Tuesday, May 13, 2014

De Musica [May 13]

Thank goodness I didn't try to write about drumming. After reading about the perfect stick arc with relation to playing surface, the intricacies of the cheese dachuda and Swiss pataflala, you'd be back into your latest Grisham opus.

HOWEVER, having sat in with some great players some thirty miles distant of late has rejuvenated me. Not so much about drumming, but definitely toward music.

Dang, it was such a life. I lived and inhaled it. I still have my eternally bent pinkie to show for it. The calluses are also there. But I can still remember the nights of bloody hands and going nitey-night with my sticks still in my hands.

I had an edifying conversation today with Jay Stollman, one of the most brilliant singers I've ever backed. We agreed that "still doing it" helps us find new ways to do it. Uncle Jay has matured into a soulful eminence that can at once give you goose bumps and soothe you like a lover's caress. Perhaps a little Hallmarky, but true. [Jay's Facebook page]

Jay gave me a truism, saying, "It's tough to talk to a non-musician about music. Too much explaining."

I'm trying, right here.

I could try to write what it feels like to sit behind that kit and drive a band like an eighteen-wheeler right up an audience's communal duodenum—whether in a smoke-laden dive or a major arena. Words fail me here.

What playing all comes down to isn't the highest note, fastest lick or the skatey-eight keyboards you've got splayed in front of you.

It's all about technique. And explaining this term is like describing kissing. You remember your favorite kisses. Now dissect them for others to appreciate. You can't.

Technique is everywhere. It's that perfect over-easy egg, with just a thin film of yolk cooked on the sunny side of the ovum. It's what separates a doodle from a painting. Outback from Ruth's Chris. I could go on.

I am privileged to have met a number of fine artists via my daughter Grace at the Boyer School of Temple University. Hard-working, focused, yet hilariously fun-loving young adults. Perhaps some will become famous. I opine that all of them will continue to entertain ... and please.

I once saw an eighth-grade bassist who had the magic. He was about as big as a pygmy jockey. Even his bass was a cut-down model because he couldn't reach the low end of the neck. He was doing a middle-school big-band thing. Superbly. I talked to the teacher about him. He said, "His parents want him to be a chiropractor." Beyond sad.

I won't go postal on some of today's "artists." Many of them are bupkis without elaborate production, pre-recorded crapola, preening dancers and HGH-injected, reworked vocal tracks. Enough of them. This is why so many people now in college still listen to what I dug in college. This equation exists in a teetery balance.

This is why I cannot watch the mockery of music that is embodied in these IdleVoiceSemitalent shows. It's more about the back story than the technique. Everything is swaddled in a miasma of production, so much so that we lose track of the actual "voice" that's being judged.

See here the incredible Rachael Leahcar from Australia. She wouldn't even make it to an American show. Why? She's too good. Never mind she doesn't have a stellar range. She even hits a few clunkers here. PLUS she has the nerve to sing with only bass and piano. From her heart. This is technique, folks. Not cramming eighteen notes where one will do magnificently. Not screeching notes that sound like a Belgian ambulance.

Technique is the difference between Maria Callas and Mariah Carey.

Perhaps Dave Grohl says it best. His swears, not mine.

Parents, don't be like that idiot chiropractor. Kids, head out to the woodshed. And suck. I'd have a major hole in my life without music. Readers, I urge you to support artists worthy of wider recognition. One's who show technique. Unfortunately, they are getting harder to find.

1 comment:

  1. This: ".... drive a band like an eighteen-wheeler right up an audience's communal duodenum ..." yeah, and the audience feels and knows from the receiving end, too, and that's what makes live music so compelling (when it's good to more than that). It CAN be heard, felt on recorded music, as well. So love it all when it's that magical. I don't know from percussion beyond the basics; personal experience is from singing, and I ALWAYS preferred singing, blending, making it happen with others (although I did do flute for seven years, and know how to tinker with a keyboard, albeit not very musically). However, I know what you're reaching for here -- as you stated with the analogy about kissing, it's not possible to communicate more than hints, impressions, whatever It is, in language. Also appreciate the Grohl insert.