sounds. I'm not sure who's deeper out to see.

What No Music Day mostly reminded me of was Sound Mind by Tricia Sullivan - a story about a world fractured by rationalism. (Sound Mind might have been the best story ever, except that you have to slog through Double Vision to really get it.) This is from a chapter called 'Beat Fascism' - some of which touched on why not to keep a beat. This is from a public gathering overheard by the narrator.

"You see, most people when they consider their own musical expression rely on other people to do it for them. They express themselves in terms of what they listen to. They elect heroes. They "appreciate". But they don't dare take it further than that. They don't dare use the medium themselves. Because music education is so fascistic and structured and nose-down-looking that they could never make it by the official route. And if they are talented enough to make it by the official route, that route brands them with its own fascistic structured nose-down-looking ways. And if they do it in jazz, then they're lucky because maybe they have a shot although what the odds are of making a living as a jazz musician I don't know. And if they go for anything post-1960 in origin like rock or soul or rap then their whole aspiration becomes getting a record contract and you're right back into the System again, under the yoke of commerce. Not to mention under the musical yoke of an increasingly conventionalized form. [...]

"So here's music, universally lauded as the deepest expression of cosmic humanity or whatever you want to call all that music-of-the-spheres stuff. Here's music, making the screaming hoards move like one organism at a big concert. Here's a mother singing her baby a lullaby, here's music, and we're totally cut off from it except as consumers." [...]

"Bring back Bob Dylan!" somebody said.

"No, you don't get it - that's just the point. Bob Dylan is just a guy. Hey, we wouldn't dare make sound in our own right. If we did, wed feel compelled to judge our sound on the basis of the commercial stuff. Somewhere along the line, listening became the whip hand of judgement instead of a tool for understanding. [...] We're trapped in a small world and we can't get out of it. And the whole thing is in our heads. [...] It's just taking what was already true and making it more obvious."

-that last line could represent the entire internets, I figure.

No music today. Except for singing things I made up. If I'm brave, no reading or writing on Thursday.

No comments: