I Hate Music

January 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

Leonard Bernstein and the Replacements can both attest to a fatalistic notion that many music people share. Music in your mind can feel like a tight spring or a loose nut, like a warm blanket or an iron slab. It has every language in it, but sometimes it leaves you mute. I hate music because it isn’t everywhere all the time. If it could only just make the leap and become the medium of life itself, the universal process of understanding that it so closely resembles, instead of just a tantalizing possibility of mind/body/soul unification that hangs out there in our treacherous presence, hinting through a cheap speaker that there might be a better way to live than this, that there might be a human history that we ignore in favor of the prosaic and prescribed.

I “retired” from gigs two years ago, in the midst of a deep depression, thinking that I just needed to listen and gather and stop making noises. I played a set of songs that nobody had ever heard at the Make Out Room in San Francisco, packed up and went home. Since then I have scarcely thought about writing songs or even playing guitar. I practice my clarinet for fun and play ukulele and banjo for my daughter to dance and sing along to at home. She has the music gene without a doubt – already able to sing most of the Sound of Music. Her neighbor friend has turned her on to the Beatles (they are both 2 1/2 years old) so she sings Yellow Submarine too. We still don’t have a piano in the parlor, but when that happens I look forward to long nights of singing, dancing, doing. Doing music. That is what matters most.

Today I plugged in the Strat for the first time in at least two years – into the Magnatone Troubadour amp that a friend gave me – and jangled out “September Gurls” to see what would happen. Mom and JR were out of the house, so I could turn up and warble it out in a decent way, and it felt true and good. The neighbor came by to drop off some things and I stopped playing to answer the door. “That sounded great!” she said. “Nice little amp,” all I could say.

Today, if I had the great rhythm section that played with me in California all those years ago I could easily entertain the notion of playing a couple of sets in some divey pub, open with Parchman Farm, roll into a couple of originals, kick out some good R+B like we used to do. But that isn’t going to happen tonight. Instead I get to sit and think about it and wish for that liberating feeling that I know is possible, but not attainable, not without some serious wrangling anyhow. When JR wakes up from her nap, we can rock out then.


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