Stating the Obvious
Good people, most-illustrious boozers, and music fans from around the globe - we are gathered together to witness the passing of a most infamous and remarkable anniversary. Strange as it may seem, this week marks one year since your humble curmudgeon enlisted you as pilgrims on a common journey, and I have appeared almost weekly, often weakly, since that time. For one who entered into such an adventure somewhat tentatively, the time has flown past as if carried forth on a rushing river from the mountains to the sea, yet I find myself no wiser with the passing of another year - indeed I feel as helpless and confused as a newborn child, only an aging one carrying another year of wearying and confusing experience.
As I look back I see mistakes, errors, dead-ends, stutter steps, baby steps, falling flat on my face, lying in the gutter - looking at the stars, evasions, derisions, empathy, dissonance, consonance, cacophony, and even, in the end, some glimmers of hope. The great novelist Thomas Pynchon commented on his early short stories by saying if he met his earlier self he wasn't sure if he would sit next to him in a bar, let alone buy him a drink, and I must say I feel the same about my columns. What I write is what I believe, or thought I believed at that moment, but my opinion may have changed by the following day depending on the weather or present circumstances. Now, in looking back, I often cringe and repent, as my utterances linger in the archives in all their reeking, decaying form.
In all honesty, we had no idea what direction to take this column in when I first started, but the intent was not to do the same old thing which readers can find anywhere on any music site. I was encouraged to try the unusual and I think for the most part it has gone well, and we have achieved a bit of a distinction - at least I hope so.
Meanwhile, my fears of having the curtain thrust aside to reveal the little man working the gears and levers have so far been unfounded, and instead I discovered that there are many of "us" out there - people who think, feel, and live life, and whose lives are colored by the musical auditory experience. I thank you for your kind comments (and even unkind or bizarre ones) for you have touched me, tempered my loneliness, and made me feel as though some small communication can be engendered in this world of static, pain and grime. I am so very gratified by all of you who have taken the time to write. I am especially astonished by the teachers who wrote in saying they were using my columns in their classes. I would be most pleased to hear how this experiment went - I find the idea of my words in the classroom setting truly amazing.
Where to go from here now? I wish I were talented enough to come up with some astounding, thought-provoking, and entertaining writing at the drop of a hat, but I'm afraid I am only human - and not a very special or gifted one at that. I have to be inspired, and often I don't find much inspiration in the world. At times I have even begged my editors to find themselves a younger, hipper version of myself to take my place - after all I don't even have cable TV - how hip or cutting edge can I be?
And I wonder sometimes just what exactly can a befuddled crank have to offer the world? My brain churns with raging waves of logic and emotion that never seems to reconcile the yin and yang of a conflicted world. President Bush wants to ensure medical care for all Iraqis, yet my mother can barely afford her medicine? Farmers are paid not to grow crops, yet people are dying of starvation? The Russian people trade the oppression of a repressive communist regime for the "freedom" of corrupt, gangster-ridden capitalism? I am flummoxed. How does one walk the tightrope in this crazy circus of chaos?
Some have written to offer me religion. I'm sorry - I don't hold your religious beliefs against you (unless you want to convert or kill me), but I will politely pass on subscribing to your particular brand of myths and superstitions. Christ's words are wonderful, and nothing would please me more than if they were put into actual practice, but if the Muslims, Jews and Christians end up destroying the world, I'm afraid it would be merely the just final judgment on the reality of the bloody human practice of religion.
I started this saga a year ago with a message scrawled on a street sign. The violence and energy in this radical act made me think about the creation of music. Yet today I go to the forest preserve and find that vandals have destroyed the park bench where I used to sit in front of the pond. I am flummoxed again. Are the acts of creation and destruction so interrelated (as the Universe was created in a Big Bang)? And where does one draw the line. Was I wrong before when I embraced the sign defacer as a comrade? What if an elderly woman misread the highway sign and driving through the stop sign was struck and killed? Farfetched perhaps, yet the thought is disheartening.
Even in music, the contradictions flange and flail. Pure music has its advantages, yet fusions have their moments as well. Violent, thoughtless music can be mind-numbing and lacking in humanity, yet if moderation is the key - why does some of the best music come from chaos and energy? (Just as if the moderate socialistic states of Scandinavia provide the highest level of lifestyle, why do they also have the highest suicide rates?) The answers lie less in Christ I'm afraid than in ourselves, as the only self-conscious mammalian life form we are aware of, perched on a fragile rock in a cold, dark, timeless, eternity. In the end, I only hope I can maintain what semblance of sanity I still possess, try to throw a few words out there here and there to keep our dialogue intact, and that we can continue striding along this less traveled path, playing our various instruments in consort, while exploring these questions together. Will you come with me?
Past, present & future
misguided ramblings of the MusiCurmudgeon
Stroll through the vaults of a diseased mind!
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