Nocturnal Ruminations: What I Think Music Is and Can Do.

26 Mar

Ultimately, I realized that I had been writing reviews for albums (hopefully successfully) that inspired me to create, write, or otherwise disconnect from my current modality of thought for its course.  So, therefore, I decided, as I continue to discuss these things, what I think music is and can do and my own personal history with it.

Those of you that have read any of my reviews will note that generally I am fairly positive with my writing.  It’s not because everything to which I listen is perfect or amazing or even good for that matter.  However, most of the time when I commit to purchasing an album, or listen to a sample that I’ve been sent, I’ve fairly convinced it will be something that I enjoy.  This is why most of my reviews are positive.  Ten bucks notwithstanding, but the time commitment away from my family is equally important to me.  Combine that with the fact that I’m writing this to exercise my cultural critique muscles and use it, as written earlier, to explore emotions, thoughts, and stories as inspiration for my own works, I’m fairly happy with the response thus far.  When you read a review that is negative, it is doubly so because I did want the album to be good.

Currently, my favorite bands and musicians are, in no particular order, Opeth, Alcest, Steve Hackett, Steven Wilson, Nick Cave, Ihsahn, and Cynic.  I feel that, again for no particular order, the best musicians are Neige from Alcest, the crew from Opeth, Steven Wilson, Levon Helm, Roger Waters, Devin Townsend, and a few others.  These are important as progressive music has become my love and my favorite music genre.  I’ve always been fascinated by it, especially in listening to Rush, Yes, Jethro Tull, Genesis, and many others when I was younger.  To this day, I will buy any Rush album that is released, period.  In regards to specific genres at this point I’m a very large fan of the progressive blackgaze movement as experimented by Neige from Alcest while still yet I find myself attracted to Opeth’s particular brand of melancholy (as evidenced by my love and admiration for the new Fall of Every Season album).  Devin Townsend and Steven Wilson are the most varied musicians to whom I listen and I’ve yet to really get to a point that their offerings are old to me.

As far as how I grew into this?  I’m not entirely certain (except for the whole pretentious asshole thing).  Growing up, my brother was older than me by nine years.  His musical taste, while still lacking, was focused on Guns and Roses, Duran Duran, Sisters of Mercy, INXS, the glam metal bands, Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer, &c.  This was my introduction to this brand of music.  I took a shine to Guns and Roses, and will still ardently defend Axl Rose’s political songwriting ability.  It wasn’t long that I began tabletop RPGs during which we would listen to a mix tape or an album of a particular individual’s choosing.  This introduced me to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Pantera, and any variety of punk bands we could find (not limited to, but including Sex Pistols, Anti-Nowhere League, Black Flag and later Rollins Band).  Combined with the local radio station, we’d rock out to all sorts of classic rock.  My mother, who often against her better judgement, would allow me the leeway to listen to this, but would play Marvin Gaye and other R&B and her beloved folk musicians (something that sticks with me to this day).

So, why music?  I don’t know why it is so important to me, personally, except to consider that a large number of good memories and terrible memories are made more understandable by listening to music that reflects my mood.  I enjoy it, regardless of time of day or energy spent on listening to an album.  I guess to a great extent it appeals to my academic background: I hold a Master’s Degree in Anthropology (emphasis in archeology).  While I view myself as very much an archeologist, I’m working in Applied Anthropology now and further still I’ve always loved the science of anthropology.  During my coursework for my undergraduate degree, I studied Medical Anthropology for a semester, during which I read a number of books regarding the topic of the healing qualities and properties of anthropology.  I helped research Delta Blues culture at one point as well.  In graduate school, this came back to me as I got further and further into Performance Theory.

I’ve always compared music to fire.  It is a great human universal (if there ever were such a thing).  Each culture in the world has a style, a set of instruments, has traded instrumental styles, brought in different sounds, and created their own voice that soothes and sparks its member’s imagination.  Music can heal, it can harm, it can make you cry in catharsis, or internalize and meditate.  Like Shakespeare’s boast, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” the song is mightier and more powerful still yet.  We have transmitted our culture and our values through our words set to music.  The Ghost Dance was a powerful, percussive beat through which the Siouan world would be headed, white men would disappear, and the buffalo would return.  Look at all our culture’s Christian hymns.  Apply the cultural temple to this music, and you find that here still.  That is why music is powerful and to me why the current (read: continuing trend of dumbing it down, further and further, and bringing more and more vapid themes to lyrics is such a problem).

As I end this ramble, I think back to one of my favorite albums and a trend I’ve noticed here: Ihsahn and the disappearing visits.  Every time I run Ihsahn on this site, we see a 25% drop in visitors that day.  Yet, above a large number of musicians, I believe he truly gets what I described.  “The Adversary” feels like a darker, self-deconstructionist sermon regarding nihilism.  It is an amazing piece and one that I recommend highly.  Tomorrow, I’ll describe my typology of music.



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