When I made my way across childhood to the tinny AM radio, it was dark. Lights out. I listened intently. More intently than I ever had before. Something was speaking to my unformed-ness like a long lost friend. Something that I had never met but forgotten nonetheless. I was 'realizing' that music was 'different' from other things in life. I felt the power. The hookup. The activation. And I felt 'safe.' That is so true! As I type these words many years later, I extra-realize that. So true. Music is safe.
Safe as in a lifeline. As in a saving 'grace.' As in 'sane.'
I imagine many of you have stories like the one above. Stories of 'waking up.' Perhaps life is a series of 'waking ups.' You think you're awake, then you wake up more. Then more and more. I remember crossing the room in my apartment on Queen Street in Toronto. A hardwood floor. And by the time I got to the other side, I knew I had changed. I didn't know how -- just that I had. Significantly.
I am a musician. I didn't know I would be so when I was young. I do know that I have always heard music in my head that I wasn't hearing somewhere else and I 'needed' this music. And obedient to the laws of nature, I created into this vacuum. If this vacuum were being filled by other musicians' music, there would be no pull for me. I am not possessive of it. Just obedient.
If you ask someone if they like music, they look at you strangely. It seems to be a universal given. Like asking someone if they like breathing. It is like breathing. Or air, rather. Flowing without and within. A matrix within which our lives are set. The setting for the tableware of our beings. OK. I'll stop. But can you imagine a world with no music? How quiet it would be? How hard it would be to celebrate? How difficult to fight gravity? How impossible to dance?
Music is gathering. Taking our scattered thoughts and senses and coalescing us back into our core.
Music is powerful. The first few chords can change us where no self-help books can.
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So I listened to that song in my childhood bedroom, barefoot by the tinny AM radio. Finally able to say what I meant. By simply 'listening.'
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I was watching X Factor (American Idoll-style) tonight on the TV at a Chinese foot rub place (legitimate business, no hanky-panky). I have been going every night after the studio so that my twisted knee heals well. I want to run and jump again. And for a long time. I understood that even though the context of this talent show played up the more superficial aspects of music, each of the contestants had their own private beginning with that magical thing called music. Ow. I am glad for them but look forward to the shows of the future where they teach aspiring contestants the temple aspects of music: how to activate the goddess by tipping pressure onto the balls of the feet (high heels work well for this); which hairstyles activate Mars, which Venus; how to herd a restless crowd into happy focus; looking twice as far as the back wall to get out of your own way, things like that. Temple training to learn how to draw down the divine into a battery called 'performance' that all can plug into, store energy from and use when needed. Service, in other words.
I have always heard music in my head and pursued it like the Quixotic butterfly. Leaping through the ever-taller grasses of my growing up to bind it into a song. Leaping straight up sometimes to make sure I was going in the right direction. Mostly hoping for the best, but often feeling blind, barbaric in my blindness.
Perhaps other musicians have the luxury of writing exactly what they hear. Mine seems to be more guesswork. Classical composers must have gone straight from their head to paper, not having a symphony in the unheated stable next door with whom to try the fugues and unusual time changes. With no training to bridge the gap, I went to 'songs,' whatever I could manage to play on piano or guitar and with my untrained voice. No bands in the unheated garage next door on which to try things. Just oneself, in one's bedroom. Pretending to do homework, or grounded, or ostracized but definitely wide awake and restless. I now see that time as a luxury. After an injury from a sheep stampede this month, I couldn't leave my room. I caught up on a lot of indoor things. Touch wood.
Back to the progression as a musician: First I had to learn how to play guitar sitting up. Then I played in a duo, then a trio, then a band. The less I was limited by my own musical skills, the more unlimited I became in my writing. Then we started working with a computerized keyboard. You mean... ? You can... ? And then you... ? Without any...? Cool! Then studios became centralized on a computer. Then musicians started programming on computers at home before going into the studio. Then they forgot to go to studios and worked at home. In their bedrooms. Playing guitar on their backs, straight to final tracks.
(To be continued ...)
Today's activity as a musician:
1. New CD being released Nov. 19, Meshach Dreams Back
2. First Single being released Oct. 27 When We Are A Vampire
Studio -- I am remixing Meshach in Vancouver. It has been a convoluted journey getting this recording finished. This is the third or fourth mix, but it seems to get better each time. Although there are many layers of voices and instruments, today we listened to only voice and piano to make sure the foundation levels were consistent and stood up well on their own. These two instruments are what the ear will track all the way through. Tomorrow all the layers go back in.
Online -- announced second teaser for the 'single' coming out on Thursday. It is only nine seconds long and the comments are slightly nonplussed. It is a song about energy vampirism so it is coming out Thursday for everyone's Halloweening pleasure. An Internet cowboy has joined me for the next month posting announcements, samples, videos and harrowing song lyrics.